A few months ago, we challenged the songwriters at Kings to work on versions of the Psalms. There are a couple of dozen songs in progress. We’ll be releasing them about once a month as they’re finished and recorded. Here’s the first:
Now and forever, sunrise to sundown
Come all those who serve him
Come worship the Lord
Now and forever, sunrise to sundown
High over the heavens
He reigns over all
Who can compare to our God?
Joy of the nations, there’s none beside him
Raising the poor from the dust
Lifting up beggars to crown them like kings
Words and music by Tom Jorden
© 2017 Tom Jorden
Performed by Tom Jorden and Harri Endersby
Produced and recorded by Chris Juby
Video source: Sunrise over Björkasjö by Leif Eliasson
Interview with songwriter Tom Jorden
You had 150 psalms to choose from – what made you decide on this one?
I was really drawn to the picture the psalm describes of a God who is high over everything and yet stoops down to lift up the poor and the needy, holding together the heights of God’s greatness and glory with the depths of his compassion for the weak. I also like the way the psalm begins with a call to worship, acknowledging that God is worthy of our praise at all times and in all places. Those are the themes I’ve tried to get across in the song.
Describe the writing process. How easily did the song come together?
My first version of the song came together very quickly as I read the psalm and played around with phrases and melodies; the chorus was the first part that I wrote and remains relatively unchanged from that first attempt. I was aiming for a gently repetitive melody that rises and falls to evoke that daily rhythm of sunrises and sunsets described in the psalm. At this stage I didn’t have very much confidence in what I’d written, but I took it to a sharing session with other songwriters from Kings who were very encouraging and gave me some useful feedback. Often for me the hardest part is getting over my fear of other people’s opinions enough to share something! I was given some good suggestions about how to improve the verse in particular, so I then went away and did some more work on it and with some tweaking and rewriting eventually arrived at the final version.
What was most profound for you personally from your engagement with the psalm?
The psalm’s initial call to worship particularly affected me, with its emphasis on God deserving the praise of all people everywhere, throughout each day and from now until the end of time. I find that my heart easily forgets to turn to God, and my worship can be inconsistent or overly dependent on how things happen to be going for me at a particular moment. The psalm reminds me to keep coming back to God in worship through every situation I find myself in, from when I first wake up in the morning until I go to sleep at night. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I can sing Psalm 113 to my own soul as a reminder.
What do you think the Church should learn about worship from this psalm?
God’s concern for the poor and the needy is one of the main reasons the psalm gives for his people to worship him, a theme that appears in many other psalms as well. This is why, in other parts of the Old Testament, God gets angry when his people sing the right words to him in their times of worship, while at the same time perpetuating injustice and oppressing the poor. Different churches place different amounts of emphasis on this, but I think the Church needs to learn from this psalm that our attitude towards those around us who are struggling or in need is an essential aspect of our worship.
Finally, what’s your favourite verse from the psalm?
Verse 3: ‘From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.’