Filled with the Spirit: Singing to the Lord (Part 1)
July 21, 2019
Most people are not great singers. But most people come across many moments and opportunities in life in which they are quite compelled to sing. And they do just fine.
Some people sing in the shower (which is kind of like singing in the rain). Other people sing in the car (hashtag Carpool Karaoke and The Late Late Show with James Corden). Baseball fans sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” Music fans sing with their favorite artists in concert. Every time there’s a birthday to celebrate, we light the cake, turn off the lights, and sing “Happy Birthday.” And finally - and I’m sure all of us remember this - in the year 2013 and beyond, in the aftermath of the mega blockbuster movie Frozen, pretty much every single kid in America was singing “Let It Go.”
The average human being sings quite a bit in life. But the “average” Christian sings even more. On every first day of the week, we gather together here at church to worship God. And one thing that we do when we worship God is we sing to him.
This is so personal. When we sing to God together as a church on Sundays, we engage in an official and royal dialogue with him. He speaks to us in his written word. And we speak to him with our songs. It is so personal that we get to talk to God in this way!
This is so heart-warming. When we sing to God together as a church on Sundays, we exalt our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We sing about his salvation. We sing about who he is and what he has done for us. It is so heart-warming that we get to sing about the one we love!
And this is so profound. The reason why we sing to Jesus is because Jesus first sang to us.
Throughout the Old Testament, there was a lot of singing. Women sang about David’s victory over the Philistine in 1 Samuel 18. Certain priests of the temple were designated as singers who were in charge of the songs of thanksgiving to God in places such as 1 Chronicles 6 and Nehemiah 12. And God’s people overall sang to the Lord with thanksgiving and praise to him.
There was indeed a lot of singing in general. But then there were a handful of very important songs in particular. I’m talking about very specific songs that were very significant in salvation history. Very special songs that were sung by very special people.
First, there was Moses. He is a great starting point for us as we think about songs and singing to the Lord. After God baptized the nation of Israel in the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:2) and saved his people from Pharaoh and the chariots of Egypt, Moses led Israel in a song in Exodus 15. It was a song about God’s triumph over his enemies. It was a song about God’s redemption of those whom he loved. And it was, rightly so, the first official song of the Bible.
But Moses would have two songs to sing. The first five books of the Bible - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy - are really one superbook. One epic covenant document. Written by one human author: Moses. And at the end of his superbook, in Deuteronomy 31-32, shortly before his death, Moses sang a second and final song. It was a song that warned Israel to remember God’s salvation. It was a song that called Israel to worship God and God alone.
Second, there was David. He is a huge help to us as we think about songs and singing to the Lord. The entire book of Psalms - a book full of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs - is ultimately his songbook. And it is one unified book full of drama and flow. Nowadays, when we think about songs on our phones or our computers, we usually think about them individually and we usually listen to them as stand-alone songs. But back in the day, songs came to us on CDs and tapes and records. And you would usually think about them collectively and listen to them as a long-form story of songs.
The book of Psalms is not a random list of psalms for us to pick and choose as if we were at a buffet. For example, many Christians know and love Psalm 23. But not many Christians know that Psalm 23 has little meaning apart from Psalm 22. The book of Psalms is actually a carefully crafted and artistically arranged collection of songs that tell one story about the relatively humble and almost perfect kingship of Israel. And this story is so epic that is takes 150 psalms to tell it.
Third and finally, there was Solomon, who was a son of David. And he is a huge help to us as we think about songs and singing to the Lord. The book “Song of Solomon” is attributed to him. It is his book. And it is a book about a man and a woman who love one another and speak to one another in song. But Solomon makes it very obvious to us that this isn’t just some love song. He writes in the opening verse of the book that it is actually “The Song of Songs.” You could say that the Song of Solomon is the Song of songs in the same way that Jesus is the King of kings. It is like a song that has peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 music chart. There is nothing quite like it.
So what does all of this have to do with our singing? What is the special significance of Moses, David, and Solomon for our worship to God? How are their songs connected to our songs?
The answer is simple but profound. All of their songs are really the songs of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Yes, Moses sang about God’s triumph and redemption. Sure, David’s epic collection of 150 psalms are a story about the humble kingship of Israel. And it is true, the Song of Solomon is about the love between a man and a woman. But Moses’ song is ultimately a gospel song about Jesus’ triumph and redemption. David’s story is ultimately a glorious song about Jesus’ kingship of his kingdom and his people. And the Song of Solomon is ultimately a gorgeous song that points to how Christ loves the church.
In other words, Jesus has sung to us. Jesus has sung to you. The King of kings is the Singer of singers. And all the songs of the Bible are his songs. And if you don’t quite believe me or understand me, then let me finish the job with one of our Jesus’ greatest hits. When our Savior and Lord died on the cross, he said one of the most jaw-dropping words in the entire universe. He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” On the cross, our triumphant redeemer paid the price for our sin. On the cross, our absolutely humble and perfect king took the wrath and the wage and the humiliation and the hell in our place. On the cross, the bridegroom that is Christ loved his bride that is the church. The king rejoiced in his wife (Proverbs 5:15-23). And he said the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These are the same words that open Psalm 22. But make no mistake. Jesus was not quoting Psalm 22. Psalm 22 was quoting Jesus. And that is because our Lord and Savior has sung to us. Many not literally. I’m pretty sure he didn’t sing “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But I’m pretty sure that his entire person and work, his whole gospel, everything that we read about his in the Old Testament and the New Testament, all of it, is like a song for us… and to us. And we who believe in Christ and hear his song of salvation rejoice because now we have a new song to sing. For it is written in Isaiah 42:10, “Sing to the Lord a new song.” And in the end, in Revelation 15:3-4, we see God’s people “sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.’”
Brothers and sisters, I hope you understand now why we sing to God when we worship him. We sing and make melody to the Lord because the Lord sang and made melody to us. This is so personal. It is so personal that God has spoken to us in this way! This is so heart-warming. It is so heart-warming that Jesus has sung about the church he loves!
Therefore, dear Highland, let us sing. And let us sing about the person and work of Jesus Christ. The literal Greek words for “making melody to the Lord” are “making psalms to the Lord.” Since the psalms are ultimately about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, this means that we are to sing about him, about his salvation. When we sing, we declare the gospel of our king. When we sing, we exalt his name. Let us sing because Jesus has sung to us.
And when we sing, our hearts go out to him. Christians make melody to the Lord with their hearts. There is thoughtfulness and affection when the church sings to Christ. We just love God so much. There is so much joy of salvation in our hearts. Let us sing with our hearts because Jesus has sung to us with his heart.
In closing, I understand that most of us in this room are pretty average singers. I am aware that singing can be a very strange and awkward activity. I was personally reminded of this as an officiant at Michael and Seungha’s wedding. Let’s just say that during the song of praise, Michael and Seungha got a real intimate look at just how bad I am at singing. I am so glad that the sound guy muted me during that song.
Perhaps you are right. Perhaps you can’t sing. But that’s okay. Most Christians are not great singers. But they do just fine. When baseball fans sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” nobody’s evaluating each other after the song is done. When family and friends sing “Happy Birthday,” they’re not focused on the quality of the performance. And when every single kid in America sang “Let it Go,” every single adult in America was psychologically annoyed but never musically critical. When we sing to God, God is not concerned about the fact that you can’t sing. God is concerned about the fact that you sing as his children. God is concerned about the fact that when you sing to him, you are living a life that is filled with the Spirit. And trust me, when you sing to him, he loves it. So sing and make melody to the Lord with your heart.