I have rarely been one to really “get into” singing worship songs. For some, it is a very emotional experience; for much of my life, unfortunately, I’ve seen it as a ritual. I went to church every Sunday, and sang along every Sunday, but put very little thought into the words I was singing.
My mistake, as there are some very good words there. Words that can remind us of who God is and who we are; that can stir our affections for Him and help us better express gratitude for what He has done. If people simply read and mindlessly sing along, we can express some really great truths without actually hearing or understanding them ourselves.
So, particularly after this past Tuesday’s message, I wanted to look a bit closer at one of the songs sung at The Porch: “How He Loves.” The song, written by John Mark McMillan and made most famous by David Crowder Band, is one of those that seems to really break through to people and impact their hearts. It does so, I think, not because it is beautiful poetry, but because it actually has a lot of truth from Scripture packed into the lyrics.
Without further ado, an analysis (or even over-analysis) of “How He Loves,” with lyrics written in bold:
He is jealous for me
The reason why I started looking closer at the lyrics to this song is because a friend took issue with it describing God as being jealous. However, this opening line actually has some of the most support in Scripture. The Bible repeatedly describes God as a “jealous God.” But it is a specific kind of jealously. The song is “How He Loves”; it is all about how God loves us. And each time the Bible talks about God being “jealous,” it is in reference to people choosing to love some other “god” more than Him.
Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. – Exodus 34:14
Whatever we love the most becomes our “god,” whether that is money, comfort, prestige, or any other idol. None of those things are worthy of being number one in our lives, and none of them can bring us any lasting happiness. Being jealous about your affections for something other than God is considered “godly jealousy”:
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 11:2-3
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
This uses poetic imagery to get across how strong God’s love is: like the power of a hurricane bending a tree. It makes sense for the songwriter to compare God’s love to a storm, because the Bible often uses the power of storms to remind us of the power of God:
When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. – Jeremiah 51:16
Besides that, though, John Mark McMillan wrote the song soon after a storm in his own life, with his best friend dying in a car wreck. That God is still loving even when circumstances seem to suggest otherwise is perhaps the main theme of the song.
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
“Mercy” is defined as: “Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” Basically, if you fully deserve to be punished, and the judge instead lets you go free, the judge has shown you mercy. The greater the punishment you have been excused from, the more mercy you have been given.
That is what God does. All of us have sinned (Romans 3:23), and the punishment for sin is death—eternal death.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23
Instead of what we deserve, God shows great mercy by freely offering us eternal life instead. The reason for describing this mercy so powerfully is because it is the greatest mercy possible: offering eternal paradise instead of eternal punishment, and offering it to everyone, no matter what they might have done.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners —of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. – 1 Timothy 1:15-16
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. – Romans 8:18
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me
God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:8
The whole song is about God’s affections or love for us, as is emphasized repeatedly:
And oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us all
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:6-8
We are His portion
For the LORD’s portion is His people, Jacob his allotted inheritance. – Deuteronomy 32:9
God’s “portion” is the part of something that is set apart for Him. When used in reference to people, it means God’s people. The people of Jacob (Israel) were originally His portion, until Jesus adopted (Ephesians 1:5) all believers into the family.
The “Lord’s portion” was also often used to refer to things set aside as sacrifices to Him.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. – Romans 12:1
and He is our prize
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
“Redemption” means that we have been bought back; God paid the price of His Son’s life to bring us back to Him. And whereas “mercy” means that we are spared the punishment that we really deserve, “grace” means that we are given a gift that we really don’t deserve.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. – Romans 3:23-25a
If His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:17b-19
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss
So what’s with this “Heaven meets earth” stuff and talk about kissing? That seems to be the least-understood and most controversial line in the whole song, to the point where David Crowder even changed the words. (The original version spoke of a “sloppy wet kiss”; the songwriter explains the change and the meaning behind those words on his blog.)
Even McMillan’s explanation of the “Heaven meets earth” part seems a bit vague. But, in the context of the song talking about God’s love, which is most fully expressed by Jesus’ life and death on the cross, I can’t imagine it referring to anything other than Jesus. God Himself descending from Heaven and becoming an earthly mortal, showing what God is like and demonstrating His love by dying for us—that is the fullest expression of Heaven meeting earth.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death —
even death on a cross! – Philippians 2:5-8
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
Why do certain stories or songs (like this one) tug at our hearts, in a way that we really can’t understand? Because they reflect God’s eternal story of His love for us, which we are hard-wired to respond to.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11
I don't have time to maintain these regrets
We are not meant to dwell on mistakes or failures. God took on Himself the punishment for our sins; we are not asked to punish ourselves. “He loves us” completely; He doesn’t love us more or less based on our performance.
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. – 2 Corinthians 7:10
When I think about the way
OK, let’s think about it. This should help drive the truth home:
Oh, how He loves us, oh
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved. – Ephesians 2:4-5
Oh, how He loves us
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. – Psalm 57:10
How He loves us so
For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave. – Psalm 86:13
How He loves
I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. – Psalm 89:1
Yeah He loves us
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. – Psalm 103:11
Oh, how He loves us
Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD. – Psalm 107:43
Oh, how He loves us
For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD. – Psalm 117:2
Oh, how He loves
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. – Lamentations 3:22
Oh, what love
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13
Yeah He loves us
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. – Zephaniah 3:17
Yeah He loves us
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! – 1 John 3:1
How He loves us
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
Oh, how He loves us so
Kevin McConaghy is a freelance copywriter and serves as editor of The Porch blog. He hopes to someday write the world's longest tweet.