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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli

    I remember while in Advanced Infantry training, dressed in full combat gear and carrying a backpack that weighed at least  700 pounds (!) while on a forced march through ankle-deep sand; I decided death would be easier. Everyone in the platoon was nearly exhausted. Then the Drill Instructor started singing, "From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli…"  He commanded us to sing, and somehow we found the breath to do it. Amazing – as the unified voices of each Marine filled the air, strength came from *somewhere.*  We all finished the march.  There was something about lifting our voices together in song that gave each of us strength and encouragement to withstand a common burden. 

    Funny how singing can, in one situation, cause one to be filled with energy and stamina; in another situation cause an inward, emotional joy, and at other times cause a lump to form in your throat and tears to fill your eyes.

            In the OT, we see singing associated with work, worship, and even military activities (Gen. 31:27;  Ex. 32:17-18;  Isa. 16:10).  Singing is an important and powerful part of our lives. It expresses our deepest emotions, motivates athletes, motivates soldiers, unites masses of people, and celebrates significant events. However, it's most important use has always been to worship and praise God.

            It really isn't surprising that God commands New Testament Christians to sing; God's people have always been a "singing" people. Being delivered from Egyptian bondage, "Moses and the children of Israel sang to the Lord" (Ex. 15:1ff).  Consider all the "Psalms" (songs) that David wrote;  When Babylon devoured Judah and led the people into captivity, they said to the Israelites, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" (Ps. 137:3). This was said in a mocking sense, but is proves that God's people had a reputation for being a singing people.

    Singing was part of the spiritual life of Jesus. In the synagogue, He sang with the congregation. In the upper room after Jesus had shared the last Passover meal with His disciples and instituted the Communion, we read, "And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives" (Mark 14:26). 

    When Paul and Silas were prisoners in jail, they were singing hymns to God and the other prisoners, plus the guard were listening to them (Acts 16:25). Undoubtedly, the singing played a part in the conversion of the guard.

            Out singing is motivated by, "Letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly" (Col. 3:16), thereby "being filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18).  The source of our enthusiasm is God – it is NOT the result of being "emotionalized" by an organ, or "energized" by guitars, drums and tambourines. We "make melody in our hearts to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19). Our singing is not to entertain one another or show-off our talents.

            We often sing in preparation for taking the Lord's Supper – to prepare our hearts for prayer – and encourage someone to respond to the invitation. But perhaps the greatest reason to sing is summed up in the great old hymn, "I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free, for His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me."

            We should not take lightly this important area of our worship. Singing from the heart, Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, will substantially help us to grow in our spiritual nature.  However, until you lay your sins at the foot of the cross, and begin obeying the Gospel you have nothing to sing about.   

--Toby Miller

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