I am switching gears to a subject many of us Noahide’s have discussed off and on. And that is the issue of religious music from our past.
What got me to thinking about this particular song again is a video that popped up the other day on Facebook, it was a person playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.
I have to admit, it was stunningly beautiful. I am one who even after about ten years, the music to that song still moves me. So I thought it was time to pay a visit to the lyrics to see what I could find.
To be honest, I thought to myself, what if it was one of those songs that could be re-purposed or something like that. The song is amazing and it sticks with you a lifetime.
So I began sifting through the words of the song to see what I could find, and there it was, the line, that no matter how beautiful the song was, it had to go in the trash with all the rest of the idolatry that we Noahides have come to remove from lives.
This particular line of the song hints to the Christian theology of belief. It is opposite of the instructions from the Creator found in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Here is the line that does the whole song in and deems it idolatrous worship.
“How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.”
This verse is all about when someone first believes in Jesus and what the New Testament says about him. It celebrates a grace that was not there until the person first believes. Its like grace does not exist before belief in Jesus.
The Hebrew Scriptures tell a much different story.
There is a sweetness to this line, but behind it, it is full of deception.
It is apparent that the one writing this song has no clue what the Hebrew Scriptures states 100s or even 1000s of years before.
When you look up the Hebrew equivalent to the English word grace you will find the Hebrew word, ‘chesed’.
Now, lets take a look at a few passages from the Hebrew Scriptures that teach us about the chesed/grace of our Creator.
For I said, “The world is be built on kindness;” Artscroll Tehillim/Psalms
The Artscroll Tanach Series on the above passage has in its commentary, “God’s sole purpose in creating the world was to benefit mankind. God gave men a chance to serve Him only so that He could then reward them with Divine kindness.”
One of my favorite Psalms is Psalms 145, it is packed full of things and in the past as well as it will be in the future it will be a part of my personal prayer life. I am going to choose one verse from it for the purpose of this blog.
Hashem is good to all, and His mercies are on all His creatures. Artscroll Tehillim/Psalms
First the commentary from the Artscroll Tanach Series Tehillim/Psalms
“How different is our God from mortal kings who restrict their goodness and favors to a small group pf courtiers and intimates! Only God is capable of bestowing beneficence upon every one of His creatures.
Moreover, if a mortal king is challenged by rebels he will seek revenge. Not so our Almighty God: He seeks the welfare of the wicked who defy Him and tries to inspire them to repentance (Malbim).”
Lets look at the line from the song again and compare it to what it says here in the verse from Psalms 145 and its ancient understanding.
“How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.”
When we really look at what this line from the song is saying it is that, grace only appears when one first believes. This is insinuating that grace is only showing up once someone believes is in the giver of the grace.
This line of thought is incorrect.
There are two things I see right off when comparing it to Psalms 145:9 and Psalms 89:3 teaches us.
1. Belief is the power that brings grace.
According to Psalm 89, the creation is built on chesed i.e. grace. So it was already here in the beginning of God’s creating the creation, before the creation of humanity.
2. The line from the song assigns a humanity to the giver of the grace. The writer of that verse is treating grace like that from a human king who bestows goodness to only those in which he is intimate with or those who serve him but not the whole kingdom.
Psalms 145 declares that God is good to all and His mercies are on all His works. Far from belief being the power to cause it to appear.
A negative side of chesed/grace
When I was looking into the Hebrew word Chesed for this article I came across something about the word chesed I had not known. It even further helped me to see the danger within the line from Amazing Grace.
This new understanding I got about chesed, helps explain some of the interactions I have had in the past with those whose theology is built on belief.
What I discovered was that chesed – grace has a positive and negative side.
The negative side is how it is used in a few of the prohibitions that God gives in the Hebrew Scriptures. One particular is in Leviticus 20:19 where the prohibition of incest with ones sister is given. It is not found in the English but is in the Hebrew – this is called chesed.
Chesed, in this application is negative and is understood as, “a trait that is characterized by overflowing and lack of boundaries.” Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen – ‘Understanding the True Meaning of ‘Chesed’
When we look at the popular religions in this world we can see the negative use of chesed/grace – moreover, the negative use of grace, in the theological system built on belief.
An example that I experienced many years ago; A person once told tell me, that because of the grace he got at salvation, his salvation was permanent. He told me that he could murder someone and never loose that eternal grace.
This is an example of the negative side of grace and belief. The grace he thought he had, did not come with any boundaries
So when I began to look at all this information about this one line in the beloved song to many, a thought came to me, “What if this line was removed? Then it would be usable?”
Then the way my mind works, an analogy popped into my mind – Lets say we have a pot of soup and a dreadful object of some kind falls into the soup, for example a dead mouse. Would you just remove it and eat the soup or tash the soup and start from scratch?
Well, I think we just answered a question we all have about any song that was written to a false deity.
There is something else that comes out of this that we can learn, and that is how beauty can hide treachery and deceit.
We now know that God is good to all and His mercies are on all His works. And this is true amazing grace.
We also learned that grace has nothing to do with belief – it is all about God our Creator doing what God does for man from the beginning of creation.
God’s sole purpose in creating the world was to benefit mankind. God gave men a chance to serve Him only so that He could then reward them with Divine kindness.
Terry W. Hayes
Photo Credit: Internet image cropped by me.
I have teamed up with Pesach Sherbow and Torah For the Nations. We together are there to help Jews and non-Jews to learn about the Noahide Laws and life. Feel free to contact us at either the website or the Facebook page.