Written by: Laura Chambers (September 21-22, 2017)
Messages have a tendency to become distorted when they pass from one individual to another. What began as an unequivocal declaration of hope moves through the prism of our prejudices and bias, bending in such a way that it depicts our perspective rather than the facts. The more we filter the truth, the less it resembles reality; it tends to take on the color of our personal longings, disappointments, and grudges.
It is into this distorted environment that Matt Maher enters, declaring the most important message of all in such a way that nobody can mistake it for anything less than the good news it is. Echoes draws our attention to the God whose love is bouncing off of every surface, including us, and entering into the deepest places of our souls, that many might hear and know the truth of who He is.
Maher begins with “Echoes One”, acknowledging that the urge within us to find redemption cannot be silenced, and moreover, should not be. Instead, we ought to pursue it with all our hearts. “Clean Heart” confesses something that’s likely been on everyone’s minds lately; a bone-deep weariness stemming from all of the conflict present in the world. When we pray for Jesus to repair the broken things, it’s always a good idea to begin with one’s own problems – ask Him to remove the log from our own eye first. Only then can we see clearly as He does and stand out because of our loving conduct. Jesus loved the people who were the least deserving of it, and He desires that we do the same. “What A Friend” reminds us that just as everyone has sorrow and hardship in common, we all have access to the same friend. Christ removes our burdens from us and greets us with grace everywhere we go. Combine truth that cannot be denied with the a chorus that’s the stuff sing-a-longs are made of, this song would be at home in a church, a living room, or on the road – pretty much anywhere you feel like celebrating. “Holy” switches gears to a more serious moment in the presence of God. He is holy, beautiful, and far greater than our unworthy selves. Every time we interact with Him, we come away changed for the better when He touches us and speaks to us. Something about His love makes us want to give ourselves to Him. We know that He is unequaled and everything He has made brings Him praise, including us.
“Your Love Defends Me” is a song I previously reviewed from Hannah Kerr’s album Overflow (she and Maher wrote it together), and here it‘s just as poignant. We’re reminded that God’s love battles for us, even though we feel outnumbered and outmatched. He’s where we can turn when we need sustenance and protection. “Just As I Am” honestly describes the wretched state in which we approach Christ, marveling at how He was willing to take us anyway. Combining the story of the prodigal song with the well-known hymn that shares this song’s title, Maher celebrates the gift Christ gave us when He took us in. “Awake My Soul (A Thousand Tongues)” turns to another hymn to express our inability to adequately praise God for His glorious works and attributes. There is nothing we could do that would even come close to acknowledging His worth. “Faithfulness” reminds us that God is trustworthy and resolute in the midst of the storm that is making us tremble. Though everything else changes, He remains. As painful as our memories of the past are, they cannot keep God’s love from touching us. What triumphs await us in the future are assured.
“Echoes Two” turns our gaze from the sky to those around us, that we might be united in Christ. “Picket Sign” compares the cross to a protest sign raised in opposition against evil and death. Christ defied it all by pouring out His blood for our sins, and even today He stands in support of those who can’t help themselves and gives voices to those who have none. “Won’t Let Me Down” cries out in the aftermath of tragedy, seeking reasons why while plagued with suffering. Our troubles don’t catch God off guard, nor is He afraid of the darkness. We can be sure that He’ll never fail us; He will make a way through our wilderness, remaining close by our side. “Least Of These” recalls the passage of Scripture in which Jesus assures us that what we have done for the least, we have done for Him. The song shows us how Jesus was able to provide exactly what we needed by depriving Himself of the same things. The lowest and meekest are welcome because He traded places with them, taking their death and giving them life. I’m especially fond of a turn of phrase from the chorus, “When He stole my heart between two thieves”. (I have kind of a weakness for clever wordplay.)
“The Cross Forever Speaks” retains an assurance of God’s faithful presence, despite strong opposition from the enemy and an inability to understand what God is doing. Regardless of what happens to us, the cross and Christ’s accomplishments there reverberate through time, speaking the words we cannot utter ourselves. It is a sound that gives us hope and at the same time silences any who dispute what He has promised us. “Into Your Hands” acknowledges the heaviness of all of the things we’d like to change, asking Jesus to help us move on from the past. We all have days when we doubt that He still loves us, but we have to trust that we have been restored irreversibly. Each day, we make the choice to give Him everything we have, all of our lives and our love. “As Good As It Gets” reminds us that we as much as we tend to revisit the simple joys and difficult struggles of the past, we no longer live there. If we’re not careful, we can miss out on what God has for us right here in this moment – Himself. There’s nothing better than resting in God’s arms. A solo piano version of “Your Love Defends Me” is the final track, itself an echo that reminds us in its sparseness that we can have this confidence even when we’re the only voice around to proclaim it.
Is it possible to preserve the original intention of the words we receive and believe? To speak from our hearts to God and of God’s heart to others in an authentic, sincere way? Matt Maher pieces together the words of God with “treasures old and new” drawn from the pages of hymnbooks and his own contemplation. Echoes reverberates from the beginning to the end of time with whispers of grace, provision, and confidence, even when surrounded by rumors of the opposite.
Released: September 29, 2017
Label: Provident Label Group LLC
- Echoes One (1:29)
- Clean Heart (3:00)
- What a Friend (3:17)
- Holy (4:17)
- Your Love Defends Me (3:46)
- Just as I Am (4:11)
- Awake My Soul (A Thousand Tongues) (3:51)
- Faithfulness (feat. Steffany Gretzinger) (3:31)
- Echoes Two (1:00)
- Picket Sign (3:01)
- Won’t Let Me Down (3:34)
- The Least of These (3:50)
- The Cross Forever Speaks (3:52)
- Into Your Hands (3:50)
- As Good as It Gets (3:48)
- Your Love Defends Me (Solo Piano Version) (4:15)
16 Tracks, 54:00
Buy on iTunes
More from Matt Maher:
- The End and the Beginning (2001)
- Welcome To Life (2003)
- Empty and Beautiful (2008)
- Alive Again (2009)
- The Love In Between (2011)
- All The People Said Amen (2013)
- All The People Said Amen (Live) (2013)
- Saints and Sinners (2015)
- Lord I Need You (2015)