Interview

He remembers your name

Joseph Koh, SELAH // March 7, 2019, 1:04 pm

lightdust

I listened to Josh Yeoh’s and Jonathan Cho’s new single, Light / Dust, for the first time whilst I was on vacation, cruising down the Australian coast sometime last year. A dear friend had gotten access to an acoustic recording because he was part of the team working on the song production.

There was an immediacy to the lyrics from the onset. My heart was moved by how the verses had delicately captured, like a potter’s hands, the staggering act of an infinite God breathing close. Even as the track lulled to a close, the line “You remember my name” continued to linger at the seabed of my soul, in which I grappled with the gravity of such a gracious divine being. What have I done to deserve such a zealous love?

In an interview with SELAH, I had the privilege of discovering the origins of the first ever song that this duo has written together. Josh Yeoh (a singer-songwriter and worship leader) and Jonathan Cho (a lawyer and Awaken Generation mentor) had actually — or maybe unsurprisingly — connected via Instagram, which helped set this collaboration into motion.

My not-so-secret, personal hope is that this release is only but the beginning of a rich and rousing co-writing journey.

Jonathan Cho and Josh Yeoh. Photos courtesy of Ronald Lim.

How did you two first meet?

Jon: I had seen Josh a couple of times when he taught and led worship at a few Awaken Generation sessions. We didn’t quite connect or interact then, but somehow became Instagram (IG) friends. If memory serves me right, we exchanged some messages on IG and eventually decided to grab coffee together!

Josh: Coffee with Jon was great! We instantly hit it off and discovered that we had a similar taste in music (Rivers & Robots!). This led to us setting aside some time to attempt co-writing a song.

Was there a specific conversation that sparked the genesis of this song?

Jon: When we decided to collaborate, I didn’t think we had anything particular in mind. Josh was on the keys and had sung a couple of improvised lines, and I remember having an image of Genesis — where the Spirit hovered over the waters.

That’s when we started to unravel this concept of how the creation story parallels the (re)creation story of Jesus coming to redeem His people, and the interaction between the Divine and those who are “but dust”. So, I guess Genesis “sparked the genesis of this song”.

Josh: We were talking about our approach to songwriting, and I shared that I often write from themes that I’ve been meditating on. One of those themes was the idea of God being “light” and its portrayal throughout Scripture.

We were just noodling, and I started to sing these lines: “The God who spoke light into darkness / Holds my heart, He remembers my frame / He’s the strength in the midst of my weakness / He remembers my name.”

I was impacted by the thought that the God who dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16) invites us to draw near to Him; He has not only invited us but assumed the way for us to approach Him when He took on flesh. He is acquainted with our frailty and He sympathises with us in our weakness. I remember singing those lines a few times and feeling the tenderness of His heart towards us!

Jonathan Cho. Photo courtesy of Ronald Lim.

“Dust”, “mud” and “spit” are just some of the tactile visual imagery used in the song, which can be quite different from how we would describe our God and our relationship with Him. Could you elaborate on the diction?

Jon: The song circles on this idea of how a holy divine being condescended Himself to attend to lowly creatures like us, and how a “touch of God” can completely transform us. The question was how we could express this in a way which would enable a listener to appreciate the fullness of the chasm, the intensity of His pursuit and the depth of His grace.

“Dust”, “mud” and “spit” are, firstly, all biblical descriptions of who we are in proper perspective (Psalm 103:14) and how our Lord interacted with His people when He was on earth (John 9:6). We settled on these specific words because they carry a certain grit and “jarring” quality — they force the listener to confront the stark and raw reality of God’s love. His love isn’t just a warm, “feel-good” kind of thing, as it comprises kneeling on the “guilty earth” in intercession, getting His “hands dirty” in order to bring redemption to this broken world, and a bloody death.

Josh: As the song was built on the concept of how God — who is Light — spoke into darkness, we decided that each verse would be a juxtaposition of “Light” (symbolising divinity) and “dust” (which represents humanity). The first verse begins with God bending down to create man from dust in the garden, and parallels how God stooped low (depicted in Psalm 18:35), by which His gentleness makes us great. This is an astounding verse to me.

An entire verse centres around waiting for Christ to return. Could you share the intention behind this decision?

Josh: A friend of mine says that if you preach the first coming of Christ without the second coming, you’re only preaching half the Gospel. It’s like a woman only focusing on her engagement (i.e. the cross) and not her wedding (i.e. the return of Christ).

What still moves my heart the most in relation to Jesus’ return is the idea that one day His feet would literally touch the earth again but He would be the light that illuminates (Revelation 21:23). We intentionally ended the song the way we did because we wanted to capture the posture of the Bride in the waiting for the consummation of all things.

Jon: The song idea also carries an angle of how God longs to dwell with His people. We explored that idea in the Creation story of the first verse, the Incarnation in the second, and felt that it had to be completed with the picture in Revelation of God dwelling with His people as He has always intended.

Josh Yeoh. Photo courtesy of Ronald Lim.

In light of waiting, what’s the posture that we should take?

Josh: We have one window of time in history where we get to choose to love Him even though we cannot see Him with our eyes (John 20:29), and one shot to offer up this costly worship in faith. I believe our posture should be that of a Church that is not just remembering, but anticipating; not just grateful, but hopeful. This is why we labour for His return.

Jon: Too often, we get caught up in an introspective, inward-looking type of Christianity where we become fixated on what God has done for us. I believe that leaves some of us in a state of “comfortable Christianity”, in which we forget the greater paradigm that He is operating on and how Christ will come again.

In the waiting, He has called and commissioned us to partner Him in fulfilling His vision; we need to ready ourselves for this and not to be found wanting — or more in love with ourselves — when He returns.

What’s the message that you hope people will take away from this song?

Jon: My prayer is that those who hear this song will repeatedly marvel at the inexplicable grace and relentless love of God for a people whom are but dust (“who is man that You are mindful of us”?). This very love cradles everything Jesus came to do. A true understanding of this love must leave us in deeper love with Him and further compel us to fulfil the desires of His heart, as we await His return.

Josh: My hope is that people would be overwhelmed with love and gratitude at the tenderness of a God who remembers our frame and that they will yearn for the day when He will once again walk upon the ground with us.

 

This article was first published on Selah.sg and is republished with permission.