Days of Elijah
Born in 1969 to a working class family in Belfast, Robin Mark grew up amid the turbulence of Northern Ireland. He also grew up with a love for music. In 1995, while on staff as Director of Worship at Christian Fellowship Church, his second CD “Revival in Belfast” was recorded. Though lyrically the songs were more like hymns, the sales began to mount. “Days of Elijah,” a song written partly in response to the atrocities in Rwanda soon propelled him to an international platform. One day the news came: “They’re singing your song in Rwanda.” The success astounded and humbled Robin. It still does. Several times during the past few years Phil Callaway and Robin Mark have found themselves sharing a stage. At this year’s Breakforth Canada event in Edmonton, Canada, they sat down to talk about “worship music,” the old hymns, and true success.
Phil Callaway: You told my teenagers a real lame joke over dinner. Care to repeat it?
Robin Mark: No.
I’ll help you. You said,
“How many ears has Spock?”
And the answer is ‘Three.
A left ear, a right ear, and a final frontier.’
I’m sure our readers will appreciate it if we move on. Tell us a little about you. Where you live, your home phone number, a little about your family and the kind of ministry you’re in.
I live on the East side of Belfast in Northern Ireland. I was born in an area of the city called Donegal Pass which was part of inner city Belfast to a good working class family and was sent out to church and Sunday School, basically like every one else of that generation. I grew up through the latest “troubles” in Northern Ireland which began in 1969 and ended, generally, about five years ago. I never felt any desire to leave my homeland, even during all the dark days. It’s where I met my wife, Jackie, and where our three children Catherine (18), David (14) and James (8) were born. I still lead worship regularly in Christian Fellowship Church in Belfast, that’s the church where Revival in Belfast was recorded. In fact I am on the staff there, (one day a week), as the Director of Worship.
You didn’t tell us your phone number.
Your song “Days of Elijah” has been incredibly successful. Tell us the story of how the song was written.
I wrote the song in 1994.
It’s a song of hope. Although raised a Methodist, I attended a lot of
Brethren or Gospel Hall meetings as a small boy and somehow the theology
of Old Testament stories and characters being, either as themselves or by
their actions, “types” or “examples” or “shadows” of Christ and the Church
got stuck in my head. That is, even though they were historical factual
people, living in the old covenant days, their actions and characters can
be used to teach and represent the character of God under the new covenant
and they continually and repeatedly point to Christ. The song came from
watching a television “Review of the Year” at the end of 1994. 1994 was
the year of the Rwandan civil war tragedy which claimed 1 million peoples
lives. On this T.V. review were a lot of daft stories, happy stories,
serious stories, and then absolutely devastating stories like the Rwandan
situation. As I watched the review unfold I found myself despairing about
the state of the world and, in prayer, began asking God if He was really
in control and what sort of days were we living in. I felt in my spirit
that He replied to my prayer by saying that indeed He was very much in
control and that the days we were living in were special times when He
would require Christians to be filled with integrity and to stand up for
Him just like Elijah did, particularly with the prophets of Baal. These
are “Elijah” days.
We also needed to be a
holy and just people and hence the reference to the “days of your servant
Moses”, meaning that righteousness and right living was important in all
our attitudes and works. Now we are under grace and not under law, but the
righteousness that comes by faith can be no less than the moral law that
Moses brought direct from God. It has not been superseded. “Days of great
trial, of famine, darkness and sword” is a reflection of the apparent
times in which we live when still thousands of people die every day from
starvation, malnutrition and war. In the midst of it all we are called to
make a declaration of what and who we believe in.
The second verse refers to the restoration of unity of the body.
That’s what Jesus prayed
for. “That they may be one even as I and the Father are one…” by reference
to Ezekiel’s prophetic vision of the valley of the dry bones becoming
flesh and being knit together. The restoration of praise and worship to
the Church is represented by “the days of your servant David”. Of course
David didn’t get to rebuild the structural temple, that was left to
Solomon his son, but David was used by God to introduce worship, praise
and thanksgiving into the tabernacle or temple. If you search carefully
through the Book of Amos you will find reference to this “Restoration of
David’s Tabernacle”. It is generally accepted that this refers to Praise
and Worship as the physical temple was “Solomon’s”. Finally the days of
the Harvest point towards what is the purpose of the Christian to go into
all the world and make disciples of all nations.I chose to express these
thoughts by reference to the characters that represented these virtues in
the Old Testament. It is in essence a song of hope for the Church and the
world in times of great trial.
The chorus talks about Christ’s return.
It is the ultimate declaration of hope, paraphrased from the books of Revelation and Daniel and the vision that was seen of the coming King and refers to the return of Christ and the year of Jubilee. Theologians and Bible commentators believe that Israel never properly celebrated this particular 50th year jubilee, and that it will only be properly celebrated when Christ returns. That might be true but I reckon that a Jubilee is an apt description of what happens when Christ comes into anyone’s life at any time; debts are cancelled and a captive is set free. Indeed Christ read from Isaiah 61 when he was in the temple and declared that this “Jubilee” passage was fulfilled in him. Another Old Testament theme made complete in Christ.
Tell us about the actual writing of the song.
