A Reason To Sing for Joy!
One of the many talents I have is singing songs based on phrases people say. My kids and wife experience this more than most…because I don’t want people to feel bad after hearing my vocal abilities. But in any given conversation, if you speak a phrase that I recognize as a lyric from a song… I just might start singing that song out loud. If I don’t, I am at least singing it in my head.
The reason I do that is because I like music and I don’t mind singing either. I am not great at it… but I enjoy it. Some people don’t sing out loud because they don’t like the sound of their voice. They hold it in....but in private…they let the dogs loose. In that moment..singing in the shower or singing in your car…how would you explain that feeling? I would say it is freeing…singing has a liberating effect.
The reason why is because singing is part of the fabric of our being as humans. God created us with the physical abilities to speak and sing as responses of worship to Him as God. We were created to know God, to have a relationship with Him. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. One way we glorify him is to sing praises to Him and about him. It is what we are created to do.
I would further in saying that any singing we engage in without God in mind is merely a substitute to who we are as humans. Love songs capture the hearts fleeting emotions but that is an artificial sweetener to the Lord who is truly meant to capture our hearts. Who does love a good upbeat, rock out drum solo or guitar riff that gets our feet tapping and our heart pumping. I would say there is nothing wrong with those things. What fulfills that musical accompaniment are true words about God and His work in this world. Music is a gift to humanity from God.
One of the greatest gifts to the 21st century church is Keith and Kristyn Getty, who have composed many of the most popular theologically rich, Christ-centered hymns that we sing in our church today. In their book, Sing, they speak about the ways that God has formed and made us to praise Him through song. They write,
“When singing praise to God, so much more than just the vocal box is engaged. God created our minds to judge pitch and lyric; to think through the concepts we sing; to engage the intellect, imagination, and memory; and to remember what is set in tune. God has formed our hearts to be moved with depth of feeling and a whole wide range of emotion as the melody-carried truths of who God is and whose we are -sink in.” - Keith and Kristyn Getty
13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
David literally contemplates the ways in which God created his body, mind and soul and his response to all God has done in making and knowing him in relationship is singing songs of praise to God. Don’t miss this major truth…what David understood about God’s character and his works…led the physical, emotional, and spiritual act of singing praises to God.
Therefore, what we know and understand about he Lord fuels our worship of Him in learning, praying, and serving and singing. In other words, our singing is not uninformed ranting and squawking gibberish. It is words that are true about the One True God. Those truthful words fuel our spirit and our will to sing about the joy that we have in our hearts regarding the Lord.
So what we know of the Lord, all of his ways and works....should then lead us to a joy in the Lord…which leads to a song in our hearts and in our mouths!
But churches across America, the worship leader gets up to lead the church in singing and many never even move their lips during the singing. Some of you might fall into this category and I have to ask the question, why? consider some reason people don’t sing in church:
distractions: circumstances of life, fear of man, sin
disinterest: unbelief, unaware of need to sing
My prayer from these passages today is that the Lord would renew or create a clear understanding of every blood bought believer in Jesus Christ not only was given a new song to sing when Jesus saved them, but should sing among God’s people as a testimony to God’s glory in this world and in our individual lives.
A Truth of the Lord Ezra 1-Nehemiah 12:26
A Truth of the Lord Ezra 1-Nehemiah 12:26
Last week: God’s grace
Today: God’s faithfulness
This will probably be the longest passages I have included in one point of a sermon. Erza 1- Nehemiah 12 is 21 chapters of this small portion of the history of God’s people that reflect God’s character and his works in their lives and the world. One of the main themes we looked at last week that the Jews meditated on was God’s grace towards them in their weakness and failures. Secondly, another major theme that we have spoken of countless times in this study is his faithfulness. All of these chapters include the theme of God’s faithfulness to his people regardless of how they treated him.
God is faithful and he will carry out his promises of the covenant. He can be trusted because He never has nor ever will fail us. He cannot fail because of his power is unlimited and his love is unconditional and failure would lead him to deny his own nature and cease to be God.
Chapters 11-part of 12 is the final crescendo of God’s musical arrangement of redemption for the Jews during Nehemiah’s day. He has once again provided an exodus like during the time of Moses. This time, the escape is from the Babylonian captors. God’s promise to restore the people to the promised land, first attained under Joshua and now attained again under Zerrubabbal, Ezra and Nehemiah. Both exodus events provide miraculous demonstrations of God’s power over all things.
Under Moses, God displays his power over the false gods of Egypt and the false worship of their leader Pharaoh. The Lord shows through the plagues that his power surpasses all false idols that man has created in Egypt. God demonstrates his sovereignty over human leaders so that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened as a direct result of God carrying out his will to display his glory until, finally when the Israelites were set free, it was as God determined and planned it.
