BIBLE TEACHING THROUGH MUSIC
by Jan Young
Have you ever caught yourself humming one of the songs from the church service on your way home, or later that day, or even during the week? Have you been surprised that you could remember most of the words? Some tunes come easily to our minds, the words speaking to us of the Lord, uplifting our spirits.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Singing is an important part of teaching the Bible, but there are many issues surrounding music in the church. We will look at biblical models for lyrics and choice of instruments. We will look at the responsibilities of church music leaders in singing and choosing appropriate music, and see what the Bible has to say about the controversy between "traditional" vs. "contemporary," concluding with a sampling of hymns that have stood the test of time.
Not all Bible teaching situations involve singing, such as Sunday School classes or Bible studies. But Sunday School opening sessions, Vacation Bible Schools, and Bible clubs rely heavily on singing. Youth groups incorporate singing, as do Sunday services.
Whether your role is planning, leading, performing or singing, it is important to compare Christian music to the guidelines we find in the Bible. Is the music honoring to God? Are the words biblical? Do they impart correct doctrinal truth? Or are they chosen because they are well-known, popular, catchy or fun to sing?
Hymn singing was introduced around the time of Martin Luther and the Reformation, with the purpose of bringing singing to the congregation, instead of limiting it to the monks with their chanting and plain-songs. It was seen as a way of reinforcing doctrine in the memories of believers, the majority of whom did not have access to the written Word. Ironically, today many have that access, but do not read it except in church. Today's Christian, just as the Christian of the past, needs every possible reinforcement of biblical content.
Let us again use the Bible itself as our textbook. There are two main New Testament passages on the use of singing in the church, Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:17-21. Some of the words and phrases have been expanded here by the addition of other possible translations and meanings of the words in the original language, as found in Strong's Concordance. The actual words are in bold type.
Let the word of Christ [John 1:1, "and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"; the word of Christ = God's Word]
dwell in you, [inhabit, live in; John 15:4, "abide in Me, and I in you"]
in all [always, thoroughly]
teaching [causing to learn]
and admonishing [to put in mind, caution, reprove gently, warn] one another
in psalms [a piece of music accompanied by voice or instrument; the book of Psalms]
and hymns [a Psalm or religious song with the idea "to celebrate" something about God]
and spiritual [non-carnal, ethereal, supernatural, regenerate, religious] songs,
singing with grace [graciousness of manner or act, gratitude, benefit, favor, gift, joy, liberality, pleasure]
in your hearts to the Lord.
Since all Bible study should be done in context, we want to also notice 3:17, "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." And, 3:23, "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily [with your mind, your soul, your whole life], as to the Lord, and not unto men."
Similar ideas are expressed in two other passages. I Corinthians 10:31, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." I Peter 4:11, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
So these verses would also apply to our singing. Our singing is to be for God, about God, glorifying to God, and done in the name (authority, character) of Jesus. It is not for us, about us, or done in our own name (authority, character). It is not to glorify or magnify ourselves.
Now let's look at the other main New Testament passage on singing.
Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
Speaking to yourselves [hence the antiphonal or responsive chanting]
in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs [see above notes],
and making melody [to play on a stringed instrument, to sing psalms, to celebrate with music]
in your heart [with your thoughts, feelings, mind, your "middle"]
to the Lord;
Giving thanks always [see above notes]
for all things
unto God and the Father
in the name [in the authority or character]
of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
In the context of Ephesians 5, we read 5:10, "proving what is acceptable unto the Lord" [trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord, NASB]. Our singing is not to be about what pleases us and our feelings, but rather, trying to learn what pleases God. This is why we should use the Bible as our textbook on what type of singing pleases God. If we are not interested in trying to understand what the will of God is in any matter, Ephesians 5:17 says we are foolish.
According to Colossians 3:16, we are to sing "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs," or songs that are spiritual. Among the words listed in Strong's Concordance for the Greek word translated "spiritual" is the word "non-carnal." Let's look at the word "carnal" as it relates to the word "spiritual" in order to determine what "non-carnal" means.
Romans 8:1-14 contrasts the spiritual with the carnal [translated "fleshly" in NASB]. Paul contrasts those who walk according to the flesh and those who walk according to the Spirit, 4. He contrasts those who set their minds on the flesh with those who set their minds on the Spirit. He may be contrasting believers with unbelievers here, or he may be talking about two kinds of Christians--carnal Christians and spiritual Christians. A carnal Christian walks according to the fleshly nature, not the Holy Spirit; he sets his mind on things of the fleshly nature rather than setting it on the Holy Spirit.
However, in I Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul is obviously talking to believers, "brethren," in 3:1. He describes carnal or fleshly believers as infants in Christ, 1; taking milk, not solid food, 2; unable to even bear solid food, 2; walking like mere men, 3-4.
A parallel idea is found in Ephesians 4:22-24 where Paul tells believers to put off the old man, the old self (the former manner of life) and put on the new man--righteousness, holiness, truth. When we become Christians, our old fleshly values and way of life do not just evaporate. They are a constant temptation and need to be dealt with continually. The old nature is feeling-oriented. Everything is about feeling good, about what appeals to our feelings. This is what we need to guard against in our Christian lives, in our doctrine, in our interpretation of the Bible, in our approach to spiritual things, in our music: living by our feelings.
