The Murky Theology of the Song “Though You Slay Me”

It seems almost too cold-hearted to evaluate the song “Though You Slay Me” by Shane & Shane, given the tragic events, pure intentions, and honest faith that produced it.  I do not doubt these Christians’ faith and was moved by their story and their trust in the Lord.  However, this does not preclude sober reflection on the possible theology songs can convey.  Believe me, I understand that songs are not theological or philosophical treatises, and there is a certain poetic license that should be allowed for the medium.  I do not think songs need to try to be overly precise nor do I think that every song needs to be “deep.”  That said, whether we like it or not, songs still carry meaning, Christian or secular, and those meanings can be internalized by listeners and singers.  Song lyrics are still therefore fair game for critical evaluation, though I want this to be clear: I am questioning nobody’s faith.  Shane & Shane have made some great songs over the years, and I know God will continue to use them.  This does not, however, make their songs immune from critique.

I had not heard the song before until a couple of weeks ago, and when I heard the first verse and chorus, I immediately became concerned.  I recognized the allusion to a famous verse in Job, which made alarm bells go off in my head, though I kept it to myself.  Here is the verse and chorus:

I come, God, I come
Return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You strike down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the One who’s all I need

God is Doing What Now?

It is important to glean these claims from the song: God is the one who has broken, the one who has torn apart, the one who strikes down, the one who slays, the one who takes, and the one who ruins.  This is all done in love that people may know God in his suffering, and the lyrics proclaim that the singer will still bless and worship his name.  Now, if all this song is trying to say is that A) God disciplines his children due to their continued sin and need for direction towards holiness (Heb. 12:7), B) God allows (key word) evil for greater goods and C) God works good out of evil, then there is no problem.  The song, however, seems to say much more than that: There is no sense of discipline or sense of “allowance.”  God is doing.  He is the active agent of breaking, striking, and slaying.  This is further supported by the fact that John Piper and Desiring God Ministries have put their stamp of approval on the song.  It is part of Piper’s theology that God is the active of cause of everything, including when bridges collapse and kill a bunch of people.

It is not just Piper’s either; it is an important aspect of Reformed theology, though few Calvinists have the stomach to say what Paul Helseth says, that ” “evil must be regarded as something that is not contrary to, but an essential component of, God’s will” (emphasis mine).  Piper sometimes uses the language of allowance, but as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, he has claimed that to say “God allows” and “God does” is the same thing, which is, well, confused; they clearly mean something different for anyone with remote familiarity with the English language.  It is, of course, far more preferable to say that God allows evil rather than actively causes it, but when Calvinists use this language, they are simply being inconsistent with their own conception of God’s sovereignty as all-causing.

Job: Not a Book That’s Easy to Cherry Pick From

In addition, the allusion to Job is telling.  Job 13:15 is a famous verse, and most of the major translations render it along the lines of, “Though he slay me, still I will hope/trust in him.”  How people remember the verse goes well with how Job is popularly understood: As a man who endured great suffering but remained utterly and perfectly faithful to God.  It is not, however, as clean cut as this.

First, as I wrote when I reflected on the book after my surgery, Job is a difficult book to understand and to teach from.  It is a book that needs to read in its entirety in order to be understood.  God does not come at the end and commend Job for his awesome theology, but instead he comes in fierce rebuke in perhaps one of the most brutal verbal beatdowns delivered by God in the Bible:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man,
    I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (Job 38:2-3)

Up to that point, Job actually spends quite a bit of breath complaining and basically challenging God to come face him, and when God comes at him from the whirlwind, his mistake probably became apparent after he crapped his pants.  Job’s friends, who also displease God, actually say some things that we know are true about God.  Their error is greater than Job’s, no doubt, because they speak presumptuously about God’s intentions, but Job is in no way held up as being absolutely correct in all that he said.  Throw in interpretive difficulties regarding the genre of the book and the involvement of Satan, and you have a book that has rich theology but does not lend itself to easy quotations like, say, the book of Proverbs.

Focusing more on the verse and chapter itself, there is quite a bit of debate on the translation of that verse, though I think major translations are hesitant to change it due to its popularity (stemming from how it was translated by the KJV).  A lot of modern translators and commentators are abandoning this rendering because it does not fit the context.  The best choice is probably not going the opposite direction and rendering it in a very pessimistic manner such as the NRSV, “See, he will kill me; I have no hope; but I will defend my ways to his face,” though it’s worth pointing out that that’s a live option.  The main issue has to do with the verb yachal in that phrase, which can be translated “hope” or “trust” but can also mean simply “wait.”  Let’s look some of the context from the NIV, which keeps the popular rendering:

13 “Keep silent and let me speak;
    then let come to me what may.
14 Why do I put myself in jeopardy
    and take my life in my hands?
15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
    I will surely defend my ways to his face.
16 Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance,
    for no godless person would dare come before him!
17 Listen carefully to what I say;
    let my words ring in your ears.
18 Now that I have prepared my case,
    I know I will be vindicated.
19 Can anyone bring charges against me?
    If so, I will be silent and die.

