Here's another CCM Song Critique by Jorge Rodriguez at Faithful Stewardship. Please keep in mind that these articles will be examining the meaning and theology of the lyrics-NOT critiquing the intentions or sincerity of the songwriters:
Today we’ll be taking a look at “Exhale” by Plumb which currently sits at #13 at 20theCountdownMagazine. (This article is from 2015)
I confess: I have a soft-spot for electronica/techno. As such, I generally enjoy Plumb’s music as it is often very easy to remix into multi-various grooves and progressions. However, that’s not why we are discussing these songs here. The first time I heard this song on the radio was in my car, and I came in at the Bridge. I had really hoped the rest of the song better explained what it was to “breathe in [God’s] Grace and exhale.“ Let’s take a look at it.
Official Music Video
Lyrcs (via KLove)
To not be okay
This is a safe place
This is a safe place
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be ashamed
There’s still hope here
There’s still hope here
No matter what you’ve done
Or who you are
Everyone is welcome
In His arms
Just let go
Let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in, until your heart breaks
And exhale, exhale
Tear down the walls
That only you can
That only you can
Reconcile, this heart to yours
Right now God, right now
We breathe in your grace
We breathe in your grace
We do not exist for us
But to share your grace and love
Publishing: Tiffany Arbuckle Lee, Matt Armstrong, Josh Silverberg
PUBLISHER: © 2015 ShoeCrazy Publishing (adm. by Curb Congregation Songs) (SESAC)/ Meaux Hits, Red Red Soda Pop, Universal Music-Brentwood Benson Tunes, Countless Wonder Publishing, Fots Music All rights reserved. Used by permission. International Copyright Secured.
Writer(s): Tiffany Lee, Matt Armstrong, Josh Silverberg
Okay, so let’s talk about some of the overtones in the lyrics of this song. What is the setting for this dialog? Is this intended to be a song sung by the Church to the unbeliever? If so, what is the message, that’s it’s okay to be an unbeliever in the House of God? The song is designed to progress from a call to come into the Church (verse 1 and chorus) to imploring the Holy Spirit to come and reconcile us to him (verse 2) and then experience His presence (chorus, bridge, chorus). It is designed to move the listener’s emotions through the mystical gauntlet so they can feel the presence of God. Sadly, this progression takes place without confession, repentance, nor the pronouncement of forgiveness. There is no Gospel preached here, yet the song progresses to breathing in God’s Grace and exhaling for those who are not okay.
Verse 1. What does it mean when you tell everyone, “it’s okay to not be okay?" Seriously, that statement doesn’t have any internal meaning… it is an oxymoron. Meaning has to be brought into the statement. Maybe the intent is to say to someone they don’t need to be perfect to come to Church. Maybe this is a vague attempt to invoke Jesus’ response to the Pharisees:
Matthew 9:9-13 (ESV) | Jesus Calls Matthew
9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said,“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
If that was the intent, “it’s okay to not be okay” is a huge miss. Jesus wasn’t saying “it’s okay to be sick”… nor was He saying “it’s okay to be a sinner”… He said He came to call the sinners out of their sin, like a physician brings the person out of his sickness. Jesus preached repentance. It’s not okay, to not be okay… but by the Grace of God, Jesus laid down His life as a substitute, bearing the full brunt of God’s Wrath against sin on His body, so that we might be forgiven by grace, through faith, as a Gift from God. The hard truth of Law is that not everyone is welcome in His arms.
John 3:16-18 (ESV) | For God So Loved the World
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Even in this wonderful passage of God’s wonderful Grace, there is a separation, a dividing line of faith. When Christ returns, He will come to pronounce Judgment on the children of faith and of unbelief (Matthew 25:31-46).
Chorus. So what are we telling the people to let go of? Their sin? Their unbelief? Is it up the unbeliever to simply let go of their unbelief? Is that within their power to do? No. Now, to a certain extent, we can ask the unbeliever to listen to the Word of God being preached… but only the Holy Spirit can open his/her ears to the Truth of the word of Christ. We must preach, they must listen, God must do the work of regeneration.
Romans 10:5-21 (ESV) | The Message of Salvation to All
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down)7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”
19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”
20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
Verse 2 (an oddly shortened verse). The verse comes in sideways and falls on its face, in my opinion. The tone is irreverent and screams Word of Faith and Presence theology (the Bethel variety). Is God the Holy Spirit one to respond to our commands to come in and tear down the walls that only he can? What walls might those be? Our unbelief? Only God can open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf… only God can raise the dead to life and grant Faith to the unbeliever. I’d like to think that is what is intended by these lines, but I don’t have any reasons to draw this understanding from the song. Reconcile this heart to yours… what does that mean? As if that weren’t brazen enough, Plumb then insists that God do this now… right now.
Okay, so let us extend grace here and expand on the idea of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (ESV) | The Ministry of Reconciliation
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
It is my sincere prayer, than whenever this part of the song plays on the radio, that your mind will rest in these Words, not wandering in the emotionally mystical goo that the song seems to stir.
Bridge. This is the climax of the song. In seekerville churches, the goal of this part is to move folks to throw themselves at the altar (foot of the stage) and soak in the presence of the spirit. It’s emotionalism, manipulated by powerful music. But there is at least, one redeeming message, we do not exist for us, but to share your grace and love. A pity this wasn’t explored better in this song. Our calling to share the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Love of God the Father is not one than can be fulfilled by emotion alone. In fact, the calling is difficult to embrace emotionally, since our emotions are so fickle and fleshly. We were called to preach the Gospel, to preach the Word of Christ, and empowered by God the Holy Spirit to do so. The Holy Spirit isn’t an emotion, or an experience, but a Person of the Godhead.
The song is, ultimately, too vague and emotional. If I could rewrite this song, I’d take the theme of breathing in God’s grace and tie it to listening to the Word of Christ, being filled with faith that only He can give and exhaling confession and repentance. Then in the second verse I’d connect breathing in God’s grace with receiving forgiveness by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, being filled by Promise with God the Holy Spirit, and exhaling the love for our neighbor because He first Loved us. Finally, breathing in God’s grace would return to breathing in God’s Word, growing in the knowledge of Christ and the exhale would be sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the four corners of the earth, to all of creation. I hope that if you’re caught listening to this song as it plays on Christian radio, your mind might be filled with the Truth of God’s Word, whether it be what we’ve explored here or what you’ve read in your Bible. Please don’t marinade in mindless surrender to emotional manipulation… such mysticism has done great damage to the Body of Christ.
Romans 15:1-7 (ESV) | The Example of Christ
15 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
In Christ Jesus, Jorge Rodriguez