Leslie Basham: There are many reasons to sing to the Lord according to Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Sing because of what He has done for your soul. Sing because of what He is doing in you and in this world. Sing by faith in what He will do that you cannot yet see.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Labor Day, September 1.
Music is everywhere. It would be hard to get away from music in this wired world. Do the songs that constantly hit your ears reflect ideas worth singing about? Nancy talks about the greatest motivation for singing in a series called Remember Miriam.
Nancy: Robert Ingersoll was a famous, or infamous maybe I should say, 19th century infidel and agnostic. When he died, the funeral notices included this statement: “There will be no singing.”
As I read that, I thought about the fact that those who don’t know Christ have very little to sing about, and nothing to sing about when it comes to death. On the other hand, those who do know Christ have a lot to sing about, and that’s what we’re looking at in this series on Exodus chapter 15.
As the children of Israel came out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord,
I will sing to the LORD for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him (verses 1-2).
They go on and on in this whole great hymn of praise that we’ve looked at over the last several sessions, and then verse 20, we come to the end of this passage.
Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them [or answered them]: Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea (verses 20-21).
Christians ought to be singing people. In fact, I came across a sermon by Charles Spurgeon, one of the great preachers of all time. I’m stuttering when I say it because he just had such an amazing way of being able to talk about the wonders of the gospel and who Christ is. I love reading his sermons. They inflame my own heart.
He has a sermon called The Memorable Hymn, which is actually a sermon on the hymn that Jesus and the disciples sang as they left the Upper Room after they celebrated what we call The Last Supper. It was a Passover celebration, and Matthew’s Gospel tells us that they sang a hymn as they went out to go into the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus, to go on to the cross.
In that sermon, Charles Spurgeon talks about how the children of Israel sang hymns to praise the Lord, and Jesus was following in what was the Passover tradition of singing hymns. Let me read to you this fairly lengthy paragraph from the sermon, because it relates to the passage we’ve been looking at. He says,
Beloved, if I had said that Israel could so properly sing, what shall I say of those of us who are the Lord’s spiritually redeemed? We have been emancipated from a slavery worse than that of Egypt. As the Scripture says, “With a high hand and an outstretched arm, has God delivered us.” The blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God’s Passover, has been sprinkled on our hearts and consciences. By faith we keep the Passover, for we have been spared. We have been brought out of Egypt, and though our sins did once oppose us, they have all been drowned in the Red Sea of the atoning blood of Jesus. The depths have covered them. There is not one of them left. If the Jew could sing a great hallel [the Hebrew word for praise], our hallel ought to be more glowing still.
It’s true. Christianity has always been a singing religion. In times of plenty, and in times of suffering, Christians have sung to the Lord, and they still do. You can hear them all across the world, through the ages, Christians singing. I think back to how those first-century Christians suffered for their faith and at times were thrown into the arenas to be fed to hungry lions; how they went to their death, fearlessly, and in many cases, singing Psalms of praise. Paul and Silas, same thing, there in the prison—singing hymns to the Lord in the middle of the night.
These singing Christians of the first century, and of other centuries since, served notice that Caesar was not God. They were entrusting their lives to a living, powerful God.Singing was their means of saying, “We’re not victims. By God’s grace and power, we’re victors. He has triumphed gloriously.”
I find, and I’m sure this experience differs from church to church and place to place, but I find in a lot of churches in our country today, when you have “worship services,” I look around, and I see that a lot of people really don’t sing, and a few people, you can’t tell if they are or not. Their mouth is moving a little bit, maybe, but nothing much seems to be coming out.
I’ve asked myself, “Why is it that it seems that in so many of our churches today, people don’t sing?” We have lots of music in most of our churches today, but in many cases a lot of people are not singing.
I think there are a number of possible reasons for that. I want to address what some of them might be. First of all, this is an era of contemporary Christian artists who do big extravaganza concerts, who have fabulous voices. We have state-of-the-art recordings today, and a highly competitive music industry.
Actually, let me just put a parenthesis in here. I’ve been kind of enamored with this whole thought of singing to the Lord. It’s something that I have done all my life, but I usually keep it very private, except when I’m in church. But I have thought during the series, I would love to just start singing, and then I thought, “I’d get thrown off the radio,” because today you have to have this fabulously trained or skilled voice in order to sing, or so we think.
So, in this very competitive Christian music industry, singing has become something of a spectator sport rather than something we’re all supposed to participate in. We pay big bucks to be entertained by these singers. In fact, it’s kind of the era of American Idol, if you know what I mean. We’re made to look foolish if we’re not the best of the best.
So you look around at church and you think, many of these people are perhaps thinking, “Well, I don’t have a voice like that person up on the platform, or all those people on that praise team, so let them sing.” I want to just say, “Don’t just let them sing. Let ussing with them to the Lord.”