20 “Only grant me these two things, God,
    and then I will not hide from you:
21 Withdraw your hand far from me,
    and stop frightening me with your terrors.
22 Then summon me and I will answer,
    or let me speak, and you reply to me.
23 How many wrongs and sins have I committed?
    Show me my offense and my sin.

There is a reason why many modern scholars are arguing that the best translation of the Hebrew in verse 15 is something more like, “Even if he slays me, I will wait for him.”  What is Job waiting for?  His chance to face God and defend his own righteousness.  He is confident that he had done nothing to deserve what he has suffered, so he has put his life into his own hands.  In verse 19, he says that if indeed someone can bring charges against him, he’ll grow silent and die.  Now, Job is absolutely right that no particular sin brought all of this disaster on him, which is something his friends are wrong about.  However, the sheer confidence to stand before God and defend himself in God’s face will strike many readers as borderline arrogance.  Ironically, Job’s confidence in his own blamelessness would make Reformed people as much as anyone grimace.  Why not a song about how we’ll defend ourselves in God’s face and will be vindicated?  Any takers?

It is dubious that the book of Job teaches anything like a theology that God is the primary cause for all disaster but we should praise him regardless.  The book is complex on many levels.  If some Christians actually believe this, one may wonder why they do not change a famous doxology and instead sing “Praise God from Whom All Evil Flows.”


On the one hand, nobody should deny that God can break, can tear apart, can slay, and can take; after all, God is not to be trifled with, and he can and will punish people for their sins as well as discipline and refine his own children.  However, though it is obviously difficult to ascertain all of God’s reasons (he is, after all, God and we are not), it is one thing to say that God punishes and disciplines while allowing evil, and it is quite another to say that he causes all evil and does so in an utterly mysterious and seemingly arbitrary manner.  I agree with Calvinists that the glory of God is important; I just do not find any logical or scriptural warrant to the idea that God is glorified if we view him as the cause for all evil and suffering in the world.  And this is why a song like this makes me raise my eyebrows, however honestly it was conceived.

edit: I do not think the song is heretical, so I’m not saying churches should stop singing it.  Just like I will listen to a sermon that I disagree with on points, I will be fine with a song that I do not totally agree with.  Still, it’s a good exercise to think through songs that we sing at church and what ideas we might be conveying.


43 thoughts on “The Murky Theology of the Song “Though You Slay Me”

  1. Well thought through and delineated. But what of the premise that God is first cause and orchestrator? Fundamentally He is at cause in the matter, though blameless becase its ours and satans will that have caused the evil now extant in the world. I think more that is the point of both Job and the song. The Shane’s and Piper bring the humility of redeemed men to a song about the depth of suffering that we undergo as believers, either as buffeting from our Master to bring needed change in our hearts, or as part of a fallen world. Either way the Shane’s bring out what Job got at the end, and that is the unsearchable ways of our astounding God. Would Job have ever imagined a dying Savior God giving us life eternal through His suffering, death and resurrection? Just imagine what greater things are yet to come!

    • Hi Luke, sorry for the late reply, but thanks for your comment. I think God being the Creator or first cause does not necessitate a view that he is the primary cause of every single event, including evil ones. I’m not quite sure I would say that what you say is the point of Job, though we would agree that God is blameless because it is other wills, not his, that ultimately cause sin and evil.

      As far as the song, I do not question its intent; as I say in the post, I do not doubt the faith and sincerity of the song creators. I also do not think that God is a nit-picker, and I am sure their sincere praise through Christ is taken as such. However, I do think it is fair game to analyze the theology the song is teaching as well as the Scripture reference it makes (this goes for any song). In these matters, I think the song falls a bit short, though I know there are many who disagree with me.

      Still, as you say, we would all agree that greater things are yet to come from our God, who sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

      • I think the theology of this song falls more than just “short”. I love S&S’s music. I used to believe these lyrics, sing them and even shared it once on social media. But my perspective since then has done a turn-around. And I will not sing anything anymore that I’ve thought through and don’t believe. Not even when I’m asked to lead a song. I will respectfully decline at times.
        Your article was well written and I appreciate the attention you brought to it. But I was hoping it would hang out a little longer on the essence and nature of the God we serve. In my new perspective, the God I serve, although he is unchanging, acts differently than the God Job served. He is the same God, but he dealt with sin and evil differently then than he does now. Of course he had to, because punishment and curses were interwoven with the old covenant, as were annual blood sacrifices for the remittance of sin. But I praise him! Because he gave himself up as that sacrifice, once for all, completely taking care of our issues of sin and death and punishment and curse. For it all – every single bit of it, from every single human being until the end of time – fell upon one man. Now we are in a new, better covenant than that of Moses, one that no longer begs the question, “what did I do to deserve this suffering?!” because our suffering was paid for in full, with the blood of Jesus and his resurrection! I now firmly believe that Jesus paid it all…and Jesus paid FOR it all. He knows the cognitive limitations and reasoning of man, and that as hard as we try, and as humble as we think we are being to believe it, we could not make any sense of our God who is synonymous with Love, as causing our pain and suffering. In any other context that would be considered spiritual abuse. We hear of an abuser convincing the abused “I only hurt you because I love you.” Well, I can tell you that any simple-minded Christ follower should know in their heart that God is NOT like that. He is the most loving Father. EVER. And love does not intentionally cause pain and suffering. It just doesn’t. I don’t care who tells me how mysterious His ways are, or how much higher they are than mine. I know this. But I also know the character of the God I serve. And it is not the same as the character that Job *interpreted God to have.