Colossians 3:16 says that our songs should not be influenced by the old man, the old self, the carnal nature, the fleshly nature--these are all synonymous terms. I Corinthians 3:1-4 says carnal Christians aren't interested in solid food (the meat of the Word) and prefer to act like mere men (unsaved people). Our songs should contain the meat of the Word. Songs about our feelings don't contain much solid food. Carnal or fleshly songs would be songs that appeal to our old nature.
What about songs of praise, trust, or gratitude? Are these feelings? We are to praise God at all times, not just when we feel happy or things are going good. We are to trust God at all times, not just when we can see clear sailing ahead. We are to always be grateful and express our thanks, not just when we feel like it, I Thessalonians 5:16-18. These are acts of obedience, which is a matter of our will and not necessarily of our feelings. The Psalms are full of expressions of praise, trust and gratitude.
Does God want to hear us say how much we love Him, how we are giving Him our all, how He alone is our Lord? Many contemporary songs are about these things. Does the Bible teach us to sing of such things? Are any of those things even true of us? If we think so, we are self-deceived. Those are lies. We may desire those things to be true; we should ask God to help us to do those things. But God is not deceived or impressed by our fickle words and emotions. The Bible teaches that He is more interested in our actions, our choices, our heart motives, our daily obedience and yielding.
We probably would not be pleased or impressed if our children made a great show of sincerely telling us how well they were doing in their obedience to us. Wouldn't most of us smile condescendingly, roll our eyes, and think, "That's all well and good, but I know what really happened last week, and the week before, and what's likely to happen next week. Just show me--don't bother to tell me when it's not even so." We can sing in church about how much we love God, yet contradict that song by our thoughts, words or actions on the way home from church, or before we even leave church.
If we love God, the Bible makes it clear how we are to show it. What does God desire from those who love Him? The apostle John, who wrote several New Testament books, gives us the answer. He records Jesus' own words on that subject in John 14:15,21,23, 15:12. John echoes these thoughts in I John 5:3 and II John 6. Rather than singing, God desires that we obey Him and show love to others. Let's not ignore God's own words about how to love Him, or insult Him by replacing them with our own ideas. Obedience is very similar to the biblical definition of worship: bowing down, serving, yielding, sacrifice.
A model for our singing should be the expressions of the Bible's own writers. Do we see them promising to love and follow God? Do we see declarations of how they love Him and are putting Him first? When Peter promised to lay down his life for Jesus, what happened less than 24 hours later? Did Peter know himself as well as he thought he did? The Pharisee who, in his prayer, reminded God of the good things he did for God (Luke 18:11-14) is described as exalting himself. We are to have the attitude of the sinner in Luke 18:13, who humbled himself before God.
We also read promises made by the nation Israel, such as Exodus 19:8, 24:3,7; Joshua 1:17, 24:24; Jeremiah 42:5-6. Yet they continually failed to do these things. These were rash, emotionally-motivated statements which they were never able to fulfill. We should be careful before God with our words. We are not doing good enough, and we do not love Him enough. Many of us can't even get through a prayer without our mind wandering. We are merely sinners saved by grace. Our singing should reflect an attitude of humility, as should our entire Christian walk. We ought to sing "great is Thy faithfulness" rather than "great is my faithfulness."
Look at those whom we might call some of the most godly people in the Bible--Paul and Daniel. Instead of telling us or God how good they are doing, they speak humbly of themselves as sinners in need of repentance. That language, while found frequently in hymns, is lacking in many popular contemporary songs.
Our humanistic approach to love is strongly oriented toward expressing words of love to the person we love. Our human ideas of love are often about having warm, fuzzy, exciting, or noble feelings toward the one we love. Group singing with hands raised and an exciting "worship team" can help us experience those feelings about God.
In contrast, the Bible speaks of agape love (Greek, pronounced "uh-GAW-pay"). That is God's kind of love--the kind of love He tells us to have. Agape love is about actions, regardless of and maybe in spite of feelings. A good example of the Bible's definition of love is found in Luke 10:25-37. A lawyer asks Jesus what it means to love his neighbor as himself. Jesus answers with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
According to the parable, love is showing compassion, 33, and mercy, 37. It is about actions and choices, not feelings. There is no indication that the Samaritan knew or even liked the man he helped. He may have even had negative feelings toward the man because he might have been of a different racial or cultural identity. Feelings are not the criterion of biblical love--"agape" love. The Samaritan did not tell the wounded man, "I love you so much!" He showed love by his actions. Jesus said, "Go and do the same."
Many Christian songs speak of falling in love with Jesus or of Jesus falling in love with us. Is this scriptural? When we fall in love with another person, are we referring to the platonic love for parents, children or friends? No. How would you feel if your best friend told you that he or she was in love with you? Doesn't that expression have the obvious connotation of sexual love?
Other songs refer to "Your touch," "Your embrace," "Your warm breath," "the way You move me," "the way You make me feel." Such talk is unbiblical; many find it revolting. Romanticizing God's love brings Him down to a human level; it also makes it difficult for men to relate comfortably and properly to God. We need to recognize how different His kind of love is from ours.
Falling in love is emotion-based, not choice-based. We fall in love with those who are lovable; when they become unlovable, we fall out of love with them. This is not the type of love the Bible speaks of and is doctrinally false. This type of language is not appropriate to Christian singing.
