There are many delightful songs, without flaw,
in the great plain of the starry heaven,
many pleasant tunes, many strains of music,
which no reckoning or description can convey.
- Saltair na Rann, Irish, 9th-10th century
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.
All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia,
Out of the ivory palaces, by which they [stringed instruments] have made You glad.
- Psalm 45.6-8
Singing was important to medieval Christians. They understood the priority Scripture places on singing to the Lord, so they considered singing must be part of the very warp and woof of creation. They imagined the stars of heaven intoning a continuous melody, too sublime for us to hear, but which infused the entire cosmos with structure, balance, and harmony.
In monasteries of that period, when chants were sung during worship, monks were taught to take a breath at different times, so as to ensure continuous singing, thus mirroring the songs of heaven.
Why did singing have such an important place for Christians then? One reason, I submit, is that Jesus dwells in music, in a harmony of being and relationship which “resounds” with beauty and glory, but also in a continuous, if unspoken, melody of mutual love and adoration between the Persons of the Trinity, and amid the continuous singing of angels and departed saints. Thus, even now, as He reigns on His exalted throne, singing and music pervade the throne room of His glory – “many delightful songs” and “pleasant tunes”, all doubtless “without flaw.”
(Translation note: The New King James Version misses the translation of verse 8, which is why I inserted “stringed instruments” in our text. The same word appears in a slightly different form in Psalm 150.4, where the NKJV gets it right).
Exhortations to sing to the Lord are frequent in the Scriptures; likewise, to make sweet and lovely music to Him. This is not to say that if we don’t have perfect pitch, we should leave the singing to others. We are all commanded to sing new songs to the Lord, to make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise and celebration.
Singing is evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5.18-21). Yet singing is a spiritual discipline much neglected by believers. We sing when we’re instructed to sing, as in worship, but otherwise, not so much. We listen to praise music on CDs or in the car, and we might sing along with those when we do; but otherwise, we don’t do much singing.
Not only is that our loss, since singing exercises so many thoughts and affections in a God-ward direction; it’s also simply disobedient. How will we justify to the Lord Jesus, Who is glad with music and commands us to sing praises to Him, the fact that we only sing when we’re in church, and then not very robustly?
Celtic Christians sang every day to the Lord, intoning psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs as an exercise of obedient love to Jesus, and spiritual reinforcement for themselves and one another. Surely they have something to teach us concerning this matter?
Steve Martin used to do a shtick in which he imagined every American owning a banjo – his favorite instrument – and every evening all of them going out on their porches at the same time to strum a few bars. Then, he said, all the people in Canada would perk up their ears, incline southward, and say, “Eh?”
Would something like this happen among our unsaved neighbors, friends, and associates if, everywhere they turned, believers, glad with Jesus, could be heard singing His praises and story?
Take singing to Jesus into your day. Use the stanzas from psalms we provide, focus on a favorite hymn throughout the day, or let praise choruses provide the rhythm and orientation for all your work. Jesus is glad with singing, and we are being remade into His likeness. What better way to work on that than to sing to the Lord throughout the day?
1. What would you like to sing today?
2. Do you think singing throughout the day will help you keep focused on the Lord? Why?
Psalm 96.1-4 (Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above)
Sing to the Lord! O, bless His Name! All nations tell His glory!
Salvation’s tidings loud proclaim, let earth rehearse His story!
For God is greatly to be praised; His throne above all gods is raised –
Fear Him, and sing His glory!
Send me forth with a song today, O Lord, and help me to…
Sing the Psalms
God has given us psalms to sing to guide and instruct us in praising Him. We should sing them more than we do. If this appeals to you, and you’d like to begin singing the psalms more consistently, you can order your copy of The Ailbe Psalter, and discover the joy of singing the psalms, all set to familiar hymn tunes. Simply click here.
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Carey, p. 114.