Episode | July 17, 2023

Transcript for Aaron Shust’s Episode of The Walk

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Joshua Swanson: Welcome to The Walk, a devotionals podcast for worshipers. Aaron Shust is our guest and we’re excited to have Aaron for a lot of reasons, but specifically because he shares about the creation of an amazing worship song that you all know. And how it shaped his faith. Here we go.

Aaron Shust: Hey, this is Aaron Shust, honored and excited to be with you today on The Walk. I would love to talk a little bit about the word worthy, specifically the worthiness of God. Um. You know, we talk about worship and ascribing worth to something or someone in this case, namely God himself, because he is, here’s that word, worthy.

Um, but first I’d love to share a couple stories with you to help set up what I’m, what I’m thinking about. My song that I’ve been singing for, for 18 years now, more actually, My Savior My God, is actually from a really old hymn. Some of you may know this, especially in the UK. You love this old hymn. I had never heard this hymn before.

I grew up in church singing songs week after week after week, hymns, but never had heard of this hymn. So I’m a, I’m a young worship leader in the early 2000s, um, in Atlanta, Georgia, and discovering some things about God that I had never confronted before. Things that were being taught to me, theologies, doctrines that were new to me, even though I’d gone to Bible college, even though I’d grown up going to church.

Um, and, uh, it’s interesting because my initial reaction to hearing some of these things was saying this dangerous phrase, God would never do that. And then, uh, reading in my Bible, as I opened up the Bible there in black and white letters that God did in fact do these things and, and wrestling with, wait, wait, I thought I had God in this box, you know, and then I come to find out that he’s not contained by my boxes, right? We’ve heard that before. And so there was this, this desperation of like, God, who, who even are you as I, as I worship you as a worship leader?

And I came across this old hymn in an old hymnal. I am not skilled to understand what God has willed, what God has planned. And my heart just lept in the moment, in that moment.

I’m sitting in my, my basement cinder block windowless office and I was just overjoyed. And I thought, man, if, if I need to hear this, guaranteed people in my church need to hear these words. And I just ran out to the hallway, found the nearest piano. Plucked out this melody that was seemingly attached to these words, which was not the original melody, by the way.

Um, and I grabbed someone who was walking through the hallway. I’m like, hey, have you heard this melody before? And they said, no, I’ve never heard this before. Sounds new to me, at least, man. And so, uh, I, I fleshed out the melody, taught it to our church. And, and for about a year and a half, we sang the, the music and the melody of these old words to new music, but without the chorus that you may know.

My Savior loves, my Savior lives, my Savior is always there for me. That came about a year and a half later, after a long, after a long rehearsal. You know what that feels like. I was sitting at the red light, my head is buzzing, um, at about 11:30 at night. Uh, and I just started singing, My Savior loves, my Savior lives, He’s always there for me.

Uh, just the simple repetition of this basic truth that we combined with this, you know, this old, this old hymn. These old words and new melody.

Joshua Swanson: We’ll be right back with Aaron after a quick break.

Aaron Shust: And it was so, it was so assuring to me. That, uh, I think of Isaiah 55, where God says, my ways are higher than your ways. My thoughts higher than your, as high as the heavens are above the earth, so higher, my thoughts above your thoughts and my ways above your ways. Uh, and just to admit, I don’t have to have it all figured out, um, because his ways are higher.

He is worthy of my praise. We’ll come back to that word again, but first another. Another story. A few years later, I’m in Fort Wayne, Indiana on a tour with some friends. Uh, I’m, I’m headlining my bands with me. We’ve got a band, uh, in support and, uh, an artist opening in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It’s the middle of this tour and I wake up that morning in my.

Voice is a little horse and it just gets worse as the morning goes on. And I’m, I’m getting scared now, right? So vocal rest, I’m drinking tons of water. I’m drinking hot tea, whether that’s good or not, but no caffeine. I’m doing all the right things that I know to do. And then minutes before, I’d say an hour, maybe before the concert actually begins, I’m dressed and showered.

I’m in my dressing room. My guitar is tuned. It’s time to test my voice. And, uh, I started to sing, and there was nothing. I had like a vocal range of about four notes. And I just, I was petrified. And I just prayed to God in that moment, God, what am I going to do? And here I am trying to convince God that he should heal me.

I’m saying, I’ve got nothing to bring to you tonight. My hands are empty. And in that moment, listen, I don’t know if this is how people hear the voice of God when they say they heard God spoke. I’ve never heard an audible voice. But in that moment… A thought dropped into my mind that was unfabricated by me.

And I just give credit to the Holy Spirit. In that moment, his response to my saying, I’ve got nothing to bring to you. What I heard was, “my son,” it was a loving voice. A loving voice. “My son, you never have anything to bring to me. You always come empty handed when you come to me.” And it wasn’t, it wasn’t critical.

