The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning;
It’s time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me:
Let me be singing when the evening comes
Matt Redman wrote 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) in 2011 with a Swedish friend of his, Jonas Myrin. We’ve talked before about hymns that are based closely on scripture; here we have a band-drive “contemporary” worship song that was inspired by and based on scripture. In Redman’s account:
“[Myrin] played me an idea for some of the chorus melody, and it felt like a perfect fit for a song based on the opening of Psalm 103. The song came together really quickly – a good chunk of the song was actually a spontaneous moment. I have no idea why some songs take months of writing and re-writing (like ‘Blessed Be Your Name’) and others arrive really swiftly (like this one). One thing I’ve realized over the years is there’s no rule that says that something composed quickly must therefore be more spiritual or inspired! Yes, God-breathed inspired worship songs can at times be written very quickly and spontaneously—but at other times they’ve involved a lot of perseverance, perspiration, and hard work!”
When Myrin and Redman were working on the lyrics, they delved deeply into Psalm 103. In this Psalm, David spent 22 verses listing the many ways he was grateful to God, and Myrin and Redman began challenging each other to list all the reasons their hearts were full of worship for God. Redman summed it up like this:
“The point behind the song is this: if you wake up one morning and you cannot think of a reason to bring God some kind of offering of thanks or praise, then you can be sure there’s something wrong at your end of the pipeline, and not his. We live beneath an unceasing flow of goodness, kindness, greatness, and holiness, and every day we’re given reason after reason why Jesus is so completely and utterly worthy of our highest and best devotion.”
One of the coolest parts of the song to me is the respect it pays to hymnody. In the third verse, the lyrics are referential to “Amazing Grace,” and that was intentional:
And on that day when my strength is failing,
The end draws near, and my time has come;
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending:
Ten thousand years and then forevermore!
Redman said of this:
“We already had the ‘10,000 reasons’ lyric in verse two. So when it got to writing verse three, and we were on the theme of eternity, the idea came to mirror that ‘10,000’ number and at the same time give a nod to the old hymn. …As songwriters we can think so much about including melodic and musical hooks, which is really important, but we mustn’t underestimate the impact of a lyrical hook too. It’s a great songwriting device, but it’s also a really helpful congregational one—making a song more instant and easy to grab on to.”
This might not seem that unusual or noteworthy to some of you, but to me, it’s remarkable. It shows a maturity and a level of grace that band-driven worship music has reached as a genre, and as someone who sees worth in all of the different kinds of music we bring to God, that is really encouraging to see.
I’ve mentioned before that I grew up during the period when band-driven music in worship was fighting to be seen as worthwhile. And this meant that usually, bands threw out any remnant of hymns or “traditional” music in an effort to claim a space that was entirely theirs. It seemed rash to me at the time (as an organist…), but understandable from the perspective of a segment of the church trying to carve our their own thing, and trying to be taken seriously.
It was also understandable at the time, though for me a bit less forgivable, that this tossing of “the old” as worthless, and the embrace of something completely new was often heartily endorsed by church leadership in their desperation to “relate” to “young people.” I had hoped church leaders would take a longer view of things, and for all sides to value their commonalities and Christian unity in the midst of the disagreement; what I experienced was both sides digging in their heels, and choosing this particular hill as the one on which to die.
So for us to reach a point where a band-driven song intended for congregational worship can be referential of beloved hymnody, rather than dismissive of hymns in an attempt to stand independent of “traditional” worship, that is AWESOME to me.
I see “10,000 Reasons” as a marker of a new kind of worship– this post-modern worship that unifies the ancient and modern church, recognizing our roots and bringing it into relevance for today’s world. We sing the words of the Psalms, these prayers that we share with the People of God in the Old Testament, that are scripture for the church of all ages. We recall our roots as a church, and the amazing certainty of God’s grace, with the tie-in of “Amazing Grace”. And we sing these ancient words with guitars, drums, and we raise our voices with the CHURCH- with young and old, elementary-age kids and great-grandparents and everyone inbetween.
If this is the future of band-driven worship in the church, then count me as a supporter.