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God's Lyrics, Rediscovering Worship through Old Testament Songs Paperback – 4 May 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Presbyterian and Reformed; First edition (4 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596381728
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596381728
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.1 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 796,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Doug O'Donnell, a native of Chicago, now serves as the Friends of QTC Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies and Practical Theology at Queensland Theological College in Brisbane, Australia. He is the author of God's Lyrics, The Beginning and End of Wisdom, Psalms (Knowing the Bible), and commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew, the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and 1-3 John. He lives in Dutton Park with his wife, Emily, and their four children. He is pursuing his doctorate in the New Testament at Trinity College Bristol through the University of Aberdeen.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth Brown on 28 Jan. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Read this. It analyses ancient and modern hymns and modern choruses from a particular perspective and suggests ways of redirecting our gaze back on God and his great and away from our own feelings.
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Amazon.com: 5 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Every Worship Leader, Pastor, & Song Writer Should Read This! 27 May 2010
By David A. Vosseller - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Most evangelical Christians would give lip service to the idea that Scripture is our source, guide and power for all that we do. But does our worship really do that in practice? In God's Lyrics: Rediscovering Worship Through Old Testament Songs, Pastor Douglas O'Donnell has written a book that is both challenging and uncomfortable for anyone involved in church worship, singing, and song writing. The first section of his book consists of a detailed, sermonic look at six of the songs of God's people in the Old Testament: The Song of Moses (Exodus 15), The Song of Yahweh (Deut. 32), The Song of Deborah (Judges 5), The Songs in Samuel (1 Sam 2, 2 Sam 22), and The Song of Habakkuk (Hab. 3). Each sermon/chapter is both scholarly and readable, convicting and at times humorous. The second section seeks to apply the lessons and models of those six songs to our worship. He writes that "there are four themes in each of these six scriptural songs: 1. The Lord is at the center; that is, our God is addressed, adored, and 'enlarged'. 2. His mighty acts in salvation history are recounted. 3. His acts of judgments are rejoiced in. 4. His ways of living (practical wisdom) are encouraged." (pp. 113). Then through what was some very thorough research of both popular hymns and praise music, he compares their content to these themes and finds that many of our hymns and praise songs fail to follow these themes. In fact, as O'Donnell makes clear, many are so vague, that their content would not be objectionable to a Moslem, a Mormon, or a Jewish person! He makes it clear that even in many churches where the whole counsel of God is preached from the pulpit, something less than the Gospel is proclaimed in our worship:
"Gordon Fee once said, 'Show me a church's songs and I'll show you their theology.' Today's most popular songs...show a theology that is un-Christian at worst and biblically unbalanced at best. Not only the texts, but also the themes of the songs of Moses, Deborah, Hannah, David, and Habakkuk are too often neglected. And such neglect has had its effect. By turning from substantive songs that well reflect these texts and themes to what Carl Schalk calls 'Twinkie Tunes with a Ding-Dong Theology,' a generation has gotten theologically fat and forgetful." (pp.176).
Pastor O'Donnell goes beyond merely criticism, but attempts to offer a positive remedy as well. For the final section, he takes each of the six OT songs, and has written original lyrics to them, set to some familiar hymn tunes. This I thought was a perfect conclusion to the book. Rather than merely showing how many of our hymns and praise songs were Biblical deficient, he offers a path for how to move forward and gives tangible, singable examples of what he hopes that God's people will do to improve and re-energize our musical canon. Here's hoping that this book is widely read, discussed, and applied in our churches!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Letting the Bible shape our singing? A novel concept! 9 Aug. 2010
By James Seward - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Buy this book; read it; and pass it on to your pastor or music pastor. Let me give two reasons:

1) In a day when Christians are moving further away from strong biblical commitments, perhaps we need to return to singing what the Scriptures call us to sing. Who would have thought that by simply examining the songs of Scripture, we might learn how to sing what God wants us singing? The resultant evidence emerging from the Bible transcends the traditional vs. contemporary debate as both sides are found wanting. If we want to be people of the Word, we must begin with our singing. This book helps us immensely, not only in doing this, but in reshaping the way we think about lyrics.

2) It's an enjoyable read. With the endless stream of "must reads" spewing forth from Christian publishers, I often find myself wishing that more authors knew how to write. Publishing a book, in my opinion, requires more than just having an idea you want to convey. Great books also convey their ideas in engaging, well-written prose. You may accuse me of being a literary snob, but I want to enjoy the book I'm reading. O'Donnell does not let down. His wit and expertise in the turn-of-phrase are on display in this well-crafted book.

Rumor has it that O'Donnell is working on several upcoming books, including commentaries in the Preaching the Word Series (Matthew and Song of Songs). If so, we may have another Dale Ralph Davis on our hands (adept exegete who knows how to write with verve, yet is not a "famous" author or simply an academic "expert") - a reality I would most certainly welcome.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Must Read 16 Nov. 2010
By Christopher Castaldo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Let me write the songs of a nation - I don't care who writes its laws," said the Scottish author and politician Andrew Fletcher (1653 -1716). Songs shape our thoughts, stimulate our desires, and motivate us to behave in new, imaginative ways. You hear a song from decades past and are instantly transported to the fateful day when that cute brunette dumped you. On the other hand, songs of Scripture, empowered by God's Spirit, have the effect of piercing our calloused hearts, awakening our spiritual affections, and eventually leading us behind the mortal veil to behold the indescribable beauty of Christ. Herein is the burden of God's Lyrics--to rediscover the great value and content of Scriptural songs for Christian orthodoxy and doxology (xx).

