The Big Deal About Singing by Jeff Deyo
We understand, at least we’re beginning to, that worship is so much more than music. Yet, as diligent as we must be in continuing to clarify this fact, we must also refuse to ignore the truth that worshiping God through singing itself is something uniquely powerful and entirely Biblical that must not be overlooked.
It’s no secret. The Bible is chock full of singing scriptures—scriptures that tie the cultivation of a deeper, more joyful walk with God to singing.
There the Israelites sang this song: Spring up, O well! Yes, sing its praises! Numbers 21:17
Listen, you kings! Pay attention, you mighty rulers! For I will sing to the Lord. I will make music to the Lord, the God of Israel. Judges 5:3
I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High. Psalm 9:2
That I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever! Psalm 30:12
Sing to the Lord, for he has done wonderful things. Make known his praise around the world. Isaiah 12:5
Sing to the Lord! Praise the Lord! For though I was poor and needy, he rescued me from my oppressors. Jeremiah 20:13
Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! Zephaniah 3:14
Of course, we could highlight a hundred verses like these throughout the Old Testament and still not come to the end of them. Their sheer number exhibits the emphasis the Bible places on worship through singing. Even so, there are clearly many of these verses sprinkled throughout the New Testament as well.
Well then, what shall I do? I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand. 1 Corinthians 14:15
Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you. 1 Corinthians 14:26
Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. Ephesians 5:18-19
Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. James 5:13
Of course, singing doesn’t automatically render for us an authentic relational connection with God. But, the Bible does suggest that those who are actively cultivating an authentic relationship with God will surely be found singing.
- Singing is a command. And God’s commands are not burdensome but designed to be wonderfully life giving. Truthfully, we short circuit our own lives when we cease to follow his ways. Singing to God benefits us, and we must get beyond walking in offense when he requires something of us that is good.
- Singing is a tool to help us make deeper connections with truth. Think the ABC song or the songs kids sing to help remember the days of the week or the 50 states. It stands to reason then, that our theology becomes much more deeply rooted in our hearts when we not only hear it preached and see it in print, but when we sing it as well.
- Singing helps strengthen our faith. Ironically, it is not God who needs to hear my praises. He certainly appreciates them and engages relationally, but it is my ears that need to hear my mouth sing the praise of God. These praises flow out of my mouth, into my ears, and back down into my heart again, rooting my faith upon the rock-solid foundation of the Word of God.
- Singing destroys the enemy. When confronted with the attacking armies of the Moabites and Ammonites in 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat boldly sought the Lord. God responded through Jahaziel in verse 15 with one of the most quoted battles passages of all time; “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
After gathering the Israelites to humble themselves before the Lord in worship and thanksgiving, Jehoshaphat famously led his army out to war, setting the singers at the front. In verse 20, the Bible details, “At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.” It was as the people sang, “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!” that God fought and won the battle for his people. And he does the same for us today.
- Singing opens prison gates. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas found themselves naked and in stocks in the heart of a Roman prison. Verse 25 records the unimaginable; “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.” As they sang, an earthquake rattled the prison to its core, breaking every chain, opening every prison door. This resulted in freedom for Paul, Silas, and every other prisoner and even afforded salvation for the jailer and his entire household.
God still brings freedom and salvation for us and those around us when we lift our voices in praise in the midst of the trails, in the midst of the pain, in the midst of impossibility and devastation. Our praises literally bind us to the power of God through relationship, allowing his power to break forth to demolish every enemy stronghold in our lives.
- Singing builds community. As a worship leader, I have traveled extensively. Occasionally, I’ve enjoyed being a part of an experiment where the organizers scatter different stations around the room focused on repentance, communion, journaling, drawing, poetry, etc., with a desire to add depth to our worship expressions beyond singing. I love it!
Even so, it occurred to me that worship in song nicely facilitates something none of these other forms of worship can. Togetherness. Think about it. Can we all journal together, creating a single expression of love to God from a group of 100 or more? No. Journaling is very useful, but it is best done autonomously. The same goes for poetry, drawing, taking communion (at a station), and repentance. But not singing. Singing is something unique that can be done corporately with all of God’s people, thereby birthing a single expression of praise from a multitude of worshipers.
- Finally, singing is modeled by God Himself. It’s true. Zephaniah 3:17 helps to affirm the age-old truth that God never asks us to do something he hasn’t done already. Not surprisingly, singing is no exception. “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
We could preach a whole series on this one verse, but suffice it to say, we did not initiate this thing called worship. We did not invent this thing called singing. And we did not choose to love him. He chose to love us. Worship through song is simply our fitting and crucial response to all that God has already done in pouring out his great and wonderful love toward us.