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Scripture Songs – How to Turn Scripture Into Song

All of us who love the Bible have struggled with a desire to memorize verses but an inability to do so consistently. You have probably started a hundred times, then got discouraged and soon quit. Yes, it is hard work, but method also plays a part.

Now consider the universal language, music. Good music contains melody, harmony, and a rhythm. When the rhythm of a verse is locked into the rhythm of a song, it will help you learn it, help you remember it, and help you remember it correctly.

Let’s consider an example. Acts 4:28 in the KJV reads, “For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done,” speaking of the sovereign plan of God in His death on the cross. Now read this verse in 3/4 time, i.e. emphasizing every third syllable- do, ev, hand, coun, etc. You will notice the word and sentence accents are in perfect 3/4 time.

To remember this verse, simply put the words into a three-four melody such as a Strauss waltz or a familiar song like the verse of “Oh How I Love Jesus.” Just make sure the downbeat (first beat of each measure) is the accented syllable we identified above.

Better yet, once you have determined the rhythm of a verse, ask God for a fresh melody unique to that verse. It helps me remember the verse much better when I can’t get the words mixed up with other words associated with this tune.
Of course, most verses don’t read in perfect rhythm. In such cases, it is necessary to hold some words longer, to repeat words or phrases, or squeeze two words or syllables into one beat. Consider the song, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me though he were dead, yet shall he live.” In the first two measures, the downbeats are on ‘I’ and ‘life’ with the secondary beat on ‘rec’. Thus ‘resurrection’ is compressed with shorter notes and ‘life’ is held for a whole note. These two measures contain 10 syllables. However, the next two measures contain 11 syllables and must also be compressed. The phrase ‘yet shall he live’ is repeated and the words given longer notes.

A caution is that you try not to change the accent of the word in order to fit it into the melody. Also, note that the downbeat words are always emphasized. Work at making the song emphasize the words you feel are key in the verse. In other words, make the music submit to the verse as much as possible.

One rule I had in writing Scripture songs is to stick with the text exactly. This doesn’t mean repetition of words or phrases is not used. But when we paraphrase part of a verse in order to fit it into a song, then the music is the master and the Scripture is submitting. An example is the song, “Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us.” By changing ‘bestowed’ to ‘given,’ this fixes the accent problem but changes the Scripture word. It would have been possible to hold Father for two beats and then ‘bestowed’ would fit with the correct accent on the second syllable.

Bible songs

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