“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth… Come into his presence with singing!”
Psalm 110:1-2 (ESV)
I love to sing. If you know me, you know that much is true.
At different times in my life, singing has meant different things for me. In Junior High, it was a way to get close to girls – and I suppose that would be true of me in High School as well. Think about it, in most school choirs, the girl to boy ratio is like 3 to 1, so your odds of meeting, and perhaps getting a date, with a girl dramatically increase (but now that I think about it, I’m not sure if it actually helped). I can admit it, now that it is ancient history, the whole reason why I joined the Baptist Church youth choir was so that I could be near a girl (and now I sound like a singing stalker).
Singing in High School and College meant a way to help pay for school. I got a scholarship to sing in the touring choir in College, as well as a scholarship for Theatre. So singing was a source of financial resource for me as well.
When the kids started coming into the picture, singing was my way of calming the kids. Many a night in the seminary apartment I would pace up and down the hallway, crying baby in one arm, hymnal in the other, singing hymns and spiritual songs to help comfort and sooth.
These days, I’m teaching myself to play guitar (and by “teaching myself” I mean trying to memorize chord fingerings; and by “play guitar” I mean butchering songs so badly that we no longer need an exterminator to come to the house, but it’s okay because I never really intend to play for anyone else). The blessing of having the guitar is that now it’s not so weird for me to incorporate song into my daily devotion. I love starting my day, or ending it (however it works out) with time in scripture, prayer, and singing to the Lord.
I think the reason why I love singing in worship is because it involves the entire body in that moment before the Lord. Singing requires the use of the voice (of course), the lungs, the ears, the mind, and the heart – all working together in harmony to make beautiful music before the Lord.
Singing is also a deeply catechetical matter: we learn when we sing. Think about it, we teach our children the alphabet it song;, a two year old can sing a Justin Bieber song; you don’t even have to try to learn the words to your favorite songs, you just listen to them enough that they come naturally. In the church, we learn and store great doctrinal truth through song. The old hymns, like “Amazing Grace,” “It is Well with my Soul,” Be Thou My Vision,” “A Mighty Fortress is Our God;” you could probably sing them without ever looking at the hymnal. Even some of the new songs, like “In Christ Alone,” and “All I Have is Christ,” they are steeped in scripture, resound with solid theology, and teach the faith through song. Because of its ability to both glorify God and edify the people at the same time, singing is essential in the worship and life of the church.
Friends, we sing because we must, we must because God commands. 1 Chronicles 16:23 says, “Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.” Psalm 105:1–3 “Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!” These passages and others like them in Scripture are full of imperatives, commands to sing. This command is not a burdensome one, this obedience is a joy.
Singing is joy, not because of its ease, but because of the reason why we sing. Psalm 98 implores us, “Oh sing to the LORD a new song… for He has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness… all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”
Creation was born in the resonance of the song sung by the lover of our souls. Our response to that love is to take up the song in joyous chorus. There is a chorus that is already raging; when we take up singing we are joining the throng.
Won’t you join me in the song?