In the past ten years of writing behind the song devotionals as a staff member of NewReleaseToday, a constant companion has been the music of Remedy Drive, whose major label release Daylight is Coming really resonated with my heart with the up-tempo and introspective songs "Daylight," "All Along," and "Guide You Home." They followed that up with other standout releases including "Better than Life," "Resuscitate" and the human-trafficking awareness project Commodity.
The North Star picks up where Commodity left off with songs inspired by front man David Zach's work with human-trafficking abolitionist group The Exodus Road. "I almost feel like a fraud to have hope," David has shared. "I don't want to give the impression that I've turned away from hope, but I wrote these songs of hope, freedom, and refuge against a backdrop of war, slavery, and exile." I had the chance to speak with lead singer David Zach about "Polaris."
Please tell me the personal story behind this song.
This song stands out because "Polaris" is the name of the star that slaves would look to in our country when they were trying to escape from tyranny. They would actually code into their melodies how you can find your way to the North Star from the Big Dipper constellation, and The North Star was the name of Frederick Douglass' abolitionist newspaper. When you read his writings, just like Martin Luther King Junior, you sometimes think they would never fit into today's modern evangelical culture. They said astounding things that I've never heard from pulpits. Frederick Douglass said he prayed for 20 years and he never got answered by God until he used his feet. I love that statement. Martin Luther King's daughter Bernice tweeted, "You are the change you've been waiting for, so quit waiting." That's the idea.
We have injustice in our world. In particular, I'm talking about slavery. There's a lack of clean water. It changes a woman's life when you bring water to a community because she doesn't have to travel. There's need for kids to be fostered and adopted. There's need for clothing, shelter and biblical hospitality. There are hundreds of references in Scripture where taking the cause of the oppressed is mentioned. That weighs on you heavy when you see an apathetic response from church people. There are excuses coming from people saying, you just need Jesus and all this social justice stuff is whatever. You do need Jesus. You are the ambassadors of Christ when you are a Christian, and the flesh and bones of the Savior. For some reason, this is how the King has chosen to work, through us humans.
Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?
James 1:27(NIV): "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
James 2:14-17(NIV): "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."
Matthew 5:14-16(VOICE): "And you, beloved, are the light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden. Similarly it would be silly to light a lamp and then hide it under a bowl. When someone lights a lamp, she puts it on a table or a desk or a chair, and the light illumines the entire house. You are like that illuminating light. Let your light shine everywhere you go, that you may illuminate creation, so men and women everywhere may see your good actions, may see creation at its fullest, may see your devotion to Me, and may turn and praise your Father in heaven because of it."
Matthew 28:18-20(VOICE): "Jesus came forward and addressed His beloved disciples. I am here speaking with all the authority of God, who has commanded Me to give you this commission: Go out and make disciples in all the nations. Ceremonially wash them through baptism in the name of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then disciple them. Form them in the practices and postures that I have taught you, and show them how to follow the commands I have laid down for you. And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age."
Philippians 2:14-16(NIV): "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing."
Amos 5:24(NIV): "But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!"
Isaiah 61:1(VOICE): "The Spirit of the Lord, the Eternal, is on me. The Lord has appointed me for a special purpose. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to repair broken hearts, and to declare to those who are held captive and bound in prison, "Be free from your imprisonment!"
What is the takeaway message?
Rather than curse the darkness, I've decided to light a candle with this song, "Polaris," and to celebrate the seemingly insignificant actions that a rising tide of ordinary people who, similar to you, can use their keyboards and at the pulpit of their digital congregations send out a tweet and say, "hey, let's do something about this." I use music and put one note in front of another note. My friend Jeremy Cowart uses his camera lens, which I reference in the song. That's been really inspiring to me, seeing people use what they already have and what they love doing anyway, for the cause of compassion and mercy. That gets me excited!
Bono from U2 said that there are over 2100 Bible passages about caring for the oppressed, and I've made a point to look up as many of the Bible passages as I could find. The language used is very straightforward and challenging. Micah 6:8 says that the Lord requires us to seek justice and love mercy. Jesus tells us over and over again, "Love Me with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." Your neighbor is the oppressed. You can't put on your righteous clothing and go to church and ignore the needs around you. God tells us all throughout Scripture that He won't hear our prayers if we are praying to Him and ignoring the needs around us. He wants oceans of justice.
We won't stand by
We are steadfast you see
We've got open eyes as wide as catastrophe
When waters divide under the light of Polaris
On dry ground tonight
Can you hear the sound of the exodus?
Run wild against the tide
Chariots of fire on the hillside
It's who you are
Guided by the fires on the North Star
Stay strong - be brave
Ripples turn to tidal waves - don't you know
You use your pen when you don't have a sword
You've got your finger tips on the keyboard
You've got the sphere of your influence and nobody else has got your fingerprints
It's the strings pushed
It's the note that bends
It's the light that's bleeding out through your camera lens
You've got your voice so sing it out my friend
The songs of freedom at 110
Look up to the hills again from whence comes my help
Fire is burning - it's not burning out
A choir of seraphim is turning out
Fire is burning - it's not burning out
This song is all about the celebration of God's mercy in forgiving us and dying for our sins by our Savior, Polaris and North Star, Jesus. As Christians we need to pay it forward. This is a challenging song for believers. Many times we keep our faith to ourselves or maybe we just talk about the love of Jesus with fellow Christians. If the spirit of love is a basic element in Christian faith, then the expression of love is an integral part of faith. This expression of love constitutes faith in action. It's important as believers that others around us see the light of Jesus reflected in our lives, in our words, actions, behaviors, even our thoughts. "Thus also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" James 2:17 (NIV).
Perhaps we can all practice "letting our light shine so that others may praise our Father in Heaven." This song is about realizing that if your eyes are open to the needs of others around you and if you serve others and care about people more than think about yourself and your doubts, then you can start to live out the Beatitudes. As Christians, we're called to speak out about injustice. We often mistake staying quiet about issues as turning the other cheek. The truth is that Jesus flipped over the tables in the temple when He saw injustice. In Micah 6:8 (NKJV) we are told, "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"
Look at injustice in the world through God's eyes, and you can't help but be moved to act. As David and I discussed, whatever cause you support, be passionate about it and speak into the cause consistently. Ask yourself if you're losing sight of God's purpose for you. Don't give up on worthy causes; they are not fads. Jesus commands believers to love others as He loved us, and to show His love by helping people who can't help themselves. The counter-trafficking abolitionist group The Exodus Road that Remedy Drive supports really touches my heart, especially as a dad of three young daughters. There is so much injustice in the world, on so many levels. That's His heart, to care for the oppressed, the victimized and the "least of these."
This song reminds us to be more intentional about everything we do. The Amos 5 passage urges us to "let justice roll" from our lives, to keep our eyes open to the needs of others. I immediately connected with the message of this song as my life verse is Isaiah 6:8 (NLT): "Then I heard the Lord asking, "Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?" I said, "Here I am. Send me."" This song and album tackles the issue of human trafficking. It's a harrowing truth that reminds us that God's rescue of the oppressed and victimized can be actualized through the church if we don't just talk about good, but actually do something about it. As the song reminds us, "You've got the sphere of your influence, and nobody else has got your fingerprints." The bridge is based on the timeless passage, Psalm 121, which has application as well for us today living in uncertain times. Know with certainty and cry out, "Look up to the hills again from whence comes my help, fire is burning--it's not burning out." Amen to that!
Listen to the song below.
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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