“Sing unto the Lord, all the earth; show forth from day to day His salvation.” 1 Chronicles 16:23
Singing. That’s the word that You, Lord, layed on my heart today. Why sing? What’s so important about singing? If singing wasn’t important, then why is the word “sing” used in 102 verses in Scripture? As a matter of fact, the very first verse that uses the word sing is Exodus 15:1. The Israelites had just been delivered out of 200 years of pain and slavery and miraculously crossed the Red Sea and watched God defeat Pharoah’s army before their very eyes. “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spoke saying, ‘I will sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea… ‘” And I’m thinking that singing is not just a suggestion but that singing is a necessity in my spiritual walk with You, Lord.
Now, I can’t help but look back and find out if the Hebrew idea of singing was just like ours or if there might have been something else to it. And I found some things that don’t suprise me one little bit. The Hebrew word for sing is “shiyr.” And in most instances it has to do with worship. Sometimes, in Hebrew, you can look at the letters and the original pictograph formed by those letters in a word, and even that pictograph tells you something about the word. Skip Moen shares that picture, “The pictograph tells us that the word is about deeds or work that consumes the person. In other words, singing “eats” you up. It takes away what you were feeling and moves you to another experience. It is the divine transporter. This is why the Hebrew world considers singing to be praying.” Hmm. Let me think about that. Singing=praying. I need to hold that thought. But let’s keep going.
Why did I even begin on this search this morning? Because I wanted to see when You, Lord, thought people should sing and why we should sing. Because what about those times when I am so filled with pain that I don’t even have words? How can I sing then? But what if those are the times I need most to sing? What if that is the time I need most to worship You with someone else who has the words that I can’t find? What if that’s the time I most need to be reminded that You triumph gloriously and I need to confirm that with my own mouth, with my heart, and with my emotions?
The Siach Safre Kodesh which is “stories of wisdom, biographies of famous rabbis, and Torah discourses” shared this thought, “There are three ways in which a man expresses deep sorrow: the man on the lowest level cries; the man on the second level is silent; the man on the highest level knows how to turn his sorrow into song.” And Abraham Heschel, an American rabbi and leading Jewish theologian and philosopher of the 20th century, in Between God and Man believed “true prayer is a song.” My question is, how many times have I thought of singing in terms of sorrow and pain? But that seems to be where the Hebrew roots of singing came from.
And I’m thinking that makes sense. Think of all the spirituals that arose out of slavery in America. Was it their good circumstances that birthed those songs? Or was it something deeper? Were those songs a prayer, a cry out to God, that lifted one another up?
If I go back to 2 Chronicles 20 I find the true story of Jehoshaphat. And the Moabites and Ammonites and others were raising up against Israel. And all the people of Israel came before You and cried out to You. And You told them to not be afraid because You were going to take care of it and they would triumph in You. And before they received the outcome, before the victory, here’s what they did. Jehoshaphat appointed singers to the Lord! You know what their job was? To praise the beauty of His holiness as they went out before the army. And as they went they would continually say, “Praise the LORD; for His mercy endures for ever.” And God used their singing. It was beautiful worship. In their lack of strength, in their pain and distress, they stopped thinking about all that. They put their minds and hearts and worship in Him. And this is what happened. “And when they began to sing and to praise” the Lord set ambushments against their enemies. Notice that. It wasn’t after they sang and praised. It was when they began. Maybe singing in the midst of pain is a sign of faith and worship.
I can’t help but think of Paul and Silas. There they were sharing the Gospel and now their clothes are being torn off of them and they are being beaten and whipped. And it wasn’t just a little. Many stripes were laid on them and they were thrown in a nasty, smelly, dank prison and their feet fastened in stocks. How is that for pain and sorrow and suffering and heartache? But what did they do? Did they remain bound by the pain and sorrow and suffering and heartache? Or did they take that pain and sorrow and suffering and heartache and lift it to the Lord in song? In the midst of the pain, while the wounds were raw, they prayed and sang praises unto God, unto You, Lord. And what happened? The prisoners heard. And You acted just like with Jehoshaphat. You sent a sudden earthquake and released them from their chains and were glorified before the prisoners and before the jailor.
