Pastor Tyler Yoder
I studied music education for a couple years in college. Part of our coursework included reviewing the Indiana Academic Standards for Music to better understand our objectives as music educators. There was one phrase in those standards that always stood out to me: Students should be able to sing alone and with others. And we could talk about why our culture values this skill, but it’s obvious this is something God desires for His people: that they would sing not just alone, but with others.
As we start a 4-week sermon series on the Songs of Advent, it seems appropriate to explore how the “one another” passages overlap with this. In Ephesians 5:19, Paul calls the brothers and sisters in Ephesus to “…[address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…”
This goes beyond exhorting and teaching one another. What makes this passage unique is how it is connected to singing. Let’s talk through a few questions about singing.
First, what is singing?
God could have provided His Creation with a strictly functional means of communication, as He has done with our ability to speak. But God also chose to reflect His beauty in coordinated sounds that create melodies. And when people hear or sing these melodies, they experience something that engages their hearts, that stirs their soul, that is an expression of emotion. So, God calls His people to sing—to make a joyful noise.
But it’s not just about making beautiful sounds. When we sing, we speak to God, proclaim truths about God. So, singing is also about the lyrics, the words that we sing.
Second question: What happens when we sing?
I find that I generally remember something more clearly when it is put to music—states and capitals, multiplication tables…. The things of God are certainly worth remembering. Singing is also an outpouring of emotion. It’s the overflow of what already exists in our heart.
We see both of these—remembering and emotion—in the first song recorded in Scripture. In Exodus 15, God’s people have just come through the Red Sea, so Moses teaches them this song so that they will both remember what God has done and overwhelmingly rejoice at the salvation they received by His hand.
Songs of lament have a similar effect but on the opposite end of emotion. We still recall what is true of God and what He has done, even as we cry out to Him in our anguish and sorrow. So, among other things, singing is about remembering and emotion.
Third question: When should we sing?
...We sing to worship God, connecting our minds and hearts as we proclaim His excellencies.
...We sing in all of life’s circumstances, by faith when our heart is engaged…and by faith when our heart is not engaged.
...We sing across a spectrum of emotion, from the height of joy to the depths of sorrow and everything in between.
...We sing when we need to remember what is true about God.
...And specific to this Exhortation, we sing as a means of encouraging and building up one another.
When we gather, something unique happens when your brother or sister sees you singing. When we live in community in the Body, your brothers and sisters will know your life in all of its brokenness and beauty, its trials and joys, our sin and, our repentance.
As they see you and remember the story of your life, and when they still see you uniting with God’s people to praise Him, Oh, how their soul is built up in God. They say, “How great is our God, who has drawn them out of darkness into His marvelous light, for which they are singing!” Or “I have strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow as I see you, my brothers and sisters, rejoicing in the God who has saved you and is with you in all your circumstances.”
My soul is built up to keep running the race of faith, because of your singing.
So, my 3-fold exhortation to you today:
Sing to God. Know to Whom you are singing
Sing…period. Participate, that your brothers and sisters may be encouraged and built up.
Sing with others.
Hear the words they proclaim
Strengthen yourself in the truths they sing
Praise the God they are praising
Until we join with all of God’s people in Heaven in that glorious song praising Him forever, let us address one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with [our] heart…”