Monday, May 23, 2011

Is "Days of Elijah" a Biblical Song?

This past Sunday my church sang the song, "Days of Elijah." No one has offered any commentary one way or another before, during, or after the song. But it made me think of a number of conversations I've had, particularly other pastors who consider themselves "biblical." Whenever I get into a conversation regarding the need for songs to be Biblical, the first song that is immediately thrown out as an example of misusing Scripture is "Days of Elijah." You can find these ideas on the web too (like here).

I would like to take a few moments and go verse by verse (lyrics in italics) arguing for the song to have Biblical warrant (albeit there may be better songs to sing or other reasons not to sing this song in your local church).

These are the days of Elijah declaring the Word of the Lord. To be fair, I believe this is the biggest stretch the song writer takes. Particularly because the Old Testament prophesies (Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1; 4:5) are trying to point to John the Baptist being the Elijah to come (cf. Matthew 3; 17:10-12). And yet, a key verse from scripture that could justify this line (as well as all the rest) comes from 1 Corinthians 10:11 "Now these things [a particular Old Testament story] happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come" (ESV). Like in the days of Elijah when evil was opposed and prophets of truth were necessary, so too at the fulfillment of the ages (i.e. after Christ's life, death, and resurrection) we must declare the Word of the Lord. If you look for deeper meaning other than in this being the age of all ages, you could misuse this song's opening line and think prophetic powers now stream from every believer. But if the song draws a person into seeing the fulfillment of all Old Testament hope being in the One who has come to save people from sin and the One who will come again to judge the living and the dead, I think you can sing this line with integrity. If I had one pet-peeve of the song, it would be entitling the song with the one line that has least Biblical support. Why not entitle the song, "There is no god like Jehovah"?

And these are the days of his servant, Moses, righteousness being restored. This verse has a lot of merit since much of Matthew's Gospel (particularly the 5 teaching segments, and 5:17-18 in particular) suggests that Jesus is the better Moses (cf. Deut. 18). Jesus is the better prophet to come after Moses who would bring about the righteousness and blessing that the Old Covenant couldn't achieve (cf. much of the book of Hebrews; esp. 8:13). All that Moses longed for and hoped for are now possible through Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 8:1-3, the law fulfilled in us).

And these are the days of great trial; Of famine and darkness and sword. (No one, I don't think would question these verses, cf. Hebrews 11:32ff.).  

So we are the voice in the desert crying, prepare ye the way of the Lord. Since these verses relate to the same problems indicated under the line "These are the days of Elijah," I'll point you back there. And yet, I'd add that this message from Isaiah 40 speaks of messengers needing to preach hope to a broken and forgiven people. There was one particular desert preacher (John the Baptist) that deserves to be noted. But there will need to be many like him preparing the world for the Lord's Second Coming who speak of the comfort Christ's brings to all who will believe.

Behold he comes; Riding on a cloud Shining like the sun; At the trumpet's call; Lift your voice; It's the year of jubilee; Out of Zion's hill salvation comes. Again, I don't think there's much debate on these lines. If anyone doubts that we are not in the year of jubilee, I think you need to look again at how Jesus explains the Isaiah scroll (Isaiah 61) in his synagogue visit in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21). Also, I love a song that actually longs for Jesus' return both in the song's lyrics and in the exciting nature of the music.

And these are the days of Ezekiel; the dry bones becoming as flesh. As this relates to Ezekiel's prophecy in Ezekiel 37, and as this prophecy points to the end of the exile, I believe in light of Matthew 1:17, we should see the arrival of Christ as the exile's end. Hence, these are the days of Ezekiel's dry bones becoming flesh. This is the era of victory and new life, most profoundly demonstrated on Resurrection Sunday.

And these are the days of his servant, David, building the temple of praise. Jesus is the great Son of David (Mt. 1:1) who created a temple in the hearts of men and women (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and created the temple of Christ's Church (1 Corinthians 3; 1 Peter 2:4-5).

And these are the days of the harvest, the fields are all white in your world. (no debate, I hope)
And we are the laborers that are in your vineyard; declaring the word of the Lord. (no debate, I hope)

There is no God like Jehovah (repeated several times). By far the bridge of the song is beyond question the central message of the song and for that I can find few songs with better messages. There is an issue with using the term Jehovah vs. Yahweh (click here for details), but it's not a big issue.

Conclusion: Overall, I would commend fighting over different things in a local assembly than whether this song should or should not be sung on Sunday mornings.

RECENTLY ADDED: If anyone's interested, Robin Mark (the song writer) has his own little story of how the song came to be here (


Tyler Jones said...

i liked the explanation of the song u left but this song changed my heart and i know this song is filled with the spirit and i know that the man that wrote was blessed when he wrote it this is definitly one of the best christian songs ever written in my opinion

Matt and Carrie Proctor said...

I appreciate your heart, but I don't trust your feelings (nor mine). The Bible tells us to test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1). We do this by turning to the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If the song is not biblical, it should not be matter how "spiritually" uplifting it might be. I hope you see from my perspective the song is "biblical" enough for church usage. But beware of gauging a songs approval on the soul's or heart's response. Our hearts our deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:3). Only God's Word through the illumination of the Spirit brings appropriate confirmation.

David Oney said...

A very uplifting song, to be sure. Does this song Glorify the Lord, Christ Jesus?
Matthew 18:20 reads:

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

Let the church say amen!

LILI said...

wow i am so glad i am not the only Christian that believes we should keep the secular music out of the church and know who we are singing to..i am so sick of all the garbage you are hearing now and not knowing if they are singing to their husband or boyfriend because you would never know they are singing to the God of the Universe!!!! Bless you for speaking out for the Word!!!

BA said...

Matthew 18:20,

Marie said...

I agree with you Tyler, the person who wrote this song simply telling about a great Prophet of God and he used Elijah to warn the people of their sins and the good news, so I don't understand why do Christians are fighting against their own, just sad.

Michael Landon said...

I was unaware that so many people had issues with this song (I thought it was mostly me). But to me it still sounds like someone put a Bible in a blender and grabbed the parts that flew out and put them together to make this song.

I mean, the first couple of verses of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" are also based on loosely tied together parts of scripture, but I doubt may use this song in church (unless they make major modifications to the lyrics). I could also make a better argument that Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" could be used in worship, and would before using "Days of Elijah."

Here is an example of just taking somewhat random verses of scripture and tying them together can produce:

And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:5)
Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. (Luke 10:37)

And Jehovah vs. Yahweh is to me a big deal. My name is Michael. It is pronounced \ ˈmī-kəl \. It is not pronounced "Bill." I take offence when someone pronounces it differently, and I think God is not pleased when we stubbornly call Him Jehovah when it is overwhelmingly clear it is Yahweh.

So, sorry, but your argument is not convincing.