Lately, I’ve a singular song running through my head. To every regular church goer, it’s a familiar hymn. But every now and then, a group sings familiar songs in a new and fresh way and it enthralls the soul. Such is the case with this song. It is the song Nearer, My God to Thee and James Stevens arranged it for Vocal Point of Brigham Young University. I think it is proverbial ear candy! I fell in love with the song a few months ago when I heard it sung by my friends, One By Grace. Lately, in the last week and a half, Spotify has played this song for me numerous times. Whether I checked emails or worked on a bead belt design, this was the backdrop.
This is one of those songs that just gets into your system and pumps you up! It pulls you all over a vast vocal range. Beginning in a gentle Latin harmony, it moves into a gentle ooh while a solo begins. Pleadingly the cry of the song is uttered “God, draw me closer to you.” From there the tempo elevates and and this time the backdrop is the Latin verse that opened the song. While the solo, and at times duet, are at the fore front of the song, there are multiple parts in the back creating a rich and exotic background. At 2:25, the soloist soars into a bridge that flavors the song and propels it into the last verse. The song terminates with another bridge as the backdrop marches to the finish. The tempo of the song never feels too fast or out of hand. Instead of a contemporary pop feel that so many groups give to older songs, this version adds a richness to the song that is not there when sung straight, that is, sung as originally written. You owe it to yourself to listen to this version if you are unacquainted with the song. Listen to it twice. The first time with the volume set to a regular level; the second time, turn it up and let your spirit soar!Anyway, I’ve written more about the song than what caught my attention one night as I was listening to it.
In the first verse of this song the plea is uttered, “nearer my God to Thee.” That is normal; all Christians have that desire. The desire to be drawn and lifted up closer to God. I have it myself. But it is followed by the permissive phrase “e’en though it be a cross that raises me.” As I was listening to the song that night, I was not looking for this phrase. I was listening for the artistry of the arrangement and the rush that a good song gives to the senses. I was nearly blown back by the significance of that phrase. While I can relate to that desire, I admit I’ve not always had that submissiveness to the method that God uses to bring me closer to Him.
In church last Sunday, we sang the hymn Man of Sorrows. The fourth verse of that song says “lifted up was He to die.” That is what the cross meant for Jesus. When I think of what that meant for Him and what it potentially could mean for me if I sincerely sing/pray that first verse of Nearer My God to Thee my flesh shivers. Death is repulsive to our carnal flesh. But if I can not willingly give up, I can not freely receive. This last sentence contains all sorts of implications. I shan’t go into them. It would make my head spin, and this blog would not be able to contain it all. Suffice to say, I see this being worked out in lives around me.
So sing loudly, live richly, give up freely, and willingly receive what God gives you.
PS: Oops, nearly forgot! Here’s the link. BYU Vocal Point – Nearer My God to Thee (a cappella)