My late visit with the editors and many readers of the Signs in Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania and other places has stimulated me with a greater desire to write to the Household of Faith through this medium. The visit with the Welsh Tract, Hopewell, and other historical meeting places of God's children through the centuries past has peculiarly affected me. It is inspirational to learn that the same principles of Truth have been loved, cherished and contended for by His people these hundreds of years in the same meeting place.
While attending Salisbury Association held at Delmar, Delaware, the text of this article began to arrest my attention. God willing, I shall use Isaiah 38:20, as basis for my remarks: "The Lord was ready to save me; therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the Lord." We shall attempt to prove that the songs of God's people are their spiritual experiences and the stringed instruments are the harp of God, the hearts of His people, the Bible, etc. We want to show that a psalm or an hymn is not necessarily a spiritual song to one of God's people at all times. We expect to show that the stringed instruments under consideration are not pianos, organs, or any like instrument made and tuned by man – which will get out of tune – but, that which God has tuned, strung, and prepared, which never gets out of tune.
Re-read the paragraph above and may it become fixed in your mind before we meditate further upon the text. Read Isaiah 38, and then prayerfully consider the following meditations.
The expression found in the 20th verse was made by Hezekiah, King of Judah, after undergoing critical experiences brought about by the Lord dealing with him. Even though he be king he was brought low by the Lord. He was sick unto death, and word came to him from the Lord, "Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die and not live" (Isa. 38:1). We read a similar command in Amos 4:12 to Israel, "Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel." I am persuaded a similar command comes to every spiritual Israelite in the beginning of an experience of grace. When we try to cope with the situation in trying to set out house in order in preparation to meet God, we find ourselves as miserable failures in the attempt. This forces us to pray to God for mercy. Surely Hezekiah's attempts were in vain to set his house in order and he was made to depend upon God for this. We would all sink into death were it not for what the Lord adds unto our life. Our life is sinful, He adds holiness; our life is unstable; He adds stability; our life is earthly, He adds heaven; our life is ungodly, He adds godliness. We come to the end of our path. He leads us into a new path. We die, He adds life. Dear trembling child, has the Lord added unto your life? Our life is unstrung and untuned. He tunes and strings our hearts to sing His praise! This must have been Hezekiah's experience as he said, "The Lord was ready to save me."
We learn that we cannot save ourselves. It is not the question: am I ready for the Lord to save me? But, is the Lord ready to save? All things are so ordered and arranged, tuned and strung by the Lord that events so fall in perfect order and rhythm that a fixed time, place, and circumstance comes for the Lord's salvation to be made manifest to each and every one of the trophies of His amazing grace.
Because the Lord was ready to save me – "we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments." We read in Ephesians 5:19, of "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." What were the songs Hezekiah had under consideration? Psalms and hymns would include all compositions written with natural verse to be used in religious worship. When any hymn or psalm is in perfect harmony with our experience and feelings, it becomes our spiritual song. Paul says in 1st Cor. 14:15, "I will sing with the understanding also." There is a natural song and there is a spiritual song. There are experiences that are natural and there are experiences that are natural and there are experiences that are spiritual. The song that is natural is the old song and the song that is spiritual is that the Lord adds by putting into your mouth the new song. We would like to contrast the old song and the new.
The old song is sung in the key of man – man being the central keynote. The new is sung in the key of Jesus Christ – He being the foundation key. If you want to hear a discord, try singing the old and the new together. They will harmonize, for the old song praises man the new song praises God. The old sings of the ability of man and the new song proclaims man's inability. The old song utters salvation is hinged upon the volition and works of the creature, while the new bases the creatures' salvation upon the volition and work of the three-one God. The new song being opposed to the old prevents the harmonization of the two.
You will note that Hezekiah says, "my songs." This means his own personal spiritual experiences. Unless the Lord has added to your individual life you cannot sing these songs. There are more spiritual experiences than one. Sometimes you sing, "All things work together for good." Sometimes you feel, "All things are against me." Sometimes you are asking, "Is God gone forever?" Sometimes you say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth." Sometimes you sing, "Jesus, Lover of my soul"; and at other times, "I am a stranger here below." Sometimes you ask, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Sometimes you sing, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."
The stringed instruments these new songs perfectly accord with are the instruments God has prepared, strung, and tuned. The word "instrument" is translated from a word meaning "prepared." Our songs are sung to that which God has prepared. We find recorded in Proverbs 16:1, "The preparations of the heart in man and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord." When the Lord strings and tunes the hearts of His people there is perfect harmony in their experiences. When you experience harmonizes with the experience of Hezekiah, Jacob, Paul, and others whose lives are recorded in the Bible, it is singing your songs to the stringed instruments. When you experience harmonizes with the fundamental principles expressed in the Scriptures, and held sacred by your brethren, it accords with the stringed instruments.
Pianos and organs are made, strung, and tuned by man. These may be damaged, get out of tune, and the strings broken. Natural musical instruments only give forth natural mechanical tones. The instruments under consideration give forth spiritual godly melody. The command to the Church is to "speak to yourselves, singing," – not, to play a mechanical instrument. The question should be "Is our singing to accord with the mechanical instruments or spiritual instruments? Is our singing to be in accord with the piano, organ, or heart?" I am persuaded the singing should be in harmony with our hearts that God had prepared, tuned and strung; thus, "Making melody in the heart." When brethren are blessed to come together and sing with the Spirit and understanding in sweet fellowship and harmony it is much greater and sweeter melody than the best of singing without the Spirit accompanied by the best mechanical musical instruments. The accompaniment of mechanical musical instruments is pleasing to the natural ear. The accompaniment of the Spirit and understanding is pleasing to the spiritual ear.