        Jesus brought with him a whole new way of thinking about right and wrong. He replaced religion with a kingdom mindset. He gave us authority and the the means to do away with the evil and suffering on earth. Look at his final 3.5 years ~ he did it magnificently. And told us greater works will we do.

        My point? If there is evil and suffering going on in your life or community, I believe it is because a.) many in the body of Christ have not learned of the power and authority inseparable from their identity in the New Covenant, b.) they are not stepping out in faith to do what Jesus told us to do in Mark 16:15-20 ~ these are RED letters!: heal the sick, cast out demons, preach the gospel to everyone, everywhere…and what Paul wrote the Ephesians (6:12) describing who we are fighting – not God, “not flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.”

        We may be the cause, or Satan may be the cause. But know this ~ just because God created all things including the ability for humans to choose to rebel against him, which he did not have to do, does not make him the author of rebellion. The cause of evil. The root of suffering. Satan fell from heaven and Adam fell from perfect communion with God. But now because of Christ, the new and final “Adam”, we are restored to our rightful place with God and have the authority to restore our circumstances to the way they were originally designed to be – in the Garden of Eden – and in heaven. It is why Jesus taught us disciples to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. If we prayed that, and meant it…if we all went out everywhere and preached like the disciples did, and stepped out in faith doing the same kind of miraculous things they did, which confirmed the preaching (Mark 16:20), there would be no debate about who caused what evil. Or who is to blame for our suffering.

        Because He overcame, we overcome.

  2. First mistake is, don’t sing these contemporary songs in church! To listen to as leisurely wholesome music that isn’t promoting sex or violence amongst everything else is OK. Don’t base your theology on the lyrics, emotion and context of a song.

  3. There are other verses, outside of Job, that still show God not only allowing, but ordaining, evil. One of the most clear is 1 Kings 22:19-23,

    “19 Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. 20 And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’
    “One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’
    22 “‘By what means?’ the Lord asked.
    “‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.
    “‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’
    23 “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”

    Ezekiel is full of it. One example is 15:6-7, “6 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: As I have given the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest as fuel for the fire, so will I treat the people living in Jerusalem. 7 I will set my face against them. Although they have come out of the fire, the fire will yet consume them. And when I set my face against them, you will know that I am the Lord.” And after most of these instances of judgments and wrath is the phrase, “then they will know that I am the Lord.” That’s his reason. So that we may know Him.

    He hardens Pharaoh’s heart before Pharaoh hardens it himself in Exodus 4:21. He turns Israel’s enemies’s hearts against them “to hate his people, to conspire against his servants (Ps 105:25).

    As for the book of Job, Satan can only do what God allows. Satan is not working outside the authority of God, but under it. God asks Satan to consider Job after Satan was roaming about. When Job says the Lord give AND takes, “Job did not sin by charging God WITH WRONGDOING” (1:22). God says to Satan in 2:3, “And [Job] still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him…” In 2:10 Job responds to his wife, ” ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’. In all this, JOB DID NOT SIN IN WHAT HE SAID.” The root word for “trouble” in that verse is the same as “evil.” In other words, if Job did not sin in what he said, then it is right to attribute trouble, or evil, to God, and we would be foolish, just like Job’s wife, to say otherwise.

    Romans 9 touches on it as well, verses 22-23, “22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—”

    Proverbs shows it, too, like 16:4, 9, 33.

    God is sovereign. Over everything. Good and evil.

    • I love this song. It’s a great shame when people think that they know better. There are many interpretations and you are all entitled to your own theological critical analysis, but ultimately this is a beautiful song written with pure raw emotions and feelings and gives glory to God. Thanks Shane for expressing yourself and for sharing your beautiful music and encouraging others to praise God even in the darkest hour.

      • Again, I did not question their intent, but if we are going to be critically thinking about theology, it is fair to think carefully about the lyrics of a song, just as we are to think critically about sermons we hear.

    • And what do you mean by God being sovereign? That he causes evil? There are other interpretations of those passages that you list, and furthermore, there are passages that suggest the opposite that you ignore. For example:

      Jeremiah 32:35: “They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”

      Gen 6:5″ ” Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”

      James 1:13-14: “13 Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted [o]by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”

      Prooftexting is elementary and easy. What matters is a careful examination of texts, an attention to the Bible as a whole, and nuanced reasoning. All I need to point to for your 1 Kings citation, for example, is do this:

      Numbers 23:19: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

      Thus, we need to be have a pretty careful discussion on what these passages mean and not just throw out prooftexts. This is why I take some time to breakdown the Job reference in this song, and I see no refutation of what I said about it. If you want to talk about these passages more in depth, that’s fine, but again, listing out proof-texts is hardly helpful when the other side can quickly do the same.

