Country and Western music: as true an American art form as there ever was. It's the unmistakable beauty of nasal twang on sheet music. It's heart surgery performed on a steel guitar; syllables sliding an entire scale on purpose. It's Nashville's contribution to the Louvre.
Most CW songs tell sad stories. The ballads range from broken hearts to trailer parks, from poker hands to one night stands, with a whole lot of dusty miles in between. But though the venues may vary, the storylines remain the same.
The most popular theme is the, "My baby done me wrong" songs. This includes such hits as, I'm digging a hole to bury my heart, and Hog tied over you. And who could ever forget, Flushed from the bathroom of your heart, or I shaved my back for nothing cuz nothin's comin back to me. And, of course, the ever popular, Jesus may love you but I don't, God may forgive you but I won't.
Another familiar storyline is the "Fallen arches and broken dreams" category. These songs typically translate Murphy's Law into hillbillyese. Old standards like, I'm darned if I don't and danged if I do, and All my Ex's live in Texas. Colorful classics like, You dirty old egg-suckin dog, or Earache my eye. And the boot-tapping hit, The homecoming queen's got a gun. And, my personal favorite, You're the reason my kids are ugly.
In the world of music, Country Western is the loveable-but-ugly sister in the family portrait. It's a chunk of concrete in an upscale China shop. It's TV dinners at Buckingham Palace. Hog-calling at Carnegie Hall. The music's unpretentiousness exposes the soul of its singer. That's the appeal. The musician's heartache transcends our own. His pain is our pain. His dog died too.
I bring this up because of Psalms 7. It's easy to see that David was a big fan of Israel's impassioned music. Psalm 7's introduction identifies it as "A Shiggaion of David." The footnote in my Bible says, "Wild passionate song," suggesting perhaps a Hebrew equivalent to our Country Western.
David's mood-filled Psalm sets a mournful backdrop. His visual lyrics tell of bad times and bad people with bad motives. His heart is hurting. But even though the Psalm begins on a sad note, David's confidence in God refuses to fold. Like a strong musical beat, his faith wouldn't die. Things will get better. True love for the true God will be rewarded in the end.
The music of the Bible, as with Country Western, was inescapably locked with life, and with God. Music in Israel was more than a tune to whistle while watching the flock. Much more. It was a weapon in war, a protocol at coronations, and an entre at feasts. It was a sedative to calm the nerves of overworked prophets. And, as with the Psalmist, it was a heavenly frequency that tuned out the world and focused on the Father. Music eased his pain. It was David's Epsom Salts. And, as in Psalm 7, it represented his plea for help.
David sang, "O Lord my God, in thee I have taken refuge. Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me... If I have done wrong, if there is injustice in my hands, if I have rewarded evil to my friend, then let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it... Arise, O Lord, lift up Thyself against the rage of my adversaries...Vindicate me, O Lord... I will give thanks to the Lord and will sing praise to the name of the Most High."
Sing it, David. We feel it too!
Vice President of Church Relations
P.S. If you're looking for great preaching tools, don't forget Preaching Magazine. It's my favorite. Check it out at Preaching.com. Do your congregation a favor by subscribing.
Copyright 2007 by Ron Walters
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Original publication date: July 8, 2009