We read in the Psalms of the harps of God, and also in Revelations. According to Josephus and what we can find in the Scriptures, these harps had ten strings. We can call your attention to Psalms 33:2,3: "Praise the Lord with harp; sing unto Him with psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto Him a new song." We want to quote the following stanzas from the hymn "There is a fountain":
Lord, I believe thou has prepared
(Unworthy though I be)
For me a blood-bought free reward –
A golden harp for.
'Tis strung and tuned for endless years
And formed by power divine
To sound in God the Father's ears
No other name but thine.
Hezekiah stated in the same chapter from which the text of this article was taken, "He hath both spoken unto me and himself hath done it" (Isa. 38:15). Here is a double. He commanded "Set thine house in order," and He performed the command Himself by setting it in order.
He works both the will and the do. Children of God receive "of the Lord's hand double" (Isa. 40:1). Scores of doubles come to our mind that neither time nor space will permit us to mention. Suffice it to suggest that the harp of God consists of a number of double strings. If the harps used back at that time under the ceremonial worship had ten strings, the spiritual harp must have five doubles which results in ten. Let us turn to the 8th chapter of Romans to find these five principles of the doctrine briefly stated. As we read them let us keep in mind that He has both spoken and Himself hath done it. Now, "For whom He did (1) foreknow, He also did (2) predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also (3) called and whom He called them he also (4) justified: and whom He justified, them He also (5) glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:29-31).
This foreknowledge is an intimate relationship with His people even before the manifestation of His decrees in time. He chose them in His Son. "Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned when as yet there were none of them" (Psalms 139:16). He knew them in eternity; they shall know Him in time. He predestinated them to be conformed to the image of His Son. He has ordered, arranged, and fixed all things to fall out at appointed times and seasons so that all things work together for the fulfillment of this grand purpose. See Romans 8:28. He calls and they shall answer. He performs the double as the word that goes forth out of His mouth returns not to Him void, but accomplishes that which He pleases and prospers in the thing whereunto He sends it. He decreed the justification of His people and He justified them by sending His Son into the world to pay the penalty for their sins, thus satisfying justice. The just bore the sins of the unjust that justice divine might be perfectly satisfied. He not only justified them but also glorified them through the divine righteousness of His own Son. "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled (justified) to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved (glorified) by His life" (Rom. 5:10). We are glorified by the imputed righteousness of His Son. These five wonderful things are both spoken and performed by God the Father, Son, and the Spirit. These ten strings ring clear the melodious song of praise to Him. The ten-stringed harp becomes ours when it pleases God to give it to us that we receive it with praise and thanksgiving. Then we are harpers harping with their harps. See Revelation 14:2. We have the harps of God (Rev. 15:2). We sing to the accompaniment of these harps in the "house of the Lord," Zion, the new Jerusalem, the Church, or with the children of God. We sing "all the days of our life." Sometimes the day is gloomy because of the clouds of trouble and despondency which hides the view of the brightness of the Son of Glory. Sometimes the day is cold because of the felt sense of our unworthiness. We experience cloudy and bright days; but, they are all days because it takes the light to manifest the darkness that is in our heart and the coldness in our thoughts. Nevertheless the expression of days in the plural shows that there are night times in our experience.
We hand our harps upon the willows by the river, Babylon, during the nights of our experience (Psalms 137). We have no use or regard for the Lord, nor Zion nor His people during the night. We are then resting in our own carnality and we are at ease. We do not think upon Zion nor His people. We forget Zion as is intimated in the expression, "We wept when we remembered Zion" (Ps. 137:1). When the dwellers in Babylon require of us in mirth to sing one of the songs of Zion, we are made to realize we cannot sing the Lord's song in a strange land. We must be brought again out of Babylon into Zion before we have any more use for the harp. It is not in the night that we feel unworthy, unfit, and so wretched but on dark and cloudy days. In the night we have no feeling, no sense of guilt, no deep concern over our spiritual welfare, neither any regard for His house. It is when we are awakened in the morning that we are made to weep because of our forgetfulness and unconsciousness of His providential care over us. It is when we are awakened by His Spirit before the rising of the Son of glory. Thanks be to God, when the son rises and we see the brightness of His face whose rays warm and calm our troubled breasts, fear is driven from our souls and love springs forth. Songs of praise again are sung to His matchless and glorious name for His amazing grace toward us.
You notice that Hezekiah says "our life" in the text. It seems to the natural mind that he should have said, "my life" or "our lives" to have been consistent with the proper usage of language. Let us see. The Lord added unto his life. My life had its end as my life when the Lord added His life to my life. My natural life ended as only a natural life when the Lord added that which is spiritual to my life. The life of a child of God prior to regeneration (or the addition of the graces of His Holy Spirit) is only a lustful fleshly life. After God adds that which is spiritual it becomes our life. When the Lord adds His Spirit there is set up a dual character in one. This results in a warfare. The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh so that you cannot do the things that you would, these being contrary one to the other. See Gal. 5:17. What the Lord adds is contrary to that naturally possessed.
One more thought and I shall close. The last night will be when death shall come at the end of our sojourn here. Then will be the dawning of the final day when we awaken in His likeness and shall be satisfied. There will be no night there but on eternal Day of perfect joy and peace. No cloudy and cold times to mar our peace. There will be no night nor river of Babylon. There will be no hanging of harps in the willows. We will all sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb harmoniously to the harps of God forever and forever.
Elder E. J. Lambert
"Tried In The Furnace."
Signs of the Times: Vol. 163, No. 5 May 1995