You can listen to the devotion here.
Rather than focusing on a particular hymn today, I thought it might be helpful to have a devotion focused on the importance of hymns and music in the life of the Christian and the church.
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
“In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide which direction it was coming…Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself….it was the most beautiful noise he had ever heard…” That quote is from The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis. Both Lewis and Tolkien in their mythologies picture God singing the world into creation.
I really love this image and it may not be that far off. The Bible does depict God as singing – even singing over us. And in Job 38:7 the Lord speaks to Job about how little he knows concerning creation including the angels singing at it: “…when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
The Lutheran Study Bible has this helpful note on the verse: Chemnitz says: “He adds this regard to the angels” (LTh 1:165). Angels sang festively at creation. They rejoiced again at re-creation, which began at the incarnation of Jesus and culminated in Christ’s resurrection and ascension. There was celestial joy at the beginning of time, and there will be joy at the end of the world (Rv 19:1–3). The preeminent Morning Star is Jesus Himself (Rv 22:16).
It is entirely plausible that the angels joined in the singing of the Father and the Son at creation.
God sings, and He tells us to sing as well. The Bible tells us to sing a new song and we sing a new song about the fullness of what Christ has done for us.
Let’s look briefly at music and why it’s important for us as Christians.
Music is a Divine gift. Luther said this about the gift of music: “Here it must suffice to discuss the benefit of this great art.4 But even that transcends the greatest eloquence of the most eloquent, because of the infinite variety of its forms and benefits. We can mention only one point (which experience confirms), namely, that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. She is a mistress and governess of those human emotions—to pass over the animals—which as masters govern men or more often overwhelm them. No greater commendation than this can be found—at least not by us. For whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate—and who could number all these masters of the human heart, namely, the emotions, inclinations, and affections that impel men to evil or good?—what more effective means than music could you find? The Holy Ghost himself honors her as an instrument for his proper work when in his Holy Scriptures he asserts that through her his gifts were instilled in the prophets, namely, the inclination to all virtues, as can be seen in Elisha [2 Kings 3:15]. On the other hand, she serves to cast out Satan, the instigator of all sins, as is shown in Saul, the king of Israel [1 Sam. 16:23].”
Music is a gift in which all angels and heavenly hosts join us without ceasing. Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! (Psalm 148) We confess this every Sunday as we hear, “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying,” and then we sing with the angels!
Music is ordained for use by the church. We are told over and over again in the Bible to sing in the gathered assembly. For example, Psalm 149, “Sing to the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints!” Whether it is the Old Testament or New Testament, the Church sings.
Music teaches doctrine to the church. As we hear in Colossians 3: 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Singing teaches – sometimes more powerfully than anything else. People often forget the sermon, but it is much harder to forget a hymn that is stuck in your head.
Music carries the confession of the faithful. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. (Ps. 145:4) Music helps the memory of the church in rehearsing what God has done. It is an integral, powerful part of the church’s proclamation. I have written before about how powerful hymns were in spreading the teaching of the Lutheran Reformation. That is still the case today.
Music is to be a full-throated response of praise and thanksgiving to God. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! (Ps. 98:4) And, Let the high praises of God be in their throats (149:6) The object of our praise is always God: for who He is and what He has done for us.
Music heals, soothes, and drives away the devil. We see this most clearly with David and Saul. David would play the harp for Saul and the distressing spirit would depart from Saul. We see this as Paul and Silas sang as they sat in a dark, damp dungeon. Good hymns have always strengthened the saints in times of trial.
There’s a lot more that could be said about music and hymns, but I hope this has laid a sufficient foundation for now.
We must sing. We were dead in trespasses and sins, the wrath of God was upon us, and then we were forgiven all our sins and brought from death to life. Christ Jesus lived, suffered, and died for us and our salvation. How could we not sing? Not just with our mouths but with our hearts. Not timidly, not half-heartedly, or begrudgingly, but with joy over what the Lord has done and is doing for us. In our churches and in our homes, our joy overflows into singing – it cannot help itself. Faith sings. Just like a young person in love who goes around humming and singing over the joy they have found.
It should be clear by now, but what we sing in church matters. Not only should our hymns reflect what we believe and confess, they actually shape what we believe and confess. So, we should sing those hymns that reflect what Scripture and our Confessions teach.
In several places in Scripture it is confessed about our Lord that, “He is my strength, and my song, and He has become my salvation.” (see Ex. 15:2, Psalm 118, Isa 12) Jesus Christ is our strength, our song, and our salvation. So, we sing. And we believe and confess that God Himself rejoices and sings over us out of His great love for us.
Gracious and Merciful God, we thank you for the gift of music and that you have handed down to us so many marvelous hymns. We thank and praise you that Christ Jesus is our strength, our song, and our salvation. Bless, keep, and preserve us in the one true faith; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.
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