I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.

I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.

Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."

So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.

It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.

I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.

All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.

Ralph M. Petersen

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Sunday, November 6, 2016


There are hundreds of popular contemporary praise songs today and some of them are pretty good but many of them are doctrinally weak or unsound.  

For example, Let’s Just Praise The Lord, by the Gaithers, was very popular for several years and is still well-known today.  It’s not a terrible chorus; it is just that the object of its praise is vague and so the song has a comfortable, universal appeal; It can be used and enjoyed by almost anyone who believes in a god but has no saving knowledge of the One True Living God of the Bible.

But even beyond that weakness, the song doesn’t accomplish the biblical purpose of praise songs.   The scriptures command that we are to “Praise the Lord.”  The word, “Praise” when used with God as the object means to rehearse or recite His attributes, perfections, benefits, provisions, and works.

PRAISE THE ONE WHO BREAKS THE DARKNESS is a contemporary praise song that was written in 1987 by Rusty Edwards.   He has pastored churches in Illinois, Nebraska, and Georgia, and recently accepted a grant for extended study at Oxford University.

I like this song because it is full of scriptural references and parallels, it is rich with true, biblical praise, and it is appropriately mixed with sound theology. 

The first stanza begins with a general praise to an unspecific God ("the ONE") but then quickly begins to sharpen its focus on Him.  God is a Spirit but the imagery in the song quickly leads us through some metaphors that undeniably bring us to recognize Jesus Christ even though His name is not yet mentioned.

The second stanza alludes to some of the works of this ONE who is receiving the praise; He is the ONE who blessed the children with a strong, yet gentle, word.  And He is the ONE who drove out demons, and the ONE who brings cool water to the desert’s burning sand.   Yet, even though the scriptural imagery is strong, the identification, of this One in the song's text, remains unnamed.

But suddenly the final stanza definitively declares the object of our praise; This ONE is revealed as the Incarnate Christ who suffered in our place.  And, in case we are still uncertain, the second line identifies Him by His Name, Jesus.  And then, the author clearly presents the Gospel; it is Jesus who died and rose again that we might know God by His grace. 

And the stanza continues, “. . . sing for joy and gladness, seeing what our God has done; let us praise the true Redeemer, praise the One who makes us one.”  

At this point, the writer reveals the triune nature of our God; He is the ONE God who created us, the Savior who redeemed us, and the Comforter who indwells us and hold us all together. 

We should always express our praises to our God with emotion and deep meaning but praise is not dependent on our circumstances or our emotions; we are commanded to praise Him because of the Gospel.    If we come to church expecting or hoping to feel a certain way or to experience a heightened emotional state, we will often be disappointed or we will move from church to church in search of one that heightens our human emotions. 

Real praise and worship, as the final lines of this hymn imply, engages our minds with a knowledge of Who He is and why we worship Him.  If He is to be the object of our worship, our focus must be on Him; we must extol His attributes and His works.  PRAISE THE ONE WHO BREAKS THE DARKNESS 

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