Posted by: rcottrill | February 11, 2019

The Theme of My Song

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Words: Haldor Lillenas (b. Nov. 19, 1885; d. Aug. 18, 1959)
Music: Haldor Lillenas

Wordwise Hymns (Haldor Lillenas born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Haldor Lillenas)

Note: Lillenas was a pastor and an evangelist. But he made his widest impact with the many gospel songs he wrote. The Cyber Hymnal lists nearly four hundred of them, but that is a mere quarter of his total output.

The word “theme” has been around for a long time, coming down from ancient Greek and Latin (thema in both). A theme is a subject–the subject of a book or an article, or of a speech or sermon. But, more than that, it’s a kind of unifying idea, a conviction, or value that connects various parts of a story or touches us where we live, day by day.

So, what are some common themes of life? Here are a few that influence how we think and plan, what we do and say: The dignity and worth of each individual person; balancing rights and responsibilities in life; the importance of family and community; protecting and aiding the poor and vulnerable in society; dealing with technology, its benefits and potential dangers; the proper care and stewardship of earth’s resources

Even a few moments’ thought would show what we know and believe in these areas can have a profound affect on each of us. And when we turn to the Bible, we find many connecting themes there, too. Back in 1926, a theologian named Lewis Sperry Chafer published a book entitled Major Bible Themes. In it, Dr. Chafer deals with about fifty significant ideas that permeate the Word of God.

But let’s see if we can simplify things. There are three themes that seem to saturate the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation–and, as we’ll see in a moment, all three are clearly expressed in a single Bible verse. The three are:

1) The love and grace (unmerited favour) of God;
2) God’s plan of salvation for lost sinners;
3) The person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Those three can be clearly seen again and again., and they are ultimately inseparable.

1) First, the simple phrase “the love of God” is found a dozen times from Luke through to Jude. The Bible speaks of “the kindness and love of God” (Tit. 3:4), and tells us “God is love” (I Jn. 4:8, 19). The latter is not meant in the sense that God is some kind of impersonal force. Nor can we say the opposite, that love is God. John means that love is a pervasive and overarching characteristic of God. It is an outstanding quality evident in God’s dealings with mankind.

2) Second, God, in love, has provided a means of eternal salvation for us. He says, “I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies” (Ezek. 18:32). And He has a plan to save us. As a basic principle, it’s this: that an innocent substitute be offered up to take sin’s punishment in our place. That is the basis of the Old Testament sacrificial system. An animal was slain, and when the offerer placed his hand on the head of the dead animal (Lev. 1:3-4), he was saying, in effect, this animal is dying in my place.

But that was only effective because God saw it as a symbol pointing forward to something greater yet to come. An animal can’t pay for human sin. “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin” (Heb. 10:4). A human being was needed. But there’s a serious problem with that. The Bible says, “All have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). All of us stand guilty before God, and deserve to die for our own sins. There is no “innocent substitute” who can die for others.

3) That’s where the third theme, about Christ comes in–and Christ Himself makes it plain that the truth about Him is taught all through the Bible (Lk. 24:27, 44; Jn. 5:39). The matter of our salvation is why the Lord Jesus came to this earth, as Man, to die for us. And it is John 3:16 that beautifully ties all three themes together:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).

“The Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world” (I Jn. 4:14; cf. vs. 9-10). And the Son of God shares the Father’s love for lost humanity. Paul testifies, “The Son of God…loved me, and gave Himself for me. (Gal. 2:20).

The person of Christ, and the salvation a loving God provides through faith in Him is, in effect, the greatest Bible theme of all. That’s expressed in a song called The Theme of My Song, by hymn writer Haldor Lillenas. It seems to reflect the purpose of his whole ministry: to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and tell others what He has done for us.

1) Others may sing of treasures of earth,
Sing of its glitter and gold,
But I have a theme of far greater worth,
Exhaustless, it never grows old.

He is the lovely theme of my song,
He is my light from afar;
Glory and praise shall to Him belong,
He is my bright Morning Star;
Strength for my weakness He doth impart,
He is the joy of my longing heart,
Fair Rose of Sharon is Jesus to me;
He is the theme of my song.

3) Fresh as the dew that falls from above,
Welcome as dawn with its light;
The story of Jesus, story of love,
Brings ever increasing delight.

1) What, in your view, are some of the most wonderful things about the Lord Jesus Christ?

2) What are some of the most wonderful things about God’s salvation?

Wordwise Hymns (Haldor Lillenas born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Haldor Lillenas)


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