Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Why We Sing

Dresdner_Amen

What do you sing? Do you sing along with the radio? Do you sing to your children, or maybe you sing while you are working? If you attend a college football game you will sing your school’s fight song and maybe even the alma mater. J.R.R. Tolkien realized the power of singing and included it in his classic novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Those books are filled with songs. Elves and hobbits sing. Singing is a part of their life just as it is a part of ours.

When we come together as a church we sing. Have you ever wondered why? If you think about it is kind of unusual nowadays. People no longer get together to sing, so why do we do this? There are passages in the Bible that mention singing. Some people may say, “We are commanded to sing. That is why we sing.” Yes, there are commands about singing, but if that is the only reason we do it, then we are probably not getting much out of it. At certain times in my life I have been forced to sing and I did not like it all that much. It was not meaningful. It was forced and not heartfelt.

One might say, “Singing is a tradition. The people of Israel sang and the early church sang and it is something we continue today.” This is certainly true and I believe it is important to continue the traditions we find in the early church, but is this all we are doing? Are we simply continuing a tradition that is thousands of years old and nothing more? Again, I am all for upholding our important traditions, but it seems to me there is something more to singing.

If we only sing because of command and/or tradition, then I believe we are missing out on why we should sing in the first place. We are missing out on rich biblical texts that speak of singing, not because it is a command or a tradition, but because it comes from the overflow of our hearts. Psalm 96 begins with the mention of singing and songs.

“O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation for day to day.”

This singing the psalmist speaks of is something that comes from deep within us. We sing because we are filled with joy. We sing because of who God is. We sing because we have tasted Godʼs grace and we have experienced salvation.

The psalmist says we sing a new song. When I hear this I think back to the Exodus. The people of Israel had been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. They were persecuted. They were treated poorly. They were forced to work harder than people should have to work. This is all the people of Israel knew until Moses came along and with God’s help freed the people. This was not easy but God made sure his people were freed from slavery. It wasnʼt until after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea that they were free. Once they were on the other side they were no longer slaves in Egypt. Once they tasted freedom the first thing they did was sing. They sung a new song. They sung the song of Moses.

We have all been slaves to something in our lives. Some of us may even be enslaved at this moment. We become slaves to our jobs, to our
possessions, to our habits, to lust, greed, and to all kinds of other sins. We become slaves to all kinds of things, but Jesus came to set us free. He came to show us a different way to live. He came to give his life for us, so that we might be set free from sin.

So, if anyone asks you why we sing, you can tell them we are commanded to sing. You can tell them that it is a tradition we have carried on for thousands of years, but understand there is even a greater reason why we sing. We sing because we are free. We sing because we are overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness for what Jesus did. We sing because we are amazed by what God has done, is doing, and will do in the future. We sing to announce the good news to the world and to tell of his salvation from day to day. This is why we sing!

Psalm 96

Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
    tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
    tremble before him, all the earth!

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
    Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
    he will judge the peoples with equity.”

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
    before the Lord, for he comes,
    for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
    and the peoples in his faithfulness.

His Eye Is On the Sparrow

I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I’m free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me

4 Responses to “Why We Sing”

  1. Good post! The book of Psalms is commonly referred to as a “book of poetry” but I think they were probably all sung at one point in time. Bocelli’s version of the Lord’s Prayer is one of the most beautiful things of all time—if you like operettas.

  2. Beautiful!!! Blessings

  3. Hi Scott — thanks for the post! We could have a whole history lesson over the history of the church’s singing and music…though that would take many posts (and would probably not be read!). I sometimes think about the impact of singing/music on our memory. Certainly after much repetition, one could memorize a psalm, but place that psalm to music and, for some reason, memorization becomes much easier (consider reciting Psalm 148 vs. singing “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah”).

    I also think about the many cases of Alzheimer’s in which the person cannot remember their own family, but they have no trouble singing the hymns they sang time and again throughout their life. I think singing has a special place in the life of the church, particularly in the memory of the church and the passing down of the story!

    As we have come to an age in which many churches are not frequently repeating songs or singing songs that remain in use throughout many generations (or are not singing period!), I also sometimes wonder what our generation is going to remember when our memory begins to fade.

    Thanks again for the post!

  4. Being 60 now, it never ceases to amaze me that I have hundreds of hymns memorized – every word of every verse. Many of those old treasured hymns have become so special to me. For years, I had the words memorized, but they meant little to me. Songs by Fannie Crosby are a good example. “Tell Me the Story of Jesus” is an amazingly beautiful and poignant song. “Write on my heart every word.” If that doesn’t touch your heart as a Christian, then what does? Yes, I understand that the newer praise songs, also have beautiful, meaning words, but there’s something special about the oldies. “The Old Rugged Cross”, When Peace Like a River”, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”, “When We All Get to Heaven.” WOW – the power of those words. I remember singing “Jesus Loves Me” to my Daddy as he passed away. I hope he heard those words and remembered that Jesus DID love him and promised him his reward.


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