David was a song-writer, singer and instrumentalist. A study of the Psalms gives us models for suitable singing. David focuses on God, not himself. He focuses on praising God. When he speaks of getting bogged down in his thoughts and feelings, he usually balances it by bringing the focus back to God, as in Psalm 13, 22, 42, 89. Our singing should mostly be about praising God, not speaking about Self. Songs that praise God will be about what He is like, what He has said, what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do in the future. Some of the Psalms were written in connection with specific events, rehearsing what God did or what the singer learned about God through that experience. We need these constant reminders because of our short memories. We also need to be frequently reminded of how weak and sinful we are, how much we need God, and how much we need to repent and believe instead of doubt and complain.
Our carnal nature prefers songs with a feel-good theology rather than songs about our faults and weaknesses. In Deuteronomy 31:14-30, we read that God commanded Moses to teach a song to the children of Israel. Read the words of the song in Deuteronomy 32:1-43. It is not a feel-good song, but rather a song of teaching about what God had done and a reminder of how Israel had responded. In the hymn "Alas, And Did My Savior Bleed," some hymnals have changed "Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?" to "sinners such as I," or even, "such a one as I." Apparently some people don't think the original words are acceptable to today's feel-good Christian, even though the Bible several times refers to man as a "worm."
Just as they were never to forget how disobedient they really were, we also need reminded of what we are really like. In Deuteronomy 32:44-47, God commands them to teach this song to their children; it will help them prolong their days in the land they are about to enter. Reminding ourselves of what God is like and what we are like will help us in our daily lives.
Many of the songs we call Psalms deal with the writer's fear, anxiety, despair, sorrow, hopelessness, doubt, pain, illness, disappointment, loneliness, sin, guilt, need for forgiveness, impatience, anger, and pride. Why would anyone want to sing about these things? Songs are to remind us and teach us, not to give an emotional high. We are to sing more about our failings and less about our feelings.
Consider this verse from "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing": "O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, O take and seal it; seal it for Thy courts above."
Many well-known hymns echo this theme. "I am weak but Thou art strong." "For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled." "I need Thee every hour." "Would He devote that sacred head for someone such as I?" "Stand in His strength alone; the arm of flesh will fail you, you dare not trust your own." "Seek us when we go astray." "So sinful, so weary; Thine, Thine would I be." "Without Him I would fall." "I am weak but Thou art mighty."
These themes, found frequently in hymns, are rarely found in contemporary "praise and worship" feel-good songs. But not all hymns are doctrinally outstanding. Many popular and well-loved hymns are as repetitive and light on doctrine as some contemporary songs. Because a song is found in a hymnbook does not mean it is an outstanding song.
An example of a well-loved hymn that is light on doctrine is "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee:"
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love; hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above. Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away; giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!
All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays, stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise. Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea, chanting bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.
Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest; well-spring of the joy of living, ocean-depth of happy rest! Thou our Father, Christ our Brother--all who live in love are Thine; teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.
Mortals join the mighty chorus which the morning stars began; Father love is reigning o'er us, brother love binds man to man. Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife; joyful music leads us sunward in the triumph song of life.
There is nothing really false in these words, but the few references to biblical truth are surrounded by feel-good images. This song could as easily be sung by a universalist as by one who believes in salvation through Christ alone because of His blood. Some of God's attributes are mentioned, but no more than might be accepted by any non-Christian who claims to believe in God. Perhaps this song is so loved because of its beautiful musical qualities--not surprising, since the tune was written by Beethoven.
A quick perusal of a typical hymnbook will show many references to the blood, to the cross, that we are sinners saved by grace. The blood, the cross, and saving sinners are not the focus of today's feel-good music. While these themes can be found, they are not dominant as they are in the classic hymns of the church.
There are contemporary songs with biblical content, some straight out of the Bible. Even children's songs can be verses from the Bible; what easier way is there to memorize Scripture? Most of the great hymns are a wealth of doctrinal content; singing them helps plant those truths in our forgetful minds.
Many contemporary songs are about God rather than Jesus, or about Jesus without reference to His specific attributes. This generality allows songs to appeal to more people of varying beliefs and to not offend those who are soft on doctrinal truth. Many para-church organizations, seminars, and rallies appeal to wide audiences, regardless of biblical orthodoxy. They believe that an emphasis on doctrine (truth) will offend people and turn them away. Participants are encouraged to see everyone there as brothers in Christ, regardless of whether they are Catholic, Mormon, or any liberal belief. Any concept of God or Jesus, regardless of religion, can be brought to many contemporary songs with no problem.
Singing together builds a feeling of bonding and unity. Therefore, songs may avoid such "narrow" ideas as the blood, the cross, the resurrection, sin, repentance, salvation through Christ alone, the rapture, the importance of the Bible as God's Word, or our unworthiness. These groups believe that unity is more important than doctrine and will sacrifice doctrine for the sake of unity, but the Bible teaches that we can only have unity around truth (doctrine).
This ecumenicism is not what the Bible teaches, yet it is a popular movement. Compare John 17:11, "that they may be one, as we are." Who are "they"? 17:2 defines them as all that the Father has given to the Son--the elect, all who have eternal life. 17:6 defines them further as those who have kept His Word--the Bible. 17:8 defines them even further as those who received the words of Jesus, who truly understand and believe who Jesus is and what He has done.
John 17:14 goes on to say that these who are one in unity have received God's Word, which is truth, 17:17. Unity is based on a knowledge of and belief in God's truth, God's Word. 17:23 says that those "made perfect in one" are those who are in Christ, who have the indwelling Holy Spirit ("I in them")-in other words, born-again believers. Doctrinal truth should not be pushed aside in the interest of a false and unbiblical type of "unity"; truth is the foundation on which our unity is based.
