Sing!

Singing is not for the fainthearted. David, the warrior-king, had shed so much blood that he was disqualified from building God’s temple (1 Chron 22:8). Yet he was arguably Scriptures most proficient songwriter. David’s son, Solomon—whose kingdom and wisdom is exceeded by Christ’s alone—is credited as writing the “Song of Songs,” along with 1,005 other compositions (1 Kings 4:32). The angels, whose presence necessitates a call to not be afraid, are recorded singing throughout the Bible as well. We see a pattern in Scripture: the strong will sing to God.

God created us as singing beings

Scripture contains around 50 commands to sing, which should be evidence enough of its need and value. But our very created composition reinforces this notion! God made us in His image, and He Himself is a singing God:

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. – Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)

The way He formed us makes this clear. Our physical makeup parallels that of a musical instrument: we have vocal cords that vibrate to generate sound, like the plucking of a string or the activation of a wind instrument. God made our body with natural resonance (mainly in the chest and pharyngeal cavities), like the body of a viola or the tubing of a horn. Furthermore, our mouth/tongue/teeth add specific meaning to the sound, as words are formulated. The blast of a trumpet may mean something implicitly, but the instrument that the Lord equipped us with is unique in this quality.

Requires Humility

The act of singing is unique as well. It’s humbling, it’s engaging, and it’s powerful. Humbling, in that there’s a sense of vulnerability that accompanies singing. A simple Google search will provide endless rankings of people’s greatest fears. Curiously enough, public speaking often ranks higher than death. Ask an average person to speak (or sing) in front of a large group and, according to the studies, he’d rather be dead… Singing, more so than speaking, requires us to humble ourselves.

Singing allows us to engage mentally or emotionally in ways that speaking falls short. What can you tell me about Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer? Probably quite a lot: you know about his life’s story as well as his brave leadership qualities, humility in the face of trial and persecution, perseverance, and so forth. How? Did your parents sit you down and walk you through his harrowing tale? Did you dedicate hours of your life to committing these facts to long-term memory? No! You’ve heard the song a bunch of times and simply hit “play” in your mind—the music does the rest. But singing also engages us emotionally in a unique manner. Think of your favorite song. For me (from a secular-perspective), it has always been and will forever be Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.” But imagine Brad Delp speaking the lyrics of the song, rather than singing them… Needless to say, it would probably not make my top ten list. The same goes for your favorite song as well, I’m sure.

I could go on about the powerful nature of style variation (e.g., Major + Allegro = jubilant message (“I’ll Fly Away”) or Minor + Adagio = somber message (“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”)). More could be said about the corporate bonding that occurs when people sing together. Or I could expound on music’s habit of putting the enemy to flight (1 Sam 16:14-19, 23). But it’s time to get to the point of this article:

You should assign singing in your discipleship.

Scripture recounts a myriad of settings and purposes for singing. Depending on the need and circumstance, you should help others see the power and pertinence of song as you point them to Christ.

Sing in Joy and Victory

The first recorded song in God’s Word is found in Exodus 15 (though, in fairness, many believe Genesis 2:23 contains the first song). The Lord had just delivered His people in a manner that He alone could orchestrate. He called a stuttering and murderous adoptee (who was, at the time of his calling, preoccupied with the low occupation of shepherding) to compel the most powerful person on the planet to free his slaves. Ten miraculous signs later, the Israelites are released to the wilderness where God parts the waters of a massive sea to allow His people an escape from the chasing Egyptians. God Himself then wipes out the enemy by releasing the waters. With Egyptian bodies washing ashore, what was the first thing the redeemed people of God did? “Then Moses and the people of Israel sand this song to the Lord…” (Ex 15:1, ESV).

God wants us to sing to Him in the midst of victory and joy, lest we believe it was our doing. He wants us to recount His wonderful deeds and commit them to our memory—far more than He cares about our knowledge of Rudolph and his reindeer games. When the Lord delivers an overwhelming victory in the life of your mentee, how ought they respond? Certainly not less than the Israelites… Have them sing to Him in their car, or write a song of their own, or even invite others over (possibly men/women who can play/sing) to rejoice with them.

Sing in Temptation

Singing in the midst of temptation is probably not a natural inclination to the majority of folks. But is there a biblical precedent? Psalm 141 is worth quoting extensively:

1 O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
keep watch over the door of my lips!
Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies!…

…But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord;
in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!
Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me
and from the snares of evildoers!
– Psalm 141:1-4, 8-9 (ESV)

In the hot crucible of temptation, David sings. Admittedly, this will likely take forethought and specific planning. It can be something as simple as: “the next time you’re tempted to _______, put on some headphones and play _______ song while you sing along.”

I had a college-aged friend who struggled with lustful eyes and thoughts while he was on campus. To dissuade this temptation, he propped a speaker on his backpack while walking to class and played worship music while singing aloud. Guess where the eyes of his heart were fixed (c.f., verse 8)… While your mentee, counselee, or person you’re discipling may reply “never in 1,000 years” to this program, have a plan to overwhelm temptation with song!

Sing in Suffering

One of the most powerful moments I’ve experienced at a funeral is when a husband who was standing feet away from his wife’s coffin pulled out a guitar and sang a song of worship to the Lord. He was grieving deeply, yet his Rock remained Christ. The song was a reminder of this fact to the rest of us.

This brings us to the last recorded song in the Bible, which (in God’s providence) is also the first. Revelation 6 instigates a series of judgments poured out on the earth: war, famine, plague—mass death. God’s enemies rise up and face an incredible slaughter (chapters 12-14). As heaven is queuing up for another bout of unimaginable judgment that will be described in chapters 16-18, chapter 15 contains a curious interjection. A great number of heaven’s occupants “sang the song of God’s servant Moses and the song of the Lamb: Great and awe-inspiring are Your works, Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are Your ways, King of the Nations” (Rev 15:3, HCSB).

With death, destruction, and the end of all earthly things before them, the people of God will sing. It is no less appropriate for us to sing in the midst of suffering. About 39 Psalms are dedicated to the theme of lament. Though poetry, Jeremiah’s “Lamentations” were written upon the unraveling of all things around him. We see it as a pattern in Scripture: sometimes when everything is taken away, the only thing that remains is a song to the Lord (c.f., Acts 16:25). Have your mentee write their own Psalm in the midst of his or her suffering. Though few (from a modern perspective), have them sing an impactful song of lament to the Lord. Ensure they’re not neglecting this potent tool of worship in their struggle.

Conclusion

There are several other reasons to sing—this article is not intended to be exhaustive. The three examples provided are meant to serve as an argument for biblical precedent, while suggesting possible points of application. God created a musical instrument that is seated across from you in the counseling room—ensure it’s not collecting metaphorical dust.

As a final note, it’s worth mentioning ability. Not all of us sing like Andrea Bocelli or have the instrumental caliber of Yo-Yo Ma. Fortunately, there are no mandatory auditions for God’s musical group. Each one of us is qualified and compelled to lift our song to Him, thus we are also without excuse. To quote Bill Staines: “All God’s critters got a place in the choir…”


Photo by NATHAN MULLET on Unsplash

Stefan Nitzschke
Stefan Nitzschke serves on the pastoral team at Faith Church. He and his wife have a passion for discipleship and evangelism. They are the blessed parents of four carefree boys and one sweet girl.