Syllabification Lamentation

Life has too many syllables.  At first, you may be thinking “life” has but one syllable.  On the surface this appears to be true, but therein lies the great deception.  Life, in fact, has ALL the syllables.  Think how much more pleasant life would be if we were to collectively determine that syllable reduction would be to the benefit of all mankind.  Emails, letters, articles, and of course blogs would be considerably shorter and therefore much more bearable.  Political speeches would be over and forgotten sooner.  And, those extremely verbose text messages people can’t seem to stop sending would be reduced by at least 30%, by my estimation. (Just imagine how much sooner I would have finished this paragraph.)

I’m suggesting a grassroots movement toward a syllabification revolt.  Any word containing more than two syllables must be reduced by a factor of 1 or 2.  Such a small step could have huge results.  Mississippi would become Mispi.  Celebration could be simply bration.  Even the word syllable could be transformed to sylble.  The passage of time and pop culture have already given birth to this sort of verbal metamorphosis–pardon me, morphis.  President has given way to Prez, and vice-president is now veep.  The possibilities are truly endless.  As I see it the transmation would be cause for great bration.

What’s next? The extermination of the emoji.

Psalm 73 and the trouble with wrong thinking!

Psalm 73 is not typically listed alongside those traditionally regarded as the penitential psalms. When we think of psalms of repentance, we usually bring to mind Psalm 51 or perhaps Psalm 38.  Even so, in this song, Asaph expresses deep regret for his sin. His are not sins of adultery, violence, or actions of blatant disobedience; but rather, Asaph’s transgressions involve wrong thinking–sins of resentfulness toward God.

He begins by proclaiming the truth of God’s goodness toward the pure in heart. But then he confesses his envy for the wicked. He imagines that this life contains no trials nor tribulations for those who give no care to holiness; their pride continues unchecked, and they mock God and those who fear Him.

They say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?” Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth.” (Psalm 73:11–12)

Not only does his error extend to the wicked, but he also attributes his despair to his own pursuit of godliness, lamenting that such pursuits are useless.

Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure And washed my hands in innocence; For I have been stricken all day long And chastened every morning,” (Psalm 73:13–14).

As Charles Spurgeon so aptly puts it, “Poor Asaph! He questions the value of holiness when its wages are paid in the coin of affliction.”[1]

Thankfully, revealed truth sheds its light on the defect in his thinking, and he recognizes his foolishness.

When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight; Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end,” (Psalm 73:16–17).

He sees that the riches of the wicked will not save them from the destruction that awaits them. It’s not their riches that condemn them–it is their disregard for the ways of the Lord.   They will awaken from the fleeting dreams of this life to the realities of eternity.

Envy of the wicked is a temptation that relentlessly haunts and badgers us as we navigate our way through a lost and fallen world. Asaph’s struggle is not unique. We look around and see a system that rewards corruption, where a devotion to God is mocked and scorned. How do we guard ourselves from coveting the prosperity of the wicked?  The answer is right patterns of thought—right thinking.

Just like Asaph, God’s truth must return us to this kind of thinking. The word of God is the key that unlocks the door of repentance, and repentance begins with a change in our thinking. Specifically, a change in our thoughts, or view, of God. When Isaiah experienced a first-person encounter with the majesty of God, he was stricken with an overwhelming realization of his own wickedness. He saw God in the heights of His holiness, and himself as a lowly creature among lowly creatures, (Isaiah 6:1-5).

Everything we do or say, sinful or righteous, begins with a thought. This is why Paul consistently admonishes us to seize control of our thought life. Read Romans 12:1-2, or Colossians 3:1-2 and notice that Paul emphasizes right thinking as essential to living a transformed life.

Unfortunately, we can be so easy on ourselves in regards to our thought life. We live under the illusion that our thoughts are secret. But the plain truth is that God sees every thought, whether wicked or honorable. So, as we daily confess our sins , let us not neglect to repent of those thoughts that command our hands, our feet, and our tongues.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NASB95)

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. The Treasury of David: Psalms 56-87. Vol. 3. London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers. Print.

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken

On two occasions Jesus drew a line in the sand for His disciples by telling them that true followers of His “take up their cross and follow Him.”  To understand this phrase we must forget the notion of the cross as a modern day icon of the Christian faith.  To a first century Jew living in that region, the cross signified a criminal’s death at the hands of a pagan foreign power.  To take up one’s own cross is to lift up the means of our own violent execution, place it on our back, and carry it to the place of our death.  With this challenge, Jesus is saying, “What awaits me is death. It will be gruesome and bloody. Are you with me?”

“Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” is an early 19th century hymn written by the Scottish pastor, Henry F. Lyte, whose own father abandoned him at an early age.  It speaks of the cost, the realities, and the blessed hope of discipleship.  When we sing this song, we are saying that we have accepted all that the cross means.  We have left the pleasures and trappings of this world and embraced the persecution, the suffering, and all that being a follower of Christ entails.  We are saying, with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” (Galatians 2:20).

Jesus, I my cross have taken, All to leave and follow Thee. Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou from hence my all shall be.

Perish every fond ambition, All I’ve sought or hoped or known. Yet how rich is my condition! God and Heaven are still mine own.

Taking up my cross involves sacrifice, self-denial, and humility. It also involves being fully aware that my depravity renders me deserving of the sentence that Christ received on my behalf. Because of His sacrifice, I owe Him everything. In giving up everything, I gain more than I can imagine.

For now, however, we live in world that is hostile to the gospel, passionately hates God and His Son, and subjects those who claim Him as king to constant persecution. And, Jesus said it would be like this.  All through His instructions in Matthew 10, Jesus tells His apostles that they will be hated because of Him.  He reiterated this to them in the upper room just prior to His arrest.

Let the world despise and leave me, They have left my Savior, too. Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like them, untrue.

And while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love and might, Foes may hate and friends disown me, Show Thy face and all is bright.

Neither the condition of the world, nor the circumstances we face can diminish the joy we have in Christ. Friends will leave us, family will disappoint us, and wealth will fade away. Nevertheless, God’s wisdom, love and might will sustain us and envelope us in the joy Christ intended just prior to His own death (John 15:11).

At the moment before His arrest, Jesus admonished His disciples to remain close to Him in light of the many trials and persecutions they would face for the remainder of their time on earth. Any fame they would achieve would bring scorn, pain, and death.  Just like those men, we are called to live in surrender to the cause of Christ. Still, we know that come what may, the joy of the Lord will sustain us and He will be our refuge and strength.

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure! Come, disaster, scorn and pain! In Thy service, pain is pleasure; With Thy favor, loss is gain.

I have called Thee, Abba, Father; I have set my heart on Thee: Storms may howl, and clouds may gather, All must work for good to me.

Our greatest desire is to be counted among those whose lives are marked by our service to the Kingdom of Christ. We long to hear Him say, “Well done,” (Matt. 25:14-30).

The suffering of a woman in labor is known to be one of the most painful experiences a human can endure; but, at the moment she hold this precious treasure, the pain becomes an irrelevant memory. Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to childbirth for this very reason. The pain we endure in service and hope will be a distance memory when fully united with Him in glory.

Haste then on from grace to glory, Armed by faith, and winged by prayer, Heaven’s eternal day’s before thee, God’s own hand shall guide thee there.

Soon shall close thy earthly mission, Swift shall pass thy pilgrim days; Hope soon change to glad fruition, Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

Our days on this earth will soon pass and we will suddenly and joyfully be in the presence of our Lord and Savior. The hope that is in us will come to full knowledge and glory. We will then see the things we cannot even imagine now, and we will spend eternity learning more and more about our infinite God.

Here, we sing of things we know to be true—not because we have experienced them with our physical senses, but because the Spirit has revealed these things to us through God’s holy Word. As we sing, may we be mindful of our singular cause and the reason for our celebration.  We live, we struggle, and we endure all for the glory of His name.

 

Psalm 64

“When words are made as sharp as possible by wit and malice, they have a frightful keenness of penetration,” William S. Plumer, Studies in the Book of Psalms.

Everyone knows the playground rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Unfortunately, as even a child knows, words are not the problem. The problem is the tongue behind the words, and the heart behind the tongue.  With carefully chosen words reputations can be damaged, relationships broken, and hearts embittered.  The damage caused by the skillful use of the tongue can endure through generations.

“…who have sharpened their tongue like a sword. They aimed bitter speech as their arrow, to shoot from concealment at the blameless; suddenly they shoot at him, and do not fear,” (Psalm 64:3–4).

In this psalm we see, once again, that God is for those who rely, not on their own schemes to prevail, but rather, on their faith that the Lord will be their defender.  For there are those who seek our destruction. There are those who set themselves up as our enemy devising and executing plans to bring about our ruin. They may even be convinced of the righteousness of their cause. Here in this song, David models a God honoring response, which is simply pray and trust. The battle is God’s to wage.

Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy. Hide me from the secret counsel of evildoers, from the tumult of those who do iniquity,” (Psalm 64:1–2).

When facing the threat of those who seek to harm us, our prayer needs to be “Hear my voice”, “Preserve my life”, and “Hide me from evil.” Then, we are to trust that God will do what He has promised–that He will instill fear into the hearts of men. This may not happen when we want it to, or when we think it should.  We must trust Him in that, as well. In this, God will be glorified–when His people are content to find refuge in Him.

Then all men will fear, and they will declare the work of God, and will consider what He has done. The righteous man will be glad in the Lord and will take refuge in Him; and all the upright in heart will glory.” (Psalm 64:9–10).

A New Command

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:34–35, NASB95).

I can think of few places in the pages of Scripture where the heart of Christ is more clearly revealed than in this section of John’s gospel known as the “upper room discourse”.  From 13:31 through 16:33, Jesus is pouring Himself into these 11 men whose ministry will have life-changing impact on people of every generation to follow.  The crowds are gone.  The betrayer is gone.  It’s just Jesus and His true apostles.

And here in vs. 34-35, Jesus gives them this “new commandment” to love each other.  How is loving each other something new?  If we are to love our neighbor, would this not include each other?  What’s new about this kind of love? Are we to love other disciples differently than we are to love those who are not in Christ?

Clearly, the love Jesus speaks of is not merely something we feel, but it is, rather, something we do.  We are to love each other as Jesus has loved us.  We are to do as He has done.  This love, however, is not devoid of feelings of affection.  In fact it is precisely our affection for Christ that motivates our behavior toward others who share this same affection.  Jesus repeatedly reminds us that our love for Him manifests itself in our obedience to Him.  JM Boice describes this love like this.

“The vertical love of disciples for the exalted Christ must be expressed horizontally in their love for all other Christians. Moreover, the horizontal love, which can be seen by everyone, is proof of the vertical dimension.” James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 1038.

If we truly love Jesus, our love for Him will be made evident by the love we show each other.  There are three noteworthy characteristics of this love contained in this passage that should also be found in our behavior towards each other.  This love is exclusive. This love is specific.  And, this love is demonstrative.

This love is EXCLUSIVE

This is not an “All you need is love” or “What wonderful world this would be” sort of command.  He’s not saying to all mankind, “Can’t we all just get along?”  The love Jesus is referring to is given specifically to those who confess Him as Lord.

Let’s remind ourselves of what is happening here.  Jesus is in the upper room with His apostles, but not all of His apostles.  Judas has left to carry out his betrayal of Christ.  The crowds that typically follow Jesus are gone, as well.  He is speaking to the faithful eleven, all but one of whom will die a violent martyr’s death because of their devotion to Christ; and the one who doesn’t will spend the rest of his relatively long life suffering horrible persecution for his Lord.

It’s important to note that Jesus waited until that particular moment to give this command to these men—rather than to a crowd of people who are spiritually unable, and dispositionally disinclined to obey such an imperative.  That the apostles loved Jesus is undeniable.  So now, on the verge of His departure from their earthly presence, He was commanding them to turn their affection for Him into love for each other.  This is a command that only those truly in Christ are able to obey.

This love is SPECIFIC

In many other places, and in many other circumstances, Jesus has commanded those listening to love.  As the Logos, He commanded the children of Israel to love God (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and their neighbor (Leviticus 19:18). When speaking to the gathered crowd, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, He revealed the identity of their neighbor as the object of generous, sacrificial love (Luke 10:25-37).  In the Sermon on the Mount, He taught the people to love their enemies, and pray for those who persecuted them (Matthew 5:43-45).  But here, this command is something new.  This love is reserved for those within the body of Christ—those for whom Jesus is Lord.  Not only is this love to be expressed only by true disciples, but this it is to be expressed toward true disciples.  He’s telling them “Love all who belong to me.”

There is a unique and special bond that believers have with each other. We have a connection to one another that runs deeper than heritage, geography, and language.  And, it will outlive every other type of human relationship.  The bond we share in Christ is eternal; but, this love is not private.

This love is DEMONSTRATIVE

When we love each other in this manner, it shows a watching world that our bond to each other is centered on our love for Jesus.  It tells those outside this bond that we, as one body, stand together under the Lordship of Christ.  It demonstrates that our devotion to Him surpasses any other factor that might otherwise divide us. In addition, when those in the world see this love at work, it opens the door for the gospel.