According to Ephesians 4:13, unity is not something we are to try to create but something we come to, attain to, arrive at. The unity we come to is the unity of faith--a common belief. The next phrase goes on to qualify unity; it is "of the faith" and "of the knowledge of the Son of God." It is not based on a common emotional experience generated by singing, but is based on knowledge of Christ--knowledge of the Truth. "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).
Besides traditional and contemporary Christian music, children's music is another category that needs attention to lyrics. Many children's songs are more about having fun and feeling good than biblical content. The church has fallen into the world's mold of majoring in fun. Having fun at church, Sunday School, VBS, or Bible club is good but should never be the most important part of ministering to children.
The things we learn as children seem to stay with us all our lives, so it is important to choose good songs for children. Some popular but meaningless songs need to be put to rest: "Jacob's Ladder," "Father Abraham," "Sunshine Mountain," "Deep and Wide." Many well-known and well-loved songs have stood the test of time because of their content. Consider these two children's songs, which each plant a basic important concept in impressionable minds.
The B-I-B-L-E, yes that's the Book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.
Jesus Loves Me
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.
Depending on the size of the church, the person in charge of music may be the song leader, music director, choir director, music pastor, or some similar position. The music leader plays a very important role in the spiritual direction of the church. Vocal and instrumental music should be planned and executed in a well-thought-out way. Music should be biblically appropriate, prayerfully selected, lead or performed in a way that effectively points people to the Lord.
The music director is responsible for which songs are chosen, how they are presented or introduced, and how they are performed. His remarks before and after a piece, his demeanor and tone of voice, mold the thinking of the congregation. He can draw attention to the performers or he can be a bridge to help reflect the glory to God. This is a huge responsibility. Because this falls into the category of teaching, James 3:1 applies to song leaders: "Brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation."
Songs stay with us; they are easily imbedded into our minds, even if in bits and pieces. Songs are more easily remembered than sermons because of rhythm, melody and repetition. Anyone who is up in front is in a position to influence people's thinking, whether through preaching, teaching, singing, or praying--even in how prayer requests are taken and how announcements are given.
These responsibilities apply to the music director, choir leader, and those who perform special music. They apply to those who utilize singing in youth and children's groups. The pastor is ultimately responsible for what he allows in the area of music. If his sermons are giving the meat of the Word, the songs should also be meaty, not filling the congregation with the empty calories of spiritual junk food. Songs should never contradict the sermon.
In the following verses, we see that musicians in the tabernacle and the temple had positions of responsibility, not to be taken lightly. Music leaders in the church today might do well to study the Old Testament model. Music played an important role in Israel, particularly under King David, who was a singer, instrumentalist, and song writer. (Bold added to bring out important words.)
1 Chronicles 6:31-32 And these are they whom whom David set over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after that the ark had rest. And they ministered before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem: and then they waited on [served in, NASB] their office according to their order. [To minister is to serve. How can our singing serve God or minister to Him?]
In I Chronicles 15, David makes plans to return the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem where he had prepared a tent for it. His plans include a heavy emphasis on music--not just any kind of music, but well-organized music, led by the most skillful musicians. The fact that God chose to record the names of these musicians who were to lead the people in music shows the importance of music in serving the Lord.
1 Chronicles 15:16-28 And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of music, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy…So the singers, Heman, Asaph and Ethan, were appointed to sound with cymbals of brass…with psalteries on Alamoth [the soprano or female voices]; and Mattithiah, and Elipheleleh, and Mikneiah, and Obed-edom, and Jeiel, and Azaziah, with harps on the Sheminith [eight, the octave] to excel. And Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was for song; he instructed about the song, because he was skillful…the priests, did blow with the trumpets before the ark of God...and the singers, and Chenaniah the master of the song with the singers…Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, and with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps.
In I Chronicles 22, David makes plans for the coming reign of his son Solomon, who would build the temple. The tribe of Levi had been designated by God to carry the tabernacle, but with the building of a permanent temple, they would no longer need to do this. In chapter 23, David, under God's direction (II Chronicles 29:25), assigns them new duties, one of which is music. Music is to be prominent in the temple.
I Chronicles 23:3-5 Now the Levites were numbered…and four thousand praised the Lord with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith.
I Chronicles 25 is entirely about the use of music to serve God.
I Chronicles 25:1-8 Moreover, David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy [speak or sing by inspiration] with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals…under the hands of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to praise the LORD…All these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the LORD, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God…So the number of them, with their brethren that were instructed in the songs of the LORD, even all that were cunning [skillful], was two hundred fourscore and eight. And they cast lots, ward against ward, as well the small as the great, the teacher as the scholar [pupil].
Verses 10-31 list the rest of the 24 lots, with 12 assigned to each person listed, along with his sons and relatives. Many of the Psalms were written not only by David, but also by Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthan, whom we see, along with their sons, mentioned in this passage.
In those days, when God was still speaking through prophets, He used some of these singers to impart His message through prophecy, or inspired words. The Bible presents the teaching of God's Word as an important aspect of music. Songs should be chosen to accurately present God's Word to people.
Much later, after the reign of wicked King Ahaz, Hezekiah became king, cleansed the temple, and restored the sacrifices and offerings. He had the Levites resume their musical duties that David had assigned but which had not been carried out for some time.
