Shouting Joyfully

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.” (Psalm 98:4).

This type of shouting sometimes refers to celebratory shouts at a king’s coronation (e.g., “Long live King Solomon” in I Kings 1:39-40 or “Long live the king” in II Kings 11:12-14 or “Hosanna” in Matthew 21:4-9); it could also be that type of shouting that is like a war cry. In this context, it would be celebrating the coming of a King.

To “break forth in song” refers to an exuberant outburst that someone cannot repress. It is an eruption of praise. It is the same word Isaiah uses in Isaiah 55:12 – “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall BREAK FORTH into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” It is as if the praise is constant and unstoppable. It is too great to be contained.

You cannot be too hearty when it comes to singing. You can’t sing too loud or be too passionate when you open your lips to sing about God.

The noise in the Temple was legendary. It was borderline rambunctious. Let me give you an example of this from Ezra. Following the captivity in Babylon, the Temple was restored, and the walls were rebuilt. In Ezra 3, we see the formal, communal worship being restored and this is no light moment. We read,

10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD:  ‘For He is good, for His mercy endures forever toward Israel.’ Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off” (Ezra 3:10-13).

This was worship with gusto. Reformed theologian and late pastor James Boice gives us this exhortation:

“Should the worship of God’s people be any less exuberant today? Should we be quiet when we have come to know him who is the great King above all kings and the great Lord above all lords? Shame on us for all lackluster worship and all halfhearted praise.”

Don’t waste your singing. If you need to close your eyes, close your eyes. If you need to sit up close during the service, sit on the front row. If you need to learn the songs, spend some time learning them. Do whatever is necessary but don’t waste your singing.


4 Reasons We Should Sing to God

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.

Image result for martin luther music

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.

Sing To the Lord a New Song

Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! Sing to the LORD, all the earth” (Psalm 96:1).

Even though this was penned at a specific time for the people of Israel, it’s audience is more broad – as evidenced by the phrase “all the earth.” In fact, this “global application” is referenced throughout Psalm 96: “all the earth” (vs. 1), “among the nations” (vs. 3), “among all peoples” (vs. 3), “families of the peoples” (vs. 7), “all the earth” (vs. 9, 11), “the nations” (vs. 10), and “the world” (vs. 10, 13).

God is so great in His person and works that He demands a universal audience. Steve Lawson helpfully observes about this universal praise in his commentary.

“How could any heart consider God’s supreme authority and remain apathetic? Such silence is sinful, completely incongruent with the majesty of God. The unrivaled, worldwide rule of God demands the praise of all people everywhere. If the Lord were a mere regional deity, possessing only a limited dominion, then he should be adored only by the few who live under his localized government. But there is no restriction to his global dominion. The Lord is King over all the nations of the earth. Thus, he must be worshipped by every person. It is too small a thing, the psalmist argues, that he should be praised only by the remnant of Israel. Such would be far too small a congregation to declare God’s true greatness. Because his sovereignty is extended over all nations, his praise must come from all peoples” (Psalm 76-150, pg. 116)

It is a universal psalm for a universal audience.

The word “sing” repeats 3x in vs. 1. This repetition is what grammarians call “to the superlative degree.” In other words, “Sing, keep singing, sing louder, etc.” This is a command for non-stop singing.

And the song is to be “a new song.” How is it “new?” What the psalmist is suggesting is a song about fresh experiences of God’s care and salvation. In other words, it is singing a song as a result of a new or fresh perspective of the Creator. Charles Spurgeon explains, “Let us not present old worn-out praise, but put life, and soul, and heart, into every song, since we have new mercies every day, and see new beauties in the work and word of our Lord.” (The Treasury of David, pg. 105)

It is not a newly composed psalm, but a psalm celebrating fresh experiences of divine action or being struck anew by the amazing glory of God’s person or deeds (e.g., God’s faithfulness new every day from Lamentations 3:22-23).