      • I apologize that I didn’t clarify my response. I agree that songs should be critiqued like a sermon and I know that those selecting the songs to be used in my church are doing so. My problem is with your take on this song as not aligning with scripture, but specifically, that you don’t think God is sovereign over a bridge collapsing and killing a bunch of people. I don’t believe God causes evil, and perhaps saying he ordains it is overstepping what I believe. But when I say God is sovereign, I mean sovereign over everything, including sin, evil, disaster, destruction, including a collapsing bridge that kills a bunch of people like you mentioned above. I can’t imagine God seeing a bridge collapse being surprised. He knew and allowed it to happened. That’s how I’m saying he is sovereign. And there are plenty of passages that support that where he causes earthquakes and famine. And I believe, and I think you do too, that it’s all for a reason, whether clear and understandable or not. And by saying this I’m not denying man’s responsibility which the verses you shared support. I can’t remember the quote, but paraphrased, “God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are both touched on in the bible and then left alone. We would be wise to do the same.” They are both true and I don’t feel that supporting one is opposing the other. I hope that clears up my response.

        Again, I apologize for lack of stating my stance. As for the proof texts, I prefer to use God’s word as much as possible rather than my own opinion.

      • Fair enough. I do think that God is sovereign; where I depart from many of my Reformed brothers is that I do not automatically think that God causes everything, especially disasters. I do not see a warrant for that type of conclusion in Scripture. I think the allow or cause distinction is important, though people like Piper disagree with me there.

        Thanks for coming by Nick, and I appreciate your comments.

      • Sorry for the not replying directly to the comment I’m asking but, but there’s not a reply button.

        Leesomniac, can you elaborate on what you mean when you say God doesn’t cause disasters? What do you mean by disasters?

      • Hi Nick:

        That is admittedly vague, but I am thinking quite broadly: Bridge collapsing, people flying planes into buildings, person dying from cancer, etc. I don’t see a need to say that God directly caused those things unless I have good reason to know that (like, for example, scriptural evidence, but since I believe in a closed canon I don’t think we’re getting any such evidence for any present disasters). God is not the author of evil, nor do I think Scripture warrants believing that he is always the cause of natural disasters or accidents. Now, certainly God is sovereign in that he allows what comes to pass for his own good reasons, but that’s not the same as him orchestrating and determining it.

  4. Wow! I appreciate all of the intelligent comments above, well thought out and backed with scripture. I have nothing to add in that regard but would like to share my thoughts quickly.

    I became a Believer at a young age and grew up in a wonderful church with good teaching. I was singing this song in church yesterday and it just didn’t “feel” right. I have always been taught that God is not the one who hurts us, but that He ALLOWS it at times. I came home from church, still pondering this wonderful worship song, but questioning what it was implying. I had no idea there had been articles written about it and that others felt the same way.

    My MAIN concern is not me and how I felt. My concern is that there were unbelievers at church yesterday and I wonder what this song did to their belief about God.

    So often over the years, time and time again, I have shared with unbelieving friends that they should not blame God for bad things … yes, God allows things to happen and He sees the big picture, perhaps good will come, sometimes death is a blessing, etc. But that God wasn’t the one who hurt them. This song could easily be taken the wrong way.

    That really is my only beef. I think a worship leader could introduce the song and perhaps say something that would clarify. Otherwise, I struggle with what it implies.

    • Jennifer, I get you! Thanks for writing out your thoughts on this. We have really similar takes on the topic of God being instrumental in our pain and suffering. Since I first commented on this article, God keeps placing it in front of me to address and study his word ~ so I started writing down all my discoveries and I’m realizing, I have actually writing a mini-book on God being in control”! This is so fun, learning and writing. I’d love to know even more about how your church upbringing and denomination and also your personal experiences with suffering have played a part in how you believe today.

      I’ve never done this before, and it’s probably not PC to do it, 🙊 but I just feel like giving you my email/# in case you ever want to chat about this! 🙂 I’m in Oregon (pst) and you can feel free to get a hold of me after 2pm any day! Call or text 503-784-0292 or email me at (put something about “Though You Slay Me” in the subject to jog my memory? Thanks again!

    • Hi Jennifer:

      Thanks for dropping by, and I’m glad you found the article thought-provoking. And you are right; we should probably think more about what theology our songs are teaching and whether or not we actually want that taught.

  5. Quite honestly, I think the most obvious (though unknown) Scriptural basis for this song would be found in the Book of Hosea. In chapter 6 verse one, Hosea clearly states this: ““Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.” To me, it seems clear that the whole song is centered around this passage, and the reference to Job is just an obvious connection to be made. The song starts saying the singer is returning to the Lord. “Come, let us return to the Lord.” And then it goes into saying what and why God does things. The one who’s broken, the one who’s torn me apart. ” For he has torn us.” You strike down to bind me up. “He has struck us down, and he will bind us up.” This song is not about Job, rather it is about Hosea, the other guy that God drug through the mud in the Bible, but no one really ever talks about. Job and Hosea both had it quite bad, but you cannot deny that God pushed the evil upon Hosea. In Job, it seems more like he allowed it, but in Hosea, it is clear that God wanted this and was not merely allowing it to happen to Hosea.

