Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!Psalm 100:1-2
The Psalmist shows us that singing exists as one important aspect of worshipping God. Psalm 100:2b asserts, “Come into his presence with singing!” Thus, singing should have a part to play in corporate worship gatherings. I think that worship in song sets the stage for the preaching of the Word of God. To put it another way, music has the ability to prepare one’s heart for the message.
Music is a powerful tool for the Christian because God created us as complex beings made in his image. Music allows us to be creative, which reflects our Creator who created the world ex nihilo, i.e., out of nothing. Music has the ability to impact our emotions. Music can be used to help us remember certain biblical truths. On this last point, music serves as a phenomenal resource for teaching children Bible verses and the gospel.
Nevertheless, how many people think about the words they sing in worship gatherings? Perhaps many followers of Christ do not take time to think about the lyrics of a song because they have not been taught how. Therefore, many of us are unintentionally neglecting the cognitive attributes that music plays in worship services. My goal for this post is to assist you in thinking deeply about the music we sing at church services. However, before I do this, I will need clarify one presupposition that supports this statement.
Thinking deeply about the music we sing in worship requires us to know the Word of God intimately. While the truths of Scripture can be sung, we must know where the location of those same truths are found in Scripture. Our time in God’s Word will strengthen our appreciation for Christ and grow our love for God in corporate singing. How can you sing about the faithfulness of God, if you have not seen the faithfulness of God throughout the pages of Scripture? I would argue you can still sing about it, but the depth of those words will not have the same impact on you until you have first drank deeply from the Bible.
One goal in singing is to take the lyrics and connect them to God’s Word in our minds. Again, my assumption about having a healthy diet of God’s Word assists in thinking about songs in corporate worship. For example, Maverick City Music recorded a song called, “Promises.” Probably one of my favorite songs to sing right now. The first lyric reads, “God of Abraham, God of covenant and faithful promises, time and time again, you have proven, you’ll do just what you said.” Now, let me show you how to think about Scripture when singing this song in a corporate worship gathering.
To begin, we will need to know the biblical narrative of Abraham. You can find Abraham’s testimony and experience with God from Genesis chapter 12 to Genesis chapter 25. Take one aspect of Abraham’s life to see how God is the God of covenant and faithful promises like the song suggests. God made a covenant with Abraham (to all you Bible scholars, yes, I know he was Abram at the time of this promise) saying, “And I [God] will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. . . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). This promise was exceptional because Abraham and Sarai, his wife, had no children, and Scripture suggests that Sarai may have had infertility issues (Genesis 16:1; Genesis 18:9-15). Yet, God promised Abraham that Sarai would conceive and bear him a son, Isaac (Genesis 17:15-19).
At the age of 90 years old, Sarai conceives and bears Isaac like the Lord had promised. Genesis 21:1 reads, “The Lord visited Sarah as he said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised.” This example serves to illustrate that when we sing about God’s faithfulness and covenant keeping attributes that have been recorded in Scripture, this will deeply impact the way we sing in worship services.
Most of all, songs should lead us to a deeper appreciation and love of the gospel. When I sing “Promises,” I reflect on God’s promise to Abraham as it relates to Christ. Matthew 1 records Christ’s genealogy all the way back to Abraham. When we reflect on the promise God made in Genesis 12, we remember that it is through Jesus Christ that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3b). When I sing the first lyric, I reflect on the promise that God would save people from their sin through the Savior and this was promised to Abraham before Jesus took on flesh (see John 1:14).
You may be thinking, “Does he really think about all of this when he sings?” Yes, I picture God speaking to Abraham about Isaac. I picture Sarai laughing, and the following year she gives birth to Isaac. I think about Jesus who is the promised Messiah in Genesis 12:3 from Matthew’s genealogy. I am reminded that God is the God of the living and not the dead (Mark 12:27), including Abraham who was saved by his faith in God’s future promises (Hebrews 11:8-9). All of these truths scroll through my mind when I sing the first line of “Promises.”
In conclusion, music has the ability to engage our entire being. Our emotions may be stirred, our hearts may be warmed, and our bodies may sway back and forth from the music, but we should not forget that singing should also engage our brains. Next time you sing in church, see if you can sing those lyrics while your mind reflects on Scripture. My belief is that you will not only be meditating on the goodness of God who you are singing to, but also preparing your heart for the message that will most likely be preached after the music ends.
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