There’s nothing wrong with having a great voice, and I thank the Lord that there are a lot of people who have better singing voices than I do, but I want to use the voice I do have to sing to the Lord. God has blessed some people with extraordinary musical abilities, and those gifts should be used to the glory of God, but you don’t have to have a great voice to join in in praising and worshiping God for His redemptive acts.
I think there’s another reason some people don’t sing, and that’s because they don’t have anything to sing about. There are those in our churches who have not been redeemed, and so they can’t sing the song of the redeemed. Then there are those who have been redeemed, but they’re not walking and living as redeemed people. In some cases, they have an independent, self-sufficient spirit, so they don’t need to sing praises to God. They’re running their own lives quite nicely, thank you, at the moment. There’s something about singing to the Lord that acknowledges humility and dependence on Him, our helplessness apart from Him.
I think sometimes we don’t sing because we haven’t stopped to think about what it is we’ve been redeemed from and how great is our salvation. We take it for granted. We’ve forgotten what God has done and how He’s rescued us and how He’s perpetually rescuing us from sin, Satan, and self.
Then there are times when we know we’re redeemed, and we’re grateful to have been redeemed, but the fact is we still live in an unredeemed world, and there are some times when our hearts are heavy, our hearts are sad, because we still live in a land of captivity. Our hearts are not fully Home yet. Do you know what I mean when I say “Home” with a capital “H”? We’re still here in this very broken, dysfunctional world.
It makes me think of a passage in the Psalms, Psalm 137, which was a psalm written during the captivity of Israel in its exile years. This is not the Egyptian captivity, but when they were captives in Babylon hundreds of years later. It says in Psalm 137:1-4,
By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres [that is, our harps, our stringed instruments. We didn’t play them anymore]. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” And then the psalmist says, “How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?”
I think there are times in all of our lives where we feel, “It’s really hard to sing right now. How can I sing the Lord’s song living in this home, in this work place, in this situation that’s happening in my church, or in this relationship, or in this strife or struggle that is going on?”
We’re in a foreign land, and how can we sing the Lord’s song? Sometimes it’s hard to sing. Our hearts are heavy, our eyes are filled with tears, maybe not because we’re unrepentant or unbelieving, but it seems like others around us are. It’s weighing our spirits down, and we think, “I just don’t know if I can sing right now.” We’re conscious that we’re living in Babylon; we live in exile. This world is not our home, and sometimes there doesn’t seem to be much reason to sing.
In fact, it’s interesting that in the providence of God, as I was preparing this particular series on singing to the Lord during the course of the last couple of weeks, I have been faced with a situation that has made me very, very heavy-hearted. I’ve shed tears. I have been so sad over some circumstances, situations taking place over which I have no control. It’s not as a result of my sin or disobedience, but I’m impacted by what has happened.
Here I’ve been studying all these passages about singing to the Lord, and I emailed a friend and said, “Please pray for me as I’m working on this series of programs on Miriam’s song of praise, because the last thing I feel like doing right now is singing.”
I have struggled with thinking, “How can I even teach on singing?” I’m very committed to live what I’m teaching, and if it’s something I’m not practicing, then it’s real hard for me to get up here and say it. I’ve asked myself, “Why am I even teaching this passage right now?”
It’s the one the Lord had me preparing, but it has been hard. I realize that the times when the last thing we feel like doing is singing, those are the times when we probably need most to sing. I’ve counseled my own heart that way over the last couple of weeks, and I’ve made some choices, been intentional about pulling out my hymnal and singing to the Lord when I didn’t feel like singing, and putting on some CDs, not just to listen, but to sing along with them.
Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me.
You’re my glory and the lifter of my head.
I exalt Thee.
I exalt Thee,
Singing hymns and choruses that state the faith that God has put in my heart and saying, “You know what, no matter how I feel, these things are still true. No matter what is going on around me, these things are still true.”
It occurred to me as I was processing some of this that the unredeemed never have much real cause to sing, even when they feel on top of the world. Because no matter how they feel, the fact is, they are lost. They are walking in darkness. They are slaves to sin. They are children of wrath. They are under God’s judgment, and apart from repentance and faith, they will be eternally separated from God.
So they may feel like everything is going great. They may be singing at the top of their lungs, but they really don’t have much to sing about in the light of eternity, in the light of things that matter.
On the other hand, the redeemed always have cause to sing, even when their hearts are heavy, or their circumstances feel overwhelming. Isn’t that true? Think about it, and I made myself just make a list in the last few days of some of the causes I have to sing, regardless of what is going on around me:
- Jesus died for me.
- My sins are forgiven.
- I’ve been declared righteous.
- We who were His enemies are now called His friends.
- We are beloved children of God.
- We have been adopted into His family.
- We are accepted in the beloved.
- We have peace with God.
- We have eternal life.
- We are eternally secure.
- No one or nothing can ever snatch us out of the Father’s hand.