    • AJ, you make a really good point; I didn’t know that first verse was about Hosea – always thought it was about Job. Regardless of who it was about about, it was a scriptural example about God dealing with his people how he chose, within the provision of the Old Covenant. I looked some things up the other night: 4 different passages where God literally and actually killed people. Er, Onan, Uzzah and the community of Korah(?). One thing God is teaching me these last couple weeks is yes, he is faithful, and his character is unchanging throughout generations. BUT! He made a new Provision under a New Covenant. A Provision for wrath, for death, loss and destruction. (John 10:10). The perfect Remedy for pain, suffering,and sickness. His name is Jesus. Jesus changed everything about how God dealt with people on earth. Look at the life of Jesus. We live here. In the New. The old was a shadow, the New is the better one, (I just accidentally came across this verse Hebrews 8:13, while looking up Hebrews 13:8 – the one about Jesus Christ being the same yesterday today and forever, which is actually written about eating ceremonial FoOd) ~ 8:13 says, “When God speaks of a new covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and ready to be put aside.” This whole chapter is about how we are to now live under the new better Covenant that Jesus made possible. Under it, Jesus gave us power and authority & even commanded us his disciples, to cast out demonic influences (any evil spirit affecting us here on earth that is not his), heal the sick and diseased, preach the gospel of the kingdom everywhere, even raise the dead. Wow. Who does that? How many believers are along around town doing all these things Jesus did and commanded his followers to do? His life on earth is our example. Not Job’s or Hosea’s. We should never be singing worship songs about old Covenant practices while it is clearly stated all over the gospels and acts that we are to live under the new Provision and commands of the new one. God’s judgment now will come for us at the Judgement Seat (bema) of Christ, where we will make account for all we did (or did not do) according to his commands.
      I think the question needs to shift from who is his song about? To Why are we as believers and followers of Christ not doing what he said and taking control over our circumstances exactly like he did, every day? It entails much more responsibility and introspective thought on our part. It it’s there. And it’s ours to own. I hope these thoughts of mine help somewhat! ☺️

      • Sorry for not replying much earlier, Chelan, but thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts. You’re clearly putting a lot of thought into the topic.

    • Hi AJ, thanks for coming by. Sorry for the late response.

      I think you make an interesting point, but I just do not agree. I don’t see the reference to Hosea but rather a very clear reference to Job, so that’s why I took the time to review that passage. [edit: I reread your comment and now understand what you meant. I thought you meant that the verse in Job is similar to the one in Hosea, which struck me as strange. I see now you meant that the first verse in the song is from Hosea. My comments below still stand, though.]

      Secondly, I do not agree with your take on Hosea itself. Hosea was not dragged through the mud, though he was given a bizarre command to marry and be faithful to a harlot as an illustration of God’s faithfulness to unfaithful Israel. As far as the passage you cited, the referents are pretty clear: It’s Judah and Israel, not just Hosea. God did not simply deal out disaster to them on a whim but it was instead punishment for their rebellion. That is really a far different thing than what this song is implying.

  6. I so appreciate everyone’s opinions above. They have been thought provoking for sure! Funny how I ended up here … heard the song on Sunday and was struggling with it on Monday … did a search on google and landed here! Love the way people can connect through the internet.

    Thank you, AJ, for pointing out the connection to Hosea. I am going to look at that some more.

    Chelan, thank you for all of your thoughts as well! Great insight.

    I personally wonder if some of this is semantics, if perhaps we all agree more than we appear to in the end? Really doesn’t matter but just a thought.

    I wonder sometimes if God shows himself to us in ways that we ourselves need to experience Him, but perhaps different than how He chooses to reveal Himself to another person. Could it be that some need to experience the God who disciplines, to the point of “ruin”, in order to learn about that trait of God? While others need to experience His goodness and grace?

    I wonder how unbelievers feel when they come into church and hear a song like the one we are discussing. What does that make them think about God? Is it attracting them to Him? Perhaps seeing people touched by the lyrics is enough to help them to see a difference and make them want what Believers have?

    For me personally, I prefer to meditate on the Father’s Goodness (and yet I realize that when He disciplines, that is also goodness but not in the way we usually want!!).

    Words like:
    I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
    But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night
    And you tell me that you’re pleased
    And that I’m never alone
    You’re a good good father
    It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
    And I’m loved by you
    It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

  7. This is an interesting article
    I agree with you on the above, God can use evil but is never the source of it. It’s important we distinguish that.
    Thanks for writing this!

