How Should We Then Sing?
Music is a gift from God. In fact, the Bible informs us that God is a musical God. Not only did He create music, but He sings too. The prophet Zephaniah told Israel that God would rejoice over them “with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17; NKJV). When God created the earth, the angels “sang together, and…shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). The Bible repeatedly exhorts us to be heartily involved in singing praises to our God. As we open God’s Word, we find at least six ways we should sing.
Sing to God. In biblical worship, God is the audience. When this important truth is forgotten, worship becomes man-centered and how man feels becomes more important than what God receives. The Scriptures instruct us to sing to God. David, the chief musician of Israel, said “sing for joy to God our strength” (Psalm 81:1), and “let us sing for joy to the Lord” (Psalm 95:1). The Apostle Paul commanded the Ephesian believers to sing and make melody “to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). In our singing, we should praise God for His glory, deeds, and attributes. In preparation for battle, Jehoshaphat “appointed those who sang to the Lord…to give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (2 Chronicles 20:21). We “worship the Lord with reverence” (Psalm 2:11).
Sing with joy. “O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Psalm 95:1-2). Three times, in these two verses, we are instructed to sing joyfully. As a result of the goodness of God, which led the Hebrew nation to repentance, their songs would include “gladness of heart” (Isaiah 30:29). Joy is a product of contemplating the wonders of God and often produces spontaneous expressions in song. “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises” (James 5:13). Biblical joy is an inner contentment with God, rather than a superficial expression of happiness. The Levites were the worship leaders of the Old Testament era. First Chronicles 15:16 says that “David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy.”
Sing with thanksgiving. “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving” (Psalm 95:2). The Colossian believers were told to sing “with thankfulness” (Colossians 3:16). A grateful heart is the perfect breeding ground for singing. Immediately after telling the Ephesians to sing and make melody in their heart to the Lord, Paul instructed them to always give “thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Ephesians 5:20). As believers, we have been delivered from the wrath of God and the bondage of sin and have been seated in the heavenly places in Christ. Therefore, we have more than enough reason to always give thanks to God through song.
Sing with your head. Biblical worship is not the act of putting your brain in neutral, but requires serious interaction with the mind with divine truth. In a passage written to correct the Corinthians’ unbiblical use of spiritual gifts, and instruct them in the orderliness of God, the Apostle Paul said, “I shall sing with the spirit and I shall sing with the mind also” (1 Corinthians 14:15). Biblical worship never bypasses the mind. There is a good deal of emotionalism that is being passed off as “worship” today. Do not misunderstand me, emotions are not wrong, but being controlled by them at the expense of truth is. Deep interaction with the Word of God often leads to expressions of emotion, and heartfelt singing is one of the results of being filled (controlled) by the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:19), but if prompted by the Spirit, emotions will be accompanied by His fruit of self-control.
Sing with your heart. Believers should sing and make melody “in their hearts” (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). An essential ingredient in acceptable worship is a “sincere heart” (Hebrews 10:22). God is pleased with our worship when it flows from a genuine heart that is free from hypocrisy. “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” (Psalm 24:3-4). Jesus sharply rebuked the Pharisees because they worshipped God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him (Matthew 15:8). It was because of the hypocrisy of their worship that God said to Israel “take away from Me the noise of your songs” (Amos 5:23). When we sing with a mask on, our songs are nothing more than noise. When our hearts are genuine before the Lord, our singing is music to His ears.
Sing in accordance with God’s Word. Biblical praise is a natural result of “the word of Christ richly dwell[ing] within you” (Colossians 3:16). Our songs should promote biblical theology and a deeper knowledge of God. The more we grow in our knowledge of God’s Word, the more acceptable our worship becomes. In Psalm 138:2, David declared “Thou hast magnified Thy word according to Thy name.” Singing provides us with the unique opportunity to magnify the Lord as we exalt His name together.
Further Reading: Give Praise to God (in honor of James Boice), Worship Matters (Kauflin), Real Worship (Wiersbe)