- If God be for us, who can be against us?
- Jesus stands before the Throne of God, forever interceding on our behalf.
- He has said, “I will never leave you; I will never forsake you.”
- He is always working to protect and to provide to meet our needs, no matter what is going on.
- God is on His Throne, no matter what I feel, no matter what others may be doing that seems to be controlling the circumstances around me.
I love that phrase you find in the book of Daniel, “Heaven rules.” Heaven rules. It’s always true. It’s true no matter what is happening down here on earth, heaven still rules.It’s true when it looks like tyrants rule. The fact is, Heaven rules.
Those are things that we place our faith in, that we’re confident in. These are reasons to sing. There are more:
- Jesus is coming back for His Bride.
- I’m a part of His Bride, and we will be forever with the Lord.
- There’s coming a day when all wrongs will be righted; Satan will be banished forever; all of God’s enemies will be defeated.
- All tears and pain and sin and weakness and trouble and pressures and problems and sorrow will be gone forever. That’s something to sing about.
- “The earth will one day be filled with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
You see, my circumstances at the moment will not last forever. There’s something that is greater. There is something that surpasses them, that outreaches my circumstances. There’s coming a day when every king, every president, every prime minister, every dictator, every husband, every boss, every leader, every politician—everybody will bow before His Majesty, and Jesus will reign forever and ever and ever. Amen.
I read that list, and my heart says, “Hallelujah. I have something to sing about.” Five minutes ago, I didn’t feel like singing. Five minutes ago, I didn’t think I could sing, but I’ve stopped to think about who God is and what He has done and what He is doing, and all the things I just listed, nothing can change any of that. So we sing. We sing by faith. Sing because of what He has done for your soul. Sing because of what He is doing in you and in this world. Sing by faith in what He will do that you cannot yet see.
Let me remind us that as we sing, we form a chorus that links arms with those who have gone before us: the Miriams, the Hannahs, the Marys of Nazareth. Those who sung: Paul and Silas in prison, those first-century believers singing as they were being thrown to the lions. They’ve passed that song on to us, and we pass that song on to those who come behind us—your children, your grandchildren, next generations.
I want to have sung a song, a hymn of praise that will give them something to sing about, that will remind them of the wonders of Christ and His gospel. I don’t want them to think of me as a woman who spent her life, her short earthly life, in tears and wailing and weeping and whining and mourning and lamenting. There’s plenty to lament about in this world, there’s plenty to be heavy-hearted about, but through our tears, we have something to sing about, and that’s a legacy I want to leave for the next generation.
You see, our imperfect worship now here on earth is a dress rehearsal for what we will spend an eternity doing in heaven, and it’s in anticipation of the eternal worship of the redeemed in heaven after God’s final triumph over Satan. That day is coming. We sing now.
Satan is still writhing. There’s still sin and dysfunction in this world. We’re singing, but it’s kind of just a prelude. It’s a warm up. It’s a practice, but one day all the causes for not singing will be removed, and we will have nothing but eternal cause for singing and praise, and then we will join the choir of the redeemed from all centuries, all lands, all tongues, all nations, all languages, and we will join them forever and ever and ever and ever in singing praises to the Lamb and to the One who sits on the throne.
We read about that hymn in Revelation chapter 15. I want to read it because it’s a book end to what we’ve been reading about in Exodus chapter 15.
Revelation 15:2, the apostle John says,
I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire. [Exodus 15 is a hymn that was sung as they came across the Red Sea, the sea that became the burial place for the Egyptian army. But now in this heavenly hymn, John sees what appears to be a sea of glass mingled with fire.] And also those who had conquered the beast and its image, and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands.
We’re told, by the way, in Revelation chapter 4, that God’s throne sits on a platform that is described as a sea of glass like a crystal, and the saints in this hymn, in Revelation 15, are standing around the throne of God on the sea of glass.
Verses 3-4, “They sing.” What do they sing? “The song of Moses.” By the way, it’s also the song of Miriam. It’s also my song. It’s also your song, if you’re singing the song of the redeemed. “They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and [who else’s song is it?] the song of the Lamb.”
Talk about a holy duet, or trio, or choir, or whatever, however many it is gathered together. These who have overcome the beast sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.
So we will join in singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.
Charles Spurgeon said it this way, “We are ordained to be the minstrels of the skies, so let us rehearse our everlasting anthem before we sing it in the halls of the New Jerusalem.”
That’s what we do here. We practice; we prepare. So I want to challenge you. Start singing that song now. Join with those who’ve gone before, with the Miriams, the Hannahs, the Deborahs, the Marys, the Elizabeths. Join with those around the world who are singing it now. Sing in unison with others who have been redeemed. Tell what He has done for your soul. Tell how He has rescued you, and let’s join together now and for all of eternity in singing the song of the redeemed.
Used with Permission. Revive Our Hearts.