What if I don’t sing? Let that not even be a thought. I must. Because it’s not my song. It’s Your song, Lord, and it’s the song You have placed in me and it must come forth. As Psalm 40:3 says, You have put a new song in my mouth, even praise to You, my God: and as many hear they shall see and fear, and shall trust in You. It matters if I sing to You and for You, or if I don’t.
There are times when all I can do is fall at Your feet without words because I hurt that much. But You are bigger than the pain in me. In every believer You have placed Your song and Your Holy Spirit will help me sing that song. He will give me the words. He will bring them back to mind. And as I am faithful to sing what He gives me, I will experience the presence and filling of the Comfortor. And when I can’t express it because the pain is so deep and the words won’t come and all I can do is cry or when even the tears won’t come, maybe then I need to run to others who have found the song and let that minister to me. Maybe, as I listen to the words You gave them, I might just find myself being transported to You, and I might just find myself singing with them. And maybe that won’t equal all the words I feel. But walking in faith comes one step at a time, or, one song at a time.
I suppose I have to ask myself, does the pain hurt more than I miss that closeness with You? I think we’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced pain. Some of us had to learn the value of singing in the Lord. For some of us, singing just is part of who we are. And some of us, well, we haven’t learned the value of singing yet. But I want to learn to not wait for the good days to come. I want to sing in expectation. And I want to sing not because my circumstances are good but because I know the goodness of You, God, even in the midst of tragedy. It’s not easy. Walking in faith isn’t easy. But it’s worth every hardship and every tragedy. I want my focus to remain on You no matter what so I will be influenced by You and so that influence will make a difference in those around me.
Pain and loss hurt. They hurt terribly. And it’s a part of life that doesn’t necessarily go away. I just have to learn how to fit it into Your picture, into Your plan. And surrendering it to You doesn’t take the memory away, but it puts everything in perspective, and it brings healing. Paul and Silas didn’t stop hurting when they sang. But they rose above the pain in the midst of the pain. They lifted themselves up to You and let You carry them in song. I want to follow their example because there are things in this life I just can’t handle on my own. I need You as much as they needed You. And I don’t want to let pain defeat me, because I am more than a conqueror in You.
Skip Moen shared some more of prayer and song. He said, “The reason prayer is transformed into song is because words fail me. My hurt runs too deep. My trauma is too strong. I can’t say what I can’t do, and what I can’t do is find a way out. So, I learn to sing praises to my King and my song “eats” up what would destroy or consume me and gives me peace…I know what it means to hurt right down to my soul.” So, the question is, will I allow You to consume my pain? Scripture says that You are a consuming fire. Do You just consume sin? Or do You consume anything that wants to keep me from You? Lord, I want nothing more than to be consumed in and by You.
I suppose I always thought that was a reference to You burning things up, Lord. But there is this other part of consuming that has to do with eating, with ingesting. This word, “akal” is also used in Ezekiel 3:1 where You tell Ezekiel, “Son of man, eat what you find, eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.” You didn’t say take a bite. You said eat this whole scroll. Taste if fully. Then go do what it says. But let’s keep going. What did Ezekiel do? “So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. He said to me, ‘Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.’ Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.” Maybe that’s what happens when I choose to sing in the midst of pain and suffering. Maybe singing isn’t a suggestion but an imperative. Maybe I must sing. Maybe I must sing, Lord, so that I can taste and experience Your sweetness in my mouth. Maybe I must sing so that You can fill my stomach and my body with Your sweetness.
Lord, no matter how deep the pain, give me a song. And let me not hold that song in my heart. Let me sing, even if the words squeak when they come out because I cry as I sing. Let me sing, even if I fall to my knees and don’t know what to say. Give me a song. Even if it’s someone else’s song. Just give me a song from You because You never stop singing. Even the angels before Your throne continually sing praises to You. Who am I to not sing? Don’t let me lose that beautiful flavor of You. And don’t let me neglect to share that beautiful flavor of You with those who would hear my singing. Because maybe my song will give them words to sing, and lift them above their pain and sorrow. Lord, just give the songs we need to sing. And sing with us. I can’t wait to see what You do.