Scriptural Inspiration Behind the Lyrics of ‘What a Beautiful Name’
“I grew up in a Baptist church, went to an Anglican (Church of England) school and now my family and I call Hillsong (a Pentecostal church) home. I have experienced firsthand how enriching diversity within the Church can be to shaping a thoughtful theology. Though I also believe worship, especially through corporate singing, has great potential to unify the diverse Church around our commonly held beliefs. My prayer is that the use of poetry and song would never obfuscate the immutable truth and power of the bible but only ever help to further our understanding and worship of an indescribable God, and promote unity in the Body of Christ. I am certainly grateful for my pastors who continually challenge us to serve our church and beyond with a new song and to continually push for truth and accuracy in our lyric writing.
So with that said, I wanted to take a moment and share some of the scriptural inspiration behind the song ‘What A Beautiful Name’. Brooke and I are so encouraged by the apparent diversity of churches singing ‘What A Beautiful Name’ and wanted to provide some insight into the revelations that we referenced as we wrote this song.
YOU WERE THE WORD AT THE BEGINNING
ONE WITH GOD THE LORD MOST HIGH
YOUR HIDDEN GLORY IN CREATION
NOW REVEALED IN YOU OUR CHRIST
Verse 1 begins with Jesus (the Word) at the beginning of all creation (John 1); He was with God and was (and is!) God (John 1:1). The mysteries of our infinitely beautiful and glorious God, once hidden for generations, have now been revealed through Jesus (Col 1:26). When Jesus took on flesh we (humanity) got to see the glory of God (John 1:14); the Name of Jesus reveals the beauty and glory of God.
YOU DIDNT WANT HEAVEN WITHOUT US
SO JESUS YOU BROUGHT HEAVEN DOWN
MY SIN WAS GREAT
YOUR LOVE WAS GREATER
WHAT COULD SEPARATE US NOW
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” John 17:24 (NIV)
While God is all-sufficient, all-powerful and all knowing; the God of creation and of eternity; He is also God whose love surpasses all knowledge (Eph 3:19). In verse 2, we wanted to describe the love of God, who, though in need of nothing, so loved the world that He chose to send His one and only Son, so that we may not perish but have eternal life with Him (John 3:16). In a recent exchange on the first two lines of this verse, my friend Glenn Packiam, who I admire as a great thinker and songwriter suggested this clarification of context: “Heaven– God’s space– and earth– human space– were one. But sin fractured the union of heaven and earth. The beauty of the Gospel is that God’s solution was not to come down from heaven to airlift us out of earth, but rather to bring heaven down to earth in such a way that it would renew everything”. I agree completely. Through the incarnation and ministry of Jesus, the Kingdom of Heaven has been brought down to earth (Matt 4:17). God is eternal and was fully God before (and after!) creation. His presence is perfect and complete and yet He chose firstly to create humanity, and then like so many times since the fall, to reconcile His people to Himself. There is nothing in the scriptures to indicate that God has ever been lonely, but the scriptures do demonstrate a loving God who actively desires reconciliation with humanity (John 3:16). It is certainly not that God needed us, but as the lyric hopefully describes, God didn’t want to leave us out of His eternal plan for salvation (John 17:24). While we were still sinners (our sin was great), God showed us that His love was greater; as Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). Now we can sing that nothing can separate from the love of God (Rom 8:35). When I stop to think of the grace and love of Holy God, I am filled with wonder.
DEATH COULD NOT HOLD YOU
THE VEIL TORE BEFORE YOU
YOU SILENCE THE BOAST OF SIN AND GRAVE
THE HEAVENS ARE ROARING
THE PRAISE OF YOUR GLORY
FOR YOU ARE RAISED TO LIFE AGAIN
YOU HAVE NO RIVAL
YOU HAVE NO EQUAL
NOW AND FOREVER GOD YOU REIGN
YOURS IS THE KINGDOM
YOURS IS THE GLORY
YOURS IS THE NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES
The death of Jesus tore the veil of the temple (Matt 27:51) that put simply, separated people from the presence of God. We now have access to God through the death of Jesus. But death could not hold Him, sin and death have ultimately lost any power (e.g. Rom 6:9) for Jesus rose to life again. The heavens are roaring with the praises of His glory and power (Rev 19:1). Though variations of the phrase ‘Yours is the Kingdom, the power and glory forever’ cannot be found in Jesus’ original prayer in Matthew 6 (The Lord’s Prayer), the words have been used as a corporate conclusion to that prayer for centuries. We varied that phrase slightly by saving the word power for the final chorus and adding “Yours is the Name above all names” (Phil 2:9) as a fitting summary of the beauty, wonder and power that is in the Name of Jesus.
Our words and songs will never fully describe the glory, beauty, wonder and power of our God; they will only ever be an imperfect attempt at describing a perfect God; though as we worship, we move nearer to the God who has shown time and time again that He desires to be near to us.”
What hides in the name of Jesus?
The name of Jesus encompasses more than we can hope or imagine—more beauty, more wonder, more power.
Most of the song “What A Beautiful Name” was penned in a glorified cubicle in the suburbs of Sydney over a few days in December 2015. From there we spent months crafting the lyrics to riff on our core scriptures — Hebrews 1:1-4 and Colossians 1:15-20, 26-27 — yet be simple enough to make sense on a first reading. Hebrews 1:1-4 expresses with clarity and conciseness the supremacy of Jesus Christ — the radiance of God’s glory, the exact expression of His being, the creative conduit of His power. Jesus is God’s Word: powerful, authoritative and utterly supreme. He is the wonder of salvation, who reconciled us to God.
“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2, NIV)
To know God and to worship Him (“to enjoy Him forever”) is the most fundamental reason for our existence. As Jesus reveals the great mysteries of God, we come to know more of who God is, glimpsing new facets of His beauty, wonder and power.
“Beauty” evokes the tenderness of His love and the sweetness of His presence. “Wonder” speaks to our gratitude for salvation, awe at the lengths of His sacrifice. “Power” affirms His supremacy and Sovereignty—an exhortation to remember our access to the power of God in every situation, as we call upon and declare the Name of Jesus.
What a beautiful Name it is
What a wonderful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus
Jesus has the Name above all others. Anything that we can name – from our greatest triumphs to our greatest challenges—comes under the authority of His Name. This song confesses that no greater beauty or source of wonder exists outside of Jesus, “the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3). The song is also a statement that Jesus has no rival or equal. His power is unmatched and absolute.
Perhaps some of us understand God loves us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, but haven’t grasped His power, ability and will to move strongly in our present circumstances. Or perhaps, we understand God as the supreme, omnipotent Deity He is, but have never known Him close and tender, as a friend acquainted with the depths of our humanity, knowing our flaws cannot perturb His love. Our prayer for this song is that we can all enter into a deeper, more lateral, revelation of the person of Jesus Christ—the epitome of beauty.