“Sing to the LORD a new song for He has done marvelous things,” the Psalmist writes. If you did a quick Google search of “Sing” “Bible” you would be hardpressed to find any results telling us to not sing. All throughout scripture we’re commanded to sing. But, if you’re anything like me the minute I’m told to do something I instantly don’t want to do it. Similarly, if I’m told not to do something I’m most likely going to do it.
I thought I’d write an inverse to my earlier post “Play Ball! (Three Reasons Not to Sing in Church)” and give us three reasons why we should sing in church beyond the scriptural command to sing. Although the command alone is enough I’m a law breaking rebel so I need more reasons.
Singing Helps Me To Remember
As Moses, the man credited for writing the first five books of the Bible, who God dictated the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law to, as he was about to die God asked him to write one last thing:
“Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them. When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their ancestors,and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant. And when many disasters and calamities come on them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.” So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites. Deuteronomy 31:19-22
By the time I get home from church seemingly a thousand little calamities have happened or been avoided. Either way, quickly after recieving the milk and honey of the Gospel I turn to the other gods of convienence, comfort, busy schedule, family needs, etc. Often by Monday I’m in need of a reminder.
Singing, like I mentioned previously, is an excellent way to let truth burrow deep into our hearts and minds. God didn’t tell Moses to write a poem, sermon, or letter to testify against our waywardness, God used a song.
In the Psalms, the songbook of the Bible, there are many long Psalms that simply recount Israel’s history. It’s as if God is saying, “Remember when I did that? Now how much more will I do?”
Psalm 136, “His love endures forever”, comes to mind. It is likely that Jesus would’ve sung this psalm during Passover the night he was betrayed, arrested, tried, and crucified.
This is conjecture, but if Jesus sang to be reminded, how much more then do we need to? So Paul instructs in – scriptures I’m sure are becoming over used by me – Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 to remember the words of Christ by singing.
Every week we gather together from our various lives of trials and successes, sickness and health, busy and boring and we sing to remember that through it all we have a hope that is once and for all secure in Christ.
Singing Anchors My Heart
In college I had a particularly nasty break up. You know the kind. Everybody’s got one. Two days after the break up I went to go see one of my favorite bands, The Smoking Popes, and she was supposed to go with but some buddies went instead. Heartbreaking, I know. Midway through the set The Popes played one of their best tunes: “Pretty Pathetic.”
(I’m in that crowd, singing my stupid 19 year old heart out.)
There’s a moment when Josh Caterer, the lead singer, stepped away from the mic and let the crowd sing out: “I miss what we had, I need you so badly…” over and over and then bam! Drums! Oh it was perfect! I was feeling adolescent despair and elation mingle in my heart and it was in that moment I knew I’d be fine.
(Almost ten years later and yep, I’m very fine.)
In Matthew 11:17, Jesus compares the unbeliving generation to the children calling out:
We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.
Bob Kauflin writing about this passage says, “Jesus implies that music can lead us to either dance or mourn. It can draw out a variety of feelings including romance, peace, joy, fear, playfulness, sadness, or awe.”
Humans are not first and foremost thinking creatures, we are feeling creatures. We are driven not by rationality but emotionalism. Music, unlike much else, directly engages our emotions and intimately interacts with our hearts.
A maturing person understands the disastrous effects of being ruled by emotion, but despite our best efforst we just can’t help ourselves. When we’re being tossed to-and-fro by our fickle emotions we can sing words of truth once again anchor us to truth.
Singing Pushes Me Forward
My high school history teacher, Mr. Collins’, favorite hymn was the classic Franny Crosby hymn “Blessed Assurance.” Crosby opens the tune this way:
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh what a foretaste of glory devine!
When we gather to sing our experience doesn’t exist in a vacuum of space and time. It is not a ephermal moment that quickly passes away. As we sing, we join the anthem of saints who have gone before us and we get “a foretaste of glory devine.”
As we sing we’re sampling the end of history. In Revelation 5 we’re shown a scene of Heaven, of Christ in the midst of the twenty-four elders, four living creature, a multitude of angels and what are they doing?
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
Christ is worthy of our loud and shameless song. In the end, every creature in heaven and earth will sing out his praises.
When we gather to sing we remember what God has done in the past, we’re comforted now by truth, and we anticipate and look ahead to what God – and only God – can complete.
The past two posts are hardly exhaustive. Many ideas have been pilfered, outright stolen, or inspired by these sources (and my own personal experience in Bible study and worship):
Bob Kauflin – I Worship God by Singing. You Should, Too.; Worship Matters
Jonathan Leeman – Why We Sing
James K.A. Smith – Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation