Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Why do the Psalms (and the Bible for that matter) emphasize singing as a form of worship? There are a lot of ways to glorify God. Why is there such an emphasis on music in the Psalms?”
First, singing is a required form of worship towards God. Consider a few of the commands in the N.T. Ephesians 5:19 – “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (e.g.., songs of personal testimony), singing and making melod yin your heart to the Lord.” So, singing is both a public (“speaking to one another”) and private (“in your heart to the Lord”) form of worship.
Colossians 3:16-17 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another (correcting each other) in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
James 5:13 – “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.”
Who could forget Paul and Silas stuck in a prison cell singing their hearts out at midnight while their fellow prisoners listened? (Acts 16:25) Or who could forget many of the scenes we see in eternity to come of worship from the Book of Revelation?
Second, songs are a means of teaching truth in a concise format (e.g., the Book of Psalms). The right type of Christian music combines good theology and good music. Good Christian music takes profound ideas and states them briefly.
Third, songs are memorable. Ever get caught singing a song you sang as a teenager or hadn’t heard in years? The mnemonic devices of songs are remarkable and God is wise enough to know that. He commands us to express ourselves in a manner that our minds can quickly recall truth.
Fourth, music is timeless. The oldest hymn in most hymnals is “Be Thou My Vision” which is several hundred years old. Psalm 98 is thousands of years old and we are giving it our undivided attention today.
Martin Luther understood much of this and helped the church understand the importance of essentially congregational singing. In fact, he re-introduced it to the church in the 16th century. He once said,
“Anyone who doesn’t view music as a gift from God must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs. I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Next after theology, I give music the highest place and the greatest honor.”
Singing is important and what you sing becomes even the more critical. Show me a church’s songs and I will should you it’s theology. Jonathan Edwards wrote,
“The best, most beautiful, and most perfect way that we have of expressing a sweet concord of mind to each other, is by music. When I would form in my mind an idea of a society in the highest degree happy, I think of them as expressing their love, their joy, and the inward concord and harmony and spiritual beauty of their souls by sweetly singing to each other.”
In other words, singing is not optional. It is what God expects and it is what God deserves as we see next.