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Singing through the ages

“Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowwwd!” You’ve probably heard that song a couple hundred times, right? For some people, it brings warm memories of going to the ballpark with the family. You look around and hundreds, maybe thousands, of people are singing it all in unison. The glee on their faces. The loud sound overwhelms you with feelings you can’t quite explain. It’s a baseball tradition that has been kept up through decades of time and always seems to bring a crowd together, even if they’re cheering for opposite teams. We sing this song and many others at different times in life to celebrate or commemorate things that are important to us.

Similarly, the singing we participate in on Sunday morning has a supernatural way of binding us together and celebrating things that are important. This is not a modern phenomenon. The people of God for all of history have sung in worship, so why shouldn’t we join in?

Singing in the Old Testament

The Jews considered singing as an essential part of worship. In fact, it appears in different places in Scripture that singing was a natural response of God’s people. Basically, every time God saved or delivered the people of Israel from death or from slavery their response was to sing.

Moses led the singing of a song in Exodus 15 after God had led Israel across the Red Sea and out of slavery in Egypt. A woman named Miriam also led a short song after Moses did, to the same effect in Exodus 15:21. In Judges 5, Deborah sang a song of praise after God subdued their enemy and allowed Israel to beat the Canaanites when faced with war.

Also, it’s not a secret that the Book of Psalms is literally a song book, collecting poems and prayers that were put to music and sung in the synagogues of the Jews. These were special songs that recounted many times that God was faithful, gracious, and kind, but also just, righteous, and holy. There are Psalms of raw, and somber lament; and then there are Psalms of joy, and praise! These were all sung in Jewish worship and were written to reflect the broad array of human emotions that the people felt.

Singing in the New Testament

As time went on, and the New Testament era came about, we also saw singing in worship. In Mark 14:26 after Jesus ate his last supper with his disciples, which later was coined as the “Lord’s Supper,” it says that they sung a hymn before they left. Acts 16:25-26 says Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns in prison, which had such an effect that it caused an earthquake and allowed them the opportunity to escape from prison.

There are also instructions about worship in the church from Paul in Colossians and Ephesians, which instruct the church to sing, “Psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, making melody in your hearts to the Lord.”

Unfortunately, we don’t see a lot about what instruments were used, but it’s certainly clear that singing was a primary thing that the church did when gathering together and worshipping the Lord.

Singing in the World

It might seem weird to mention this in a writing for the church, but I think it’s important. I believe that singing is natural for humanity. Now, answer this question honestly. Have you ever heard of a culture, or religion, or people group that didn’t have singing deeply embedded into their identity and history? Okay, there might be some groups of people who don’t always sing, but most people-groups have a rich history of singing.

We already established the history of Jews singing in worship, but history also shows singing and dancing in many African cultures and Native American tribes. Germanic Pagan people sang and danced in their rituals, as well as various other Pagan religions of the past.

And of course, the infamous bar tunes that you may have sungin a previous... or current point in your life, right? Bar tunes have been sung for millennia at this point. In fact, did you know that lots of old Christian hymn melodies derived from bar tunes?

Singing is not foreign to human nature. It’s almost as if there was an intelligent design at play!

Singing in the Modern Age

Now, when I say “modern age” I mean from the time after Scripture was finished being written and the church spread universally.

Unfortunately, there was a period during the prominence of the Roman Catholic Church when there was a controversy over who should sing in worship...This put a stop to congregational singing, and the singing in worship was left to professional musicians in the church who played for others to hear.

Luckily, we had the Reformation, which sparked so much singing in the church. Hymns started being written all over the place from people like Martin Luther, Isaac Watts, and a woman named Elisabeth Cruciger. These faithful people wrote hymns that have been sung for hundreds of years and significantly contributed to the worship of the church. Shortly after the Reformation, we collected beautiful songs by the likes of Fanny Crosby, John Newton, Charles Wesley, and Philip Paul Bliss.

As popular music in the world shifted, the church began to organically shift their styles of songwriting and singing. The Jesus Movement in California started to blend a rock n’ roll feel with the worship of the church. Now, we face an Ambient Rock sound in many songs (think of the band Coldplay but singing about Jesus). However, there are some groups of Modern Hymn writers who try to style themselves after Isaac Watts and many old hymn writers.

All in all, the church has such a rich history of singing in worship, which served to glorify God, teach beliefs of the Christian faith, and help people memorize Scripture.

Made to Worship

Whichever way you approach it, I don’t think we can escape the fact that humanity was made to sing. Better yet, we were made to sing about God. Our nature was designed so that we would magnify and glorify the name of the Lord. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has put eternity into man’s heart, meaning we were made to desire something greater than our own existence. We were made to seek after God.

We see this clearly in the ways that people sacrifice their time, resources, and energy to obtain the things they most value. There are so many people who tirelessly sacrifice to obtain things on this earth, but in the end fall short. Unfortunately, sin pulls at people’s attentions trying to get them to focus on everything except for God.

Luckily, God broke through generations of sin and came to meet us where we are. It’s through that kind of lens that we should look at singing in worship. Psalm 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.” It’s entirely appropriate for us to “say so” by way of singing it very loudly.

Face it. You may not like to sing, and you may be in denial that it’s natural for you to sing, but I think there’s ample proof throughout human history that we were created to sing. So, this week at Restoration Church, come ready to sing so loudly that people can’t deny how amazing our God is!

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