  8. what is sadly lacking in your critique is an actual handling of the text and its context in the Bible. When Job receives word that all his children have died, he says in Job 1:21, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” and God says through the commentator, (22) In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” How do you explain this. What he says later, i.e. “though he slay me, yet I will hope in him” is but an extension of the same theology. The Lord gave his children, the Lord took them away. Blessed is the Name of the Lord in both His giving and His taking. Agreed, he did it by “Allowing” it to happen, but when God most certainly can protect when He chooses to, and he elects to allow something to happen, He has “Ordained” it as well as allowed it. No Calvinist means anything different that Job. I wish you would wrestle more with the actual Bible. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away…in saying this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

    • Hi Robert:

      With all due respect, I think the one not handling the text well is you. It is true that early in Job, it says that, but you leave no room for the progression of the book, which is a pretty long one. Job never curses God, but he does end up complaining quite a bit. This is why God blasts Job in chapter 38 rather than complimenting him for his awesome theology. God is angrier at Job’s friends, for sure, but Job himself gets a massive rebuke as well.

      Also, you had no comment or argument about my discussion of that verse and the context itself. If you want to handle the text well, you have to do that. Furthermore, I don’t think Calvinists can consistently say God “allows” something given their theology. I know Piper has been confused on this issue, but “allowing” and “doing” are distinct, but given theological determinism, no concept of “allow” makes any sense.

  9. I only recently heard this song (at a funeral actually) and I too felt it fell short scripturally. Outside of the much mentioned ‘Calvinist vs Not’ arguments, one element where it falls short for me is that this ‘picture’ is not supported in Jesus.

    Jesus showed no example or need to inflict suffering, to then heal it to make a point of glorifying God. He didn’t need to. The sin already in this world and the fact that God is the opposite of ‘sin’ yet never forsakes us points us through worship to his limitless Glory. His grace and mercy is MORE because he is infinitely distant from the imperfections and suffering caused by sin, yet grants these blessings, not because he caused them!

  10. 9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”[a] In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:9-10)

    “I have heard many things like these;
    you are miserable comforters, all of you!
    3 Will your long-winded speeches never end?
    What ails you that you keep on arguing?
    4 I also could speak like you,
    if you were in my place;
    I could make fine speeches against you
    and shake my head at you.
    5 But my mouth would encourage you;
    comfort from my lips would bring you relief.
    6 “Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved;
    and if I refrain, it does not go away.
    7 Surely, God, you have worn me out;
    you have devastated my entire household.
    8 You have shriveled me up—and it has become a witness;
    my gauntness rises up and testifies against me.
    9 God assails me and tears me in his anger
    and gnashes his teeth at me;
    my opponent fastens on me his piercing eyes.
    10 People open their mouths to jeer at me;
    they strike my cheek in scorn
    and unite together against me.
    11 God has turned me over to the ungodly
    and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked.
    12 All was well with me, but he shattered me;
    he seized me by the neck and crushed me.
    He has made me his target;
    13 his archers surround me.
    Without pity, he pierces my kidneys
    and spills my gall on the ground.
    14 Again and again he bursts upon me;
    he rushes at me like a warrior.
    15 “I have sewed sackcloth over my skin
    and buried my brow in the dust.
    16 My face is red with weeping,
    dark shadows ring my eyes;
    17 yet my hands have been free of violence
    and my prayer is pure.
    18 “Earth, do not cover my blood;
    may my cry never be laid to rest!
    19 Even now my witness is in heaven;
    my advocate is on high.
    20 My intercessor is my friend[a]
    as my eyes pour out tears to God;
    21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God
    as one pleads for a friend.
    22 “Only a few years will pass
    before I take the path of no return. (Job 16)

    • Comments like this continue to be unfortunate, as if belting out a proof-text is supposed to prove anything. It frankly shows an unwillingness to read what’s here carefully.

      Read that section again. Should we affirm 100% of what Job says? Should we say that God pierces “without pity”? Likewise, should we deny 100% of what Job’s friends say? Consider this:

      “8 But as for me, I would seek God,
      And I would place my cause before God;
      9 Who does great and unsearchable things,
      [d]Wonders without number.
      10 “He gives rain on the earth
      And sends water on the fields,
      11 So that He sets on high those who are lowly,
      And those who mourn are lifted to safety.” (Job 5:8-11)

      Job is a book that needs to be read in its entirety to be understood, and as I say clearly in the post, it does not lend itself to easy quotations. Not everything his friends say is theologically wrong. Not everything Job says and how he says it is right. God first rebukes Job firmly starting in chapter 38, but he also affirms that Job spoke of him rightly in contrast to his friends (42:7), meaning that Job correctly affirmed that God does not operate in the simplistic manner that his friends argued, though again, he still erred in other things which earned him the previous rebuke. It’s a complex book. Careful Bible readers should treat it that way.

      • What is unfortunate is you think that I haven’t read it carefully – maybe you are so stuck on your interpretation you are missing what is really being said… maybe it is you that needs to read a bit more carefully…

        A more careful read of what I posted, with the larger scope of the book itself and careful consideration of the text I posted would be enough to show you what you have missed…

        But that would take a willing heart to listen to the Holy Spirit as you study and read… are you willing to let go of what you think and allow that to happen?

        That is the real question at this point.

      • I didn’t miss anything; you posted a prooftext, one that I know, and left it at that, as if it’s supposed to prove anything. And frankly, it is pretty arrogant to think that the Holy Spirit simply agrees with you, as if your interpretations are supposed to be taken as flawless.