Notice the song that Moses sings at the exodus in response to God’s faithfulness
Turn with me to Exodas 15
Likewise, in the story of Exiled Jews of Babylon, the Lord sends a deliver, this time not a Jew, but a Persian King named Cyrus, to set the people free. Once again by the mighty hand of the God, the Jews were released, resources were provided to them for their travels and resettlement, security was given along the way, until finally they temple, city and walls were rebuilt! This is where our story takes us today.
Chapters 11 and half of chapter 12, testify to the faithfulness of the Lord to complete his work as he promised. Chapters 11 and part of 12 are once again lists to consider as markers of God’s faithfulness to accomplish all that he plan to accomplish in this world.
We read in Neh 11:1-3 “1 Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns. 2 And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem. 3 These are the chiefs of the province who lived in Jerusalem; but in the towns of Judah everyone lived on his property in their towns: Israel, the priests, the Levites, the temple servants, and the descendants of Solomon’s servants.”
Earlier we looked at chapter 7 where the city was rebuilt, the walls reconstructed and yet there wasn't many people living there. For the remaining chapters of Nehemiah, the people according to their proper genealogy as the tribes of Judah and Benjamin moved back into the city. Chapter 11 gives us this description of their resettlement into the city.
Notice in verse 1 how the people trusted the Lord to guide who would actually be the families who moved back into the city. They determined this by casting lots, which was a way the people surrendered to God’s providence in their lives. They selected a percentage who would return but left it up to the Lord’s work as the lot was cast. A percentage accepted the Lord’s will and moved from the otter villages to within the city walls.
This was a joy to the people to come into the city and a privilege because the temple was there. To dwell inside the city was to dwell close to the Lord’s presence at the temple. How different it is in the New Covenant where the Lord does not reside in a building but in our hearts. He is with us as we the church gathers together, not because He dwells in this brick and morter but because He lives in us by His spirit who indwells all believers.
The others towns mentioned were villages in the Judaic region but outside the city where a farming communities existed and supplied crops for the economic stability of the region. So the rest of chapter 11 then focuses on the leadership that dwelt in the city and represented and served the people and the temple. The focus is on the lineage of priests, levites, the gatekeepers and servants of the Jews. The focus of these families is because they were the ones who lead the people in the worship of the Lord.
v. 10-14 Priests and their families
v. 15-21 Levites and their families
v. 22-36 deals with the rest of God’s people who lived outside the city in neighboring villages.
Beginning in Chapter 12, there is a specific accounting of those Priests and Levites since the return of the Jews to Jerusalem who would serve the people and the Lord at the Temple. Again this first section of chapter 12 recounts God’s faithfulness to preserve the lineage of Aaron with the priests and the lineage of Levi with the Levites who serve the temple and lead the people in worshipping the Lord.
Chapters 12:1-26 trace the work of the Lord from the beginning of the exiles returning under Zerubbabel and Jeshua to the current day of finality under Nehemiah and Ezra. The summary statement can be seen in verse 26,
26 These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra, the priest and scribe.
The point of this summary is to show that what God established with the order and structure of the temple under David where he ordered the function and service of the priests, levites, gatekeepers and singers was still going to be in effect after the exile. David created a structure of service for the temple service and those Levite families and those families from the sons of Aaron would dedicate their lives to serve their alloted time. For example a priest would serve roughly two weeks straight per year in the temple. There were 24 divisions of priests so each division served two week allotments for the entire year.
That structure gave order to the worship and that administration made the overall functionality of the worship at blessing to the Lord and to the people. These lists point to the continuance of that order from David after the returned exiles resettle.
Again, the faithfulness of God shines forth not only to accomplish his purposes, but to use God’s people to lead in effective ways in bringing about his purposes. With the reflection of God’s faithfulness on their minds, it leads to worship and celebration on their lips as they sing praises to his name in our final verses of this chapter.
Understand that proper worship flows out of a realistic reflection of God’s character and work. Our worship is a response to his nature and the power that he has revealed to us. Our worship is the revelation of God that has become real and tangible to us. We know of that revelation of God fulfilled in the sending of the Son of God onto the earth. Jesus is the “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Heb 1:3 ) We respond to the revelation of Jesus Christ because he has demonstrated God’s faithfulness in shedding his blood in his death and gaining victory in his resurrection. Because of that we forever worship him in many forms, one being through singing.
Again in the book Sing, the Gettys write:
“We are not compelled to worship out of thin air: something or rather-someone stirs us to....Worship comes as a response to revelation!” - Keith and Kristyn Getty
Jesus has show himself to be faithful to the end so that you may be free. Have you gathered this afternoon with his faithfulness on your mind and heart? The temptation is to focus on the circumstances and not the chief reason for our worship. But when we come into this gathering each week prepared to focus our attention on God’s nature and his amazing feats of power and faithful love, we cannot do anything else but worship him with song.
A Celebration of the Lord
A Celebration of the Lord
Starting then in v 27 of chapter 12, we see the Jews culminate their long anticipated completion and repopulation of the city with songs of joy. Their joy was focused on the completion of all that the Lord set out to accomplish, to once again rescue his people and settle them in the promised land where they might find rest.
