It may surprise you to learn that the Bible mentions singing praise to God nearly as often as prayer (singing about 250 times and prayer about 300 times). When we think of great people in the Bible and their service to God we usually think of their prayer life rather than their song life. What is it about singing that’s so important that virtually every man and woman of God from shepherds to kings, judges to mothers, rabbis to prophets, is found doing it?
Part of the answer is found in who sang, when they sang and what they sang. Moses sang praise when God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians. Deborah the Judge and Barak her General sang when God gave them a great victory. !e women of Israel sang when David came home victorious over the Philistines. Paul and Silas sang as they were imprisoned and beaten for preaching Jesus.
David, known as the sweet singer of Israel (2 Samuel 23:1), sang. It seems like he sang every time the Lord blessed him and a lot in-between those times, too! David appointed people to serve in the house of the Lord as singers (i.e. as part of their priestly duties) before the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chronicles 6:31). And he both sang and wrote songs for his people to use in praise to God (many of his Psalms). What’s more, he seems to have taught his son to sing.
Solomon both sang and wrote songs (like his father), 1005 songs according to 1 Kings 4:32. The title of Solomon’s beautiful song about love is Song of Songs.
During the time of the prophets God sometimes criticized His people for singing to false gods and/or singing when their hearts were actively disobedient to Him. Today many Christians say they are tired of singing to God, they no longer know how to sing or that singing no longer is as important as it once was. Others declare that the only way to attract people from the world is to offer them the same music as the world offers. Can you honestly imagine how the God and the prophets would have responded to such ideas?
Yet, even in those dark days of Israel’s history, singing was important. On one occasion, for one of the few faithful kings, singing brought great victory over an enemy (2 Chronicles 20:22), while another king, Hezekiah, was known for his efforts at restoration of worship including offerings and songs.
!e prophets themselves sang and encouraged the faithful to sing even in the darkest of times. Isaiah looked forward to a day when all God’s people would call God their strength and song (Isaiah 12:2) and the call would go out to all creation to praise God in song (Isaiah 12:5 and 42:10-11). Later, the post-restoration prophets would again call God’s people to sing
Do you remember that Jesus and His apostles sang? Just hours before His trial and subsequent death, Jesus was singing praises to God (Matthew 26:30). Paul and Silas sang at midnight in prison (Acts 16:25). They even made a convert!
It would be fair for us to ask at this point: Does singing have a place in our lives as Christians today? Paul told the Corinthians that they were to sing with the spirit and with the mind (1 Corinthians 14:15). As Christians, we both encourage each other with our songs (Ephesians 5:19) and teach (Colossians 3:16). James, ever practical, tells us to sing praises to show our joy (James 5:13). John concludes the New Testament with vivid pictures of the saved proclaiming their new song in heaven before God and Christ.
There’s really no debate that God’s will is for His people to sing. Nor are there any historical or New Testament grounds for turning to instrumental music. !e reason some give (and have always given) for using instrumental music is to “improve” their poor singing and then, later, to replace it altogether. It takes no great theological mind to see this is a failure! What God wants and asks us for is replaced by what we prefer to give Him. Remember Cain? That’s all he gave God, a substitute, something less than God required.
Lest someone imagine this teaching to be unique in Church history, nearly every founder of every major denomination rejected instrumental music on Scriptural grounds and rebuked those who tried to add it. It’s always added by people who’s priority is personal desire over what God says! Are you sure you want to declare that attitude to God?
Okay, so we are supposed to sing. How can we improve our singing? First, listen to some of the complaints we as congregations sometimes make: “I don’t get much out of our singing.” “We just sing the same old songs over and over.” “The tunes are not very modern, catchy or exciting.” “Other congregations sound really great compared to us.” “Our song leaders are not very good.”
Now listen to the blunt truth about those complaints: “We put so little effort into our singing that it’s no wonder we get nothing out of it.” “We complain that new songs are too hard to learn and won’t even bother to show up to practice them.” “Learning new songs includes learning some new, modern, catchy, exciting tunes but it takes some hard work to make it sound good and we just don’t want to work that hard.” “Some congregations sound really great because they make a great effort to sing, learn new songs and teach themselves to sing even better.” “When we make the effort to follow our song leaders instead of everyone doing their own thing, we will see a great improvement in our singing.” (I’ve had people tell me that it is their right to sing how they want and not follow the song leader. Some “religious” folks feel the same way about praying. You should hear the noise they make!)
Would you like to make your singing more meaningful? Would you like to see our congregational singing improve? Let’s begin by remembering why we sing. Let’s get involved in our singing and then watch us grow spiritually and numerically.
These same principles hold true for our prayer life, our outreach efforts at sharing the Gospel and every other worthwhile
spiritual goal. Let’s determine to place God and His will first in our lives. Let’s get down to the honest, hard work of growing up in Christ. Let’s commit ourselves to serving God together to the very best of our ability. Let’s get going and get growing!