Whether O'Donnell has ever kissed the Blarney Stone I don't know, but he has an extraordinary gift of communication, turning phrases and employing metaphors with great effect. This is especially apparent when he describes the importance of God-centered worship, which he does with pastoral insight and sensitivity, buttressing his analysis and applying it with contemporary relevance. Here is a little taste:

Now, how big do you think we look to the God who created this immense and awesome universe--the heavens (all that is up there and out there) and the earth (all that is down here)? Like ants? No, we're not that big. Like a speck of dust in an ant's eye? No, we're not even that big. Like nothing? No, we're not that small. We are something to God, but so often not what we think (7).

With attention consistently focused upon the splendor of God, O'Donnell sets the stage in his introduction, explaining that "many contemporary and some classic lyrics have blurred our perception of God and his work. By showing characteristics of these `sacred songs' (1 Chron. 16:42) within the sacred writings--such as their God-centered yet personal nature, their emphasis on the works of God in salvation history, and especially their joy in judgment--we will offer both a corrective and a call: a corrective to sing lyrics that will not only make us `wise for salvation,' but will also be profitable for `training in righteousness' (2 Tim. 3:14-16), as well as a call to return to the Word of God (the very words of God!) in our worship of him."

In the first of three overall sections, O'Donnell explores a handful of Old Testament songs of praise (i.e., The Song of Moses, Ex. 15:1-21; The Song of Yahweh, Deut. 32:1-43; The Song of Deborah, Judg. 5:2- 31; The Songs in Samuel, 1 Sam. 2:1-10; 2 Sam 22:2-51; The Song of Habakkuk, Hab. 3:1-19). These texts have been carefully chosen on the basis of their redemptive historical significance, connecting the dots of Hebrew promise and fulfillment in the forward-moving direction of salvation. The result is a biblical theology of divine praise that is as relevant today as it was for ancient Israel.

From his investigation, O'Donnell elucidates four characteristics that recur in biblical song. In the book's foreword, T. David Gordon summarizes these points (ix):

· The Lord is at the center; that is, our God is addressed, adored, and "enlarged."

· His mighty acts in salvation history (not merely or primarily our personal experience of redemption) are recounted.

· His acts of judgments are rejoiced in.

· His ways of living (practical wisdom) are encouraged.

Part two, titled "Applications for Christian Worship" explores the meaning and significance of the Old Testament theme of praise. Here is a wealth of practical wisdom as O'Donnell uses the four above-mentioned characteristics of biblical song to evaluate classical hymns and contemporary worship music. As O'Donnell waxes eloquent about the kingdom directed nature of praise, one quickly recognizes a disconnection between a biblically principled approach and the self-centered emphasis of many churches today. This may be the most provocative part of the book. Thankfully however, where many such critiques tend to sound crotchety and irritable, O'Donnell is refreshingly constructive.

Although section two is limited to the content of songs, that is, the lyrics we sing, without comment on Christian music styles and musicians, it nonetheless offers a great deal to think about. In a nutshell it is about "calling Christians out of the realm of the duped and simpleminded when it comes to the lyrical content of our songs" (159).

An incisive quote from New Testament scholar Gordon Fee at the start of part three drives home O'Donnell's point, "Show me a church's songs and I'll show you their theology." In an attempt to steer Christians in the proper direction, away from "Twinkie Tunes and Ding-Dong Theology," O'Donnell invites readers to compose their own songs to reflect biblical priorities. Titled "New Hymns and Old Texts" this third section presents several such songs which O'Donnell himself has written, new lyrics put to old tunes.

Full scripture, subject, and name indices in the appendix enable readers to access information with ease. The appendix also contains a fascinating study evaluating the top songs that have been sung in American churches from 2000 to 2008 (189).

In addition to reading God's Lyrics, pastors and church leaders will want to employ it as a basis for discussion in their churches. The important questions that it raises are indispensible to the ongoing conversation about worship, and its quality of writing makes it not only accessible but enjoyable. Most importantly, it raises our sights above the horizon of self-centered singing by encouraging us to use lyrics that are far better suited to the majestic God whom we address.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
"What a church sings is often what it believes" 10 Oct. 2011
By Sarutaru06 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Many Christians and Christian churches today shun doctrine and biblical inerrancy. This book is not for them. This book holds to 2 Timothy 3:16, that ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. The main reform pushed by the author is that we have neglected certain principles found in the word of God and that our "Christian songs" often times are so vague in language that they are by no means distinctly Christian.

As John Macarthur says in his introduction to the CD Exalted Worship; "So often today we hear worship music that may be catchy, but it lacks a certain theological depth. Unfortunately, what it lacks in loftiness it makes up for with mind numbing repetition."

I was drawn to this book upon coming to much the same conclusion. This book, though a criticism, is not about any new technique in worship. In fact it's not about anything new at all; it's all based on Old Testament texts. What the author is calling us to is not only to preach from the bible as the ultimate authority, but also not to neglect the whole character of God in our worship. Is God's justice any less an admirable attribute then His love? Or are we ashamed that our God is a God of wrath? As Paul said in Acts 20:26-27: "...I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not neglected to declare to you the whole counsel of God." Are we learning from the songs that we sing? Are we worshiping the True and Living God? These are all questions the author attempts to answer using the Old Testament songs.
0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
God's Lyrics, a disappointment 26 Jun. 2012
By A. Braswell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was described as a book of lyrics with some of the music included. Actually, there were a few lyrics and less music. I could not use it at all. I think that this person had his own agenda in mind - not research from scholars about the subject.
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