The song Scandal of Grace is my no means a new song. After all, it was first released as part of the 2013 Hillsong United album Zion. However, having heard it played recently at the United Prayer (Across Campus) ministry event, held on Wednesday 26 August 2015 at Cross Culture Church, this song has been so influential, timely and memorable that even after spending a concentrated few days soaked in my church’s own new songs, the chorus kept coming back to me.
The opening verse drives the song from the onset – using language that is intentional and impactful – “murdered” and “accused”. These harsh words are complemented and offset by the overall theme – that the love and grace of God in the sacrifice and crucifixion of Jesus on the cross was just so much the opposite. As the two song writers, Joel Houston and Matt Crocker, explain here, the message of Jesus was completely scandalous and in stark contrast to the norms of the day. The impact of Jesus reverberates through time even to this day when we should also be mindful that Jesus and His message was not of tolerance, but even to this day and society, would be considered politically incorrect.
The second half of the first verse provide a short narrative on the message of the cross and just how unthinkable the nature of grace truly is. As the lyrics of the second verse highlight – it is too much to make sense of. The final lines emphasise the purpose of God’s unfathomable grace – He did it all so that we could have eternal salvation and be reconciled back to God. That Jesus was completely blameless, wrongly accused, His blood was shed in the same way that the Jewish passover culture required that an unblemished lamb to be sacrificed to atone for the sins of the nation.
Moving on to the chorus, the opening line “oh to be like you” provides a change in focus. Whilst the verses are somewhat self-focused and are sung from a personal worship approach (for me, my sin, my fall, my place, my soul), the lament shifts focus here to Jesus – we want to be like Him. Whilst there is still an individualistic drive prevalent in the chorus, the lyrics appropriately focus our attention on God. We want to know Jesus because there is simply no one like you.
The second verse starts with the phrase “Death where is your sting?” from 1 Corinthians 15:54-55: “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death where is your sting?'” In recent years, this phrase has become something of an in-style/fashionable lyric sung in more and more songs. Other worship songs which have similarly been inspired and use the explicit phrasing include O Praise Him (Anastasia) and Forever (Kari Jobe). Numerous Easter/resurrection songs focus on this theme of Christ’s victory over death. The phrase is somewhat poetic and rhythmic. The powerlessness of death is just as our sin, once we have received Christ and His forgiveness. The cross indeed provides us with the way forward, to life.
The second half of the verse reminds us that whilst storms will still come our way – we have the strength and grace of God to stand firm and withstand the challenges. Theologically, the song lyrics demonstrate a clear and sound teaching. The final two lines of the verse are a repeat whereby solidifying the name of the song – scandal of grace. You died in my place so my soul will live! The melody of the verses and chorus are also quite important in setting the tone and mood. The verses are initially sung down and starting from the second half, the lyrics start an upward melody, ramping up to the end and chorus. The chorus then takes it up a notch by singing the “Oh to be like you” line as a wave, lyrically and melodically transporting us into that place of worship – declaring that we can only be like God because of His grace. It is only by God’s divine grace that we can dare to share in His glory.
In part, we are invited through the song, to journey with Hillsong United in joining them and making this song part of our personal and corporate worship. God did not just gift Matt & Joel to pen this song for their exclusive use, but, just like His good news, to be shared so that He may be glorified and we all can partake in a moving time of worship. We all can join together in worship, united in Scandal of Grace to claim it for ourselves, that we each can be like God in seeking and receiving His grace. The bridge has a particular ring to it, because of its simplicity – we ALL can proclaim it – that it’s all because of You Jesus & Your love that our souls will live. In this way, the song invites us to start of individually, but culminating at the chorus and then bridge to unite as a corporate body of believers in proclaiming “It’s all, because of you Jesus – it’s all because of you Jesus – it’s all because of your love – that our souls will live”.
The other night at a friend’s place, we were using their brand new home theatre/karaoke system for the first time. I had my Macbook with me, and I introduced them to what me and my life group have become used to in the way I utilise ProPresenter for lyrics. Whilst a ProPresenter experience is not strictly speaking set up for karaoke, there is the timing feature which can be programmed to highlight the words like a karaoke music video. Nonetheless, I still was able to bring up the Scandal of Grace song and we all sang joyfully this song. In even more breaking news, I have also selected and purchase an instrumental/backing track in the key of D, for use in this week’s life group worship session – courtesy of MultiTracks.com.
Grace, what have You done?
Murdered for me on that cross
Accused in absence of wrong
My sin washed away in Your blood
Too much to make sense of it all
I know that Your love breaks my fall
The scandal of grace, You died in my place
So my soul will live
Oh to be like You
Give all I have just to know You
Jesus, there’s no one besides You
Forever the hope in my heart
Death, where is your sting?
Your power is as dead as my sin
The cross has taught me to live
And mercy, my heart now to sing
The day and its trouble shall come
I know that Your strength is enough
The scandal of grace, You died in my place
So my soul will live
And it’s all, because of You, Jesus
It’s all, because of You, Jesus
It’s all, because of Your love
And my soul will live