Just what makes that little old ant
Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can’t
Move a rubber tree plant
But he’s got high hopes
He’s got high hopes
He’s got high apple pie
In the sky hopes
So any time your gettin’ low
‘Stead of lettin’ go
Just remember that ant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant
I remember listening to this song, as sung by Sesame Street characters, on my little Fisher-Price record player over and over and over again (If you don’t know what a record player is, ask your parents). I even had it choreographed so that I flung my jazz hands up in the air as I fell over on “Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant.” I also remember that song randomly popping up in my head, as I stood alone, feeling so scared once my parents left my freshman year of college… and I laughed and I cried and I laughed some more.
Music has a way of sticking in our brains. I memorized the planets, my multiplication tables, and the Five Points of Calvinism by putting them to music (if you don’t know what this is, ask your pastor… and give him/her a little time to look it up). There are also those songs whose lyrics teach us “life truths” or share age-old wisdom – like John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone;” Taylor Swift’s “…Hater’s gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate… I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake. Shake it off! Shake it off;” or The Main Ingredient’s classic “Everybody plays the fool… sometimes. There’s no exception to the rule. Listen baby. It may be factual, may be cruel. I ain’t lyin’. Everybody plays the fool.”
Of course, this realization of music’s didactic power is not new. Ever peruse the Psalms? Recently, the lectionary had us look at Psalm 78, the second longest psalm, with 72 verses! The little words in italics below the psalm number say, “A MASKIL OF ASAPH.” “Maskil” meaning “teaching.” So this song was meant to teach. “Communicating to generations to come the lessons learned from Israel’s past,” as it states in the study notes of my New Oxford Annotated Bible.
“So that they should set their hope in God,
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their ancestors,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
The Psalm goes on telling the story of Israel rebelling and forgetting all the ways God provided for the people; and then God getting angry, with God’s fire kindling against Jacob; and YET…
God commanding the skies to rain down manna for God’s people to eat.
But no sooner is their craving satisfied that they are complaining and asking for something else.
And again, God gets angry, making their days vanish like a breath, and their years in terror; and YET…
God is compassionate, forgiving and does not destroy them.
By now we are at verse 41 and they are testing God again!
And the pattern goes on and on for another 30-some verses!
I’m not sure if people tended to memorize this whole psalm. But then again, maybe it had a funky beat and, like Sugarhill Gang’s, “Rapper’s Delight,” a good bit of it stuck in their brains (“I said a hip hop, a hippie to the hippie, the hip, hip a hop, and you don’t stop a rock it” …which goes on forever!).
I hope so because the “life truth,” the age-old wisdom found in this song/psalm is as true today as it was then. God provides for us, but the moment we sense a need or something doesn’t go according to plan, we doubt, we question, we test God! YET, even though it seems like God is angry and has given up and left, God always will reach out to us with compassion, forgiveness and mercy. God continues to stay in relationship with us, providing us with what we need.
In other words…
“Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy Faithfulness!
Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”
As great lyricist, Thomas Obediah Chisholm and William Marion Runyan break it down in hymn #276.
What songs speak life truths and age-old wisdom to you?
Lolimarta Ros Reiter, or as most of her friends know her, Loli, ministers alongside the fine folks at The Presbyterian Church of Seffner outside of Tampa, FL. She was born in Puerto Rico but has lived on the mainland since she was 9. Her daughter Isabel (10 years old) wants you to know her mom is funny; Olivia (7 years old) wants you to know she likes to talk about God…a lot; and John, her husband, wants you to know that she is the best wife, ever…Such a smart man! She looks forward to being in cyber-community with you.