A Little Singing

God commands it, and we need it. 

Little is Much (5)

But I will sing of Your power;
Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning;
For You have been my defense
And refuge in the day of my trouble.
To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises;
For God 
is my defense,
My God of mercy.Psalm 59.16, 17

The power of song
As they arrived at their post in Siam, Mrs. Anna was feeling no small amount of trepidation about tutoring the children of the king. Her own son, Louis, was even more disquieted by the new and foreign culture. To help Louis deal with his fears, Mrs. Anna encouraged him to turn to song:

Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my erect,
And whistle a happy tune, and no one will suspect
I’m afraid…

The result of this deception is very strange to tell,
For when I fool the people I fear, I fool myself as well.

While whistling is not exactly singing, the point is the same. Music, and in particular singing, can exert a powerful influence on our affections, turning fear to courage, gloom to delight, uncertainty to conviction, and reluctance to readiness. This is no doubt why singing and music appear in every culture known to humankind. Singing can exert powerful effects on every aspect of life. We sing to express love and woo a lover, to bring some rhythm and joy to our work, declare our pride in an athletic team or our love for our country, tell stories, proclaim abiding truths, ready ourselves for battle, rally social movements, unite a congregation or political party, and just to have fun. Singing is not a uniquely human phenomenon, but no other creature shows such diversity, power, and conscious or varied use of singing than human beings.

God made human beings for singing. Our penchant for singing reflects the eternal melody of love that exists between the Persons of the divine Trinity. We are made in the image of God, so we sing because we can’t help ourselves. And we sing because we understand, if only implicitly, that singing has power we may not understand but we cannot deny.

God commands singing
As Christians, moreover, we sing because God commands us to sing. Throughout the psalms “sing to the LORD” calls His people to raise their voices and sing in praise, thanksgiving, celebration, supplication, imprecation, doubt, fear, confession, anticipation, and covenant renewal. Singing, in fact, is one of the indications that we are being filled with the Holy Spirit, as Paul explains in Ephesians 5.18-21. 

What God commands of His people, He enables. The book of Psalms alone is a rich treasury of songs to lift, inspire, comfort, and guide us. Over the course of the centuries, Christian composers from all cultures, following the command of God to sing new songs to Him, have produced an incomparable wealth of hymns, choruses, oratorios, masses, cantatas, chants, and songs to express their relationship with God.

God not only commands singing, but He hears it as well. The book of Revelation shows us that God in heaven surrounds himself with singing – a perpetual and holy chorus which we on earth join each time we come together for worship.

Singing is a quintessentially human activity, and a fundamental Christian discipline. We might be surprised how a little singing can engage God for much good.

Others hear our singing, too
Beaten, humiliated, and thrown into a dungeon with their feet in stocks, Paul and Silas must have been a little dazed (Phil. 16.22ff.). They had followed a vision from the Lord in crossing from Troy in Asia to Philippi in Greece. Paul had consistently taught that entering the Kingdom of God involved tribulation (cf. Acts 14.22), so he likely wasn’t surprised at being mistreated in Philippi – just a little dazed.

What to do?

Paul knew, and so did Silas. They began “praying a hymn” (as the Greek has it). They may have turned to the songbook they’d known from childhood – the book of Psalms – to sing together a song like Psalm 67, a prayer written in the form of a song, and focusing on the salvation of God:

God be merciful to us and bless us,
Andcause His face to shine upon us,
That Your way may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy!
For You shall judge the people righteously,
And govern the nations on earth.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.

Thenthe earth shall yield her increase;
God, our own God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us,
And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.

Psalm 67 would have reminded Paul and Silas of their mission (vv. 2-4). It would have called on God to judge the rightness of their cause and the unfairness of their treatment (v. 4). It would have lifted their weary souls in praise and invoked God’s steadfast love and mercy on their behalf (vv. 3, 5, 1). Psalm 67 would have brought some heavenly brightness into the darkness of that jail (v. 1). And it would have provoked God to respond to His own words and promises, to bless His people and advance His Kingdom on earth (vv. 6, 7).

But that song might also have piqued the ears of prisoners and jailer alike, as Paul and Silas sang with confidence of the blessings and salvation of the Lord.

And how will you be blessed by singing today? Will you sing of God’s power and mercy? Will you celebrate His praises or declare His defense in song? And who will be blessed, or at least piqued, to hear you singing about your love for Jesus and His great gift of salvation? Do not underestimate the power of singing. A little singing before the Lord, might not cause an earthquake, but it could bring about much good, both in you who sing and in those who hear you.

For reflection
1.  What role does singing to the Lord play in your relationship with Him? Could you improve this? How?

2.  Do you have a favorite hymn or praise song? What is it about this song that makes it special to you? How do the lyrics affect you? What about the music?

3.  How can singing create opportunities for witness-bearing?

Next steps – Preparation: Make a point to learn some new hymns and to sing them – to yourself or out loud – as often as you can. How does your soul benefit from this?

T. M. Moore

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This week’s study is part 3 of a 3-part series, The Small Stuff. Each part consists of seven lessons and is available as a free PDF download at the end of the study. In the tag for part 7, we’ll give you a link to download part 3, “Little is Much.” Why not line up some friends to study through all three parts of this series?

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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