So, this love is exclusive, specific, and demonstrative; and, Jesus showed us how to do it. The disciples were about to find out, in stark reality, how deep Christ’s love for them would go. Jesus subjected Himself to the cruelest kind of punishment ever devised by man, primarily out of uncompromising obedience to His Father, but also because of His unfailing love for those who follow Him.  That same love is extended to us as well, and serves as an example for the love we are to have for each other.

Do we truly love Christ? Our love for Christ is expressed and made evident by the love we have for all those who belong to Him.  When we consider the various disputes and struggles that occur within the body of Christ, somewhere in the midst of all the strife is a failure to obey this command to love as He loves.  We are one in Christ.  We share our successes and our failures. We see each other’s weaknesses, and we benefit by each other’s strengths.  We love each other, not because we are particularly loveable, but because we love Him.  And, we love Him because He first loved us.

 

“Now” He is Glorified!

…Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him;” (John 13:31, NASB95).

Why would Jesus make this statement at the moment Judas leaves to betray Him? Prior to His humiliation; just before being handed over to sinful men and made to stand trial. How is this moment glorifying?

Jesus, Son of Man, is about to become both the means and object of our worship, and the ball is now rolling downhill.  At this moment, events are being set in motion that will not only bring about the completion of Christ’s earthly ministry, and the redemption of man; but in just a short while Jesus will be shown to be exactly what He has claimed to be–what He has always been.  He will be shown to be God incarnate.  Soon Jesus will rend the veil, rise from the dead, and take His place at the right hand of the Father in heaven, becoming our perfect mediator by removing the barrier between us and God, (Heb. 12:2).

Mankind worships that in which he sees glory. Ancient Egyptians worshipped the sun because in it they saw glory.  Modern man worships his favorite sports figures because he sees glory in the display of dominating athletic prowess. Since the fall man has, as Romans 1 tells us, exchanged the glory of God for other objects of worship. He has chosen to see glory in that which was created, rather than his creator (Romans 1:22-25).

But, God has provided for us another way. It is a way in which we are made able to see God in Christ, the glorified Son of Man; and are made able to worship Him in the manner He is worthy of.  This way is the way of the cross.  Christ’s death on the cross is the single most important event to ever take place. It is the very fulcrum of world history. At the cross, what was a mystery has been made clear to those who have been changed by it.  And, in this cross of suffering–in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, the Son of Man is truly glorified.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory,” (Ephesians 1:7–12, NASB95).

Psalm 63 – Praise First!

From the title, we are told that this song was written by David, while he was being chased through the wilds of Judah.  Commentators are split on who, exactly, is chasing him.  It is either Saul, prior to David ascending to the throne, or his son Absalom, who sent David into exile. Nothing in the title or the text of the psalm identifies his pursuers so theologians are left to speculate.

I believe this song to be written while David was in flight from Absalom. Verse 11 says, “The King will rejoice in God.”  This would be an unlikely thing for David to say about Saul; however, he would have never referred to himself as King while Saul was still occupying the throne. Although wicked, in David’s heart Saul remained God’s anointed king.

This psalm contrasts the yearning of the flesh (v.1), and the contentment of the soul (v.5). He speaks of being in a dry and weary land (v.1), and yet he’s feasting on spiritual marrow and fatness (v.5). David is sustained by his intimate relationship with almighty God, and he regards this relationship as superior to anything offered in life (v.3). In the midst of this highly stressful circumstance, David’s focus is on the Lord, not himself.

What I find most significant about this psalm is that of its 11 verses, the first 8 contain nothing but praise. He recalls seeing God—His power, His glory, and His lovingkindness—in the sanctuary, and responds by lifting his hands in exaltation.  He remembers God while on his bed, he meditates on the Lord—His help and protection in times of need. His soul is comforted by all he knows to be true of God.

When I recall moments of great distress in my own life—never approaching the circumstance David find himself in—my inclination in prayer was to plea for relief.  To cry for help in times of despair is certainly what we should do (James 5:13), but by first considering what we know to be true of God and praising Him for who He is, our focus is no longer on our circumstances; but is instead on our Heavenly Father, who is kind and merciful.  We can then, in confidence, trust that God will care for us just as He has promised.

Psalm 62 – God, Only!

