Three Songs


In another week or two the air will be filled with music. The Christmas carols will be dinned into our ears incessantly. You will hear them in your home via radio and television, in department stores as you do your shopping. on street-corners, everywhere.

We greet them with mixed emotions. On the one hand, we are happy with them. The children behind the iron and bamboo curtains do not hear or sing them. However, there is another side to this. When these lovely songs are blared from loudspeakers in dives and brothels and taverns, or are sung by some of the shadiest characters from Hollywood, one wonders whether the devil is not immensely pleased that they have become the songs of the drunkards.

This meditation considers three songs, only one of which is numbered among the carols. The first one we shall call.




This is recorded for us in Genesis 4:23, 24: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man for wounding me, and a young man for bruising me. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.”

These words constitute the first recorded poetry in the Bible. Tho song was composed and sung by Lamech in the city of Cain. One would expect otherwise. One would expect the first music to come from the line of Seth. From God’s people who could sing of mercies that endure, of a redemption promised to them. Not so. The first song is a song of liberation—not the liberation from the bondage of sin and corruption but liberation from God. It breathes threatenings and slaughter as it celebrates man’s freedom from God and the conquest of the curse. Lamech bristles with hatred and knows that his vaunted freedom can only be maintained at sword’s point; the autonomous man who desires to go it alone has no need of God. He is a god unto himself and will avenge every assault upon his person or property. If God says “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” I, Lamech, will go him one better. Not a life for a life, but a life for a bruise. The struggle against me is always a struggle for life or death. If a young man as much as bruises me it is death for him. I, Lamech, have no need of God. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold (Lamech knew God’s sentence upon Cain), I’ll show him how it is done. Sevenfold? Don’t be silly: seventy and sevenfold.

The echo of this song reverberates through the ages. Pharaoh gives it in this variation: “Who is the Lord that I should obey him?” Or Nebuchadnezzar: “Is not this the Babel that I have builded?” Today it is the growling bear from the North and the slithering dragon from the Orient, with large overtones in many other nations that drown out our Christmas carols.

The Song of the Sword is hushed in the waters of God’s anger. Its modern version will be hushed by the appearance of the sharp two-edged sword of our Lord at his coming, and it will be transposed into convulsive sobs in the abyss.


From Lamech we turn to Bethlehem’s fields. A multitude of the heavenly hosts fills the air with music. The angels stand in awe and wonder. They cannot understand that the earth is totally oblivious to this mighty work of God. But neither do they themselves understand the transcendent miracle here wrought. Here, even for angels is something new. They have ever been the witnesses of his holiness and majesty and have been active participants in the execution of his redemptive program. But here is something wholly new. That God enters into the world in the person of his own Son, in the form of a helpless babe, entering into a new relationship with sinners. And when angels encounter insoluble mysteries they do not curiously question, they do not argue. They worship. Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

And what music this has inspired! Here is the effective antidote for Lamech—love, the love of God for sinners. Not revenge but remission. Not seventy and sevenfold vengeance but forgiveness, seventy times seven times. This. fills our mouth with laughter, and our tongue with singing. This inspires Paul’s ode to love in I Corinthians 13. Instead of glorying in the sword as did Lamech, we say, “God forbid that we should glory save in the cross of Christ Jesus our Lord.” What shall now separate us from the love of God?

“Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices, O night divine! O night when Christ was born. O night divine! O night, O night divine!


This song is not in honor of Moses or of the Lamb, but of the Triune God. My allotted space permits me only to quote it. “. . . Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” Revelation 15:2–4.

At this coming Christmas we disown the Song of the Sword; we stand in awe and holy wonder as we hear the song of Bethlehem; and pray God, that it may be granted each of us one day to join in the chorus of the Song of Moses and the Lamb.