Over the past few years, I’ve been on a journey of writing songs from scripture and explored ancient prayers, chants, and sacred traditions of Judaism. These are significant because as a songwriter and worship leader I’ve always actively studied the roots of my Christian faith. What song did Yeshua sing with his disciples in the Upper Room during the Passover Seder or Last Suppler? (Matthew 26:30) What notes did the shepherd boy David play on his harp for King Saul to drive away the evil spirits that had tormented him? (1 Samuel 16:23) As I studied Jewish liturgy, I discovered that these ancient melodies had been passed down through oral tradition. Then something amazing happened at the turn of the century. A.Z. Idelsohn had compiled and written down traditional melodies of songs from local rabbis between 1914 and 1932. Pursuing his theory that if the Jews who had been disbursed from various tribes had similar melodies, they had each preserved, we might be able to hear what ancient Temple song sounded like. When I came across an article written by Geoffrey Chew called “Jewish Melodies” it highlighted the possibility. My interest was piqued when he revealed Idelsohn’s claim: “some synagogue melodies had been transferred into Gregorian chant of the Roman Catholic Church.” This prompted me to read a book by Idelsohn’s student - Eric Werner called “The Sacred Bridge” which described in detail the many parallels between the Jewish and Catholic liturgy.
Like seeing the tip of a mysterious iceberg from atop a lofty ocean liner, I had to dive deeper to get the full picture. Soon I was looking at music excerpts from the “Thesaurus of Oriental Hebrew Melodies”. I sat down at my piano and played what Idelsohn designated as “Intonations of the Pentateuch” from Exodus 18:1-2. In this passage of scripture Jethro, father-in-law of Moses praised God for rescuing Moses and the children of Israel from the land of Egypt. He said, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods.” This echoed Exodus 15:11 known as the song of Moses and Miriam. After being delivered from the Egyptian army and safely passing through the Red Sea their voices proclaimed, “Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” This verse was familiar to me because every Torah service in synagogue each Shabbat begins with the song “Ein Kamocha” (Who is Like You).
As I played the melody A.Z. Idelsohn transcribed something stirred within me. It was hauntingly beautiful, and it moved my heart in a powerful way. My God truly is a miracle worker. I knew I wanted to take this ancient melody and put it in a modern context, so I composed the song with the ancient melody and titled it “No One Like You.”
Without a doubt, God is still working miracles today. I may not have crossed through a literal Red Sea, but I have been pulled out of many seemingly hopeless, dark, and stormy situations in my life – a turbulent marriage...depression...anxiety. Thankfully, the Lord helped me get through each difficulty and land safely on the other side. But I know more challenges lie up ahead. So, looking back here are a few things I’d like to remind my future self of: What would happen if I believed God was present as I went through difficult, deep waters? What if I didn’t allow myself to be overwhelmed by my circumstances and responded instead with honest heart cries and declarations of worship? What if I stood in awe and realized how BIG and magnificent God is and how small my problems really are? What if I understood how close God is? What if I remembered His goodness and whispered prayers of thanks for the ways He has already helped me?
Over and over, I’ve found when I seek God’s presence in the middle of my circumstance and believe He is with me; He becomes my strength and my song. When I speak and sing who He is, He inhabits my praises. When I look for His perspective and ask for His wisdom, He redeems what was broken and lost. When I allow my life experiences to fill my mouth with prayer and praise, authentic worship begins - and so does my healing!
Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank you for your kindness, compassion, and love. It is such a comfort to know that You are with me and daily watching over me, protecting me and helping me even when I fall. Remind me to surrender my worries, anxieties, and fears to You because I know You can handle them much better than myself. Help me to praise You in the middle of the deep waters I may be going through and teach me how to trust You more fully. There is no one like You, Lord and along with the heavens I will continue to sing Your praise.