It’s gotta be one of the most popular songs on Christian radio right now, and probably one of the top songs of the year (or two or three years). Hillsong United’s “Touch The Sky”, off their 2015 album Empires. It’s an extremely passionate and poetic song that seems to be resonating with many Christ-following souls. So I’ve been eager to sing the song myself, and to lead others in worship with this song. But when I began to chart out the song I had to stop and think about whether these lyrics were really appropriate for congregational singing. I feel that it’s pretty important (ok, VERY important) for the general congregation to understand what they are singing. And these words were definitely more “poetic” and perhaps a bit harder to interpret than the typical song I select for Sunday services. So I posed the question to a group of worship leaders (via Facebook) if anyone else had done this song on a Sunday and if they had read any particular scripture passages or given any explanation or interpretation beforehand to make sure the congregation was able to sing the words and not only understand them but sing them with personal meaning.
The response was not as helpful as I had hoped. I’ll be honest, I was hoping someone would swoop in the a Bible verse and a sentence or two that would just tie it all together and wrap a nice ribbon around the lyric, and I could just steal that. Instead I got quiet a few people saying that they too had balked at the idea of using Touch The Sky in their worship services for the same reasons and it seemed that only one person had actually done the song and they used it as a “special number” or what I call a “sit and listen” song. Side note: I am a big believer in the idea that we can worship just as well by listening and we don’t always have to be singing, however I rarely include “sit and listen” songs in my set lists…for a variety of reasons that ought to be discussed in a separate post.
One friend agreed when I stated that the words were not exactly linear but rather nebulous, and he issued a wonderful challenge. He said, “You get 29 minutes a week to help linear and poetic worshipers adore the Lord in Spirit and Truth… do you have time for nebulous? Crystal clear might serve your vision & purpose for the flock far better.” Great point! I had to process that for a day or so. And I agree with him in many ways. Crystal clear is often the better choice in serving the purpose of creating an environment of worship in Spirit and in Truth.
However, in the end I started to feel like I tend to balance the scales unfairly toward Truth and less toward Spirit. So I wrote back to this friend (who by the way is a wonderful worship leader whom I highly respect and look to for advice and wisdom) and explained that although many of the worshipers in my congregation feel more comfortable in a linear, logical, clearly expressed worshiping environment, there are also people in the congregation who respond more readily to the poetic imagery of songs like Touch The Sky. There really is something to be said for allowing some room for the Holy Spirit to do some interpreting rather than me spelling everything out in my own terms.
So I’ve come to a compromise. We’re doing the song tomorrow in church. I will invite the congregation to “sit and listen” but to also feel free to join in and sing if they know it. I will share a bible verse or two, and a sentence to tie a nice ribbon around it. And then I will invite them all to read this blog post so they can take the time to dig into the lyric a little deeper and see my own interpretation of the more nebulous sections as well as read some scriptures that seem to be exactly what the more straightforward lyrics are saying.
So here it is. The Jathan Good reflection on the song Touch The Sky. Feel free to disagree, or to interpret the lyrics in your own way. In fact I encourage you to reflect on what these lyrics mean to you personally. But here’s my twenty cents:
TOUCH THE SKY
Hillsong United: Dylan Thomas, Joel Houston, Michael Guy Chislett
What fortune lies beyond the stars, [Beyond the stars: Heaven! Matt 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” It’s worth more than anything else. Sell everything you have in order to gain it. ]
Those dazzling heights too vast to climb, [My interpretation of this is that sometimes Heaven seems too far, too high, to reach. At least too high for me to climb to on my own.]
I got so high to fall so far [When I try to reach Heaven on my own I always fail. And man does it hurt to fall when you’ve climbed so high.]
But I found heaven as love swept low [But praise be to God: He doesn’t ask us to climb our way to Heaven. He came down to us! His love left Heaven and came down to us. He made a way when there was no way. He came down, took on flesh, became Emmanuel, God With Us. He came to seek and to save the lost!]
My heart beating [When I experience God’s love my heart races in anticipation and excitement!]
My soul breathing [I feel that the breath I’m breathing is the breath of life that He has put into me. Like crisp mountain air that refreshes and awakens the soul.]
I found my life when I laid it down [Matt. 10:39 “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”]
Upward falling, spirit soaring [It’s like I’m falling…being in the Presence of God feels out of control…I’m caught up in the ocean of his love. But I’m not falling dangerously toward the ground, I’m falling up…closer to Him. My spirit is soaring, flying, alive.]
I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground [It’s exhilarating. I am actually communicating with the God of Heaven, the creator of the universe, when I’m on my knees in prayer. The way up (to God) is down (on my knees).]
What treasure waits within Your scars [Who would have imagined that the wounds of God would achieve a reward for you and me?]
This gift of freedom gold can’t buy [2 Cor. 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Phil 3:8 “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ”]
I bought the world and sold my heart [Before I had Jesus in my life I sought after the things that the world says we ought to pursue, and I pursued them with all my heart. I bought into the lie that these temporal, selfish gains would bring joy.]
You traded heaven to have me again [But YOU choose to let go of the one thing that truly is eternal and ultimate value…in order to rescue me and to bring me into a relationship with You.]
Find me here at Your feet again [Luke 10:38-42 “…She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said… the Lord (said), “…few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”]
Everything I am, reaching out, I surrender [Mark 8:34-35 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” EVERYTHING – Paul says in Romans 6 to present our whole bodies to God as living sacrifices. Everything I AM – not just my stuff…not just my time, I’m surrendering my will, my thoughts, my identity. I want only to be known as one who belongs to God.]
Come sweep me up in Your love again [Psalm 61:4 “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” Eph 3:18 the love of Christ is “wide and long and high and deep.” It is extravagant, lavish, over-the-top, crazy love. It’s the kind of love that I want to get swept up in. Overwhelm me Lord. Let the world fall away; with my eyes fixed on You nothing else matters. Everything else is worthless, rubbish, compared to the presence of the Lord.]
And my soul will dance on the wings of forever [2 Sam 6:14 “Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.”]
And here’s the video (recorded atop the Capital Records Tower):
And a slightly more “acoustic” version that really highlights Taya Smith’s awesome vocal (is there a better term than “acoustic” for this? After all the first instrument you hear is an electronic drum pad):
Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think? Do you agree with my decision to ultimately include this song in the Sunday morning worship set? Did my interpretation/reflection above strike a chord with you? Did it help you? Was the lyric pretty clear to you from the beginning?