There are many delightful songs, without flaw,/in the great plain of starry heaven,/many pleasant tunes, many strains of music,/which no reckoning or description can convey.
- Anonymous, Saltair na Rann (Irish, 9th-10th century)
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A maskil of David, when the Ziphites went and told Saul, "Is not David hiding among us?"
- Psalm 54 superscription
Warning: Singing rant ahead.
I remember a joke I read in Reader's Digest as a kid, at the time when singing cowboys like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were still very popular. A cowboy returns to his home after a long cattle drive, only to find it burned and charred, his cattle rustled and gone, his family taken away. As he walks into the front room of his ransacked home, he straps on his pistols and says, "I'm a gonna git them varmints. But first folks, I'm gonna sing ya a song."
Sounds goofy, but David did it often. In the middle of trouble, at times of great stress and uncertainty, when it looked like his goose was about to be cooked, David turned to singing. And not just singing, composing, and composing so that others could sing as well.
In the Hebrew Bible the superscriptions to the psalms are regarded as part of the inspired text. This throws off the verse numbering of many psalms, but it also draws our attention to these superscriptions more than our English Bibles do.
Like this one. David was being ratted out. Saul was hot on his trail, and he and the people with him were frightened for their lives. What better time to whip out the old harp and strum up a little tune?
But David understood something about singing - something the saints in glory know, and that we ignore to our own loss. Singing can dramatically affect our outlook, affections, decision-making, and faith.
Take Psalm 54. It begins with a simple statement of the problem: David is in deep trouble and needs to be delivered from his enemy. His enemies do not honor God, but the very mention of God (v. 3) leads David - and those he would teach to sing this song - to remember that they do trust Him, that He is their helper, and that, in His great faithfulness, He will rescue His chosen people.
So instead of fearing and doing something hasty or dumb, David resolves to worship the Lord and to give Him thanks for the deliverance he knows God will accomplish.
Singing engages our thinking, feeling, and values. It draws our whole body into the exercise of worship and trusting the Lord. Singing can lay hold on your darkest affections and turn them to hope, faith, and glorious anticipation.
So the next time you feel down or afraid, go ahead and git them varmints what are threatening you by singin' a little song to the Lord.
But don't wait for then. Make singing to the Lord a daily activity, and see how God will use your faithfulness in this discipline to firm up your vision of unseen things, strengthen your hope in the Lord, and guide you into more consistent practice of your faith.
Sing, beloved. God loves it when we sing to Him.
Be the first on your block: Write to me, and I'll send you a draft of Psalm 23 set to a traditional Celtic hymn melody, Taladh Chriosda.
T. M. Moore, Principal