It wasn’t condemning. It was a, it was a reminder to me what of something that I needed. I wasn’t realizing that I don’t bring anything of value as if God needs me. I don’t bring any talent that’s going to impress him. My voice is not going to impress him. My songs are not going to impress him. My presentation is not going to impress him.

That old hymn speaks it so perfectly, “Nothing in my hands I bring. Simply to the cross I cling.” And I knew I needed to be reminded of that that might have been my favorite concert I’d ever, I’d ever been a part of. We moved the order around. I opened, instead of playing last. I picked three songs, and I opened the evening with a hoarse, laryngitis voice addressing the audience, saying, I’ve got, and I’m crying, not because I’m sad that I can’t sing, but because God just dropped this beautiful truth on my heart, that we come to Him empty handed, but He is worthy.

He’s the one who is good. He’s the one who is deserving of praise. And I’m telling you, the crowd sang that night for me. They sang in my stead. Um, it was powerful. I almost found myself wanting to not have my voice again the next night so that that powerful experience could be repeated.

The third and final story I’ll tell you is the story of my youngest son, Michael. Uh, he has Down Syndrome. We were surprised to find that he had Down syndrome when he was born. He’s adorable, he has alopecia, he has no hair, he has one set of eyelashes on one eyelid. Um, but he loves his daddy, and we love him.

A couple years ago, I was helping him get ready for bed, and uh, got him dressed in his PJs, and I sat down on the floor, and he just crawled into my lap. He’s, uh, he’s, I say he’s 11 years old, but you have to picture he’s about the size of a four year old. He’s tiny. He just folded up into a ball in my lap, exhaled, and said one of the few words that he has in his vocabulary, “better.” of course, when he says it, it comes out like butter, so he crawls into my lap. I knew what he meant, but he said, butter, and just relaxed.

And I thought, what an incredible picture of us crawling into the lap of our father. We can’t even, we can’t even pronounce the words right. We can’t even express in perfect language what it is we’re trying to say, but he understands.

Michael and I didn’t have this ensuing conversation. He didn’t impress me with his vocabulary. He didn’t offer me something as if I needed it. He just wanted to be in my presence and I, his father, wanted him to want to be in my presence. Does that make sense? It was such a powerful picture, and so I find as I apply that to my relationship with my Heavenly Father, that when I walk into His presence, whatever that looks like, whether it’s on stage or in the, in the quiet of my own home, when it’s just me and Him, that I don’t feel the need to have to impress Him with my my language, my long prayers, my, my songs, my ideas, my spirituality, my theology, my intelligence.

I just want to be in his presence and just be quiet. Just to dwell, to rest in him. To abide in him, uh, and to, and to listen. To listen. To wait patiently for the Spirit, to speak to my spirit, to open the Word of God and to see if there’s a word from scripture that day that he might want me to read to speak peace and love over me.

He is worthy. So what does this word worthy mean?

Joshua Swanson: When we come back, Aaron unpacks the word worthy.

I want to give a quick shout out to Maono for providing us with the PD200X USB XLR microphone that I’m recording on today. It’s designed for podcasters, gamers, and streamers and what I love most about the microphone, outside of the great sound quality, is the dual output design. Yeah, I said USB XLR. It has both output options, which allows me to plug in directly to an audio interface device, like a preamp, or go directly into the computer, or even a mobile device, via USB C, and it’s pretty fantastic.

They also have a free app and through that users can control real time monitoring, customizable RGB lighting, and take advantage of some of the audio processing that’s built in. Again, that’s the Maono PD 200X. Check it out. The link will be in the show notes. You can also find a review on our website at worshipleader. com.

Okay, back to Aaron to close us out.

Aaron Shust: So we talked about the word worship and how it means ascribing worth to something. And we can worship, we can worship things that aren’t really valuable. We can worship things that are of lesser value than God Himself. Of course, by ascribing worth to them. It’s not necessarily a sin, but God needs to be worshiped above and beyond all other things, of course.

So the word worthy, I’ve done a study on the word worthy, uh, and I’ve tried to find it in the, in the Hebrew scriptures. Uh, the old Testament is hard to find. Um, there are only a couple of occasions where at least in the majority of english translations, we have, we find the word worthy. So in the initial books of the Old Testament, namely Deuteronomy and a couple other books in the, in the history, uh, the history books of the, of the Old Testament, the Hebrew scriptures, the word that’s often translated into the English word worthy is mishpat.

But that has to do, oftentimes, if not every single instance, with, with judgment or, um, a passing of a sentence. In other words, when somebody does X, Y, Z, they are worthy of punishment. They are worthy of death. This is where the word worthy comes in. It’s actually mishpat, judgment. They’re worthy of judgment.

