“10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)”
By Matt Redman
WL: Please share the specifics of writing “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)”and what was on your heart as far as the theme and focus?
Redman: I wrote this song with a great friend, Jonas Myrin. He’s a Swedish guy who I’ve sat down to song-write with lots over the last few years. He played me an idea for some of the chorus melody, and I found it immediately inspiring. In fact, it felt like a perfect fit for a song based on the opening of Psalm 103. The song came together really quickly—a good chunk of the song was actually a spontaneous moment. I have no idea why some songs take months of writing and re-writing (like “Blessed Be Your Name”) and others arrive really swiftly (like this one). One thing I’ve realized over the years is there’s no distinct rule that says that something composed quickly must therefore be more spiritual or inspired! Yes, God-breathed inspired worship songs can at times be written very quickly and spontaneously—but at other times they’ve involved a lot of perseverance, perspiration, and hard work!
I’ve always loved Psalm 103 and how the writer lists all of these brilliant reasons why his heart is full of worship for God: he heals our diseases, redeems our lives from the pit, crowns us with love and compassion, etc. So in the verses of this song we try and make a little list of our own—noting of course that we’re hardly even scratching the surface of God’s worth—there are “10,000 Reasons” for our hearts to find. With anyone or anything else, that would be an outrageous overstatement. With Jesus, it is a huge understatement. The point behind the song is this: if you wake up one morning and you cannot think of a reason to bring God some kind of offering of thanks or praise, then you can be sure there’s something wrong at your end of the pipeline, and not his. We live beneath an unceasing flow of goodness, kindness, greatness, and holiness, and every day we’re given reason after reason why Jesus is so completely and utterly worthy of our highest and best devotion.
Please explain the phrase “Bless the Lord.” Perhaps explicate the usage of the term “bless” in different contexts—as applied to us and to God?
Redman: I like the phrase “Bless the Lord” and find John Piper’s description of what this means really helpful. He says that when God ‘blesses’ us we are in a sense being added to, and having our lives enriched. But of course when we say we “bless the Lord,” it’s different; we’re not adding to God or enriching Him in any way, we are simply recognizing his richness and bounty, and expressing our thanks and praise for it.
The number in the title echoes “Amazing Grace.” Can you delve into the intricacies of your lyric choice and the connection between “10,000 reasons” and “10,000 years”?
Redman: We already had the “10,000 reasons” lyric in verse two. So when it got to writing verse three, and we were on the theme of eternity, the idea came to mirror that “10,000” number and at the same time give a nod to the old hymn. I think that mirroring device is something I’d learned from listening to country music—Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home” and Blake Shelton’s “The Baby” are great (and more skillful!) examples of that. These songs have lyrical hooks, with a twist. As songwriters we can think so much about including melodic and musical hooks, which is really important, but we mustn’t underestimate the impact of a lyrical hook too. It’s a great songwriting device, but it’s also a really helpful congregational one—making a song more instant and easy to grab on to.
This song is Bible-based, but you didn’t use the text word-for-word. Please explain some good practices in capturing Scripture in song.
Redman: My ideal for songwriting is to infuse passion with truth. I love worship songs that are so rich with the word of God, but very obviously exploded out of the heart of the songwriters in a passionate way. You can, of course, take a big chunk of Scripture and keep it word for word, composing a melody for it. I’ve never been very good at that approach and honestly I think it’s a very tricky thing to do, within the style that I tend to write in. The main benefit of that approach is that people can commit the Bible to memory through song, and there’s much to be said that’s very commendable about that (my personal aim has never really been the memorizing of Scripture, as brilliant as that is). But my main aim in songwriting is to see something of Jesus, and then reflect it. So I’ve always taken a different approach.
The best way I can describe it is actually found in Eugene Peterson’s book, Under the Unpredictable Plant. He writes that when Jonah is in the belly of the fish he pours out a prayer of great passion but notes that not one phrase in the prayer is original—it all comes from the Psalms. In fact, it comes not just from one psalm, but many different psalms. So he’s not just reciting a piece of Scripture in that moment. He’s pouring out his heart, and many different phrases from the Psalms are being woven together into his prayer. The point is, Jonah is in an intense situation, and what pours out of him is utterly heartfelt, and yet also utterly full of the Word of God. My ideal is that the same could be true in the writing of worship songs—that we could be so full of the truth of Scripture that in our most intense moments in life, be it joy or sorrow, what pours passionately out of our hearts is infused with the Word of God. It may not be a whole portion of Scripture—perhaps the song contains an essence of something Paul said in one of his letters, with a phrase or two from the Psalms, with an overtone of what Jesus said at one point in the Gospels, and something from the Old Testament in there too. That’s definitely a key to make sure our songs are raw and real—and yet full of life-changing and God-honoring truth.