I’ve established in former posts our call as the church to sing songs to God, what we’re to sing, and some of our motivations to sing. We’re going to think a little more today about some of the variety of songs we can sing. Did you realise that the Bible gives us the pattern of singing not just one type of song to God, but a whole variety of songs about different aspects of God’s nature and work, and from all aspects of life and experience?
We’re not called to live solo, isolated Christian lives, but to play our part in the body of Christ and live in community with others – growing together, discipling each other, praying for and serving each other, and praising God together in song (Ephesians 5:18-19). We’re well able to have our private times of singing worship songs to God, but there is something unique and powerful in being able to gather and sing together.
But let’s not get stuck in the routine of singing the same songs, or only one type of song. There is so much truth in Scripture, even about the nature of God Himself, that we have opportunity to express and declare in song. Just on that theme – we could sing about God’s mercy, faithfulness, righteousness, holiness, omnipresence, power, eternality, love, triumph, lordship, sovereignty, greatness, mercy, patience, uniqueness, wonder, value, beauty, nearness, fatherhood, gentleness, care, provision, anger, glory, divinity – just for example. Do you regularly sing songs about all of these aspects of who God is?
The Differing Psalms
The Psalms were mostly originally written to be sung. Yes, the largest book in the Bible is a songbook! Here are just a few portions of a few of those songs. Notice in particular the variety of songs expressed:
“ O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses; you have been angry; oh, restore us.” (Psalm 60:1 – ESV)
“ Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy.” (Psalm 130:1-2 – ESV)
“ Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” (Psalm 98:4 – ESV)
“ Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42:5-6 – ESV)
“ Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.” (Psalm 119:89-90 – ESV)
“ Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” (Psalm 61:1-3 – ESV)
“ Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51: 2-4 – ESV)
“ The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation – the God who gave me vengeance and subdued peoples under me, who delivered me from my enemies” (Psalm 18:46-48 – ESV)
“ How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2 – ESV)
“ My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.” (Psalm 71:23 – ESV)
Songs For Different Seasons And Occasions
We’re not always going to have everything going smoothly in our lives or be filled with happiness. In fact sometimes life is just plain hard! God never promises us wealth and comfort and perfect health and things to go according to plan (i.e. our plan!) all of the time. But He does promise us He’ll be our constant comfort and companion, and work everything we go through for good – this great good being our transformation more into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). And from all these different experiences of life we go through, we have opportunity to express our hearts to God in praise – even in the midst of the lowest valleys and toughest trials. To focus on God and His character and what He’s done already. God allowed me the blessing of drawing near to Him and growing a deeper trust in His character when my Dad went to be with Christ last year – in part through being able to sing songs of praise from that place.
Not only do we individually go through these ‘seasons’, but sometimes also as a whole local body of believers. We might be sharing together the pain of tragedy within our congregation, or joy of sending out some young people to the mission field. We might be working through some tricky issues where unity and humility needs to prevail, or going through a time of God adding much growth through new families and conversions to Christ. Whatever it is we’re going through, songs can help express from that place our praise to God. For example, we could have songs that focus us on central gospel truths and so foster unity, or songs that lift our hearts to trust in God’s sovereignty, wisdom and goodness during pain.
All I’m saying is let’s think a little more carefully about how the songs we sing can actually be timely for what we’re going through. I haven’t even mentioned the important place of songs for certain times during our services or certain occasions – like confession, adoration, prayer, hearing the word, gospel call, communion, sending people out, and whatever else you can think of!
Don’t forget our calls to sing in the New Testament indicate that we would sing a variety of songs “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16 – ESV, also Ephesians 5:19)
So what are some songs that you’d like to see sung in your church that perhaps aren’t at the moment? What season or occasion or theme do you think we need more songs about? Feel free to comment below….