        Once again, there is no interaction with the actual arguments in the post. If you’re willing to do that, I’m more than happy to discuss. But these kinds of prideful comments get old pretty quick.

      • You look down on people who don’t agree with you – proverbs says the fool thinks he is always right – Proverbs 12:15 – and can’t be corrected – Your responses to me, calling names, and your judgmental attitude has reveled your true heart…

        I’m praying for you…

        This will be the last you hear from me.

      • I haven’t called you a name; I pointed out that your method here was prideful. If anything, you are the one who came here, posted a quotation from Job without further explanation even though I specifically say in this post that the Book of Job does not lend itself to easy quotations, and then started flinging accusations when this was called out. Without engaging, civilly and deeply, what was said here, you acted offended, which is hardly behavior of a mature Christian who can handle disagreement well. I think there may be a plank in your own eye here.

        There are people on this thread who have disagreed with me on points and have expressed them in a reasonable manner, and I have no problem with that. You might want to review how you actually engaged in discussion here.

      • I never expected you to get this upset… I am sorry for my part in that and I mean that. I will not engage in further conversation with you concerning this other than to say the text I posted proves you wrong without any explanation… scripture can stand on its own without our frail explanations. What I posted does that… The rest is up to the Holy Spirit and you.

      • I wasn’t upset; I was merely pointing out that your method of discussion here was wanting. And the text you posted does not such thing; I wish it were always that easy, but it often isn’t because interpretation is a very real thing that everyone does.

  11. Hi leesomniac,
    God bless you for putting this up, as I have had the same reaction in hearing this song and thought surely I couldn’t be the only one. It gives me joy to see, True Christian willing to question this.

    Regarding the song, I do see what you mean, by how this song is derived from the thought or view that Job was rebuked for. But I would like to know why you don’t think it’s heretical. I don’t actually have a view on that but I want to know why you thought that?
    On another note.
    I would like to state for standpoints sake, that I’m a Calvinist. I wouldn’t give you 2 cents for the name but that’s just for the sake ofa general understanding what that means. That being said I’m thrown off by your stand as to whether you’re a Calvinist yourself (as you mentioned you believe in a sovereign God) or an Arminian? I do agree with you that “Allow” is inconsistent with Calvinistic view hence why you wont hear me use it. I believe that, GOD IS THE FIRST CAUSE OF ALL CAUSES. Which is why although Satan sent trouble to Job yet he could only do whatever he wanted apart from take his life, which was the limitation God gave him. Job says the Lord gives and takes. God doesn’t need to clear things up either and say the devil inflicted you I just gave him the order not to kill because they both knew who’s in charge at all times. Same thing With Joseph’s treatment from his brothers in Gen 50:20 Joseph speaks of how his brothers planned evil, yet God planned it for good to save many lives. Acts 2:23 Where Peter ascerts that it was Gods foreknowledge and plan to deliver his son into the hands of the evil doers to do whatsoever God had planned. We can most likely conclude from here that God ultimately uses the evil intents and hearts of man to fulfil his will. Let every man be wrong and God right.

    I am in no way quoting Isaiah 45:7 to try and prove a point but rather, I haven’t had anyone ever go further than what God is saying here. So I would appreciate if I can get an insight into perhaps understanding this verse better.

    Isaiah 45:7King James Version (KJV)
    7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.

    Thanks and God bless.

    • Hi Igorian:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’ll try to respond to each of your questions/points in turn:

      1. Regarding heresy, I’ve written another post on my thoughts about that. In a nutshell, I consider that charge to be serious, and I don’t throw it around lightly even if I hear something that I disagree with strongly. Unfortunately, I had a hyper-Calvinist come to this site recently who called me a Satanist because I disagree with limited atonement (hilariously, he also called other Calvinists such as Piper, Keller, and Mohler “devils” too), so he was a good illustration of what not to do. Thanks for not being like that, by the way. In any case, even if I hear a sermon, song, or lecture (or read a book) that has theology that I find problematic, I’m not going to jump to the label of heresy as if that person is denying the divinity of Christ or something. Thus, while I have strong points of disagreement with Calvinists (among other classes of Christians), I still consider them brothers in Christ, and I have several Calvinist friends. I find it decidedly immature and prideful to jump to accusations of heresy just because of doctrinal disagreement. As far as I know, Shane & Shane are humble servants of God, and that’s why I made it clear that I was not questioning their faith or the genuine intentions behind the song.

      2. I think I wouldn’t have too many disagreements with how you treat those passages or stories. I think where we may differ (or at least, where I would differ with classical Calvinism) is concluding from those passages an all-causing, determinative view of God’s sovereignty. I would readily agree that God uses the evil acts to still work out good. However, I do not think that God is the cause of those evil acts in the first place. He foreknows them, but I don’t think that means he also caused them. Even with Satan and Job, there is no hint in the narrative that God is causing Satan to come to him, to question him about Job, and then causing Job and his friends to react the way they do. That would be required for a truly consistent and comprehensive Calvinism. Instead, I see God regret and despise the evil of men because such evil was not his preference, such as Gen. 6 where he regrets the evil man is causing or in Jeremiah 19:5 where he says the idolatry of the Israelites never entered his mind. I think we run into some serious issues when we construe God as the author of sin and evil.

