A Word from SonPower 2013 Pastor, Michael Kelley
The Reasons We Sing
“Sing a new song to the Lord; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to Yahweh, praise His name; proclaim His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonderful works among all peoples” (Psalm 96:1-3).
I went through a phase as a teenager when I thought I was above singing. That might be because at that time, I would look around at the older men around me at church and notice that many of them were stoically silent during the portion of musical worship. I can understand that sentiment because, it seems, that singing is a childish thing.
Singing is what little girls do when they are tucking their dolls into bed at night. Their song is an expression of their carefree hearts; they don’t have many worries or pressures of the world so they can spend their time doing things like making up little songs to repeat over and over again. Perhaps you stop singing because, as you get out into the world more and more, you find less and less to actually sing about.
Or maybe it’s because as you get older, your sense of self-consciousness grows. When you were a child, you didn’t care that much about how good you sounded; you sang for the sake of singing. But once you become more and more aware of the people around you, you realize that they can hear your song as well as you can. Suddenly you realize that your voice might not be as great as you thought it was. It might even start to crack a little bit when you try to hit the high notes. So slowly but surely, you stop singing; it’s simpler and easier that way because you aren’t drawing attention to yourself and your less-than-perfect voice.
Curious, though, that singing seems to be very important to the Lord. In the passage above, we are commanded to sing. We aren’t told to “speak a new statement to the Lord, speak a new statement all the earth.” In fact, in the Psalms alone, you find the command to sing more than 50 times. That doesn’t take into account the other Old Testament accounts of God’s people singing to Him or the fact that Jesus made it a regular part of His life (see Matthew 26:30, for example). We are told all kinds of things to do as believers in the living God, but few of those commands occur with this kind of frequency. So while we might tend to outgrow the practice of singing, if we are serious about obeying the commands of God, then we must sing. We cannot outgrow it. It begs the question of why, doesn’t it?
Why does God want us to sing? Why must we do so?
1. We sing to learn.
In the days before copies of the Bible were printed and widely distributed, back in the days when far fewer people could even read those copies, there was singing. These songs were not some throwaway part of the worship experience; they were a vital theological teaching tool by which people learned about the nature of God, faith, and salvation. One of the richest passages in the Bible describing the nature of Christ comes in Philippians 2. If you read the chapter, you see a succinct and beautiful description of the Person of Jesus Christ. You see how He is both God and man, and how He willingly came to earth and took on the nature of a servant, and how He is crowned Lord of all as a result.
While this remains for us, thousands of years later, one of the primary passages by which we understand the mystery of the Incarnation, it was likely for the early believers a popular Christian hymn. These are words they would sing to each other during their own worship services. It was the means by which they not only praised God, but the means by which they educated themselves about the nature of Jesus. Music is a powerful teaching tool that teaches us great theological truth if we care to listen and take in the words.
To find out more reasons why we sing, see the Fall 2013 issue of Let’s Worship magazine, available to order soon at lifeway.com/letsworship.
Michael Kelley is the director of discipleship at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn., where he lives with his wife, Jana, and three children. Michael is also the author of Transformational Discipleship and Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God.