Blessed be Your Name by Matt Redman is my favourite worship song of all time. It’s catchy, it’s focused on God and, like all the best worship songs, it’s based directly on the Bible. There are other songs which are perhaps theologically richer, or more energetic, but there’s one thing that sets this song apart. It’s so hard to sing honestly. If you don’t really think about the words it’s as intrinsically singable as everything that comes out of Soul Survivor, but to sing the words, and really mean them, is very difficult.
Because this is a song about worshipping God through the good times and the bad. It’s about sacrificing our own rights to self-pity and despair when things go wrong. When we’re found in the desert place, when we walk the road marked with suffering, still we are to say, ‘blessed be your name’. The greatest worship comes from a place of pain, because that’s when it’s most costly. It’s easy to worship when things are going well; but when they’re not, to worship then takes real courage.
The song was inspired by hardships in the songwriter’s own life, like some of David’s most heartfelt Psalms, but it also comes from the first chapter of the book of Job. In verses 20-22 Job says this:
“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”
What had just happened? In the verses immediately preceding this Job was the victim of raiding attacks and freak natural disasters. He has lost everything he owned, every source of income and all his children are dead. Can you even begin to imagine how hard it was for him to still worship in such a situation? Just one of these calamities would have most of us blaming God in helpless rage and grief – try putting them altogether and imagine what sort of state you’d be in.
Job worshipped God in the good times, as we see at the very beginning, and he worships again when things are at their absolute worst. His worship is all the more valuable and sincere for being costly. He gave up his right to have a pity-party or blame someone else. He knows everything comes from God and affirms God’s right to take things away again. This strikes at the very heart of our culture of entitlement, and is a big challenge for us. Are we ready to hold our possessions lightly for the sake of our relationship with God?
None of this is to say that Job didn’t have questions, or didn’t have tremendous pain because of what happened. Bitter questions pour forth in the coming dialogue and his pain is obvious. We’re not called to put a brave face on things and pretend all is well when it isn’t; on the contrary, God wants us to be real with Him. It’s ok to show God how you feel and to express your emotions, but the essential thing is that we do not blame God when things go wrong. That’s the tipping point. Had Job done that, Satan would have won, God would have been proved wrong, and the book would never have been written.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve blamed God for an awful lot of bad things in my life, from serious hardships to trivial things like the rain that seemed timed for when I had to cycle to school. Ridiculous, isn’t it, how quick we are to lash out at God? I’ve had to repent of that foolishness, but I have to keep reminding myself of this lesson because it’d be easy to go back to that way of thinking. Given how hard I find it not to blame God for little inconveniences, I am stunned by the extent of Job’s humility and self-denial in the face of truly staggering suffering.
The book of Job shows us that no matter what goes wrong in our lives, God is blameless. His righteousness is perfect and His justice beyond reproach. This is a really important truth when trying to come to terms with the suffering in the world. God does not cause it, just like He didn’t cause Job’s suffering. He is not indifferent to it. All we can say is that He allows it.
None of us know why, much as we would like to. But in Job one possible answer seems to be: God wanted to prove that humans could love Him no matter what. That there were people out there who loved God beyond what they could get from Him. Love is cheap when things are easy; loyalty is simple when life is good. Imagine if I only loved my wife when all was going swimmingly, or only when she was nice to me? What kind of marriage would that be? No, the true value of love is shown when it prevails in adversity. And Job shows the high value God places on this kind of selfless love, and on genuine worship. Job shows that human virtue can transcend human selfishness. Job proves Satan wrong, puts him in his place, and vindicates God’s relationship with humanity.