Have you ever thought through some of the theology of the songs you sing in church, in your personal worship times, and that sort of thing? Have you ever sung some of the old hymns and wondered what they mean? Do you ever think that they really don’t speak the truth, or don’t make it very clear, or that they contradict themselves? Those old hymns sure do have a way of getting us to think, they teach doctrine, we teach each other by singing them, and they will preach if you have the notion to do so. I suggest you do so.
The group from our church was singing one of their favorite songs at the nursing home the other day, and it occurred to me that those whom we were singing with, and singing to, might be confused as to what the lyrics were proclaiming, and wonder how, in their condition, these things could possibly be true. So as I often do, I used this as a teaching moment.
The song in question was “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”. Now the chorus, or refrain, goes like this: Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms. Most people have heard it before, and I had sung it many times, but in the context of being in that nursing home I thought about the fact that we really do have things that can trouble us, from a loved one who gets in an accident, someone we know having cancer, going through a personal crisis, and on and on. There are many things that God seems to not have as high on the priority list as we do, or things that we have to go through that aren’t all that wonderful.
So in light of this, what can these words mean, safe and secure from all alarms? How could the people in the nursing home sing this, they were in a difficult situation and some of them in horrific pain, and that is an alarming thing no doubt, just as those of us who aren’t there have alarming, unexpected things happen to us every day. God doesn’t always “protect” us from them so how could it be that we are safe and secure from all alarms? How is this true?
Well, in pondering that question, the answer came to me. Those things are just alarms, they only wake us up to the reality of everyday living in this fallen world, but we are indeed safe from them, in the ultimate sense. Those things are only temporal, but we are not leaning on temporal arms, but everlasting ones, and so those temporal things can have no everlasting power over us.
We are not counting on temporal things to deliver us, but for God in His everlasting grace to deliver us, and He does so even through our deaths. This is why we have blessed peace, with our Lord so near, because we have nothing to fear, in the final analysis. Even if the alarm was a heart attack that took our life we are safe and secure from that alarm because all it would do is wake us up to our new home in heaven, safe in the everlasting arms of the Father in eternal life.
What have I to dread, what have I to fear? Nothing can cause us everlasting harm leaning on the everlasting arms.