2 Chronicles 29:25-30 And he set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and of Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the LORD by His prophets. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets…the song to the LORD began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel. And all the congregation worshiped, the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshipped. Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the LORD with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped.
What did those singers sing? Did they sing about how wonderful it felt to be in the temple again? Did they sing about how they were now obeying God again? Or did they sing about how glorious God was? Did they tell God that from now on they would always worship Him alone? If so, they would have been lying, for we know what they did in the future. Likewise, we should be cautious in telling God what we will do for Him in the future. Too many songs are full of rash promises we cannot and will not keep.
This seems to be especially true of "worship songs." But some hymns are also guilty of this unbiblical type of thinking, such as this popular "invitation" hymn, "I Surrender All":
All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. I surrender all, I surrender all. All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.
Besides the fact that the "invitation" to come forward in church to receive salvation is not even a biblical concept, such declarations are false because none of us has probably ever surrendered all to God; we may think we have, but thinking, saying, or wanting are not the same as doing. A person just receiving salvation is even less likely to do so than a mature Christian. The Bible teaches that salvation is believing and receiving, John 1:12, not the impossible feat of surrendering our all.
Instead, we read in II Chronicles 29 that they sang with the words of David and Asaph--the Psalms. They sang God's Word. The Psalms are about praising God--telling who He is, what He is like, and what He has done. Some Christians believe we should sing only the Psalms, in both public and private worship, based on a narrow interpretation of Ephesians 5:19; however, the Psalms do not contain New Testament truth, which should be a major component of our singing.
Following the rebuilding of the temple and the wall in Jerusalem when the captives returned to their land, Nehemiah reorganized the temple musicians (the Levites), just as David had commanded.
Nehemiah 12:27-46 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps. And the sons of the singers gathered themselves together…for the singers had builded them villages round about Jerusalem…Then I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great companies [choirs] of them that gave thanks…certain of the priests' sons with trumpets…with the musical instruments of David the man of God…And the other company [choir] of them that gave thanks went over against them...
So stood the two companies [choirs] of them that gave thanks in the house of God…and the priests…with trumpets…And the singers sang loud, with Jezrahiah their overseer. Also on that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off…And both the singers and the porters kept the ward [act, observance, duty] of their God, and the ward of the purification, according to the commandment of David, and of Solomon his son. For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God.
The songs were those of David and Asaph, the Psalm writers. The Psalms had been recognized as inspired by God and had been kept and passed down. Singing God's Word in some form is an important way to learn and remember God's truth. Whether we sing it word for word from Scripture, or whether we take scriptural words and ideas and form them into a rhyming cadence, the important thing is to use singing to teach God's Word.
CONTROVERSY: INSTRUMENTS AND MUSIC STYLES
Many churches today are caught up in the church music controversy. "Traditional" hymns and the "traditional" style of church music (piano, organ) are being replaced more and more by "contemporary" Christian music ("praise and worship" songs, guitar, drums, synthesizer, amplifier). Let's look first at the role of instruments in this controversy.
Are some instruments more spiritual than others? Are some more appropriate than others? Any instrument can be used for sacred or secular purposes, but those purposes have to do with the person playing it, not the instrument itself, which is merely a neutral object. Yet it is true that some instruments have had inescapable cultural or social connotations at different times throughout history.
The capacity to make and enjoy music is one of God's gifts to us. Musical instruments were invented in Adam's day and were used frequently throughout Israel's history. The purpose of music in the church setting is to glorify God.
Praising God with musical instruments is common in the Bible. The instruments of the Bible are not the same as the ones we commonly use today; different instruments are used in different times and cultures. Some of the instruments mentioned in the Bible might have raised eyebrows a few decades ago. Cymbals? Castanets? Tambourines? And what about shouting and dancing? Didn't a past generation consider all dancing sinful?
Here is a sample of biblical references to musical instruments.
Genesis 4:21 And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ [a reed instrument].
II Samuel 6:5 Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals.
1 Chronicles 15:28 Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, and with sound of the horn, with trumpets, with loud-sounding cymbals, with harps and lyres.
1 Chronicles 25:6 All these were under the direction of their father to sing in the house of the LORD, with cymbals, harps and lyres, for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman were under the direction of the king.
Job 21:12 They sing to the timbrel and harp and rejoice at the sound of the flute.
Psalms 33:2 Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings.
Psalms 33:3 Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy.
Psalms 71:22 I will also praise You with a harp, even Your truth, O my God; to You I will sing praises with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
Psalms 81:2 Raise a song, strike the timbrel, the sweet sounding lyre with the harp.
Psalms 98:5 Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
Psalms 144:9 I will sing a new song to You, O God; upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You.
Psalms 147:7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praises to our God on the lyre.
Psalms 149:3 Let them praise His name with dancing; let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre.
Isaiah 30:29 You will have songs as in the night when you keep the festival, and gladness of heart as when one marches to the sound of the flute, to go to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel.
Some churches don't believe in singing with instruments. While this position is based on someone's interpretation of the Bible, it is clear that the use of instruments is not forbidden, although some believe that what is not specifically commanded to the New Testament church is therefore not allowed. Just as with the New Testament controversy over eating vegetables only or meat also, believers have freedom in matters not forbidden, to make choices that differ from one another. In these areas of freedom, we are not to condemn those who make different choices. The use of instruments is not forbidden to the church.
