w/m Paul Baloche
Above all powers
Above all kings
Above all nature
And all created things
Above all wisdom
And all the ways of man
You were here
Before the world began
Above all kingdoms
Above all thrones
Above all wonders
The world has ever known
Above all wealth
And treasures of the earth
There's no way to measure
What You're worth
Laid behind the stone
You lived to die
Rejected and alone
Like the rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Many modern worship songs, in an attempt to be deep, wind up just being vague in their message. There is no problem with that here, as this song is beautifully simple, while conveying a clear message. One would think a song so clear and so focussed on the work of Christ would escape controversy, but, oddly, this song has generated a lion’s share of criticism from several voices, many of whom I greatly respect.
The focus of the fuss is the idea that the song seems to say that God thought about man more than He thought of his own glory. Bob Kauflin, one of the worship leaders I most respect said this, “…the phrase “above all” communicates that Jesus thought about me more than his Father’s glory.” Personally, I don’t see it that way.
Proper hermeneutics dictates that we let scripture interpret scripture, and so we should let the song interpret the song. When we see a word like “All” in scripture, we have to define it based on its context. Same applies here. What is the “All” that Jesus thought of us above? I think it’s fair to let the verses of the song define what the “All” is.
Above all powers, Above all kings. The I sing this line, I am reminded of when Jesus was tempted by Satan; “Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Clearly Jesus chose to continue His path to save His lost sheep over all powers and kings. This also fits with the first lines of the second verse: Above all kingdoms, Above all thrones.
Above all nature, And all created things and the parallel lines in the second verse, Above all wondersThe world has ever known. We, of all of God’s creation, both physical and heavenly are the only ones created in the image of God, and the only ones for whom Christ died.
Above all wisdom, And all the ways of man, You were here before the world began. This speaks of Christ’s eternality and how the false, worldly wisdom that man creates falls hopelessly short of Christ’s omniscience and perfection in wisdom.
Above all wealth and treasures of the earth There's no way to measure what You're worth. Again, Jesus thought of His work to bring His children home above all that the world has to offer. He lived the perfect, sinless life that we could never live, and that life was imputed to us through His work on the cross. That last line reminds me, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses His soul.” Nothing this world has to offer should be as precious to us as Jesus.
Now that Paul Baloche has given us two verses full of explanation as to what “All” is referring to, one thing stands out as clearly missing…”The Father’s glory”. Yes, it is not mentioned in this song anywhere and that should be enough to declare that it is not the focus or intention of the writer to say the “All” includes anything more than what is listed in the verses.
We know that Christ went to the cross first and foremost for the glory of the Father, but that is not the point of this song. This song does not say Jesus thought of us over and above the Father’s glory, and we shouldn’t assume that is what the writer is referring to. I see it as reading into a song what is clearly not there.
Crucified, laid behind the stone. Here, in the chorus, Baloche tells of the most important event, not only in human history, but for our personal lives…the death and burial of Christ. The resurrection is part of that as well, and I will address that later.
You lived to die, rejected and alone. As Christ was surrounded by his mother, Mary Magdalene, and John, he was not alone from an earthly perspective, but, the writer is referring to the fulfillment of Psalm 22:1 where Jesus cried, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus, for a time felt the desolation of being unconscious of His Father’s presence. John MacArthur states that during the 6th through the 9th hour, when the darkness came over the land, that was when the Father was pouring out His wrath onto the Son for our sins. It ended at the 9th hour and Jesus no longer felt that wrath and cried out, feeling forsaken.
Like the rose, trampled on the ground, You took the fall. Kind of a mixed metaphor as a rose that is on the ground, doesn't really “take a fall”, per se, but the message is clear nonetheless. Jesus took the wrath in our place. And thought of me above all. While we don’t want to downplay the eternal plan of God or the glory that Christ will receive as Lord for His work on the cross, we also don’t want to downplay the love, genuine love and mercy and grace He has for His own either. That is the message of this song.
My only complaint is that, while there is a focus on the death and burial, the story is incomplete without the resurrection. A bridge might have been nice to tie that truth in, for if Christ had died but not risen, we would have no hope. However, I understand the passion of the Christ is what is in focus here and clearly stated is His sacrifice for us.
Bill Itzel has been a worship leader and singer/songwriter for almost 30 years and is based in Westminster, MD. His family tours and leads worship, not only in their home church (Mt. Airy Bible Church), but around the country. This is a blog about congregational worship and the latest news in the The Itzel's ministry.