May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord, when they hear what you have decreed.
May they sing of the ways of the Lord, for the glory of the Lord is great. (Psalm 138:4-5)
Why Waste a Good Cliché?
Recently I was speaking with a friend about a brand-new worship song that we both really love. We agreed that even though there was nothing new or novel about it, it was still a great song! Phrase after phrase contained lyrics that could easily be found in dozens of other worship songs. In fact, that was part of its appeal and accessibility. That conversation made me wonder, what exactly is it that makes a great song great? Does it require freshness or familiarity? And while I still value cleverness, innovation and ingenuity, I came to a startling conclusion: why waste a good cliché?
In Psalm 138, the songwriter, identified as David, seems to take that idea to heart. He sings a song of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, and it sounds like maybe we’ve heard this song before! He praises God for God’s unfailing love and faithfulness (vs. 2); he thanks God for hearing and answering prayer (vs. 3); he challenges the “gods” (vs. 1) and the “kings of the earth” (vs. 4-5) to join his song of praise; he declares that God cares for the humble and needy (vs. 6); he recognizes that God preserves and protects him (vs. 7); and he concludes the song by reiterating God’s enduring and abiding love (vs. 8). Nothing especially new or novel here, folks…
Maybe that’s the whole point. What was true “once upon a time” is still true now…what used to make God praiseworthy is praiseworthy still. Whether we sing a song that’s fresh off the presses or as old as the hills, we worship a God who is before, above and beyond any of it! As the writer of Hebrew puts it, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). So why waste a good cliché?
Psalm 138 is the first of a series of eight songs identified as ledawid. That Hebrew phrase can mean “of David” (written by him), “concerning David” (about him), or “after David” (like him). And certainly, the sentiments and images and language in Psalm 138 have a familiar Davidic ring to them. But ultimately this song is “to God,” “about God,” and “for God,” and that’s the only point that truly matters. Heartfelt and familiar words of worship, no matter how cliché they might seem to us, are always fresh an alive when they are offered sincerely to God. Don’t waste a good cliché!
Jesus didn’t give his followers a whole lot of “new instructions” or novel and innovative ways to offer their worship to God. He went back to the basics, back to the clichés. Quoting from the ancient words of Deuteronomy and Numbers he told us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:25-37)
That was the way to God’s heart then, and it’s still the way to God’s heart today.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:15-16)
Don’t waste any good cliché that helps you give Jesus Christ the praise and worship he deserves! He is our life and our song…stay thirsty my friends!
SONG: HOUSE OF THE LORD (Phil Wickham)