Sing to the Lord
What comes to mind when you think of the great commands of the Bible? No doubt the greatest command, to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and the second, which is “like” it, to love our neighbors as ourselves, top the list. And well they should. But did you know that the command for God’s people to sing is one of the most common in Scripture? Clearly, singing to the Lord is crucial to our worship and to the spiritual vitality of the Church. Over and over again we are told to sing:
- Psalm 95:1 – “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!”
- Psalm 96:1 – “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!”
- Psalm 96:2 – “Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.”
The list of such commands in the Bible goes on and on, and stretches across both Old and New Testaments. Yet I wonder if it’s true that for many Christians singing is thought of as a “nice to have” at best, and purely a source of “spiritual” entertainment at worst. But the call of Scripture again and again is to “sing to the Lord.” Singing is not an option for God’s people, but rather is a “happy command.”
I don’t mean this to be a treatise on the importance of music in the Church, although that is a worthy subject. Rather, I raise this issue right now just because I think our music – our singing – is particularly suffering under our present circumstances. This is true in spite of the valiant and critically important efforts of some of our musicians to keep us singing. These efforts are extraordinarily helpful, and yet there is still a lack, especially in our corporate singing. Our opportunities to sing together as worshippers, to hear each other, and to remind ourselves and each other of great, eternal truths through the medium of music – finding our hearts calmed and strengthened as we exult in the Lord and together proclaim his glory and goodness and grace – are fewer and far more restricted. This is an unspeakable loss, and we must not let it persist. We need to hear and sing words like those penned by Martin Luther:
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He –
The Lord Sabbaoth His name, from age to age the same.
And He must win the battle.
We need Henry Lyte’s soaring paraphrase of Psalm 103:
Praise, my soul, the King of heaven,
To His feet thy tribute bring;
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who like me his praise should sing?
Praise the Everlasting King!
…and hundreds upon hundreds, nay, thousands upon thousands, of others, old and new.
So what can we do? Sing in our homes. Sing with our families. Find innovative ways to sing together with our churches. Use technology to bring together literally global choirs, as Keith and Kristyn Getty are doing with their Sing! Global Conference at the end of this month. Provide online concert series, as Faith and Ryan Wasson are doing this fall and winter (https://www.eventbrite.ie/o/faith-wasson-flutist-30748924246). No doubt there are other ways that we have not even thought of, and efforts of which I am unaware. Feel free to offer comments, if you have an idea. But Christians must not let the music die. Singing to the Lord is one of God’s great commands, and we need to pay attention to it now more than ever.