About a year ago I was driving around with my nephews, who were visiting from Nashville, TN; Ian, Avi, and Isaiah. We were listening to a demo of a song I had just written, "Rise From Zion". When the opening guitar riff, which is like "Middle East meets Rock N Roll", blasted through the speakers they all began to bob their heads simultaneously. It was a lot of fun as they asked me to play it over and over again. Finally one of them pipes up,
"Uncle Nate? What does Eliza-Zion mean?"
It took me a split second to realize they were asking about the Lyrics of the song. They meant, "What does rise from Zion mean". Great question. What the heck is Zion and why should praises rise from it. My answer?
"It's two things guys, 1. the city God loves in Israel called Jerusalem, one day God is going to fully redeem Israel by opening up their eyes and allowing them to receive and accept the Messiah, Jesus Christ. 2. It represents wherever God's people are anywhere in the earth. Really it's the dwelling place of God, our hearts". To that they replied "Oh" and kept bobbing their heads to the beat.
The week before I was in my office, the melody (that eventually became the opening guitar riff) would not leave my head so I decided to work on a song. I was in the middle of a novel by Ted Dekker called "Black". It is a fantasy novel which parallels portions of the gospel story. kind of a grown up version of the beloved "Narnia" tales. The main character encounters The Creator of the universe by diving deep into a mystical lake. He's compelled to swim deeper and deeper until there is no way he can make it to the surface alive. He drowns, and in that moment the voice of The Creator speaks and breathes life back into the drowning man. What a beautiful picture of what has been done for us through the cross of Christ and how we are raised to new life when we dive into God's love shown to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In the book The Creator reveals himself as Elyon, one of the ancient names of God.
I wanted to use one of the names of God that speaks of his eternal nature. I've always loved "Yahweh" It is the name that The Creator used to reveal himself to Moses as "Yahweh, Yahweh God, compassionate and gracious..." So I wanted to start the song with that name. Hence, the opening line "Yahweh, ancient and alive..." I also wanted to capture the idea that God has a voice that surrounds us much like the depiction in Dekker's book. So I wrote; "Your voice surrounds me all around me...." I completed the whole song as it is right now in about an hour.
It was one of those songs that I did not know would work. I am on staff as the Music Minister of one of the greatest, most worshipping churches in the country. The People here are hungry for God's presence and would probably passionately worship to "Jesus Loves me This I Know" If I sang it. But still, I like to do songs that will really connect with them. It's always a little intimidating to bring an original song to the congregation. Especially this one. Was it too crazy? Too aggressive? Would the style of the song work? To my surprise this one took off like wild fire and became one of the favorite "anthems of the house." It quickly gained momentum until it has now become one of my most requested songs.
We knew we had to put it on our next album. Just a few months ago we left the snowy cold of Detroit and headed down to Nashville to work with my friend, producer Steve Leiweke on a new record with the title "Rise from Zion". We immediately began to lay down the frame work for the title track. I wanted to have a lot of voices at the end of the song as we chanted "Let your praises rise from Zion". Who better than my nephews, the first "fans" of the song. They brought along their parents and step brothers Noah and Overton. It was so fun cramming a bunch of kids and adults into the vocal booth to record.
It was weeks later when I realized that my 3 nephews are of Jewish descent, and all though believe in Jesus as the Messiah grew up with Jewish customs and celebrations. I love the fact that we had "Jews and Gentiles" singing on this song together. I'll explain.
I have long believed that the full restoration of Israel is part of, and the ultimate fulfillment of the gospel message. According to what I see in the book of Romans, the blessing of the gospel came through the Jews and from the Messiah (who is a Jew, the descendant of David) to all the nations. The Gentile church will ultimately be so glorious in Jesus that the Jews will become jealous and realize what they have been missing all along, God's manifest "felt" presence. I believe they will come to Christ in droves. Just as Isaiah prophesied;
Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem"
I believe there is a time coming and is now here where the natural children of Israel and the spiritual children of the God of Israel will join hearts and voices together in praise of the saving power of Messiah. So, "Rise From Zion" is 3 things;
1. A tribute the God of Creation who is our Savior "Yahweh" who sent His Son as our Messiah to die and be raised for us.
2. A prayer. "Let your praises rise from Zion" is an intercessory prayer phrase that we cry out in faith asking for the redemption of the people of Israel. One day the true and pure praises of God and our Messiah Jesus will rumble through that great city, Jerusalem.
3. A cry of truth from our own hearts as we realize by faith and by encounter that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, as He "does not dwell in temples made with hands" His Spirit fills us.
My prayer is that the natural and spiritual children of Zion shout the praises of God, and as they do, let them know that the voice of their Creator surrounds them, always.