Whether embarking on a quest for requited romance or embracing the spiritual gift of “foreveralone.jpg”… and no matter if your heartstrings are currently singing for a significant other or still severely singed from the last time…
…there’s ultimately only one love story to fix our hearts on– the living God who came down as Jesus, and His beloved people. His patient pursuit of us carries throughout the Bible’s pages, at times reflecting a parent’s unrelenting affection, in other cases revealing the mysterious passion lovers point to.
Today, thanks to the creativity of various Christian artists, those same scriptures and their themes can also be enjoyed in musical form. So regardless of your Valentines plans (or lack thereof), here’s five love songs of scripture you have every reason to listen to– each individually powerful and prompting of further study; altogether a sweeping narrative we all need to get lost in.
1. “All Around Me”
As lead singer Lacey Sturm explaned over a radio interview, she wrote this song to celebrate times when “God showed up and saved me or loved me for no reason.” There’s a heavy grunge sound to the chorus, contrasted with an ethereal vibe in the verses. Though a few of the lines could suggest two people in love (“my tongue dances behind my lips, for you”) Lacey clarifies how even if you interpret the song that way, “that parallel is something that God wants to communicate to us, that he gives us relationships like that, an intimacy like that.”
Scriptural Inspiration: Song of Solomon. It’s a literal love song within the Bible. “All Around Me” is probably better off for not using the same ancient idioms, yet they share in tastefully describing tender intimacy and belonging to one another. Both songs point to God above all.
“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave,
Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.”
-Song of Solomon 8:6 (ESV)
For the Biblical songwriter, poetic language of nature would remind listeners of the Garden of Eden– the lost age of innocent relationship with the Creator. However, it’s Jesus’ reassurance before ascending, His indwelling Holy Spirit, and the promise of His return which infuses Lacey’s words: “You said You would never leave me, I believe You, I believe.”
2. “Wake Up”
by Pas Neos
Here’s something very different– a song of heartbreak, only it’s from our God’s perspective. Despite His miraculous redemption and gracious covenant with His chosen people, they repeatedly wander away and turn complacent. The music is slow but building, somber piano notes gradually accompanied by strings, bells, and percussion.
Scriptural Inspiration: Jeremiah 2. Well, that isn’t the only inspiration. There are faint echoes of Song of Songs again (“rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away . . . your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely”), but the overall tone is from a wounded, rejected Lover. This is a lament common to the Old Testament prophets, through whom God leveled charges against Israel for faithless idolatry and brazen hypocrisy.
“I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.
. . . What wrong did your fathers find in me,
that they went far from me?”
-Jeremiah 2:1, 5
Praise God. First of all, praise Him for being so vulnerable and compassionate that our disobedience stirred His emotions… but secondly, that the LORD’s enduring commitment in both “Wake Up” and each of the prophets is the same– to scandalously love us and soften our stony hearts.
3. “The Lost Son”
by Consider the Thief
One more sad song of love before the mood picks up– “The Lost Son” features experimental rock shifting from emotionally-charged contemplation to catchy guitar riff crescendos. With the exception of the final bridge, this song also sticks to God’s perspective and His commitment to our redemption… but this time He’s shown as the merciful Father longing for His child’s return.
Scriptural Inspiration: Luke 15:11-24. In a chapter filled with Jesus’ parables, The Prodigal Son is one of the most memorable and practical illustrations of grace. Most of the song is held in suspense, exploring the thoughts of a forlorn, yet endlessly forgiving father. “Through all the wrongs you’ve done / You’re always, you’re always my son . . . The only records I keep are / the days you’ve been away from home.”
“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
In Middle Eastern culture, for a grown man to run is extremely undignified; he should have walked slowly or else waited for his wayward son to approach. But this father was already watching the horizon, and immediately rushed forward to close the distance between them. Though the prodigal spent his life dishonoring the family name and prepared to grovel back as a servant, he is instead embraced and lavished with honor after honor… and that’s the exact kind of kindness given the very second we repent to our Father.
by My Epic
Now it gets really interesting– this upbeat, acoustic, and blues rock track melds all three of our relationship roles before God into one cry of worship. How did the story of the prodigal son become our own present experience? It was made possible through the person of Jesus, bearing the full weight of our sin unto death, but emerging to freedom and life that we who are in Christ partake of.
“Like a body–close, connected, and known
so You’ve called us, and so we are.
Like a child–nurtured, protected, adored
somehow You name us, and so we are
Like a bride–cherished, adorned and waited for
so intimate, with every title that Your love affords.”
Scriptural Inspiration: … uh, I suppose the whole New Testament? Or the four gospels and Paul’s letters specifically. We’ve already examined our standing as a child and as a bride, so “body” is most deserving of further thought for this particular song.
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them . . .”
See, it was already awesome to realize we are inseparably united to Christ as our head, but there are two extra truths in this picture: we all belong to one another, and we each contribute our unique gifts to embody Christ on earth. As much as the other relationships communicate incomprehensible love, being Jesus’ very body and the Holy Spirit’s permanent dwelling place is an even deeper closeness and a most epic calling.
5. “Beauty & the Beast”
by Stephen the Levite
There’s no better time to break out Christian hip-hop, than while discussing the consummation of redemptive history. Yet even if Stephen the Levite’s style clashes with your usual taste, I encourage you to give it a listen for how Jesus and His Bride are introduced in a modern allegory, using creative and culturally-relevant terms.
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Scriptural Inspiration: Revelation 19. The story isn’t over until Jesus comes back, His Bride is revealed reflecting His glory, and the world who rejected Him faces judgment. Often times, it’s easy to think of this cosmic conclusion as lofty, frightening, or even conflicting to how we understand “a loving God” should act. For this reason, I appreciate the down to earth depiction of the Lord’s wrath toward those who persecute and propagate lies against His beloved people: “Yo, He told them to stay away from her / But he’s a humble beast, so they front and sleep, but He’s gonna wake ‘em up.”
Of course, in that context of a just God and rightfully jealous husband, the overall tone of this narrative is joyful.
“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out:
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure–“
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
. . . “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.””