I was quite a metalhead in highschool.
I never dressed the part (just jeans, sneakers, and tshirts for me, thanks), but as far as I was concerned, clean vocals (aka singing) were only reserved for wimps or strategically emotional bridges.
Yes, I was, indeed, hardcore.
Really what drew me most to the screamo/hardcore scene were the lyrics. Words seem so raw and intense whenever they are being screamed along to pounding bass drums.
For me, Oh Sleeper was the chief of this terrain.
Their first album (titled When I Am God) contains one of my favorite song lyrics:
When I am God, this church is unsound.
It’s such a simple statement but also far truer than I am often willing to admit. Thankfully the book of Judges is always ready to remind me again.
Judges is easily one of the darkest books of the Bible. I mean, it describes Israel’s downward spiral into increasingly blatant sinful behavior. While the first sixteen chapters show Israel falling into sin, repenting of sin, and God delivering them with various judges, the final five chapters emphasize how serious Israel’s sin was with tales of wicked idolatry, horrendous sexual immorality and violence, and ultimately a civil war.
It’s far from a light-hearted read. But a twice-used refrain bookends this section:
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6; 21:25 ESV)
Furthermore, both chapters 18 and 19 begin by reminding us that there was no king in those days. Obviously, the author wants us to see Israel’s depravity as a result of their self-imposed morality rather than obeying a king. It was essentially Israel’s wild west phase.
But then we reach another problem. Years later when Samuel is judging Israel, the people demand to have a king. This might seem to be a step in the right direction, but Samuel is grieved by it. After praying, the LORD speaks these words to Samuel:
Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. (1 Samuel 8:7 ESV)
Israel’s desire for a physical king was a rejection of God as their king. This means that Judges was not lamenting Israel’s lack of a physical king; rather, it mourns Israel’s refusal to serve God as king. Their decision to do what was right in their own eyes was an act of dethroning God. By rejecting God’s law, they elevated themselves as gods.
But Judges isn’t a story about how sinful Israel was. It’s a story about how sinful we are.
All sin is an attempted usurping of God’s throne. Both great and small sins are an assault on God’s sovereignty and glory. We only sin by rejecting God’s commands and placing ourselves above them. Here’s how R. C. Sproul describes it in The Holiness of God:
Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself. Have you ever considered the deeper implications of the slightest sin, of the most minute peccadillo? What are we saying to our Creator when we disobey Him at the slightest point? We are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, “God, Your law is not good. My judgement is better than Yours. Your authority does not apply to me. I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction. I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do.
Each act of sin is our declaration that we are our own kings, that we are god. And the end is never pleasant. For the Israelites, it resulted in death, nearly the entire destruction of the tribe of Benjamin. Sin’s paycheck is always death, either in hell eternal or on the cross of Christ. Those are our only options.
We never have a severe enough view of our sin.
Or its consequences.
When Israel lived as its own king, doing what was right in their own eyes, thousands died. They fell whenever they became their own god and king.
The same is true for us.
When we are god, the church is unsound.