Worship and Public Policy (3)
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
Let them praise His name with the dance;
Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp. Psalm 149.2, 3
The power of a song
How would you have felt? Rudely set upon by an angry mob. Stripped half naked, then beaten within an inch of your life. Without trial or formal charges, thrown into a miry dungeon and clapped in irons. How would you have felt?
Yet that is precisely what Paul and Silas did in that dank dungeon in Philippi, so many years ago (Acts 16). When most people would have sat weeping and cringing in terror, Paul and Silas tapped into the joy of their salvation and sang a psalm of praise to the Lord – perhaps even Psalm 67, a hymn that calls on God to bless the world with His salvation.
How powerful was that song, which rose from the joy and faith of two itinerate missionaries? God heard it, and He shook the earth. Prisoners and the jailer heard it, and many were converted to Christ. And in the public square of that Roman colony in Philippi, the city officials heard the song of Christ and His salvation as well – and they trembled!
The focus of our song
The Christian song is a song of joy. It fills our daily devotions and is the defining motif in our corporate worship. The Christian’s song of joy spreads like leaven into every aspect of his everyday life, putting all of life in an eternal context and giving all of life a significance nothing else can match.
But while our song is a song of joy, joy is not the focus of our song. The focus of our song, and the reason it is so joyous, is our Creator and King, our Lord Jesus Christ. We rejoice because Christ is the Creator of the world and everything in it: “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness,” we joyously proclaim (Ps. 24.1). And we rejoice in the knowledge that He Who made the world and all the vast cosmos rules over it by His Word of power, according to His good and perfect will, without interruption and without end (Heb. 1.3). We rejoice because this all-sovereign, all-wise, all-powerful Creator and King has made and redeemed and adopted us, and is at work within us, transforming us into His own image, making us willing and able to do all things according to His good pleasure in every aspect of our lives (2 Cor. 3.12-18; Phil. 2.13).
Our lives are a song to King Jesus. Each day, activity, relationship, role, and responsibility is like a bar of music in the cantata of joy Jesus is composing over the entire course of our lives. Paul says that we are Jesus’ poem (Eph. 2.10, Greek). He might just as well have said we are His song.
Jesus is King, not just of our spiritual lives, or of the time of our lives when we worship or express our devotion to Him, but Jesus is King of all of our lives, and of all life and every creature.
Having made the world, He intends to order it for the glory of God, according to His holy and righteous and good Word, and unto His joy. And He has created and redeemed and indwelled us, His people, to carry the joyous song of His sovereign, redeeming love into every aspect of human life and interest.
Singing the hope of the world
Paul and Silas were physically pained and no doubt a little rattled by their experience in Philippi. Still, this did not keep them from singing about the salvation of the Lord – of that great and glorious hope that surpasses every circumstance, makes sense of every misfortune, and brings meaning and purpose and joy into every arena of life.
They were bolstered in their faith and so were ready when the Lord brought to them one who was seeking the salvation of the Lord. Their song of the Lord’s salvation kept them from feeling sorry for themselves, focused them on the ultimate and eternal goodness and power of God, and readied them with a firm witness for Jesus when the opportunity arose.
Doubtless there was joy in heaven over the resolute faith of those faithful witnesses, even as there was over the conversion of the joy-struck Philippian jailer.
The song of joy and salvation which Paul and Silas sang – and which is the song of every true believer – has the power in God to embolden our witness, convert the lost, and affect even the hardened hearts and corrupt policies of the civil powers-that-be (cf. Ps. 81.15).
1. Is there a particular hymn that ties you into the joy of the Lord as you sing it? Why? What is it about this hymn that brings you into the Lord’s joy?
2. Do you think this and other hymns, and perhaps even certain psalms, could be a continuous source of joy for you? Explain.
3. As you sing your way into the joy of the Lord throughout the day, how do you suppose this might affect the people around you? How might this shape your understanding of the way things ought to be as Christ’s Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven?
Next steps – Preparation: Look through a hymnal until you find a hymn that exalts Jesus as King and Lord. Do any of the words of this hymn constitute a threat to any aspect of American public policy? Dare we sing such songs by our lives as well as our words? Talk with a Christian friend about these questions.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.