“Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” Exodus 15:1-2
These were the words of Moses which he spoke after the Lord delivered him and the children of Israel from Pharaoh and his chariots by drowning Pharaoh and the Egyptians in the Red Sea.
This is certainly a well known story about God delivering his people, and the way in which he did it is surely one of the most powerful messages in all of scripture. What is interesting to note about this is how Moses and the children of Israel responded—they sang unto the Lord! Is that how you and I would have responded?
Let us take a moment to look at that question and a few others that come to mind when we talk about singing. I am not sure how much it is really thought about when it comes to singing. We may, unfortunately, sing and talk about singing out of custom and tradition without actually putting much thought into it. There are many questions that may come to mind when we think about singing. Why do we sing? What do we sing about? Do we sing only in church? These are only a few questions that may come up. I will refer to and answer these questions and a few more throughout this article.
First, we will look at why we sing. We can start out by referring back to Moses and the people of Israel and why they sang. Did they sing just because it was something to do? Did they sing because they were “rubbing it in” the faces of the Egyptians? The answer to both these questions is an obvious, No. The reason is because they were praising God for delivering them out of the hand of Pharaoh and his men. The people were joyful to God for all that he had done and does do for his people as their shepherd. And we are reminded of that in Revelation 15:3; “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”
We today, as did Moses and the other saints of the Bible, have a plethora of reasons and examples to praise our great God. And one of the ways we praise him is by singing. One of those reasons is what we find already in Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism. We all know the well-known Q&A.
- What is my only comfort in life and death? A. That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
I initially had only part of the answer, but then thought against it since the reason we should rejoice is found in the entire answer. How beautiful that answer is that we, by God’s grace, can give from our heart and soul.
For, as we find in Psalm 139:14, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
The psalmist David spoke in the book of Psalms of why he glorifies God with singing. In Psalm 13:6 he mentions how he will sing unto the Lord “because he hath dealt bountifully with me.” He writes in Psalm 71:23 of how the Lord has redeemed his soul. Throughout scripture it speaks of the wondrous works of God. I Chronicles 16 is entitled a Psalm of Thanksgiving. In that chapter we find the words “wondrous works” and “marvellous works” mentioned at least in three different verses (9, 12, 24). The word “sing” is found approximately 70 times in the Psalms alone. A few of those passages, aside from the ones already mentioned, are: Psalm 30:4; 47:1-2, 6-7; 104:33; 149:1. In Psalm 89:1, the psalmist writes that he “will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.” Also, let us remember the words which we find in the first part of Psalm 92. There we read; “It is good to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praise unto thy name, O most High: To show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.”We even find the importance for singing here in the Beacon Lights under “Watching Daily At My Gates,” where at the end of each devotional it says to sing Psalter___.
Why do I mention all of this? Because, even after we think about all those things which God does and hath done and will do, we still—as a result of our sinful nature—have a tendency to not sing the way in which we aught. As I mentioned earlier, we may very likely do it merely out of habit. If you were to look up the definition for the word “sing” in the dictionary, Webster’s definition would read; “utter words or sounds musically.” In a [worldly] sense that is true. However, as believers we must sing from the heart, for we are singing to our God. I am not saying that you must have your mouth open wide enough that you can have three fingers horizontally stacked together and be able to put them between your teeth (as you were probably shown and taught in grade school or junior high). It does mean, however, that you should sing with joy in your heart where it can be seen on your face. Just remember the next time you do sing, that whether or not others see your heart expressed on your face, God can always see your heart. We should, as we find in Psalm 9 and Psalter #17, sing with these words in mind; “O Lord Most High, with all my heart Thy wondrous works I will proclaim; I will be glad and give Thee thanks And sing the praises of Thy Name” [emphasis mine].
As I mentioned in my previous article about how our church attire can reflect our inner attitude, so it is true with singing; the attire we wear on our heart can reflect through our singing. Remember, it doesn’t matter how good you sound or whether you can read music. What matters is whether or not you sing joyfully and thankfully to God.
When we are contemplating whether or not we feel like singing, we should think about these words; “Sing praises to the Lord Most High, To Him Who doth in Zion dwell” (Psalter #17, stanza 5).
Or these words we find in Psalter #50, which is based on Psalm 22: “Come, ye that fear Jehovah, Ye saints, your voices raise; Come, stand in awe before Him, and sing His glorious praise.” Let us not forget that we must “sing to the Lord with a cheerful voice” (Psalter#268, stanza 1). Why? “Because the Lord our God is good” (Psalter #268, stanza 4).
In Lord’s Day 2, Q & A 4 we read, “What doth the law of God require of us?” We hear that answer every Sabbath morning. We hear the pastor begin to sum up the law with these words; “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” So, “serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing” (Psalm 100). We also find it to be our Christian duty, as set forth in Ephesians 5, where it speaks of “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (verse 19).
Now that it has been laid out as to why it is so important that we must sing, we should now take a glimpse into how we are to go about doing this. One great way we do this is when we gather on the Lord’s Day—to sing with joy and gladness. Sing with a smile on your face so that all can see the joy and happiness you have in your heart as you express it outwardly and vocally. Another way is to get a small or larger group of people together and sing and fellowship with each other. This is a great way to meet other fellow believers of the same or even a different denomination. There are groups that do this very thing. Keep your eyes and ears open and ask around, for someone either knows of or is a part of one of these wonderful groups already.
Do you really enjoy singing? Have you ever considered joining your church choir or one that is near by? Many of our churches have a choir each year. I personally feel that the number of members of the choir–in at least a few of our churches–is considerably smaller than the number of overall members in the church. That is really too bad since there are many members of the church who do have a good singing voice, have been in choir before and are not any longer for some reason, or do not feel they would be comfortable being in choir, or have other “reasons” for not being a choir member. Are you hesitant to join because you feel that you do not have the voice it takes or are not a good reader of music? Let me just help you by saying what I said earlier that God does not care what you sound like. God cares if you sing from your heart. Never forget that! The decision whether or not to join choir is of course completely up to you. If you decide to join, you will be welcomed with open arms.
I feel that too may people don’t sing emphatically because they are afraid of what they sound like or even what others will think of them. You may think that it is “not cool” to sing, and act as if you do not care. Always remember that God is always watching and deserves our heart-felt praise to him. “And the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: And they sang praises with gladness, and bowed their heads and worshipped” (II Chro. 29:28a, 30b). The next time you do get together with the group to sing, consider these Psalter numbers: #70, taken from Psalm 30; #261 and #424, taken from Psalm 98.
Are you a child of God? Did God send his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross and shed his blood to wash away your sins? Sing ye, Hallelujah! Is the Lord preparing you a place in the clouds of glory where you will someday be with him, where there will be no more pain or sorrow? Sing ye, Hallelujah! God has created all things and is our sovereign ruler. He is in control of everything, for, not even a hair can fall from our head without the hand of God being in control. Do you have faith in and believe that? Sing ye, Hallelujah!
We have an awesome God who is the one true eternal God and King. There are definitely numerous reasons to praise and exalt our great creator. I pray that the next time you and I sing, we will do so from the depths of our souls. Sing ye, Hallelujah! I want to end with these words we find in Psalter #315, which is based on Psalm 177:
Praise Jehovah, all ye nations
All ye people, praise proclaim;
For His grace and loving-kindness
O sing praises to His Name.
For the greatness of His mercy
Constant praise to Him accord;
Evermore His truth endureth,
Hallelujah, praise the Lord.