The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.
The best songs written by men for the corporate worship of God are those based on the words of Scripture itself. For thousands of years, hymn writers have mined the depths of God’s Word, and continue to unearth new treasures all the time. Such is the immeasurable richness of our Lord and of the Bible! Yet few recent songwriters have chosen to draw from the first song ever recorded in Scripture: the Song of Moses from Exodus 15.
In collaboration with Graham Kendrick, Ben Smith, Chris Moerman, and Joseph Pat Barrett, worship leader Aaron Keyes wrote and recorded his “Song of Moses,” which is available on his 2011 album Dwell. According to Keyes, “We wanted to write a song we could sing on this side of the Cross, but one that had the heart of Moses after Israel had gone into the Red Sea. We didn’t just want to write the song solely because we see a glaring hole in our worship vocabulary (i.e., God as our Warrior, mighty in battle), but also because, personally, it’s where we’ve been living.” (source)
Besides using his talents as a songwriter and worship leader, Keyes serves the Church by training worship leaders through an intense six month program based outside Atlanta, Georgia. Through the ministry of 10,000 Fathers Worship School, Keyes endeavors to equip men and women to lead local churches with musical excellence, theological soundness, and a focus on disciple-making.
Hear more of the story behind Keyes’ “Song of Moses” in this article from Church Leaders online magazine, and in the following clip where he also performs and teaches an acoustic version of the song:
Here is the studio recording of the song, along with the lyrics:
Oh the Lord, our strength and song, highest praise to him belongs
Christ the Lord, the Conquering King, Your Name we raise, Your triumphs sing
Praise the Lord, our Mighty Warrior
Praise the Lord, the Glorious One
By his hand we stand in victory,
By his Name we overcome
Though the storms of hell pursue, In darkest night we worship You
You divide the raging sea, From death to life You safely lead
All the saints and angels bow, Hosts of heaven crying out
Glory Glory to the King, You reign for all eternity
The Lord shall reign forever and ever
The Lord shall reign forever and ever
In Exodus 15, Moses led the people to sing in celebration of their deliverance from Egypt. The text is full of references to God as a “man of war” who “has become my salvation.” It praises Him for his holiness and his mighty works, and for his steadfast love toward those whom he had redeemed. The song closes in verse 18 with an eschatological promise: “The Lord will reign forever and ever.”
It certainly does have all the makings of a great modern praise song, does it not? It’s easy to forget that these words were written and sung more than 1,000 years before Christ came to Earth, and at least another 2,000 years before the final fulfillment of the promises it contains! Yet the promises are as timely today as they were in the Sinai desert, because the God they describe does not change (Malachi 3:6). Indeed, this song will be eternally “relevant,” as in Revelation 15 we read that the Song of Moses will be sung by the redeemed in heaven.
Though Moses and the Israelites had no idea when or how their Messiah would come, they knew the kind of God they served. He is a Mighty Warrior, a Conquering King. And though we have no idea when or how He will return, we know that when He does, Christ will come in all His glory to make a footstool of his enemies (Hebrews 10:13) and reign forever and ever!
If you’re interested in learning more about the Song of Moses, I invite you to download a research paper I wrote for a seminary course, wherein I took an in-depth look at the songs of Moses recorded in Exodus 15, Deuteronomy 32, and Revelation 15. I also commend to you God’s Lyrics: Rediscovering Worship Through Old Testament Songs by Douglas Sean O’Donnell. This book looks at the songs of Moses, Deborah, Hannah, David, and Habakkuk, in the light of the New Testament understanding of their significance. It’s been a tremendously helpful resource for me!