So at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the gold image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
[Daniel 3:7 NKJV]
The libretto for ‘He Shall Feed His Flock/Come Unto Him’ from Handel’s ‘Messiah’ uses passages from Isaiah and Matthew. The words of the song are:
Air (or Duet) (Alto &) soprano
He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; and He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40: 11)
Come unto Him, all ye that labour, come unto Him that are heavy laden, and He will give you rest.
Take his yoke upon you, and learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11: 28-29)
His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. (Matthew 11: 30)
The words of Jesus have been changed so that the personal ‘come unto me’ of the New Testament becomes the external impersonal ‘come unto him’. It shows how subtly and easily Jesus’ message can be manipulated to distance us from His presence. Am I making too big a thing of this — it is a fine and beautiful song from a brilliant oratorio, and a much-loved favourite?
I use the example of Handel’s ‘The Messiah’ merely because I had been listening to the song ‘Come Unto Him’ (see below) this morning. The same applies to many songs or hymns that we hold dear. A misquoting of Jesus words or purpose is a distortion, which over time, can lead to false beliefs settling in the mind — gold images which look good and sound good, but which lead away from the real thing.
The Bible itself was compiled over centuries from the writings of many men in several different languages; translated into other languages, which have been used to re-translate into more still. Add to that the fact that words and usage evolve and change and it is a miracle that we have anything of the original at all.
Yet Jesus’ words prevail. They are ‘God-breathed’ truth and eternal. Thus, it is immeasurably important that we seek the reality and essence, the deeper meaning that God reveals in His word. Do not settle for superficial gloss, but let The Holy Spirit guide each one of us in our understanding, and continue to let His heavenly music lift us in Him.
The one great enemy of discipleship is obstinacy, spiritual obstinacy. We deify independence and wilfulness and call them by the wrong name.