The word in v 27 is dedication which in the Hebrew language is Hanukkah. You probably have heard of the Jewish Festival Hanukkah that is celebrated by Jews today. This Hebrew word was used to name that celebration but it is unrelated to this event in their history. What it means though is that their worship and their singing was in regards to the identification that God work had been completed and he was to praised.
V 27 This family of faith were full of “gladness, thanksgiving”
V 42 They offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced for God made them rejoice with great joy, the women and children also rejoiced, and the joy of the Jerusalem was heard far away.
Notice that the spirit of the people is a great joy for what God had accomplished. Their understanding of his faithfulness led to great joy, a joy that was so full that it overflowed beyond the walls and impacted the communities outside the city. This what the truth about God and his work, and the visible effects of God’s work in a person does…it brings joy. He provides that joy for his people as they understand his power and love and as they see that power and love on display. This gladness that leads to rejoicing is enveloping the community and reaching beyond it to the world.
For believers in the church today, joy in the lord is also a gift.
11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Commentary on the Gospel according to John (Chapter 15)
It is called Christ’s joy and our joy in various respects. It is Christ’s, because it is given to us by him; for he is both the Author and the Cause of it. I say that he is the Cause of it, because we were freed from guilt, when the chastisement of our peace was laid on him, (Isa. 53:5.) I call him also the Author of it, because by his Spirit he drives away dread and anxiety in our hearts, and then arises that calm cheerfulness.
He adds, that this joy will be solid and full; not that believers will be entirely free from all sadness, but that the ground for joy will be far greater, so that no dread, no anxiety, no grief, will swallow them up; for those to whom it has been given to glory in Christ will not be prevented, either by life, or by death, or by any distresses, from bidding defiance to sadness - John Calvin, Commentary on John
What this means then is that there is no occasion for joylessness to remain in a believer in Jesus. You have tasted his sweet grace and you have seen his powerful work in you. You know his joy is supplied to rest in Him and be joyful. Fight against the winds of melancholy and trust in his power to anchor to the joy found in Christ.
What we see from the joy of the Jews is the manifestation of that joy in singing. Singing is the way in which the Lord created us and singing is what we witness in this passage. Two great choirs are formed. One choir make a procession clockwise around the city while the other choir heads the opposite direction counter clockwise. They arrive at the house of God in vs 40,
40 So both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God, and I and half of the officials with me;
These choirs were rejoicing and singing about the faithfulness of the Lord in fulfilling his promises. They were singing with great joy so that all could hear. As they made their way around the city, passing each gate that was repaired, I imagine that they remembered the difficulties that arose from the construction. They remembered the opposition from their enemies. But they didn't allow the history to impact the moment of rejoicing.
This great choral display of affection and love for God is a great example for the church today how we likewise should respond to the Lord in our worship of Him through song.
Singing congregational is a privilege and a responsibility of every church member. We know that the Scriptures dont suggest that we sing to the Lord, but we are commanded to do so by Him. It is our privilege and duty because it acts as a way of expression of the love that we have experienced by God and it ministers to each other in the church body.
1 Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. 2 Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
I think this is a challenging verse because it really speaks of our duty to sing and play with musical instruments as an expression of joy for all the lord has done. This is instruction to the congregation of God’s people to express your joy in the Lord in this way. I would say also that while singing is what all can do, playing instruments, if able is also a duty of the active participant in worship. If you have the skill to play an instrument, why not use that skill the Lord has blessed you with to praise the Lord among GOd’s people.
Matt Merker, in his book on Corporate worship writes,
Singing is part of each member’s ministry to the whole body. When you join a church, you join the choir. You become a steward for the spiritual vitality of the body, a stewardship you fulfill in part by opening your mouth in song. The church member enduring persecution from his earthly family needs to hear his spiritual brothers and sisters sing, “Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee.”
The Christian burdened by shame needs to hear us exult, “My sin, not in part, but the whole, has been nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more!” Our weary hearts long to hear the gospel reverberate around us in surround sound. We hear the voices of our fellow church members, and remember that we’re not in this alone. God has welcomed us into his family.
Merker, Matt. Corporate Worship (9Marks: Building Healthy Churches) (p. 136). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
Let me conclude by encouraging you to look to Christ in your worship. I am not suggesting that we sing songs to the Lord begrudgingly. That spirit in a person does not honor the Lord. Instead, ask yourself, why don’t i want to sing in church? Am I worried about what others may think of my singing? Let me to encourage your joy in the lord to expel the fear of man in that moment.
Instead, look to Christ who saves sinners, who liberates our bondage, who gives us his righteousness, who removes our rags and gives us a place at this table, who provdies an enternal rest in him. Consider this Jesus as the one who has “put a new song in your mouth.”
Sing the truth of the Lord all you sinners who have been made new.
Sing of Lord’s grace and faithfulness that he has displayed for you.
Sing of his everlasting mighty arm that has the power to save
Sing of his only Son who died, was buried, and rose from the grave