By Not Known

God’s gift of music is first mentioned in Genesis 4:21 and has long been
used in worship. One of the earliest sacred songs is a hymn of praise to God for his work of
saving Israel from Egypt (Ex 15:1-18).

These themes continue through both Old and New Testaments. There are hundreds of references
to God’s people singing and numerous examples of sacred songs. Psalms are the best-known
example, but the New Testament also has many references to singing (eg, Mt 26:30; 1 Cor 14:26;
Eph 5:19). This Biblical singing climaxes with a vision of the heavenly church as a singing church
(Rev 5:9-13).

It is interesting to note that the songs of the heavenly church have the same theme as the
Exodus 15 song – they recite the saving works of God and praise him on that account. Properly
speaking this is what a hymn is, as distinct from other sacred songs – a hymn is a song in praise
of God.

What are our attitudes as we rise to sing in church Sunday by Sunday?

  • Are we just glad of a break from sitting and listening?
  • Do we focus on the tune or the words?
  • Do we just enjoy a familiar melody being played competently on fine instruments?
  • Are we critical of the choice of song, because it is not one of our favourites?
  • Are we irritated by someone near us who sings off-key?

Or do we:

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music
in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
(Eph 5:19-20)?

Like everything we do in our Sunday services, singing should be done as a God-centred act of
devotion. We are to: Sing to the Lord, praise his name, declare his salvation day after day and
declare his glory among the nations… for great is the Lord and most worthy of praise
(Ps 96:2-4). A key word there is that we are to Sing to the Lord. Our church singing should come
from grateful hearts and be done as unto the Lord.

Not all of us can sing well, but we can all sing from the heart and with glad devotion. Good
congregational singing does not really consist of technical excellence – but it does involve people
singing with faith, enthusiasm and love for God and one another.

When we sing, it is important to pay attention to the words, for they are the key to Christian
singing. Good songs have substantial Biblical content expressed in well-used poetic language.

Some of our hymns need a little work to follow the meaning of the words – but the effort is well
repaid. As we sing, we can pay attention to the meaning and express it through the way we sing
different stanzas. Many of our church songs tell a story or recite different parts of a Biblical
truth – coming to a grand climax in the final stanza. If we follow the lead of the instruments and
the choir, we are helped to sing with the appropriate emotion for different parts of the song.

Much of our singing is really sung prayer. We might sing a prayer of admiration, thanks or
confession to God. We might lay some needs before God and seek his kindly intervention. We
might dedicate ourselves to him in discipleship or offer ourselves for some form of service to
God or others.

Let us pray these songs as we sing, and so turn them into a true act of worship.