I was recently leading worship in our church’s youth group. It’s always a blessing to lead these students in worship because it’s still new to them. While most of us have been singing church music for years or even decades, these students are just starting to discern what it means to worship. One of the questions I asked during our youth service was “Why Do We Sing?” I admit that “Christian Congregational Karaoke” is WEIRD. How many times a week do you gather with other people to sing for 15-20 minutes?
I think we need to be reminded why we sing in church. What’s the purpose? Is it to show off how beautiful or voices are to the people around us? Is it stay awake in the early hours of the morning service? Is it to get ready for our The Voice audition? While we tend to slip into these mindsets, the real reason we sing is because God commands us to.
Bob Kauflin has written much on the subject of church music and worship, and he has identified 400 references to singing in the Bible and fifty direct commands to sing. The most famous passage that commands us to sing is Psalm 96:1-4, which says:
Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.
So should we just sing in order to fulfill a command? Do we show up on Sunday morning begrudgingly, saying, “OK God, I’ll sing for you but just because you command me to!”? 1st John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome (Emphasis mine).”
God is worthy of all of our praise and when we sing, we are clearly giving God praise. Our voices encourage us to live our lives in obedience. It’s not right to live in rebellion to God all week and then come to church and sing the loudest or with the most passion. Just as Samuel told Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22b), we need to be reminded that while God commands us to sing, His foundational desires is for obedience.
Singing should be the outpouring of a life devoted to Christ. The reason we sing to the Lord is the same reason we can’t keep quiet about the latest movie, it was just so incredible and worthy of our affirmation. The issue is when idols in our lives deceive us into thinking that they are more wonderful than the Lord.
This is why the daily reading of God’s Word in devotions is so important. We take time every day to remember that God is worthy to be praised above everything else. God is more loving and gracious than any movie, job promotion, sporting event, and thus, worthy of all of our praise.
In conclusion, we sing because God commands us to. We give Him glory through song, prayer, reading His Word, and most importantly obedience because He is worthy of all the praise and more! Charles Wesley reminds us that even if we were to have A Thousand Tongues, the praise we could give would still greatly fall short of all that God deserves.
So let us sing and let us obey!