I don’t know about you, but I miss singing in church. When the pandemic restrictions started, I knew that I would miss singing together. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much I missed it.
The desire to sing God’s praises along with other Christians is something we see running through the Bible. If we miss singing with others then we are in a very Biblical place! Psalm 98 is one such example. See how it begins:
“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things” (v1)
God has done marvellous things – marvellous things for his world, and marvellous things for you and me. So our right and good response is to sing.
When we gather in person in church at present, however, we cannot sing together out loud. Instead we need to sing internally, in our hearts. But it’s not the same is it? I was amused to read of a Japanese theme park that reopened after the pandemic restrictions were lifted a little. They were worried about the rides and roller coasters, however. People on a roller coaster often shout and scream, which is a dangerous way to transmit droplets and disease. So they put out the instruction to visitors that they should scream ‘internally’.
Perhaps we feel like we have been screaming internally for the past few months! But singing internally, while good, is not quite the same as singing out loud. I miss it, and I hope you do too, because music and song are important. They are important to God and they should be important to us too. Indeed, music and singing are commanded by God, even in this psalm. Look at verse 4:
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music” (v4)
We are commanded to burst into jubilant song with music, so it’s not surprising if we feel restricted if we can’t sing out. And we are to use our voices and instruments to bring praise to God. “Make music… with the harp and the sound of singing.” We can’t sing together, but the harp is a rather good instrument for a lockdown, so if you have a harp to hand, do use it!
The psalm goes on to suggest making music “with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn” Oh dear. Those aren’t pandemic friendly instruments at all. I’m sure a ram’s horn is an effective droplet spreader. If you have ever watched the brass section of an orchestra, you might notice how much spit they have to drain from their instruments. Trumpets are out as well then…
I’m being a bit silly, of course, but it’s hard to reconcile obeying the instruction to sing with our life at the moment. One way is to do our best with singing at home. I like to put on some worship music nice and loud and belt out some songs when no one else is home. But you might not have that luxury if you are constantly in company who don’t like your singing!
Thankfully, this psalm points us to another way that we can fulfil this command to sing God’s praises. Look at what the psalm says next:
“Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” (v7)
We are commanded to sing and the sea is commanded to sing too. The psalm goes on to instruct the rivers to clap their hands, and the mountains to sing together for joy.
Now rivers can’t clap and mountains can’t sing. But if you have seen the glory of God’s creation, you know that it is like the earth is singing and resounding with praise to God. You don’t need mountains either: walk through a park and you can see and hear creation singing the praise of their creator.
Creation can’t sing out loud with music, but it can sing God’s praise. By being what God made it to be, and showing God’s glory and majesty, creation joins in with the praise of God.
We might not be able to sing together out loud right now. But we can sing God’s praise by being who he created us to be. By living for his glory and majesty. By walking with him in every part of our lives, we can join in creation’s song of praise.
If you are working at the moment, your work and how you approach it, can be a song of praise to God. Home, with family, spouse or housemates, can be a place of worship. Your hobbies, done with joy and creativity, can be a song of worship to Almighty God. Our lives in community, with friends, neighbours, church and home group, can sing the praises of God as we live for him.
Be who God has created you to be, and live as God has created you to live, and your life, actions, words and works will be music and song to him.
We miss singing and we look forward to when we can sing again together in church. But let’s sing in every way God has given to us and that is open to us, to the glory and praise of his name.