The traditional instruments for congregational singing are organ and piano, with some use of orchestral instruments. Many churches now incorporate guitars, drums, keyboards, synthesizers, and amplifiers. These other instruments have long been used for "special music" presentations, but some feel they may be inappropriate for congregational singing, while others go so far as to find them totally inappropriate for church. Some churches use them instead of piano or organ.
The piano and organ are not more "spiritual" than other instruments, but they do have a practical advantage in providing a solid foundation of both melody and harmony for congregational singing that is frequently lacking with chording on guitars and electronic keyboards. With contemporary instruments providing mainly an accompanying rhythm and chord pattern, it is often hard for the congregation to follow a melody, especially if they are unfamiliar with the song.
While instruments themselves are amoral, there is one issue that should be considered regarding instruments. Which instruments best support congregational singing? Here is a weakness of guitars--they do not support the melody. They are an accompanying instrument. They are quite effective with solos, small groups, and special music, where the singers are strong and obviously know the songs, but they do not provide a solid foundation for congregational singing in the way a piano or organ does.
Many music teams use pianos or keyboards for chording and rhythm but do not play the written melody or four-part harmony. People who are not strong natural singers, or who do not already know the song, find it hard to sing without hearing the melody played, unless they happen to be sitting near a strong singer.
These issues can be easily overlooked by the music team if they do not understand or sympathize with the problems of the average person in the pew. They are already strong singers, and their love of the instruments they play can blind them to the needs of the general congregation. If a piano or an organ can play the song's musical notation along with the rhythm piano and guitars, this could help the congregation.
As customs change, we must always be aware of what is scriptural and therefore unchangeable, and what is cultural and open to change. We must consider motives. Is the motive to attract unbelievers or young people with a worldly sound? Is the individual praising God in a way that merely falls outside the mold we are used to or comfortable with? Might some individual music preferences be more appropriate outside church than inside? What a Christian listens to for personal enjoyment might not necessarily be the best choice for use in a congregational setting.
Four-part harmony is one casualty of contemporary music. Maybe some do not consider this a problem, but those who read music and love to sing harmony can find it difficult to hear and sing a harmony part in contemporary music, which is not always built on the classic chord structures. When hymns are sung in a contemporary style, the purposeful changing of the harmonies and rhythms makes it difficult to harmonize, especially if one has learned the harmony parts over the years and is familiar with the original chord patterns, rather than the contemporary re-styling of the chord patterns and harmonies.
Those who lead are often unaware of and insensitive to this issue because many "praise and worship" teams only play by ear, often not even being note-readers. They may be unaware or unconcerned that many in the congregation are more musically sophisticated than they and hold a different (and also valid) perspective on music. Generally being younger, they may not sympathize with or even be aware of the musical values of the older generation. Some Christians even believe that new music is always better than older music simply because it is new.
Another controversial aspect of contemporary church music is the widespread use of overheads instead of songbooks. Overheads have the advantage of getting people to look up instead of down, which makes the singing sound better. Reading overheads is easier than fumbling with hymnbooks, and for non-note-readers, is easier to read than words sandwiched between confusing musical notation. It allows a broader choice of music because only one copy is needed.
However, the use of overheads also has disadvantages. Without a musical score, many find the tune hard to follow. Because the screen only flashes part of the song at a time, technicians with poor timing or wrong verses can easily confuse the congregation, and the continuity of the song can be lost. Continuity is also lost because the eye can no longer glance through and take in the whole song and its message, as is possible with a hymnal. With a hymnal, the eye can peruse the verses that may not have been sung, thereby getting the full teaching of the song (assuming the words are solid Bible teaching).
Likewise, putting Scripture on the overhead has its pros and cons. It insures that all see God's Word, but it keeps people from seeing passages in context--an important element of Bible study. It discourages them from looking it up for themselves, from getting handier at finding their way around the Bible. It discourages them from making helpful notes in their Bibles, or comparing previous notes or the study notes that are now in many Bibles. Having everyone read the same translation may be helpful, but comparing one's own translation to a different one on the overhead can also be enlightening. Overheads encourage lazy people to not open their Bibles or even bring them, and may inadvertently contribute to the serious problem of biblical illiteracy in the church.
We cannot underestimate the power of tradition when discussing the controversy over current music styles in the church. For many who have spent decades being exposed to traditional church music, change is opposed for various reasons. Some feel the beat of the newer music is worldly, appealing to the fleshly nature by creating feelings of physical excitement. Some love the familiarity of the older songs and of the traditional instruments. Some resent the way the leadership imposes new styles regardless of the feelings of many sitting in the pews, trivializing or even demonizing those who oppose the changes. Some feel the new music is brought in to appeal to and attract young people or unbelievers, regardless of whether it is a necessary, desirable or biblical way to do things in the church. Might these concerns have at least some validity?
Those favoring contemporary Christian music may feel that hymns are boring, outdated, irrelevant and hard to sing. Some of the words are not in modern English. They believe Christians should be able to sing and perform the type of music that they enjoy, are most familiar with and listen to on the radio. They prefer a lively "beat." They feel that new music is a way the Holy Spirit brings life into the church. They look at the traditionalists as narrow-minded and standing in the way of positive change. A few go so far as to claim that singing the traditional hymns, for years, decades or even centuries, falls into the category of "vain repetition" and so are actually bad; that since we are told to sing a "new song," therefore new songs are the Spirit's way of bringing continual freshness to the church.
