BEHIND THE SONG WITH KEVIN DAVIS
#319 - "Revelation Song" by Jennie Lee Riddle
NRT's Kevin Davis interviews the woman who wrote one of the most powerful worship songs to reach this generation of the Church.
 


"Revelation Song" is the 2010 Dove Award-winning "Worship Song of The Year," written by Jennie Lee Riddle in 1999. It is one of the top 5 most downloaded chord charts on CCLI's Song Select website for worship leaders. On PraiseCharts.com--a popular site for worship band charts and orchestrations--"Revelation Song" was both the No. 1 and the No. 5 songs downloaded (two different versions) recently. The song also spent 17 weeks at No. 1 on Christian music charts.

The song has been recorded by Gateway Worship, Kari Jobe, Phillips, Craig & Dean, Jesus Culture featuring Kim Walker-Smith, Avalon's Melissa Greene, Newsboys, Shane & Shane and others, it's sung weekly in hundreds churches around the world.

"It's not just a lyric, it's not just the music, it's a combination of all of that together that takes you on a journey," says Dan Dean of Phillips, Craig and Dean. "It lifts your spirit. I have seen it happen many times in our church as we do the song in worship. Now we just hope we can see that happen on a larger scale."

The song is also featured on Jennie Lee Riddle's new worship project, People & Songs: Opus 1 Collective, featuring a must-hear version with Jennie singing her song with daughter Emily. The song brings me to the throne room of God, and Jennie's tender and even tentative vocals reminds listeners of the reverence of the biblical lyrics.

Jennie founded New Nation Music out of a desire to write Scripture-based doctrine upon the heart and mind of the Church. Motivated by a desire to cultivate unity and authentic respect in the family of God, New Nation Music Band travels throughout churches, inviting all age groups to join together to lift one voice as one bride to one King. Visit her website to discover more.

I had the great opportunity to interview Jennie Lee Riddle about the seminal, incredible refrain "Revelation Song."

Please tell me the story behind writing "Revelation Song."

I gave my life to Jesus back in 1988. There was a new song out at the time entitled, "I Hear Angels" by Garrit Gustafson. The lyrics read: "I hear angels singing praises, I see men from every nation, bowing down before the throne… like the sound of many waters… like the rushing wind around us… multitudes join the song… and a symphony of praise arises… tears are wiped away from eyes as men from every tongue and tribe all sing…. Holy, holy… God almighty… who was, and is, and is to come…"

I remember looking up and around asking, "Where, God? I want to see and hear that too!" Those prophetic words from Mr. Gustafson took residence within me, became the lullaby sung over each of my children, and fueled an earnest, decade-long prayer to see multitudes gathered around the throne.

Back in 1999, I again began telling Him how much I wanted to see and hear all creation worshipping Him. The songs being sung by the bride at that time were focusing on need. My heart longed to focus on something far greater than my need, knowing that all needs would be satisfied with just one glimpse of Him.

Therefore, I asked the Holy Spirit to help me write a song that painted Him--a song that the angels and creation were already singing, so that we could join in with one voice, as one bride, to one King. I put the baby down to play with his toys, picked up the guitar, and began to play four chords I had figured out how to play the day before. Immersed in Scriptures from Ezekiel and Revelation, the Lord helped me paint what I was seeing through those passages: "Clothed in rainbows of living color, flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder..."

The melody stuck. It had the sound of Heaven in it. The song wouldn't leave me and I sang it for weeks. I can still hear the Lord whispering to me that He would carry this song across the world. I remember thinking how cool it was going to be to have a couple of my missionary friends carry it to the natives in the bush to be sung around campfires. I had no idea.

"Revelation Song" made its very first public outing when I introduced it to my local church on a Sunday when the Lord moved in such a way that it was called for unrehearsed and without preamble. The song resonated with the congregation and the pleasure of the Lord was discernable. It quickly became a loved song. Next, it was introduced to my students at the high school where I served as Dean of Student Life and Fine Arts Director. God met us every time we used it from that point on.

How did you meet Kari Jobe?

The first demo of the song was done for me by Walker Beach a couple of months after I wrote it. Klaus Kuehn helped me do a second demo in 2002. They both remembered it when it came time to select songs for the annual live recording at Christ for the Nations where Klaus was leading worship and Walker was directing the School of Worship.

Klaus said he wanted to do an album that contained "the sounds of Heaven." He called and said he was going to put it on the CFNI album, "Glorious" in 2004. I boldly asked him if that sweet little girl I heard sing at the previous night of worship could sing it. I'm pretty sure he had already decided on that. I didn't even know her name. Klaus had Kari call and request lyrics. I didn't even realize it was her that called. I don't even know if she knew about the song at the time she called--she was just working for Klaus. I didn't know the voice I had heard at the previous CFNI night of worship was the voice on the phone.

They introduced it to the student body during chapel and it was decided that it would be sung by Kari Jobe, who was on the praise team at Christ for the Nations. The anointing on those gifted worshippers, the excellent production, the tremendous musicianship, and the glory of God was fully captured in that recording. God met us powerfully that night!

