Have you ever been in the grocery store, and as you are carefully selecting your green and red peppers, you realize without trying, that you know every word of the song playing overhead?

Or perhaps you’ve been in the barber’s chair and you say to the sheerer “You know Oz never did give nothing to the Tin-man, that he didn’t, didn’t already have.” At this point, the scissors come to a complete halt, and you get a blank stare through the mirror, and you look back, as if to say ‘what’s the problem?’

Well, even if you can’t relate to being lyric-centric, you can suppose what it’s like. And for whatever reason, I always find myself focusing on the words. Sure I enjoy a good guitar lick or the booming praise of the pipe organ, but it’s the lyrics that go straight to my heart, and head.

So I was reminded this week of a popular “praise and worship” song that I sang often in a college ministry I was a part of, the bridge goes something like this:

“I’ll never know how much it cost, to see my sin upon that cross.”

Something about that line has always made me uncomfortable. Most of the tune however, is great; for example:

“King of all days, oh so highly exalted, glorious in heaven above. Beauty that made this heart adore you, all for love’s sake became poor.”

But there is that bridge that I just can’t get over. Something about eternal ignorance when it comes to our worship of God doesn’t sit right with me. My thoughts then turn to one of my favorite poems turned hymns.

Consider Robert Murray McCheyne’s handling of the subject when we praise The King in “I am debtor”:

“When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see thee as thou art,
Love thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

The contrast is interesting.

The first song in a desire to praise God attempts to say; “so great is this salvation, and so high it’s price, I can never know and understand it, I will never be able to fully take it in.” I think this is admirable, as it seeks to elevate God by saying ‘as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are my affections above your heart’s capacity to know them.’

So what is wrong with this?

While I do admit that these things are true of us now, will they be true of us in heaven? Will we actually “never know the cost?”

McCheyne takes the other route. Instead of magnifying God’s deeds and character by setting it above us, McCheyne magnifies them further by pointing to our receiving it in full through God’s work of glorification.

This is perhaps more evident from the entirety of the poem. Taking us through differing experiences after death, we see “how much we owe”, and only then can comprehend this power in God’s grace.

So McCheyne points to our knowing God as we are fully known, in heaven as the work of the glorification of the saints as the point where we will “know how much we owe” from Christ’s work on the cross. I think this presents God as more glorious as (IMO) it points to heaven.

So where does this leave us now? Humming while hunting cantaloupe? No, I’d like to close with McCheyne again, pointing us back to the cross, this time for earthly purposes…

Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Saviour’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show,
By my love, how much I owe.