This is part of a series where I hope to join two of my life long loves together: the music I listen to, and the Scriptures I read – in a series I’m calling Soundtrack. Why? Well, because each piece will explore the music that has often marked the various chapters in my life with the soundtrack of Scripture, the Psalms.
You can read Part 1 in the series HERE.
In 1956, a young man, who tried to make a career out of recording gospel music with Sam Phillips, was put on tour with a then 20 year old and very charismatic Elvis Presley.
He was only 23 himself and newly married, but following Elvis around on tour introduced him to a whole lot of girls who wanted to follow Elvis and anyone else who resembled a Rock and Roll star.
In an interview he later recounts the incredible temptation he faced every night – and so with his guitar in hand, Jonny Cash sits down one night and writes these words:
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine, I walk the line
I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I’ll admit that I’m a fool for you
Because you’re mine, I walk the line
Johnny Cash, “I Walk the Line”
Johnny Cash’s first hit single wasn’t a gospel song, but he might have preached more gospel in that one song than all the others he tried to sell.
“I Walk the Line” is a powerful message about how a person’s love for another can change the way they walk.
You might not be surprised by a love song written about a girl, but there’s a song in the Book of Psalms that is clearly a love song about something that might surprise some of us.
For those who listen closely, we are able to sense someone who is lovesick and wonderstruck, someone overcome with emotion, and someone who can’t get an idea out of their head as they lay awake throughout the night obsessing over it.
It is a love song from someone who is infatuated…not with a girl, but with God’s LAW and, because of his great love for God’s law, he deeply desires to be true to it and Walk the Line…
The Song is Psalm 119 and it just happens to be the longest chapter in all of the Bible.
It has 176 verses divvied into 22 sections of 8 verses – one section for every letter of the Hebrew Alphabet. The first verse of each verse begins with that same letter for all 8 verses until it switches letters and then that section does the same…and so on…
It is a song that posses the skill of an artist and the wonder of child.
This how the Psalmist’s love song begins…
“Happy are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord.”
Psalms 119:1 (see also, Psalm 1:1-2)
Happy? Because of a law? Yep!
This is surprising because the LAW in general, and God’s law in particular, is NOT the reason for someone’s happiness! Many see it as restrictive, punitive, or perhaps just irrelevant. Simply put – many see it as undesirable, not the kind of thing that leaves us lovesick!
Instead, we prefer to listen to the Sirens of our Cultures sing to us – “Follow you heart!”
We reason that of course our own hearts know us best… until (of course) they don’t! I mean how many times do we wake up and listen to the beat of our own hearts only to retire to our beds full of regret?
The very thing we have come to believe gives us the greatest source of freedom – following our own hearts – often traps us in the track of regret that plays on repeat again and again throughout our lifetime.
Here’s what the Psalms do a good job of reminding us:
It’s not until our heart’s desire is God’s desire that we can follow the beat of our own hearts.
In fact the Psalmist says it this way:
“I will walk about in freedom,
for I have sought out your precepts.”
I wonder if the church hasn’t undersold God’s WAY, because it has misunderstood God’s WORD.
Here’s what I mean. Several hundred years after the last Psalms were written, John took up writing a story about Jesus and started it this way:
In the beginning was the WORD and the word was with God and the word was God…and this Word became flesh and made its dwelling among us…and as Jesus, the word, walked among us he offered two simple words for those who would hear him: Follow me.
Follow me…because I am the WAY, the truth, and the life.
John chronicles the story of those who, time after time, follow Jesus, the WORD and the WAY, and how they, in turn, experience the fullest form of LIFE.
I’m praying these days that I would join the Psalmist’s love song and learn to love the way of God, not only because it leads to eternal life (where ever and whatever that might be), but because it offers the absolute best life right here and right now!
And may you, too, join your voice with the likes of the Psalmist, of John (the Gospel writer), and even ol Johnny Cash and begin to express your own desire to follow God’s word, walk in God’s way because now we know that Walking the Line leads to the good life!
And may we all be able to sing with the Psalmist when he sings:
“Your word and your way are my theme song
wherever I make my home.”