Behind the Rhymes: Shai Linne – My Portion
Lyrical theologian shai linne announced this week that his three-year hiatus without an album will end on July 21, when Lamp Mode Recordings releases his seventh studio LP, Still Jesus.
Lamp Mode is offering four different Still Jesus pre-order packages on its website, all of which include a “listener’s guide,” where shai linne “breaks down each song from a musical, lyrical and theological perspective.”
Until then, below is a breakdown of shai linne’s song “My Portion” from his classic The Solus Christus Project. “My Portion” is featured on Rapzilla.com’s new “Joy in God Through Hip Hop” playlist on Spotify. This is part of a series of articles which examine the Bible passages behind tracks on the playlist.
On the hook of “My Portion”, shai linne prays the following.
Whom have I in heaven but you? /
And earth has nothing I desire but you /
My flesh and my heart may fail, however /
The Lord is my portion forever.
Asaph begins Psalm 73 by declaring the goodness of God, and then confessing a frustration of his.
“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:1-3).
To Asaph, it looked like God was not only good to Israel, but he was also good to those who were impure in heart — at least based on their abundance of comfort. People who mocked God (“they set their mouths against the heavens”) were not suffering consequences for their rebellion. They were, instead, balling (“always at ease, they increase in riches”).
This confused Asaph. Unlike them, he worshiped God. Yet comparatively, his life sucked (“all the day long I have been stricken”). Was obedience to God a waste of Asaph’s time?
The thought crossed his mind. Verse 13: “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.” These doubts are why Asaph “almost stumbled.”
Key word: Almost.
“When I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,” Asaph said, “until I went into the sanctuary of God…” (Psalm 73:16-17).
The psalm which started with a tone of disappointment concludes with understanding and satisfaction. Here are the final verses of the chapter.
When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works (Psalm 73:21-28).
Ultimately, Asaph remembered that earthly treasure is completely worthless compared to the treasure who is God. Spending eternity with family and friends wasn’t what consoled him. Fellowship with God alone did.
Can we, too, genuinely pray, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you?”
For the intro of “My Portion”, Linne sampled a convicting sermon by John Piper.
“Would you be satisfied to go to heaven,” Piper asked, “have everybody there in your family that you want there, have all the health and restoration of your prime, and have everything you disliked about yourself fixed, have every recreation you’ve ever dreamed available to you, and have infinite resources and money to spend, would you be satisfied if God weren’t there?”
This is quite an enticing list, but Asaph would answer no. The Apostle Paul would answer no. To be able to claim, “To die is gain,” like him, you must cherish God supremely above all else (Philippians 1:21).
Linne, too, shares their worldview. He rapped the following to end each of his verses.
I’m lifting up my hands, and I’m raising my voice /
Even though the world thinks I made the craziest choice /
They can mock all they want Lord, I do not care /
And I don’t want to go to heaven if God is not there.
Can you honestly say, “I don’t want to go to heaven if God is not there?” If not, ask God to change your desires; that he would help you see him as the infinitely valuable Creator he is. He lovingly designed us that we would find our greatest joy in the greatest treasure in the universe — him. By grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we also can call God “my portion.”
Photo credit: Wng.org