A PCA church in Lake Suzy, Florida

Sing, Shout, and Rejoice

“Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying: ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him” (Exodus 15:1-2).

     A pastor, thinking that he was being humorous, once introduced a fellow pastor, saying, “I’ve heard him eat and I’ve heard him sing, and I’d rather hear him eat than sing.” It’s no wonder we have become intimidated when it comes to anything much but singing in the shower where no one can hear.

     Yet the one who never sings is one who stifles the music in our soul that gives vent to the deep feelings within. Actually, no language is more universal than that of music. Whether it is a cowboy with his guitar, the sheepherder who sits on the back of the old pickup playing his harmonica, the aborigine who sits on the dirt floor of a hut and plays a nose flute made from the bone of an animal, or a great symphony whose combined musical voices thunder the 1812 Overture, music has a way of purging our emotions and expressing our hopes, fears, loves, and likes.

     Many of us are intimidated by the professionals whose performances are nearly perfect, yet for those who give vent to the music within there is a great blessing. Of all the fine arts, music is considered to be the most heavenly in nature. Among all races and peoples, singing has played a significant part in worship. Surely God created man with a song in his heart that had to be voiced. The book of Genesis links joy and singing together. Anthropologists tell us that singing and dancing are among the most ancient expressions of humankind, and both were associated with worship. Ancient singers became the historians telling the stories of their exploits and victories in song.

     Musicians who sang or played instruments always preceded the Ark of the Covenant in ancient Israel. The Old Testament admonishes, “Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; let the children of Zion be rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!” (Psalm 149:1-3).

     The book of James asks, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13). Paul connects singing with the outworking of God’s Spirit in the believer’s life. He says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:18,19).

     When the Apostle John has a vision of heaven, he includes singing. He says, “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying (singing): ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’” (Revelation 5:13).

     And as we’ll see in the last part of Zephaniah, a singing heart is borne out of a God who delights to sing. “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

     So what if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. That doesn’t have to stop you from letting a melody rise from your soul. Even individuals who were born deaf, having never heard a violin or a mother’s sweet song, still sing, tapping out the melody, striving to understand the rise and fall of the notes. In the west, we have a 12-tone musical notation, but in  Mandarin China, it is only 4 tones. Yet every ethnic group of people who have ever lived sing and enjoy music.

     When people are blessed they break forth in song, and only in the darkest days of Israel’s history did they put away their harps, their voices silent. In nature God has an uncountable number of musical refrains, all of which are meaningful, so no matter how you sound, use your voice and breath to praise God in song and to express the music he put in your soul.