Psalm 62 is attributed to David and while it is not attached to a specific event, it speaks of the trials and challenges we know David faced throughout his life. Within its verses, he addresses his enemies, his own people, and his own soul.  The song reminds us of the value of preaching truth to ourselves.  In our lives, just as all who’ve gone before us, we face opposition, discouragement, disappointment, and despair. In these times it is important to remember who God is and what He has done. Then, with our minds set on things above, we tell ourselves:

My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken, (Psalm 62:1-2).

There are two very important words contained in this refrain. God only.  There is nowhere else to look for a defender. There is nowhere else to place our hope. There is nowhere else to look for unending encouragement–so long as we find salvation, spiritual growth, and eternal hope encouraging. Everything we long for within our souls, can only be provided by our God who created, saved, and sustains us.

“Our salvation in no measure or degree comes to us from any inferior source; let us, therefore, look alone to the true fountain, and avoid the detestable crime of ascribing to the creature what belongs alone to the Creator.  If to wait on God be worship, to wait on the creature is idolatry; if to wait on God be true faith, to associate an arm of flesh to Him is audacious unbelief,” Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, vol. 3.

When we rely on humanity to provide these needed things, our disappointment will only multiply.  When our expectation is that those with whom we collide in work, ministry, and recreation will establish and sustain our identity, we will be discouraged. Especially, when we realize that they are often placing that same expectation on us. Likewise, when we fear man for what he may do or take away, we are ascribing power to the creature that he does not deserve.  The writer of Hebrews makes this point when instructing us to find our contentment in the Lord.  “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).

What makes the gospel “good news” is that in Christ we have been given a new life, new affections, new hope, and a new purpose.  God takes unworthy sinners, and by His amazing grace, He saves them from the wrath they deserve. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, He finds useful things to do with them.  What more do we need than that?

There is another phrase in this psalm that is worthy of mentioning. The psalmist instructs his soul to wait in silence for the Lord. When I am troubled by one of life’s many pressures, my inclination is to complain to anyone willing to listen, or any unfortunate person trapped in the same room. This, however, is not how I want to be seen. I have been made new in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), and my desire is for Christ to be on display in my life. Not only when things go well, but especially when they do not.

Colossians 3:1-3 reminds us that our responses to life’s  various struggles need to begin with how we think.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

It goes on to list those things we are to “put off” in order to “put on” those things characteristic of our renewal in Christ, (Col. 3:5-17).

When life disappoints us, threatens us, discourages us, or tempt us to anger, we must remind ourselves of who we are in Christ.  The apostle Peter, in his first epistle, reminds us that the blessings we have in Christ, this “imperishable inheritance,” far exceeds the various trials we face, (1 Pet. 1:6-9).  And, as those “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2), we are called to holiness–set apart from the world in how we think, talk, and act.

By remembering who God is, we are able to remind ourselves of who we are in Christ.  He has set us apart so that we can, with boldness, proclaim Him to those desperately in need of a Savior.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Peter 2:9).

The Rich Value of Singing Together

Much has been written to answer the oft asked question “Why do we sing?”  Simply stated, people sing because it is an intrinsically human thing to do. We sing because we are the image bearers of God and God sings (Zephaniah 3:17). As a church, we gather to exalt Christ in all His glory and our songs are a reflection of that purpose. For us, the redeemed, the singing of praises to our Lord and Savior is an outpouring of joy in the knowledge of who He is and all that He’s done.  It is both a cerebral and visceral response of worship to the reality and nature of God.

From the time of Moses, the gathered people of God sing together. The apostle John tells us that Jesus sang a hymn with His disciples just prior to His arrest and crucifixion.  Paul instructs us to sing together in letters addressed to two early churches.  Clearly, singing is an essential element of corporate worship. Why is this so?  Why is corporate singing important, and what does it actually do?  While there are countless personal benefits to be derived from engaging in this, I have here outlined four things Scripture teaches that come from our singing together.

Singing together expresses the condition of the heart, and ministers to the soul–

Singing together brings the full spectrum of human emotions into harmony with God’s inspired Word.  Joy, peace, sadness, despair, fear—all these can be expressed and scripturally aligned by the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

For example, Psalm 42 is a psalm of desperation. It was written by a worship leader who is in the midst of deep despair. Yet, he is determined to offer continual praise to God. Throughout, the psalmist repeats this refrain:

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.

Although by the end of the psalm his despair is not lifted, it is his constant praise and the reminder of God’s presence that serve to give him the strength to endure.

Similarly, in Psalm 59, David expresses great fear of men sent by the king for the purpose of killing him. At one point, David describes these men as dogs, hungry for his blood. But at the end, David expresses his trust in the power of God, his refuge.