I came to Church early
one Sunday in 1995 with these thoughts in my head. We have two services
and the Pastor spoke during the first service on the “valley of dry bones”
from Ezekiel. I took a prompt from this and, in the 30 minutes between the
services, wrote down the words and chords in the kitchen of our church
building, teaching it to my band as I went. We sang it, as a body, at the
end of the second service.
How do you express the sense that these
might be days, not of failure and submission, but of the sort of
resilient, declaring, even arrogant trust and hope that Elijah had in his
God? That these are not days of God stepping back and allowing the world
and the church to roll uncontrolled towards eternity, but rather days when
he is calling on his body to make a stand, to offer right praises and to
declare that He is totally in control. Well, I reckon you may write the
words “These are the days of Elijah” and “ These are the Days of David”.
I’ve used word pictures and Biblical characters to make that expression,
but this is no different from many of the great hymnwriters and even David
himself. I presented the song to the church that day with a short word of
explanation, and we sang it as our worship. The rest, I suppose, is
history. There is no mechanism within the church for making people sing a
particular song, or for increasing it’s use in the national or
international church body. As far as I was concerned the song was for our
congregation, on that day and at that time. God obviously had other ideas
and it is now sung almost world-wide. Grammatically, there may even be the
odd aberration, but thankfully the church has forgiven me that particular
shortcoming. I must make it clear that I did not set out to write an
overly complex or “secret” song, and I hope the testimony above bears that
How have Jewish
I was privileged to be in
Israel at Yom Kippur for a celebration with hundreds of Messianic Jews. A
very kind, gentle and humorous messianic brother had a bit of fun arguing
with me that I, as an Irish Christian, could never have written a song
which explores some of the themes that many Jewish believers believe are
the themes and indications of Christ’s return. the Spirit and Power of
Elijah in the Church, the restoration of Israel to righteousness in
Christ, The restoration of praise and worship and the unity of the body
particularly with a renewed and redeemed Israel under Christ. The Israeli
believers sing the song with great gusto and this alternative Biblical
interpretation. They see it as a prophetic song.
I was sitting at the funeral of a teenager in December and the congregation sang this song.
God seems to have used
the song in many ways for many people. I have written lots of simple,
straightforward hymns and songs covering lots of themes. This song seems
to have been used particularly by God in the ministry of Praise and
Worship and the themes and pictures it uses seem to have been grasped by
Gods people all over the world. The real test of any hymn or praise and
worship song, I feel, is that when it is sung by people they are able to
identify with the song even if the meaning is a bit unusual and (by the
Holy Spirit dwelling within them) are charged by what the words say.
The album has gone gold. Congratulations! How do you account for the rising popularity of worship music?
I believe it’s a work of God. For our part in the UK and Ireland many of us had become a “song singing” or “hymn singing” church and had lost the sense of really worshipping in spirit and truth. We either all sang songs that made us feel “happy”, or challenged our intellect, or reminded us of great days past when the Watts, Wesleys and Newtons of another generation were stirred into creativity. But few of us really owned and used our hymn and praise times to really “worship”. The first songs that broke that mould were the early, simple Vineyard songs which had simple phrases and thoughts expressed in beautiful singable music and these focussed our minds again, I feel, on the person of Jesus, His Father and the work of the Holy Spirit. I believe these songs unlocked our understanding and sense of worship again for this generation. So as people then grew in their understanding and other folks wrote their own songs, I feel the church tapped back into the well of worship that characterised the church renewals associated with the great hymnwriters of the past. I don’t think that has stopped now, I think it continues to grow as many more folks realise that one of the greatest things that we can do with words and music is to express our worship to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. and this is probably why worship is still so popular, more people are catching that wave.
Did you go to church as a child?
Yes. My conversion,
however, took place in my first job. At 16 I left school to become an
engineering draughtsman, and some of the guys in work were on fire for the
Lord. Every lunchtime they used to hold conversations and discussions on
the church and the bible. During one of these I gave my life to Christ. I
suppose it was a combination of all the many years of exposure to the
gospel, plus the way in which they presented the message in the work
place. But I made a commitment there at my drawing board and I’ve never
What would you say to
those who are mourning the loss of the great hymns of the faith in our
Are we missing out on some fabulous theology by neglecting them?
I think it’s fair to say
that some modern worship is more “touchy feely” than grounded in biblical
theology. But, remember that God is after our hearts as well as our minds.
We need a balance between right and proper theology and the intimacy of
relationship between us children and our heavenly father. I tend to think
that no matter how “sound” a hymn might be, God is not impressed by our
brain power and intellect, but rather by our attitude of heart.
Is there a particular
theme that seems to be striking a chord with believers as they worship?
What kind of response
have your received from those who sing your songs?
I know that most worship
writers have had many similar experiences where God has used their
offering of song to touch and change lives. I have received letters of
lives saved from suicide, marriages saved from ruin and hearts turned from
mourning to dancing because of some song that I penned. These are all
deeply humbling and precious stories, which I can’t really take any “self
satisfaction” from. When I hear the story in a letter or an email, I just
say “thank you” and realise that everything we do, whether we are song
writers or anything else, impacts so many lives around us, it’s important
to do it as well as you can and as honestly as you can.
What keeps you moving
What would you like to
be remembered for?
Find out more about Robin’s music and ministry.
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