So next time you are singing to the Lord, sing like you have never sung the song before

Enthusiastic Singing

Sing aloud to God our strength; make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob. Raise a song and strike the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the lute” (Psalm 81:1-2).

These words call for God’s people to make music with great enthusiasm. The “raise a song” was often used to greet a king (e.g., Saul in I Samuel 10:24) or celebrate victories in war (e.g., Judah over it’s enemies in Zephaniah 3:14). It was done with great fanfare and noise. In other words, when you sing, you should REALLY SING.

Some of the loudest singers I have known in church are bad singers. But they don’t care and neither, 0I would argue, neither does God.

Image result for singingNothing in the Christian life should be half-hearted! And that includes our singing to God. So, why don’t people sing out? Why aren’t people louder when they sing? Why don’t people open their mouths wide? I want to give you some other reasons that people aren’t louder when they sing and aren’t as expressive as they should be. Let me give you four reasons to meditate on today:

  1. We don’t understand (or accept) that physical expression is an acceptable form of worship both privately and publicly. This is an issue of ignorance. Worship is not only a mental engagement. We worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). And if we are to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength then that must include how we sing too. When you study how people worshipped God in the Scripture you will find people clapping, bowing, kneeling, raising their hands, shouting, playing instruments and dancing. Physical expression is a biblical means to worship God in song. Some are comfortable swaying their bodies; some enjoy raising their hands; some enjoy singing with loud voices.
  2. We care too often what others think. This is mostly an issue of pride. We grow concerned that people might think we are weird or strange for expressing ourselves in some physical fashion. “What if I sing loud, but off key?” “What if I start clapping and get the rhythm wrong?” “What if I start to kneel over and fall instead?” May I suggest that these are the types of questions coming from someone who thinks more about pleasing man that living transparently before God in their worship? Our worship is not to be driven by man’s expectations of us; if that was the case that we should wonder what others think when we sing, it wouldn’t be worship. At best, it’s worshipping what others think of us.
  3. We interpret reverence or awe of God as emotional and physical stoicism. In other words, because worship is a reverential act, we think we must be quiet and monotone when we open our lips. Thus, our singing becomes can be like a funeral dirge.

Keith Green sold out for Jesus in his music. He loved Jesus more than anyone I know who has ever sung a song … period! One time, he said at a concert,

“If your heart takes more pleasure in reading novels, or watching TV, or going to the movies, or talking to friends, rather than just sitting alone with God and embracing Him, sharing His cares and His burdens, weeping and rejoicing with Him, then how are you going to handle forever and ever in His presence…? You’d be bored to tears in heaven, if you’re not ecstatic about God now!”

He was never bored with God in his music and it showed. Making music with enthusiasm includes not only voice volume or physical expression; it also includes frequency.


The Whole Earth Is Filled with God’s Glory

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts – the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (Psalm 57)

Have you noticed that David, the man after God’s own heart, the author of most of the chapters in the Psalter, who led all the worship processions and led all the choirmasters, and, yet, did so before the land of Israel had any permanent House of Worship? Why such an emphasis on worship without a permanent place for worship? It wasn’t until his son Solomon built the temple that the land would have a place to officially gather for worship.

And since then for thousands of years the church has met in a place – in a location. While there are a handful of churches without a meeting place, most churches have a building or tent to meet within. We gather to worship.

But too often we buy into the notion that we gather to worship and when we drive our cars out of the parking lot, we aren’t worshipping God any longer. This is simply not true. Every action – mundane or not – is an opportunity for worship (I Corinthians 10:31).

When we read Psalm 57, we come to see that David understood something we too often forget. David understood that a house was not essential for worship to take place. Why? Because the whole earth is filled with His glory).