Um, another time where the word worthy pops up is in the book of Esther. If you remember at the very beginning, King Artaxerxes is throwing a party, Vashti, his queen, doesn’t want to come, and he’s, um, so angry, all of his, um, his advisors say ,”why don’t, we’ve got an idea, why don’t you get rid of Vashti, and why don’t you find, um, someone who is more worthy.” A new queen who is more worthy.

That word is tov, which simply means, ready for it? Good. It just means good. Someone who is better than Bashti. Why the translators chose the word worthy? I don’t know. I don’t pretend to know. The most famous, at least to me, use of the word worthy in the Old Testament comes from the Psalms. It’s repeated in Second Samuel. It comes from David. I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised. That’s what I’m thinking. That’s the word I’m looking for. What is that word? I looked that one up and in the original Hebrew, that word isn’t even in the sentence.

Now, I’m not a I’m not a Hebrew scholar. So if you’re out there and you have a better explanation, let me know, please. But as I look at the word for word Hebrew translation or the forgive me not a translation because in Hebrew there is no translation, It’s just the Word of God. It’s, it’s closer to I will call upon the Lord who is to be praised. I will call upon the Lord who is praised.

Why the word worthy got inserted in there, I’m not quite sure. It doesn’t completely change the meaning, but it got me excited thinking I can find this word worthy. The place in the Bible where the word worthy is most used is in the New Testament. And when we think of, when I think of the word worthy, I immediately go to the Book of Revelation. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. Worthy are you, Lord. That word in Greek, obviously, and I’m definitely no Greek scholar, is axios, if I’m pronouncing that correctly. Axios. Axios, if you look it up in Greek, has the meaning of weight and a heaviness.

Now that word in Hebrew is kavod. And that word, meaning the same thing, is the word that we translate into English most often as Glory. So now we have this connection between worthiness and glory. The word is kavod. In modern Hebrew today, people will often bless each other by saying kol akavod, all The glory. Oh, it’s kind of like congratulations. Hey, best of luck. Congratulations. All the glory Kola Kvod. Kvod means weight. God has weight. The glory of God literally means his weight. Now this word Kvod is used in other places, like the great weight of Eli the priest. He was literally a large man or the great weight of Absalom’s hair that was cut every year at five pounds, or maybe it was six pounds. It was so heavy. It had great weight.

God’s glory, God’s worthiness is described as great weight, great importance, great value. When we come to him as worshipers, whether on the stage or in our closets at home, we recognize that this God to whom we are singing has great weight, great importance, great value, great glory, great kavod.

In the book of Revelation chapter 5, John records Then I looked and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, the voice of many angels numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands saying with a loud voice, worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory. And blessing. And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all it is in them saying to him, who sits on the throne and to the lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever. And the four living creatures said, amen. And the elders fell down and worshiped.

So let me, uh, let me pray for you. Let me pray over you. Pray for myself. Father in heaven, your name is holy. We do pray for your kingdom to come. We do pray for your will to be done on this earth, just like it is in heaven. We ask today for our daily bread that you would provide. Lead us not into temptation. Deliver us from the evil one. Yours is the kingdom. Yours is the power. Yours is the glory forever.

Jesus, only you are worthy. Only you are worthy. You are the lamb who was slain, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. You have greater weight than anything and God forgive us. God forgive us when we place greater value on anything other than you yourself. Greater value on anything other than your plan and your design and your desire.

It is so easy for us to put our plans in front of you. Even if we think they’re holy and pure, forgive us, Father, for pressing our agendas over your agenda at any given moment. God, forgive us for that.

God, forgive us for believing that we come to the table with something to offer you that might impress you. Forgive us for that. Only you are worthy. Only you are worthy. Only you have great, great weight. And Father, teach us to be content just to be in your presence. To abide in you, to know that it is better with you, our Father. Meet us where we are, Father. Forgive us for our shortcomings and lead us in an everlasting way.

We pray this in the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus. Amen. God bless you, guys.

Joshua Swanson: Thank you, Aaron, for contributing to our podcast. Our God is so worthy of our praise. Aaron, of course, is a very accomplished songwriter and artist, and his latest album is called Heaven and Earth, and he puts the psalms to music. It’s a worthwhile listen for both the excellent musicality but for the meditative nature of Aaron’s sung psalms.

We’re going to close out this episode with Psalm 51, which on the album is called Be Gracious.

As always, special Thanks to Matt McCartie for producing and Lukas McCartie for editing today’s episode Jacob Faircloth produced our theme song. The Walk is brought to you by worship leader. I also want to thank the team at Life Audio for their partnership. Head over to life audio com to check out lots of different faith-centered podcasts. I’m Joshua Swanson. Here’s, Be Gracious.