Some people dislike having to sing all the verses of a hymn, preferring to just sing the first verse of many hymns, yet hymns frequently build in their message from one verse to the next. Impatience and resentment with singing four or five verses may indicate a carnal approach to singing--failing to look at, understand, value or internalize the words and teaching. Yet a similar charge of repetitious melody and words can be made of many contemporary songs (called by some detractors "7-11 songs": 7 words repeated 11 times). Unfortunately, some see the singing in church as merely entertainment, rather than as praising God and learning His Word.
It might be instructive to realize that controversy over church music is not a product of the late twentieth century; it has been going on for a long time. In the 1700's, the controversy was over the use of written music versus a practice called "lining out," in which a song leader sang a line which was then echoed by the congregation. Other early controversies were over the use of instruments versus a cappella singing. The lowly pitchpipe was initially resisted as an aid to a cappella singing because it was an instrument. The organ, now considered traditional, was also controversial when first introduced. In Bach's day, the controversy was between the devotional style of unadorned hymns and the more complex, elegant, technically demanding style of music.
Ironically, many musical traditions started out of necessity, such as the lack of funds for written music or instruments, or widespread illiteracy. But once things are done a certain way for a length of time, people resist change. They like to sing the way they are used to singing. This is just human nature-we like the familiar. Once a style becomes familiar enough, it is accepted.
One way to deal with these controversies is to include both types of music in the service. However, guitarists tend to shun hymns that contain frequent chord changes, especially chord changes within measures. This sifting of hymns effectively does away with some of the most doctrinal hymns in the church: "O Worship the King," "Come, Thou Almighty King," "Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty," "A Mighty Fortress," "O God, Our Help in Ages Past," "O Could I Speak the Matchless Worth," "The Doxology," "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing," "Holy, Holy, Holy," "Crown Him with Many Crowns."
Another solution is to have more than one service, each appealing to different musical tastes, although this can lead to a dichotomy of age groups. "Traditional" services tend to attract older believers, but interestingly, many younger believers who have not been raised on hymns sometimes become attracted to them as they grow spiritually and become more discerning of biblical truth, preferring the spiritually meatier hymns to the "skim milk" of many "praise and worship" songs, and rejecting the lack of reverence that often accompanies contemporary music. Pastors need to educate congregations on the biblical values of unity, love, not insisting on one's own way, and not insisting that one's own needs be met at the expense of the needs of others.
There is nothing inherently better or worse in old music or new music. Instruments are not good or evil. Tradition is not the measure of whether music is good or bad. Controversy over music cannot always be resolved in a church by trying to mix music styles or have separate services. The one criterion that can be objectively measured is biblical content.
If lyrics are scripturally meaty, appealing to the spirit rather than the flesh, it's likely that the majority of the congregation will be satisfied. Legalists will continue to reject anything not in the hymnal, and liberals will continue to prefer music designed to appeal to the flesh, but legalists and liberals will always be with us, creating dissention in the church. God's Word must be the final authority, regardless of whose toes it steps on. Trying to solve church problems on any other basis is futile.
SINGING: PRAISE OR WORSHIP?
Following is a list of verses using "sing" and "song." It is not a complete list but enough verses have been compiled to give an idea of what should constitute biblical singing. A more exhaustive list would show similar results.
Notice the emphasized words and bracketed comments. The key word is "praise." We also see words such as "exaltation," "joy," and "thanks." We see very little emphasis on words of love. We do not see worship presented as singing. We will discuss worship as it relates to singing in the next chapter.
Exodus 15:1-2 Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for He hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation… [songs that recount what God has done, songs about salvation]
Deuteronomy 31:19-21 Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it to the children of Israel: put it on their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel. For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant. And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed; for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware. [songs that are a reminder of our weakness and sinfulness]
Judges 5:1-31 [a song to recount what God had done]
2 Samuel 22:1 And David spake unto the Lord the words of this song in the day that the LORD had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul. [the song is 22:2-51, a song to recount God's deeds]
1 Chronicles 16:23 Sing unto the LORD, all the earth; shew forth good tidings of His salvation from day to day. [sing about salvation]
Psalms 9:11 Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people His doings. [songs are to recount God's deeds]
Psalms 13:6 I will sing unto the LORD, because He hath dealt bountifully with me. [songs are to tell what God has done for us]
Psalms 18:1 A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: And he said, I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. [sing of God's deliverance; one of the few places we find someone telling God they love Him]
Psalms 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise Him.
Psalms 40:3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God; many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.
Psalms 42:8 Yet the LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. [prayerful singing]
Psalms 47:7 For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding [expert, instruct, skill]. [songs should be well-crafted, music should be well-performed]
Psalms 51:14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: then my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. [sing about God's attributes, about salvation]
Psalms 59:16 But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble. [sing of His attributes and what He has done]
Psalms 68:4 Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name, whose name is JAH, and rejoice before Him.
Psalms 69:30 I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Psalms 71:22 I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel. [sing about doctrinal truth]
Psalms 71:23 My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed. [joyful singing about salvation]
Psalms 89:1 I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. [sing of His attributes]
Psalms 92:1 It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High.
