I love to sing, but I sing less often these days because my voice is kind of crackly now. Nevertheless I am always inwardly singing, and now, apparently, quite often am humming, or so I’m told. (It looks like that spring in my heart must surface one way or another.) So I’m told I’m often overheard humming a tune, something recognizable only by the birds of my feather, for I know I’m never humming the familiar music of this world. I don’t hum or sing that music. Not that it’s a rule I keep religiously; I just don’t want to; it isn’t in my heart anymore, hasn’t been for a long time.
It’s because of the old saying:
Whose bread you eat, his song you sing.
That’s what’s in my heart—the song of the Bread of God who came down from heaven to give life to the world.
For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (Jn. 6:33 NKJV).
The world’s bread left me empty; how can I sing its song? Its song left me empty too. Now I eat the Bread of God, it satisfies my deepest hunger. How, then, can I help but sing His song? Recently I had one stuck in my heart after hearing in a dream someone singing, oh such a beautiful melody, but, oh, how vexing: I could not identify the singer, nor the lyrics! So I approached one standing by, a stranger to me, and asked him if he knew the song. But somehow he hadn’t heard it being sung, so, anxiously hoping he would know it, I began humming it for him. To no avail. He couldn’t help me. I was so disappointed. After I awoke, the song kept replaying within me. It was only later in the day that I suddenly recognized it, and instantly knew it had to have been my friend Steven singing in my dream his favourite psalm from the Psalter, Psalm 84.
O Lord of Hosts, how lovely Thy tabernacles are;
For them my heart is yearning In banishment afar.
My soul is longing, fainting, Thy sacred courts to see;
My heart and flesh are crying, O living God, for Thee.
So… that’s what is ever with me—the Lord’s song. In the daytime. In the nighttime. It may be a psalm, or a hymn, or one of the many songs in my years-long memory bank that I loved to sing when gathering together with others unto the Lord.
He came down from heaven to give life to the world. Very fittingly He was born in Bethlehem, “House of bread.” Insignificant Bethlehem, though “little among the thousands of Judah,” had upon it the eye of a God who loves the lowly. He had destined that “out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2 ASV). “Unto Me,” God assured. This ruler born in Bethlehem would be God’s own divinely ordained and anointed king who would never abdicate or be deposed, one to whom all peoples, beginning with the people of Israel, were to bow the knee. His birth would fulfill great hope in those who longed to see this Ruler and give Him from the heart His rightful allegiance; it would also fulfill great fear in those who above all else did not want to see this One come forth and reign. One of them, inspired by His Enemy, sought to do away with Him in His infancy but failed; others in the service of that same Enemy ultimately conspired to have Him crucified. They succeeded in that but failed in their purpose; to their everlasting confusion all they did was establish His throne. He reigns even yet. I for one came to a time in my life when I humbled myself and bowed my knees to Him. I still remember the moment. What happened then is best related in the words of my old friend, George Herbert (another of whose poems inspired the title of this weblog):
Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.
“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.
That is just what I did. I humbled myself, and accepted His loving invitation. I sat down at His table, and did eat—He Himself serving me.
He Himself serving me? Where are the words…
Broken Bread for a broken man
I needed to be broken before I was willing to receive this Bread. The Bread Himself needed to be broken before I could take Him in. Before being broken, that Bread remained outside of me. But now this Bread has been broken, and has come to me in a Form I am able to take in: now by His Spirit this Bread is within me. I needed only to open my heart; now this Bread is in my heart sustaining me daily; it is “bread that strengthens man’s heart” for whatever a day may bring (Ps. 104:15).
What Wonder-bread is this! Where I live people can buy bread with the brand name Wonderbread. It’s good bread, and will keep your physical body going for a while. But that’s all it can do. Man, in order to live, needs other bread than that. “I am,” says Jesus, “the bread of life” (Jn. 6:35). He says further:
I am the living bread, which came down from heaven. If anyone eat this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:51 NKJV).
Live forever? It is the bread of eternal life, then. But, in fact, He said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have not life in you” (Jn. 6:53).
You have not life in you? It is the most serious statement of Scripture that no human being has Life in him or her apart from ingesting the living Bread, the Bread of life. Those who have eaten this Bread have life in them, eternal life, and therefore even while in mortal flesh have this promise:
Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn. 6:54).
Wondrous and sure hope!
And so, as one who has taken and eaten this Bread, and continues to do so daily, I exhort you, dear reader, oh, if you have not done so, please, lay this to heart.
You have no Life in you except you eat this Bread. Eat this Bread, and live.
Eat this Bread, and you will soon be singing His song.
Please join me now in singing one of my favourite hymns—or hum along if you like—and I pray that, just as this hymn has become so meaningful to me, it will also become so to you, because you, along with me, no longer hold allegiance with those who feared when “the hopes and fears of all the years” were met of old in Bethlehem.
Alden, will you please lead for us?
…Here also, for those who would like to listen in, is the song I heard in my dream: