"A Joyful Noise..."
Intro: Taylor and falling in love with worship
There are over 400 verses in the Bible about singing. There are 50 explicit commands around singing, which, if we just stop for a second, that's a weird command.
Don't murder. Oh, and sing." Right? "You shouldn't touch another man's wife. Sing. Don't steal but sing." Right? It's a weird idea to think that there are so many commands about singing.
Now for those of you who like to sing, you're like, "I love those commands." What I've learned is there is a certain group of people who really love to sing at church. They love it.
In fact, it's been my experience here for the last 3.5 years, and all my years of serving in the church, many of us think singing is an add-on to the proclamation of the Word.
Now I know what people mean when they think that way, and I know the direction of thought they are steering from, but it is a misdirection. It is not an add-on, no, it is a proclamation of the Word!
Here is why there is such a struggle to understand and identify with this idea of worship music as a proclamation of the Word. We're disenchanted. We're broken into sacred and secular, and this robs us.
More than I want to spend a lot of time kind of trying to unpack why we struggle to understand, I want to talk about what it reveals about God that he would command for us to sing.
Again, I just want to keep pointing out it's just a weird command. "Sing. Don't murder. Sing. Don't steal. Sing. Honor your parents. Sing."
It's just 50 times. That's a bit redundant, can we agree? Fifty times we find the command to sing to the Lord. Make a joyful noise to the Lord. What's this revealing about God?
Well, I've said for years, every command of God in the Bible is about lining us up with who God created us to be and is ultimately for his glory and…what? Our joy.
The command to sing is about our joy, so here's what we know about singing in 2023. Corporate singing strengthens the immune system. Group singing is a natural antidepressant.
Singing releases endorphins and oxytocin into the system, which lowers stress levels and diminishes cortisol. Look it up friends. There are scientific studies about it.
It improves mental clarity and lessens feelings of depression and anxiety. That's what corporate or group singing does.
Maybe you're in here and you're going, "Well, not me, bro." Listen. I know. I've heard those people sing, and I agree. I can feel anxiety leave. I can feel stress diminish.
I can just get caught up in some beautiful voices around me. But friends, some of us are like one of those people in the first week of American Idol. When they sing… I’m kidding …..
Look, the truth is the Bible says, "Make a joyful noise". It does not say it has to be a good one. God knows. God knows he gave someone the gift and another person not the gift.
It's not about us performing. It's about us receiving. See, that's the big confusion around corporate singing. We receive when we sing together as a body. Let me explain. We're not performing.
C.S. Lewis once said in his Reflections on the Psalms that God sounded like a little old lady begging for compliments. No, no, no. It's not that God is in need; it's that we're in need.
Again, this is more evidence. If these things are true (and science is saying they're true), then the command of God to sing in the corporate gathering, to sing to the Lord, is about our joy.
It's about for maybe just a moment the diminishing of anxiety and fear. Maybe just for those 15-20 minutes, cortisol is dying down in our system and we're able to breathe and rest.
I think it shouldn't be lost on us that Saul, tormented by demons, found comfort only when David played the harp and sang to him. The demons fled from David singing on his harp so that the Lord is invited.
What does it tell us about the nature and character of God that God himself sings? Do you know who loves to sing? Children. Right?
They just love to sing, and they don't care whether they sing well. They don't even care if what they're singing makes sense.
They're just going to sing about it. "I'm in the sandbox. I'm playing in the sandbox." We love watching them sing. There's magic there. There's an enchantment there. They're whimsical.
What does it reveal? I think that God sings and that God’s commands for us to sing reveals something about the nature and character of God that we rarely think about.
I believe that God is a God of joy, and God is a God of whimsy and enchantment. There is something to the mystery of the universe, him knowing that he knows what we do not. It's profound.
I'm pointing all of this out because we're going to dive into a song the Israelites, who are captivated by the strength of God, and by the personal initiative of God for their good, sing.
They can’t help it! They have what's true about God in their minds and their experience of God in their hearts, and all of it just collides, and for a moment of clarity, they sing.
Keep in mind we're talking hundreds of thousands of people singing. Can you imagine the reverberations? Can you imagine how stirring that would be?
With that said, let's look at this. Exodus 15. Like I said, not all of this chapter is the song, but most of it is. Exodus, chapter 15, starting in verse 1. We'll read the whole chapter. Read Exodus 15
1 Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. 2 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. 3 The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name. 4 “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea, and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea. 5 The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone. 6 Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy. 7 In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries; you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble. 8 At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. 9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’ 10 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. 11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? 12 You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. 13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode. 14 The peoples have heard; they tremble; pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia. 15 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed; trembling seizes the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away. 16 Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone, till your people, O Lord, pass by, till the people pass by whom you have purchased. 17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established. 18 The Lord will reign forever and ever.” 19 For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea. 20 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. 21 And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.” 22 Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.” 27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.
Now I think there are four themes in this song, and I just want us to look at those themes and consider them.
Then we'll come back and look at verses 22 through 27 again just to kind of root ourselves in the things we'll cover in these songs. The first thing the people of Israel are celebrating in song is…
The strength of God. Look back at the second half of verse 1 as the song starts. "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.
The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh's chariots and his host he cast into the sea, and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone."
Now it's important to note that in the song, what they're singing is that God has triumphed over the horse and his rider.
The horse and his rider, which is also what Miriam points out with the tambourine, is both the agent and the instrument of war.
By destroying both horse and rider, there is no longer anything to fear. The threat has been neutralized completely.
A people who have been on the receiving end of injustice and oppression and violence for hundreds and hundreds of years now find themselves free. Both the horse and his rider have been destroyed.
Then in verse 2, what we see entered into the vernacular of God's people is a phrase that is still common and used to this day. "The Lord is my strength and my song…my salvation."
That would be written about later in Psalm 118 and Psalms 25 and 27. It would be written about in Isaiah 12.
Even to this day, the people of God would say, "The Lord is my strength. He is my song. He is my salvation."
We see in this first course that Yahweh is the God who redeems his people and overthrows his foes. He is a warrior, and he makes war for the glory of his name and on behalf of his people.
They were blown away by this. They're singing and rejoicing. Why? Because it destroyed all the oppression, injustice, evil, genocide, rape, and a thousand wickedness launched upon them.
That's not all they're celebrating. They're also celebrating the personal intervention and action of the Lord. Read: Exodus 15:6-10
6 Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy. 7 In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries; you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble. 8 At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. 9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’ 10 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters.
It's a good thing for the people of God that the Lord shatters his enemies. Because the Lord shatters our enemies, it frees us up to not have enemies. Right?
What I have been set free to do because the Lord shatters enemies is to be an agent of reconciliation, to preach, teach, and herald gospel hope, love, forgiveness, and reconciliation to the Creator.
I've been set free to go to the ends of the earth, even where I might be despised. Why? Because the Lord shatters his enemies. I don't have enemies to shatter. The Lord will do that.
Then the second thing I want to point out here is this song is beautifully written in regard to distinguishing the power of God versus the power of man.
Let's look at it. I'll read with emphasis again so you can kind of get a sense. Read: Exodus 15:6-8
6 Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy. 7 In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries; you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble. 8 At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
You can hear it. Your, you, you, your. "You did this. You accomplished this. You made this happen. You took the initiative. You took action on my behalf. It was not us; it was you."
We tend to forget this. The reason why Miriam grabbed the tambourine and started going nuts, the reason Jayme does what he does, is to remind the people of God that God has done this.
We have not done this; God has done this. God is our strength. God is our song. God is our salvation. We have not earned anything.
We have been the recipients of the strength, kindness, and initiative of God in the heavens, which is why the second part of this stanza shows the futility of man-driven effort.
And that is where we will pick up next week my friends. Let’s take some time to digest and be in awe of what God has done this week. We have been purposeful today to save most of our music for the end.