“Lift Every Voice and Sing!”

Psalm 96:1-3


James Weldon Johnson wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in 1899 for an address at celebrate President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday the following year.  His classically trained brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, composed it.  James Weldon wrote the song while serving as the principal of the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida.  His students were the first to learn and sing it.  The NAACP later dubbed the song as the “Negro national anthem” in 1919.  There’s been great controversy over America’s national anthem, “The Star Bangled Banner.”  Should we stand?  Should we kneel?  Should we remove our hats?  Should we place our hands over our hearts?  Should we raise a fist?  Should we sing at all?  In the wake of police brutality and systemic racism in America, the NFL has decided to play or have performed the Black national anthem before every game in Week 1 of the season.

Sources report, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” will be played before “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  The response will be interesting.  It’s unclear how singing the song advances the cause of racial justice.  Certainly, a 3-4-minute song can’t heal the wounds of 3-4 centuries of hypocrisy, hatred, and hostility toward African Americans in America.  While the NFL is singing a new song, it’s the same old song!  Today’s message encourages, exhorts, and, hopefully, empowers you as we explore how the Black national anthem has Scriptural parallels and commands us to “Lift Every Voice and Sing!”

II. VERSE 1                                            

Lift every voice and sing                                                                       Isaiah 24:14

Till earth and Heaven ring                                                                 Psalm 148:13

Ring with the harmonies of liberty;                                             2 Corinthians 3:17

Let our rejoicing rise,                                                                           Psalm 32:11

High as the list’ning skies,                                                                   Psalm 148:1-4

let it resound loud as the rolling sea.                                        Psalm 93:3-4 (NIV)

Sing a song

full of faith that the dark past has taught us,                             Deuteronomy 5:15

Sing a song

full of the hope that the present has brought us;                              Romans 5:3-5

Facing the rising sun

Of our new day begun,                                                        Lamentations 3:22-23

Let us march on till victory is won.                                                Philippians 3:14 

III. VERSE 2                                                                                

Stony the road we trod,

Bitter the chast’ning rod,                                                                 Exodus 1:13-14

Felt in the day that hope

Unborn had died;                                                                            Romans 8:24-25

Yet with a steady beat,                                                              1 Corinthians 15:58

Have not our weary feet,                                                                          Psalm 73:2

Come to the place on which our fathers sighed?                          Genesis 25:8-10

We have come

over a way that with tears has been watered,                                     Jeremiah 9:1

We have come,

treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,                           Luke 21:24

Out from the gloomy past,                                                                    Isaiah 43:18-19

till now we stand at last                                                                                 Joshua 1:5

Where the white gleam

of our star is cast.                                                                                        Psalm 147:4


God of our weary years,                                                                       Psalm 119:28

God of our silent tears,                                                                             Psalm 56:8

Thou who has brought us thus

Far on the way;                                                                                        Psalm 124:1

Thou who has by thy might,                                                                Zechariah 4:6

Led us into the light,                                                                                    John 8:12

Keep us forever in the path, we pray.                                                   Isaiah 49:16

Lest our feet                                                                                                       Psalm 1:1

Stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,                   Matthew 7:13-14

Least our hearts,                                                                                        Matthew 15:8

drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee,                            Ephesians 5:18

Shadowed beneath Thy hand,                                                                     Psalm 91:1

May we forever stand,                                                                       Ephesians 6:13

True to our God,                                                                                          John 17:3

True to our native land.                                                                         Exodus 33:1


 Revelation has the final word on humanity’s anthem.  “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around . . . the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever.  Amen.”  Until then, trust, pray, and “Lift Every Voice and Sing!”

Source:            African American Heritage Hymnal, GIA Publications, Inc., Chicago: IL (2001).

© 2020 Caldwell Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved – No production of this material is permitted without expressed written permission of CMI

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