      That said, I know my Calvinist brothers do not therefore conclude that God is not wholly good. Of course they believe that. I just have some disagreement with their logic and interpretation. I hope that helps, and thanks again for your civil comment.

      • Thank you Lee, for staying with this thread faithfully, respectfully and doing it diligence by studying the the Word to prove it.
        I would still love to have some feedback about the point “Ramblings of Devon” and I have both mentioned. Jesus changing EVERYTHING. And why any old covenant scripture used to support a belief that God allows, ordains, is the source of (etc) evil, is IRRELIVANT. The old covenant has been exchanged with the New.

        Why is the fact that ~ Jesus’s life, death and rising changed how God the Father has reacted to sin and destruction seeing it as now defeated (ever since Jesus walked the earth and ascended) ~ why is this continually being ignored? It is a game changer, and makes every OT single argument fall apart. But no one seems to see it like that… except “ramblings of Devon” or at least address it.
        My point is actually touched on by none other than the Shane’s themselves is their AMAZING song, “Everything is Different”! ☺️

      • Sorry for the late response. While I disagree with the divine determinism of Calvinism, I think we have to be careful about saying that Jesus makes even factual statements about God in the OT irrelevant. When we say that Jesus fulfilled the old covenant, we mean the Law. In other words, the Law does not operate on Christians as “law,” as if it had legal binding. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have universal moral principles that are affirmed elsewhere in Scripture, nor does it mean that the rest of the OT has nothing informative to say about God and how he operates. I hope that helps.

  12. I just recently heard this song for the first time- sung as a worship song in church. I liked the tune, but the lyrics surprised me. I didn’t realize they were from Job, so thanks for pointing that out. I was concerned with the idea of God slaying. What God can do and what He will do are two different things. As best I recall, there is no record of God “slaying” anyone that has faith in him. “Slaying” hasn’t only come as judgement for those who did not acknowledge God to begin with, or who abandoned their faith in God. I understand that we should maintain our faith in God when we don’t understand His ways, we also need to recognize the difference between not understanding God’s ways, and judgment.

  13. I seemed to notice a few more passages than just Job in these lyrics as I listened to it (Psalm 73:23-28, Hosea 5:1-3) Perhaps that may help broaden the lens a bit on the origin of the lyrics themselves, though the main points of discussion still stand even with these passages brought into that discussion. Just more food for thought, I suppose.

    Also an interesting article recently where Piper does what you’ve done here in evaluating the lyrics of a “popular” song:

  14. Pingback: God is Doing What Now? – thingsidonotwanttoforget

  15. Thanks for this blog. I’ve been a church music director for several years and multiple times have thought about doing this song, but every time I’ve felt too squeamish about the theology to actually go ahead, for all the reasons you spell out. I was thinking about it again this Lent, but all the same doubts arose. Always good to find you aren’t alone on your concerns with this sort of thing, regardless of the spirit of their intentions or the merits of their other work.

    For me it’s similar to all the rapture references in Fannie Crosby hymns, and even others that use the word rapture in a clearly metaphorical sense (apparently “rapture” was all the rage for 18th and 19th century hymn writers, even when untethered to dispensationalism). I’ve taken to skipping verses in such hymns that teach such an escapist (and I believe wholly unwarranted) eschatology, or changing the lyrics a bit to correct the matter. Even the lyrics that probably weren’t referencing the dispensationalist idea of the rapture are difficult because of our culture’s understanding of the word, thanks to such drivel as the Left Behind series.

    I actually think music sinks into the core of a person much easier than a lot of other modes of learning, so considering the theological implications of songs is paramount, and is not nearly as emphasized as it ought to be among church musicians. You really don’t want kids growing up (or adults) with lyrics stuck in their head and heart that teach erroneous views of God.

    • Hi Jonathan: Thanks for coming by. I agree that music actually does teach theology, though I do not expect the same precision as an academic article. I will say that there may be more to the rapture than you think, though I agree that Left Behind is… a bit fanciful and I myself have mixed feelings about the rapture. I just know scholars that I respect that hold to it.

      I try to be charitable if I hear lyrics that are vague, imprecise, or even that I disagree with, though I do think it’s fair game to analyze them. If someone plays this song in my church, I’m not going to light him up. I just think it’s worth discussing.

  16. Well written. When I first heard the title of the song , I immediately tried fitting the word “slay” into a different context. One in which it means refines. I also think that instead of placing the glory on God, as that is the goal of worship, the song somewhat places the credit on us for remaining faithful to him. It’s upside down. When we are being tested, our instinct is to run away and not praise him, he is the one that remains faithful to us when tests come our way and more specifically when are are so deep in sin. I have not spent the proper amount of time analyzing this song when it comes to theology. I am just referring to my initial reaction when I heard the title.

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