Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why we sing

One of the things we often fail to notice is that the Bible is a book full of singing. The longest book of the Bible, the book of Psalms, is nothing but songs. Miriam and Moses belted out a tune after the crossing of the Red Sea. David’s many songs include a sorrowful lament over the death of his friend Jonathan, a hymn of praise over a victory won, and a heart confession over sins committed. The Song of Solomon is a sultry love song that could make that most worldly of us blush. Isaiah melodically unfolds a story of judgment and deliverance. In this week’s sermon text, Paul and Silas fill their prison cell with notes of praise and hope. And it all crescendos in the book of Revelation with “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be; praise and glory and power for ever and ever” (Rev. 5:13).

Humans sing for lots of reasons, but often because words alone just don’t get the job done. We sing when we need to say something about our deepest longings and our greatest joys. We sing when we need to say something about love. How do just talk about love? I mean that kind of love that’s deep down inside; the kind of love that’s responsible for life’s most profound joy and its most acute grief. Words need music to help us even get close to moments like that. That’s why lovers write ballads and daddies sing lullabies and worshippers . . . that’s why worshipers sing all manner of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19-20).

It makes perfect sense to me that we’d sing praises to God, but what I can’t get over, what gives me pause today, what quiets my heart, is that God sing joyful songs over us. We are God’s deepest longing and his greatest joy. Listen to the prophet Zephaniah’s words, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 4:17) God, like a proud papa who has gathered his children around his side, sings songs of love and delight over us.

Perhaps without us even having realized it, our singing has been in response to his. Where John once wrote, we love because he first loved us, we might equally say, we sing because he first sang over us. A preacher of a previous century, Alexander Maclaren, put it this way, “Zion is called to rejoice in God because God rejoices in her. She is to shout for joy and sing because God’s joy too has a voice, and breaks out into singing. For every throb of joy in man’s heart, there is a wave of gladness in God’s. The notes of our praise are at once the echoes and the occasions of His."

Just the thought of God’s song of joy over us makes me want to sing as well. So, what song are you singing today?

Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth – Psalm 96:1.

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