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Songs of Lament: Why A Worship Publication is Focused on Israel

Songs of Lament: Why A Worship Publication is Focused on Israel

Joshua Swanson

It was the first day and the first coffee stop on our way to Gaza. Because of the war, most grocery stores, markets, and gas stations within 5 miles of the conflict zone are closed. Some are even bombed out by missile strikes. So we grabbed a coffee at what is now an oasis (even the gas stations in Israel have better coffee than most options on Main Street USA).

I encountered a soldier in line and introduced myself. He was already a curious onlooker given we were a few miles from the front lines and a small yet loud group of Americans likely seemed out of place. Our people tend to be easy to spot when we’re outside the US. He looked exactly like Tommy Chong in the heyday of Cheech and Chong. Not. Kidding. Yet, he had heavy eyes.

His first question, predictably, was, “What are you doing here?” I told him that we represent a group of Christian leaders traveling through Israel for a week to bear witness, stand in solidarity, pray for Israel, and bring stories home to our respective communities. He thought that was pretty cool.

I asked him what unit he was in. He said, “My unit collects the bodies.”

Don’t you hate it when reality creeps up and slaps you in the face?

A Journey of Solidarity and Healing

Embarking on a journey to Israel with KKL-JNF proved to be a “trip of a lifetime” for me, not just as a supporter of the State of Israel, but as a Christian deeply connected to the land, culture, and history. The experience, following the events of October 7th, 2023, has compelled me to share the stories of those with heavy eyes and hearts who have been deeply affected by a tragedy that echoes the horrors of our own 9/11.

So, in this series of articles, I’ll delve into narratives that I am returning with from my journey to Israel.

The Significance of Embracing Israel: A Worship-Centric Perspective

You’re likely asking yourself: Why is Worship Leader Magazine, a publication centered on worship, writing about the conflict in Israel? The answer lies in our commitment to supporting Israel during these challenging times and our belief in the healing power of worship.

Psalm 22:3 (KJV): “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.”

The connection might seem indirect for our worship-focused audience, but it’s rooted in our dedication to bringing more worshippers and Christian music to Israel. Our recently launched worship-filled tours with live worship alongside a trip to Israel offer an experience that goes beyond the ordinary. We make room for the Holy Spirit amid a busy touring schedule.

Despite postponing our trips to the fall of 2024, we believe it’s crucial to continue supporting Israel’s economy in the aftermath of the recent tragedy. We’ll begin taking deposits again for those trips with Meredith Andrews and Paul Wilbur/Evan Craft in January! Pray about coming along with us.

Lament in Worship: A Response to Tragedy

Beyond touring Israel, the other reason why we’re writing about Israel is that our community has a role to play in embracing the healing power of songs of lament. In times of tragedy, new songs of lament can serve as a response and a tool for processing grief. As we unpack the large percentage of Psalms focused on lament, we find a biblical foundation for expressing our sorrow and solidarity with those in pain.

Contributor to Worship Leader Magazine, Matt Redman, agrees emphasizing the importance of lament in keeping worship relevant to both the lost and the found.

Lament is a key strand in keeping worship relevant—both to the lost and the found. Lament allows Christians to be real before God. And at the same time, it enables us to have solidarity with the pain of the world. Some scholars estimate that up to 70% of the content of the Psalms are soaked in this kind of heart cry. So it’s biblical to lament. All around us every day we encounter news stories and personal encounters of pain and suffering. So it’s relevant to lament. So why in God’s name (and I mean that) are we not lamenting more in our worship? [1]

Our Role as Songwriters and Storytellers

As songwriters and storytellers, we have a significant role in this tragedy. First and foremost, we stand with Israel against the aggression faced on October 7th. It’s a moment for Christians to unite in prayer for the peace of Jerusalem and the innocent lives living in Israel and Palestine affected by the conflict.

Then, we as the creatives of the church create—songs, sculptures, paintings, poems, and articles—that reflect our grief, our lament. Storytelling is a powerful tool to unite people of different backgrounds and break through the stigma of racism, as we reveal our shared emotions.

Storytelling is a way that people can relate to each other, and stories have long been used as a way to get people thinking about viewpoints beyond their own as well as to express our experiences to others. In Minds Made for Stories, Newkirk (2014) discussed how humans are naturally drawn to storytelling, which makes it a logical medium for making connections. [2]

Start with praying the Psalms.

Psalm 6:3 – (ESV) “My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?”

Psalm 130:1-2 (ESV) “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!”

Create! Express! Israel and the innocent people living under the evil rule of Hamas in Palestine need our lament.

Christians Standing with the Jewish Community

This is also a moment for Christians to unequivocally stand with the Jewish people. Acknowledging the not-so-pretty historical context of Christian-Jewish relations, we must actively counter antisemitism and express our love and support for our Jewish brothers and sisters. This moment in history offers an opportunity to reshape the road forward, fostering inter-faith connections. The lingering apprehensions held by Jews, particularly Orthodox Jews, towards Christians, persist and are handed down through generations. Now, more than ever is the time to bridge these gaps and build relationships.

KKL-JNF’s history showcases its century-long commitment to the Jewish people, contributing significantly to the establishment and prosperity of Israel. The organization’s efforts, including planting 250 million trees, align with the prophetic vision of a land flowing with milk and honey.

Exodus 3:8 “So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Getting involved with this organization is a great way to build bridges. Far too often, Christian community initiatives to “build bridges” come with the caveat of conversion efforts directed toward Jews. Perhaps it’s more prudent to entrust that aspect to God and instead focus on simply supporting His chosen people and their homeland. The establishment of connections through building the State of Israel serves as a meaningful starting point.

Our Call to Action: Send Us Your Songs

Christians, worshippers, creatives, this is our moment to step up. Engage your congregations, worship teams, and communities in this crucial time. Reach out to your Jewish friends, express love and support, and actively seek ways to combat antisemitism.

As you create from a place of prayerful meditation, I invite you to send us your songs. Let’s fill our churches with songs that reflect the Psalms of lament for the Jews, which will also create a worship experience that embraces the breadth of topics the Lord calls us to pray.

“Something happens when you connect the reality of the love and worth of God with the reality of a broken world the mercy and might of God outweighing the mess of our lives. Now, that’s relevant worship for you.” Matt Redman [1]

Let our songs of worship be relevant, authentic, and a source of healing for ourselves and those facing injustice.


[1] Rhyme & Reason: Tower – Worship Leader Magazine, March/April 2005
[2The Power of Storytelling to Facilitate Human Connection and Learning – BU Center for Interdisciplinary Teaching & Learning
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  • Wow, I’m actually pretty shocked and disappointed at the bias in this article. Yes I 100% agree that we should lament with Israel, for the loss of life, security, property, etc. that innocent people have suffered. And yes I 100% believe we should also lament the loss of life, security, property etc. that innocent Palestinians are also suffering. Israelis did not ask for the October 7th attack, and the vast majority of Palestinians did not ask to have their homes bombed, their children killed, and their lives destroyed. I have no answer to offer, except to say that the same God asks us to lament with ALL who suffer, and this is not restricted to just Israelis. Jesus came for everyone, and He grieves for them all. So should we if we are called His followers.

    • Hello Ruth. We thank you for your comment. We agree that our intent of representing lament as a form of healing through worship for all innocent people, including the Palestinians living under the oppression of Hamas, was not perfectly achieved in this article. We made a few adjustments in an attempt to be more balanced. Thank you for pointing that out! Next time, no need to be “shocked” and “disappointed.” You can just make your point without inflammatory language and we’re happy to respond. God bless.

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