What is the oldest song you know? Christy VanArragon and Adam Navis look at ancient songs. People still use these songs to think about God.
Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Adam Navis.
And I’m Christy VanArragon. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.
Think of the oldest song you know. How old is it? When was it written? What is the song about? In the early 1950s, scientists found the world’s oldest complete song. The song is more than 3,000 years old!
The scientists were working near the modern town of Ras Shamra, on the coast of Syria. The song was in the language of Hurrian. The ancient Assyrian people of Syria, Iraq, and Iran spoke Hurrian. Scientists today still do not completely understand the Hurrian language. So they are not sure what all the words in the song are. But they do know that the song gives directions for musical instruments. They also know that it is a religious song. It was for the wife of the Assyrian moon god.
Many ancient songs have religious meanings. The Christian Bible also contains ancient songs. The book of Songs, or Psalms, is the longest part of the Bible. Today’s Spotlight is on the ancient Psalms of the Bible.
The oldest psalms in the Bible are about the same age as the Hurrian song. Over a period of around one thousand years, different people wrote the Psalms. Unlike the Hurrian song, the songs do not include complete musical directions. So we do not know what they sounded like. However, for thousands of years, people of faith have looked to the psalms for encouragement and hope.
Walter Brueggemann is a well known teacher and writer. He studies and writes about the Christian Bible. He has written many papers and books on the Psalms. Brueggemann says that the Psalms are a place where people meet with God. The Psalms are a way to pray, and talk to God. People have used the Psalms like this for thousands of years. Brueggemann describes three different kinds of psalms. Each kind shows how people feel in relation to God.
The first kind is a psalm of orientation. The word orientation means knowing where you are. The psalms of orientation help the reader see how God is in the world. In these songs, the writer feels that everything is right with the world. There is justice. God is in control. Life has order. And the song writer has faith. These psalms come from a position of strength.
“The Lord simply spoke, and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word, and all the stars were born.
Let the whole world fear the Lord. Let everyone worship him.
For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command.
The Lord stops the plans of the nations. But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever. His plans can never be shaken.”
“O LORD, our Lord, your beautiful name fills the earth!
Your glory is higher than the heavens.
You have taught children and babies to tell of your strength. You silence your enemies and all who oppose you.
When I look at the night sky, I see the work of your fingers. I see the moon and the stars you set in place. What are people that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour.”
The second kind of psalm is one of DISorientation. This is when people are hurt or angry. They feel that God has betrayed them. They do not understand why bad things happen. Some of the words of these psalms can be shocking. They express anger towards God, and anger towards their enemies. They can show a desire to hurt others. They are filled with pain.
“O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with pain in my spirit? With sadness in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have victory?
Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Return the life to my eyes, or I will die.”
“O God, other nations have taken control of your land, your special possession.
They have left the bodies of your people as food for birds and wild animals. Blood has flowed like water. No one is left to bury the dead.
Other nations make fun of us. We are objects of laughter and hatred to those around us.
O Lord, how long will you be angry with us? Forever?”
The third kind of psalm shows a new orientation. These psalms come after people have experienced pain. But they also express a new trust in God. These songs usually express thankfulness.
“When my heart was sad and my spirit was angry, I did not understand. I was like an animal before you.
Yet I am always with you. You hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your words. And afterward you will take me into glory.
Who do I have in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire but you.
My body and my heart may fail. But God is the strength of my heart.
He is my life forever.”
“My heart is strong and trusting in you, O God. No wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart!
Wake up, musical instruments!
I will wake the sun with my song.
I will thank you, Lord, among the people.
I will sing your praises among the nations.
For your unfailing love is higher than heaven.
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Be praised, O God, above the highest heaven.
May your glory shine over all the earth.”
For thousands of years, people have used the Psalms in the Bible to connect to God as individuals and as communities. The different kinds of psalms help people to express their true feelings and thoughts. They help people come to God in truth. And Christians believe that as people meet with God, no matter how they feel, God will also meet with them.
The writer of this program was Jennifer Hawkins. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Ancient Songs from the Bible’.
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