But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength;
Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For You have been my stronghold
And a refuge in the day of my distress.
O my strength, I will sing praises to You;
For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness.

From this psalm, we see that the simple act of praising God can lift our hearts and tune our emotions in accordance with God’s character and attributes as revealed in His Word.

Singing together teaches and admonishes according to Scripture–

Colossians 3:16 tells us to “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”  Ephesians 5:18-19 is similar, telling us to speak to each other with singing as we are filled with the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that illumines Scripture to us. As His truth is expressed in the songs we sing, God’s Word is indelibly written on our hearts. From there, we carry it with us as we engage a sin-saturated world.  The Word of God cast in melody writes His truth on our hearts in a manner that few things can.

We also see in these passages that singing praises takes our focus off of ourselves and places it where it should be.  By singing from a thankful perspective we acknowledge God’s sovereignty and power, recognizing our total dependence on Him.

Singing together builds and demonstrates unity of the body–

The contexts of both New Testament passages above (Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19) speak of building and preserving unity in the body of Christ. Singing together in corporate worship unites the church under a single banner. When you consider a typical worship service, singing is one of the few, if not only, proactive expressions of unity that we collectively engage in. Certainly, the exposition of Scripture requires an active and engaged mind on the part of the hearers. However, at that moment, we are individually receiving and responding to what the preacher has studied and prepared.

When the church sings together, we become a choir engaged in joyful expressions of worship. Although the level of engagement may vary from person to person, and we are not all blessed with the same vocal ability, when we collectively sing we are unified in our proclamation of that which binds us together. The more we sing, the more unified we become.

Singing together pleases the Lord–

This is, perhaps, the most important reason for our singing together.  Psalm 69:30-31 tells us that singing praises to God pleases Him more than the sacrifices that He Himself had prescribed as the nation’s expression of worship.

I will praise the name of God with song
And magnify Him with thanksgiving.
And it will please the Lord better than an ox
Or a young bull with horns and hoofs.

More than anything else, it should be our deepest desire to please God in our corporate worship. This is accomplished by worshipping Him in the manner that He has prescribed in His Word.  With God’s pleasure as our purpose, we bring Him praises in song.

God has told us how we are to worship Him. He has prescribed to us those elements of worship which are essential and non-negotiable. Among those things are the public reading of Scripture, prayer, exposition of God’s Word, and the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. These elements, from pure hearts, join together in spirit and truth to make worship that is a pleasing aroma to our holy and sovereign Lord.  This kind of worship is the church’s highest purpose.

The people whom I formed for Myself
Will declare My praise, (Isaiah 43:21).

Psalm 56 – God is For Me

In Psalm 56 David is, again, praying for deliverance from enemies seeking his life.  Here, as in several other songs, he describes his situation, then calls on God to deliver him and vanquish those desiring to do him harm. In the middle of this Psalm, he has placed a short sentence that changes the entire tenor of the song. Immediately, the Psalm turns from turmoil and distress, to praise and thanksgiving.  Eight little words that, if read too hastily, may be overlooked for their significance.  After he calls on God to turn back his enemies, he says, “This I know, that God is for me.”

In Hebrew, the word translated that is the conjunction ki. A better rendering here might be the English word, because. The name he uses for God in this song is Elohim, which means Creator and Judge of the universe. So, David is saying, “I know my enemies will turn back because the Creator and Judge of the entire universe is for me.” His confidence is grounded in what he knows to be true of God. He knows that God is for him.

Say it to yourself, “God is for me.” What an incredible proclamation of faith this is. God, who created everything; who sits in righteous judgment over all the earth, is for us. What impact could this kind of faith have when our own circumstances seem dire; when loneliness, poverty, and helplessness bring us to moments of desperation. Likewise, Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome, after reminding us that as we are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ; and, we who are predestined are also called, justified, and glorified. Therefore, “If God (who has done all these things) is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:29-31).

Of course, it’s not a matter of simply saying the words and clicking our heels together. The power is not in the words. The power rests with the person we’re talking about. The words themselves are a proclamation of a truth that has been deeply planted in our soul. This truth is planted in the heart of everyone who belongs to Christ, and it is made sure by the indwelling person of the Holy Spirit. Every promise in God’s Word that He will be our comfort, our guide, our protector, and our sustainer, is secured and fortified by the Spirit of the Living God.  We have absolute victory in Christ. How do we know? God, the Creator and Judge of the universe, is for us.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.