Psalms 95:1 O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. [sing about salvation]
Psalms 96:2 Sing unto the LORD, bless His name; shew forth his salvation from day to day. [sing about salvation]
Psalms 98:1 O sing unto the LORD a new song; for He hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory. [sing about what He has done]
Psalms 101:1 I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing. [sing of His attributes]
Psalms 105:2 Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him; talk ye of all his wonderous works. [sing of what He has done]
Psalms 108:3 I will praise thee, O LORD, among the people: and I will sing praises unto thee among the nations. [songs are a testimony to unbelievers]
Psalms 118:14 The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation. [sing about salvation]
Psalms 149:1 Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of the saints.
Isaiah 12:5 Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. [sing about what God has done]
Jeremiah 31:7 For thus sayeth the LORD; "Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.'" [joyful singing, proclaim what He has done, sing about salvation]
Zechariah 2:10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD. [sing about His coming]
Act 16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. [songs that witness God's truth to unbelievers]
Romans 15:9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. [songs that witness God's truth to unbelievers]
Hebrews 2:12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church I will sing praise unto thee. [songs that proclaim God's truth to believers]
Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." [singing about Christ's worth, His death, His blood]
Revelation 14:3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. [singing is for God's benefit]
Revelation 15:3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. [singing of God's works, God's truths]
Is today's controversy about soft versus loud? Contemplative versus exciting? Rhythm and harmony? Guitar versus piano? Is it about the beat? None of those issues can be supported one way or the other or resolved biblically. Biblical references to music include both soft and loud, both prayerful and exciting. But content can and should be discussed from a biblical perspective. Content should be the most important issue in any discussion of Christian music.
Singing and doctrine go hand in hand. They cannot be separated. If we make our songs "doctrine light," then it is likely that our thinking and our beliefs will reflect that. What we sing about affects our thought process. That is why it is so important to approach church music from the Bible's point of view. We need to make sure our songs teach what the Bible teaches. Just as the Bible has been our textbook on the topic of teaching, so it should be our textbook on the topic of singing, because singing is teaching.
GREAT HYMNS (selected portions)
Notice the meaty scriptural message of these classic hymns. When all verses are sung, they often present the Gospel in a nutshell.
"A Mighty Fortress is Our God"
Martin Luther, 1483-1546
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe. His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right Man on our side, the man of God's own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He. Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us. The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure. One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly power, no thanks to them, abideth. The Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill. God's truth abideth still; His kingdom is forever.
"Holy, Holy, Holy!"
Reginald Heber, 1783-1826
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee. Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty! God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"
Joachim Neander, 1650-1680
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation! All ye who hear, now to His temple draw hear; join me in glad adoration!
Praise to the Lord, who o'er all things so wondrously reigneth. Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth! Hast thou not seen how thy desires e'er have been granted in what He ordaineth?
"How Great Thou Art"
Carl Boberg, 1859-1940
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee; how great Thou art, how great Thou art!
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in, that on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart! Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art.
"Great is Thy Faithfulness"
Thomas O. Chisholm, 1866-?
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not; as Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Thomas Ken, 1637-1710
Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
"Come, Thou Almighty King"
Come, Thou Almighty King, help us Thy name to sing, help us to praise. Father, all glorious, o'er all victorious, come, and reign over us, Ancient of Days.
Come, Thou Incarnate Word, gird on Thy mighty sword, our prayer attend. Come, and Thy people bless, and give Thy word success. Spirit of holiness, on us descend.
Come, Holy Comforter, Thy sacred witness bear in this glad hour. Thou who almighty art, now rule in every heart, and ne'er from us depart, Spirit of power.
To Thee, great One in Three, eternal praises be hence, evermore! Thy sovereign majesty may we in glory see, and to eternity love and adore!
"O Worship the King"
Robert Grant, 1779-1838
O worship the King, all glorious above, O gratefully sing His power and His love. Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.
"O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing"
Charles Wesley, 1707-1788
O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace.
Jesus! The name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease, 'tis music in the sinner's ears, 'tis life and health and peace.
He breaks the power of canceled sin, he sets the prisoner free. His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood availed for me.
"The Solid Rock"
Edward Mote, 1797-1874
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name. (refrain) On Christ the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; in every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood support me in the whelming flood. When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found; dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.
John Newton, 1725-1807
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.
"Take Time to be Holy"
William D. Longstaff, 1822-1894
Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord. Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word. Make friends of God's children; help those who are weak; forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
"How Firm a Foundation"
Rippon's Selection of Hymns, 1787
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He hath said, to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
"Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed, for I am thy God, and will still give thee aid. I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand."
"When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow. For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress."
"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply. The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine."
"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to his foes. That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I'll never, no, never, no, never forsake!"
"Jesus Paid It All"
Elvina M. Hall, 1820-1889
I hear the Savior say, "Thy strength indeed is small; child of weakness, watch and pray, find in Me thine all in all." Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow.
"Trust and Obey"
John H. Sammis, 1846-1919
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
"Rock of Ages"
Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee. Let the water and the blood, from Thy riven side which flowed, be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power. Not the labors of my hands can fulfill Thy law's demands…Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling. Naked, come to Thee for dress; helpless, look to Thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die!
H. L. Turner, 19th century
It may be at morn, when the day is awaking…It may be at midday, it may be at twilight…when Jesus receives His own…with glorified saints and angels attending…O joy! O delight! should we go without dying; no sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying, caught up through the clouds with our Lord into glory, when Jesus receives His own. O Lord Jesus, how long, how long ere we shout the glad song, Christ returneth! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen, hallelujah! Amen.
Copyright 2012 Jan Young
Return to Jan's Bible Notes