Jesus, My Great High Priest

Here is a new song co-written by Isaac Watts and me.

My pastor, Jack Roeda, is preaching through Hebrews and pointed out the other day that there are few songs that use the image of Jesus as high priest. Shepherd, Bread of Life, yes, but not high priest. Even though I knew he was baiting me, I took the hook and went off to find some good high priest songs. I fell in love with this text by Isaac Watts and wrote a new tune for it.

On thing I’ve been thinking about a lot in my writing lately is the “Occam’s Razor” principle, which basically states that the simplest answer is likely the simplest answer. Another way to state it might be “don’t gild the lily” or Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s famous, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

I’ve spent most of my life trying to master the intricacies of putting notes together, and now I’m realizing that sometimes music sounds best in its simplest forms. This doesn’t take less mastery, but more. In any case, I kept reminding myself of this while writing the tune for this song, and I think I was able to strip it back to an extremely simple, clear form that sings well. Listen to the way the volume of the singing increases on each verse–that is music to a composer’s ears!

You can download the leadsheet, or email me for the string parts. If you’re a worship nerd, you can hear some more highlights from yesterday’s service. If you’re a hymn nerd, you can visit Hymnary.org to see how Watts’ original text was broken into two modern hymn texts: Join All the Glorious Names and Jesus, My Great High Priest. (And how I chose from his 12 verses to come up with my 4 verses and a refrain.)

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