In his book Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper reminds us,

“Worship is not a gathering. It is not essentially a song service or sitting under preaching. Worship is not essentially any form of outward act. Worship is essentially an inner stirring of the heart to treasure God above all the treasures of the world – a valuing of God above all else that is valuable, a loving of God above all else that is lovely, a savoring of God above all else that is sweet, an admiring of God above all else that is admirable, a fearing of God above all else that is fearful, a respecting of God above all else that is respectable, a prizing of God above all else that is precious.”[1]

Deep, powerful, God-centered worship is to take place everywhere we go because the whole earth is God’s sanctuary.


[1] John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions (Ada: Baker Book House, 2010), pgs. 206-207.

Martin Luther, the Hymn-Writer

On July 6, 1415 John Huss – the Protestant Czech – was burned at the stake for his faith. He said at the stake before he was burned, “Today, you are burning a goose however, a hundred years from now, you will be able to hear a swan sing, you will burn it, you will have to listen to him. In a hundred years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform can not be suppressed.”

Exactly 102 years later, a German monk by the name of Martin Luther was nailing a piece of paper to the community bulletin board – the church door in Wittenberg. We refer to that document of theological protest the 95 Theses. And it was that moment that God used to help launch the Reformation.

luther-martin-2It is not an overstatement to say no one had a greater impact on the church than Martin Luther. Many people throughout church history have talked reform; Luther lived reform. Some even claim that outside of Christ no one has more books on the shelf about or by Martin Luther. In short, no Luther, no Reformation.

There are many legacies with Martin Luther – his preaching of justification by faith, his condemnation the Roman Catholic Church, and his translation of the Bible into German. One such legacy that is often forgotten is his contribution to the ministry of music and his encouragement of corporate singing.

In 1526 at the age of 33, Luther began to rearrange the typical church service. Luther believed the congregation should take a more active role in the service and he wanted this activity to be more singing.

Luther said, “We need to remove hymn singing from the domain of monks and priests and set the laity to singing. By the singing of hymns the laity can public express their love to the Almighty God.”

In fact, Luther even had his own congregation practice their songs during the week before the services on Sunday!

This led Luther to begin writing hymns for his congregation to sin. He wrote a total of 36 hymns. Not many of them are sung today, but you have probably heard of “All Praise to Thee, Eternal God” or “Away in a Manger” or “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”; those are the most well-known of Luther’s music compositions.

Luther played the flute and sang in multiple choirs and was nicknamed “the nightingale of Wittenberg.” Luther loved church music. Luther once said, “I can say without timidity that there is next to theology no such fine art on earth that could push music off to the side … to prepare a peaceful and joyful heart.”

One of Luther’s critics – Johann Eck – said of Luther’s hymn-writing: “The Reformation was brought into existence more through Luther’s songs than through Luther’s writings.”

On this day, October 31, Reformation Day, I exhort you to thank God for men like Martin Luther. Who knows if the church ever would have started singing together in their worship services? I, for one, am delighted that we do.


Spirit Worship + Truth Worship = Genuine Worship

19 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.’

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth”        (John 4:19-24).

True worshipers will be known not by the location of their worship but the internal focus or nature in how they worship. Our worship is to be marked by two characteristics:

First, we are to worship in spirit. This is a reference to the inward attitude of the true worshiper. Worship is not meant to be based upon external conforming to customs or traditions. One who worships in Spirit might clap, raised his hands, show emotion, sing loud and boisterously, etc. This is the opposite of someone who is heartless in their worship. It is someone who has a physical expression of worship.

samaritan-womanSecond, we are to worship in truth. This means that our worship is what is true about God or what can be known about Him in the Scriptures. This is why the study of theology is so important for us. For within the study of theology, we arrive at a place of deeper worship. True worship is educated from God’s Word. “Truth worship” is the opposite of hypocritical worship that says and sings certain things about God but doesn’t actually believe them.

By the way, you cannot have one without the other. They form one central idea of how God is to be worshipped. If you worship Him only “in truth,” your worship becomes liturgical only and ritualistic. If you worship him only “in spirit” you open yourself up to empty frenzy or spiritual flakiness. Worship Him in spirit and in truth.