Even though I had been writing songs for years, I had not promoted my music and didn't know how to begin had I wanted to do so. The Holy Spirit kept nudging me and saying, "Give it to the bride." Finally, determining to send it to the two places that kept coming to mind, I mustered my courage, obeyed, and sent two recordings. That act of obedience was my only attempt to "do something" with the song. From there it spread. Encouragement and support materialized from all corners.

Which Bible verses are connected to the message of the song?

Ezekiel 1:25-28: "And then, as they stood with folded wings, there was a voice from above the dome over their heads. Above the dome there was something that looked like a throne, sky-blue like a sapphire, with a humanlike figure towering above the throne. From what I could see, from the waist up he looked like burnished bronze and from the waist down like a blazing fire. Brightness everywhere! The way a rainbow springs out of the sky on a rainy day—that's what it was like. It turned out to be the Glory of God! When I saw all this, I fell to my knees, my face to the ground. Then I heard a voice."

… and Revelation 4:2-8: "…a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices… Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal… And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures… And they do not rest day or night, saying: ‘ Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!'…"

How can Christians apply that message as they reflect on this song?

I didn't actually mean to title the song "Revelation Song." I wrote it at the top of my notebook page to remember what the song was about, and I never could find a title for the song. The song (title) doesn't just come from book of Revelation; in my heart, it is a revelation about Jesus--and the scriptures are from Ezekiel and Revelation.

For me, one takeaway message is found in Revelation 12:11: "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony and they loved not their lives until death." This song is one of the words of my testimony.

"Revelation Song" has taken on a life of its own, and it has been an intense joy to watch the Father "grow it up," and to hear the voice of the bride sing to Jesus; Her voice is so lovely. I often get asked which version is my favorite. Honestly, the voice of the Bride is my favorite of all.

I also get asked about the song story, and even more often, the question of "how" it got "out there" comes up. My only answer is that God chooses what He chooses. No amount of maneuvering, strategic posturing, or pitching would have gotten my music "out there"--whatever that means. I remember telling Jesus with complete sincerity that I could wait until I got to Heaven to hear my song sung; although, I also suggested that it would be a terrific song for the angels and great cloud of witnesses to sing when He comes back for us, in the event that He had not already chosen one for the occasion. I didn't think it would hurt to ask!

Lyrics:
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy is He
Sing a new song, to Him who sits on
Heaven's Mercy Seat

Holy Holy Holy
Is The Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing
Praise to the King of Kings
You are my Everything
And I will adore You

Clothed in rainbows, of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor, strength and
Glory and power be
To You the Only Wise King

Filled with wonder
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery


Matthew Henry's Bible commentary: "The prophet was overpowered by the vision, the dazzling luster of it conquered him and threw him upon his face; for who is able to stand before this Holy Lord God? Or, rather, He prostrated himself in a humble sense of his own unworthiness of the honor now done him, and of the infinite distance which he now, more than ever, perceived to be between him and God; he fell upon his face in token of that holy awe and reverence of God with which his mind was possessed and filled. Note, The more God is pleased to make known of Himself to us the more low we should be before Him. He fell upon his face to adore the majesty of God, to implore His mercy and to deprecate the wrath he saw ready to break out against the children of his people. What instructions he had from it. All he saw was only to prepare him for that which he was to hear; for faith comes by hearing. He therefore heard a voice of One that spoke; for we are taught by words.. When he fell on his face, ready to receive the Word, then he heard the voice of One that spoke; for God delights to teach the humble."

"From the time my pen hit paper, to this very second there was not a moment where you have not been lovingly thought of. This album contains everything I could want to say to you up to this point in my life and my (our) prayer is that You are made RICH with the knowledge of Christ and overflow with His goodness," says Jennie Lee Riddle about her worship project, People & Songs: Opus 1 Collective.

This album grabs me with every song. Truly, every song is amazing. Jennie has a knack for hitting me where I am spiritually and expressing the prayerful yearnings of my heart. This album is no exception as I get welled up praying along with several of the songs. Most of all, I am stirred with compassion to love people as Jesus loves us. That's the heart behind this album, and thank you Jennie for blessing us with your music and for writing and singing the Truth of the Gospel for the Kingdom of God. This album soothes, moves and challenges listeners. People & Songs: Opus 1 Collective by Jennie Lee Riddle is a profound listening experience.

I love her writing. It is so honest, and has lots of depth lyrically. It feels like at times as Christians we're living on another planet and we're fighting all the time. We all know why--because we weren't made for this world. Writing and singing songs of worship aren't always easy when things aren't going well. We're called to worship and we need to be obedient. We are dependent on God for every breath. A state of brokenness keeps us on our knees and helps us realize how much we need God. Choosing to worship when you don't feel like it deepens your faith. Even in the midst of our greatest struggles, we need to find joy and peace from knowing God. God is light, and His reflection will cover us in colors like a rainbow.

This song for the Church reminds us that the pain of this world is temporary and to live for Heaven. As Christians--the bride of Christ--we'll worship Him forever and all sing to our Bridegroom: "Holy Holy Holy, Is The Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!" Amen!

(Here's a video of Gateway Worship featuring Kari Jobe singing the song.)

NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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