The Bible repeatedly commands singing and predicts the church will be a singing people in the most difficult hour of history. This raises a profound question: why does God use singing in such a profound way? Why is singing so central in the Bible and why does God want the nations filled with singing (Psalm 96; 98; 149; Isaiah 24:15-16; 42:10; Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19) ?
There are a number of reasons singing is so prominent in the Bible, but also a number of practical reasons singing is significant.
The first is that singing quickly moves our emotions in a way that simply speaking rarely does. The melodies that accompany singing can profoundly move our hearts and emotions. God wants our emotions connected to His plan to redeem the nations. It is not enough to simply understand His plan; we need our hearts deeply connected to that plan. We want to feel what the Father feels about His Servant liberating the earth. When we feel that, we will labor with the Father until it comes to pass.
Singing allows truth to bypass much of our natural resistance and go immediately to our hearts. This is why singing and songs are such powerful tools for good and evil. We easily find ourselves singing songs and repeating lyrics even when we do not agree with them because of the power of music. It is the reason that the Scottish Politician Andrew Fletcher once said, “Let me write the songs of a nation, and I don’t care who writes its laws.”
Singing is a corporate experience. When we declare the glory of God in song the entire congregation naturally begins to join in. Everyone has a part to play and therefore everyone is far more engaged. Whether it is a corporate church service or even a rock concert, declaring something through song results in the entire group of people declaring that truth together. There is a sense of unity and corporate identity that comes when we sing.
When a preacher declares the Word of God, most of the people listen while one declares the truth. Singing on the other hand involves the entire corporate body. This does not mean we should neglect the preaching of the Word – preaching is one of the means God has given the congregation to hear the instruction of God. The teaching of the Word should connect our hearts to the plan of God and the result should be powerful singing in our churches and homes that strengthens our ownership and commitment to the Word of God. This was part of the power of the Methodist movement. There were preachers like John and Charles Wesley, but Charles gave himself to writing songs and those songs played a key role in establishing the movement.
Songs mark great redemptive moments in history and moments throughout our lives. We can remember songs at various points in our lives. The “Song of Moses” was associated with the Exodus. In the age to come we will remember the songs sung at key moments in redemptive history. There will be specific songs associated with the return of the Lord.
Songs can also help stir the spirit of prophecy. Elisha called for a musician and the Spirit of the Lord came on him.
15But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played, the hand of the Lord came upon him. (2 Kings 3:15 ESV)
Songs stay with us throughout our lives. We rarely repeat the phrases we have heard someone speak, but we constantly repeat phrases of truth that we have sung. It is much easier for us to memorize things we have sung than things we have spoken or heard. When those songs come to mind, they carry emotions with them, which makes them even more powerful.
God also wants to fill the earth with songs because He loves songs. It is part of His nature. Throughout the book of Revelation we see the culmination of the plan of redemption from heaven’s perspective and throughout the book singing and music is emphasized. God surrounds Himself with songs in Revelation 4-5. The elders and martyrs in heaven stand before the throne with harps in their hands (Revelation 5:8; 15:2). Through the book songs erupt as a response to who God is and to His activity (Revelation 5:9-10, 12-13; 7:9-12; 15:3; 19:1-5).
The Lord surrounds Himself with music because He enjoys it. He is musical and that is why we are musical. Our affinity for songs and music is connected to being made in His image. There is a deep connection between God’s love for music and our own natural desire for music.
Jesus taught us to pray that the earth would become like heaven:
9Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9–10 ESV)
This prayer also gives us tremendous insight into why God wants songs released in the earth before Jesus comes. God surrounds Himself with songs in heaven because He enjoys them. Jesus’ first prayer request for us is that we would pray that the earth would become like heaven. Part of why the Father instructs us to fill the earth with songs is because that is what Jesus enjoys. It is part of preparing the earth for Jesus’ rule. It makes the earth resemble heaven.
The first time Jesus came there was complete silence on the earth. No one recognized what was happening. It was so silent that angels burst onto the scene just outside Bethlehem and declared to the shepherds what was happening.
The angels had to announce the first coming of Jesus because humans were not doing what we are called to do. We had not yet taken our place. However, the second coming will be very different. We will take our place. The earth will be filled with the songs of men declaring the return of the Lord and causing the earth to begin to feel like heaven.