Why We Sing
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!
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