What Happens When We Sing in Worship?
- Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Singing has been a major part of my life, but I don't assume you share my background. To appreciate this message you don't even have to enjoy singing. But if that's where you're at, remember that God has a passion for singing. "Oh sing to the Lord a new song. Sing to the Lord all the earth ... tell of his salvation from day to day" (Psalm 96:1-3; cf. Psalm 47:6).
The Bible contains over 400 references to singing and 50 direct commands to sing. We're commanded twice in the New Testament to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).
Why does God command us not only to praise him, but to sing praises to him?
We can begin by realizing that God himself sings (Zephaniah 3:17). Jesus sang hymns with his disciples. Ephesians 5 tells us that one of the fruits of being filled with the Spirit is singing. So we worship a triune God who sings, and he wants us to be like him.
How does music relate to words?
Some Christians think music supercedes the word, both in its significance and effect. Others think that music undermines the word. But God himself wants them together. He gave us music to serve to word. How music does this is the theme of this message.
Three Ways Singing Serves the Word
1) Singing can help us remember words.
Ever notice how easy it is to recall the words of songs you haven't heard for 20 years? We store literally hundreds, even thousands of songs in our memory vaults. Music has an unusual mnemonic power. We remember patterns in music much better than patterns in words alone. Rhyme, meter and song are the most powerful mnemonic devices. They govern and restrict the way we say words and the time it takes to say them. Notice in Deuteronomy 31 that God uses music to help his people remember his words.
1. In the church we should use effective melodies, that is, melodies that people are able to remember and that they want to remember. And both familiar and new melodies have their place among the people of God. Some great hymn lyrics have been ruined by new melodies and others have been revived by it.
2. We should sing words God wants us to remember. It matters not only that we sing but also what we sing. Colossians 3:16 - It is the word of Christ, the gospel, that should dwell in us richly as we sing. The largest portion of our singing content should be the truths that we are responding to, not just words about the effect that truth has on us. Also, the lyrics of our songs should reflect the broad themes of Scripture. Ask yourself, If the teaching of our church was limited to the songs we sing, what would our people know?
3. We should seek to memorize songs. Don't be too dependant upon screens or hymnbooks.
2) Singing can help us engage the words emotionally.
Music is a language of emotion in every culture of every age. It is capable of effecting us in profound and subtle ways (like when Saul's spirit was calmed by David's harp).
Why does music affect us deeply?
One reason is its associations. In our culture, a fast song in a major key is usually associated with happiness, whereas a slow song in a minor key is associated with sadness. Music can also bring forth old associations of things that happened in certain periods or experiences in our lives.
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