How Singing God’s Praise Changes Us

Have you ever wondered why singing is such a prominent feature in corporate worship?

  • Singing serves as a way to bless and thank our God for who He is and for all that He has done to love and rescue us.
  • Singing our Lord’s praise is a primary way that we enthrone Him in our hearts (Psalm 22:3).
  • Singing serves as a means of proclaiming the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. In singing, we commend to others the Jesus that we know and cherish ourselves (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
  • Singing enables us to savor God’s Word and makes it more memorable and vivid. The Apostle Paul admonishes us: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” (Colossians 3:16).
  • Singing changes us. It makes us kinder, gentler, and more reasonable. It also affords peace and joy to our hearts.
  • Singing galvanizes us to trust God in the midst of trouble (e.g. Paul and Silas sing hymns while persecuted and imprisoned for their faith – Acts 16:25).
  • Singing serves as a weapon when we are in the midst of spiritual conflict. Martin Luther claims that “the devil flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God.”

William Cowper, the beloved 18th century English poet and hymnodist, was right:

“Sometimes the light surprises the Christian while he sings. It is the Son who rises with healing in His wings.”

Oh that we might experience anew His healing and transformative work in our hearts as we draw near to worship our Lord!

Give Us Hearts that Burn O Lord

William Cowper says in one of his letters
that he once was friends with a man of fine taste
who confessed to him that
although he could not subscribe to the truth of Christianity,
he could never read this passage in Luke’s Gospel (the Emmaus Walk – Luke 24)
without being deeply affected by it,
and feeling that
if the stamp of divinity was impressed upon anything in the Scriptures,
it was upon that passage.

Below is a portion of Cowper’s poem entitled “Conversation.”
Read it slowly savoring each one and envisioning that memorable walk to Emmaus!

It happen’d on a solemn eventide,
Soon after He that was our surety died,
Two bosom friends, each pensively inclined,
The scene of all those sorrows left behind,
Sought their own village, busied as they went
In musings worthy of the great event:
They spake of him they loved, of him whose life,
Though blameless, had incurr’d perpetual strife,
Whose deeds had left, in spite of hostile arts,
A deep memorial graven on their hearts.
The recollection, like a vein of ore,
The farther traced enrich’d them still the more;

They thought him, and they justly thought him, one
Sent to do more than he appear’d to have done,
To exalt a people, and to place them high
Above all else, and wonder’d he should die.
Ere yet they brought their journey to an end,
A stranger join’d them, courteous as a friend,
And ask’d them with a kind engaging air
What their affliction was, and begg’d a share.
Inform’d, he gathered up the broken thread,
And truth and wisdom gracing all he said,
Explain’d, illustrated, and search’d so well
The tender theme on which they chose to dwell,
That reaching home, the night, they said is near,
We must not now be parted, sojourn here.

The new acquaintance soon became a guest,
And made so welcome at their simple feast,
He bless’d the bread, but vanish’d at the word,
And left them both exclaiming, ’Twas the Lord!
Did not our hearts feel all he deign’d to say,
Did they not burn within us by the way?

Luke 24, The Walk to Emmaus, & William Cowper’s Poem “Conversation”

William Cowper, one the the greatest of the English poets, says in one of his letters that he once was friends with a man of fine taste who confessed to him that although he could not subscribe to the truth of Christianity, he could never read Luke 24:13-35 without being deeply affected by it, and feeling that if the stamp of divinity was impressed upon anything in the Scriptures, it was upon that passage. Below is a portion of Cowper’s poem entitled “Conversation.”

Read it slowly!

rembrandt-emmaus

Rembrandt’s Rendering of the Walk to Emmaus

It happen’d on a solemn eventide,
Soon after He that was our surety died,
Two bosom friends, each pensively inclined,
The scene of all those sorrows left behind,
Sought their own village, busied as they went
In musings worthy of the great event:
They spake of him they loved, of him whose life,
Though blameless, had incurr’d perpetual strife,
Whose deeds had left, in spite of hostile arts,
A deep memorial graven on their hearts.
The recollection, like a vein of ore,
The farther traced enrich’d them still the more;

They thought him, and they justly thought him, one
Sent to do more than he appear’d to have done,
To exalt a people, and to place them high
Above all else, and wonder’d he should die.
Ere yet they brought their journey to an end,
A stranger join’d them, courteous as a friend,
And ask’d them with a kind engaging air
What their affliction was, and begg’d a share.
Inform’d, he gathered up the broken thread,
And truth and wisdom gracing all he said,
Explain’d, illustrated, and search’d so well
The tender theme on which they chose to dwell,
That reaching home, the night, they said is near,
We must not now be parted, sojourn here.
The new acquaintance soon became a guest,
And made so welcome at their simple feast,
He bless’d the bread, but vanish’d at the word,
And left them both exclaiming, ’Twas the Lord!
Did not our hearts feel all he deign’d to say,
Did they not burn within us by the way?

When the Darkness Will Not Lift – The Cures for Spiritual Depression

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a doctor turned preacher in the earlier part of the 20th century, wrote: Most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself. Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why are you in despair? What business have you to be depressed? You exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope in God’ – instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must remind yourself of God, who He is, what He has done, and what He has pledged Himself to do. (From the book, Spiritual Depression, by Martin Lloyd Jones, pp. 20-21)

Here are a few cures from Psalm 120.

Recall God’s past faithfulness in your life. “I called to the LORD, and he answered me.” Such personal evidence is also a powerful antidote to spiritual depression (ANSWERED PRAYERS; PAST DELIVERANCES). When has trusting God ever burned you in the past? What compelling reason is there for viewing your situation as any different? It is those who are willing to go back to the basis for their faith that are able to go on with God.

Recognize that your only source of hope is in the name of the Lord (v.2). LORD – The great tragedy of spiritual depression is that, those who suffer from it tend to think that they must overcome it before they can come to God. LORD – I am a God of loving loyalty.

John Stott correctly observes, “The cure for spiritual depression is neither to look in at our grief, nor back to the past, nor round at our problems, but upwards to the living God. He is our help and our God, and if we trust in him now, we shall soon have cause to praise him again.”

We are powerless to overcome spiritual depression in and of ourselves. We must bring our losses and crosses to the LORD.  Prayerfully bring to the Lord all the ways that we have suffered from the warring ways of the world. “When through the deep waters I call thee to go…”

Pursue peace with God not by declaring war on those who have sinned against you, but by declaring war on your sin (v.3). We tend to make peace with our sins and declare war on others who have hurt us. We definitely must make war but on what and whom? The “deceitful tongue” of verse 3 might not be somebody’s else, but my own.

One question that I continually use on myself is this: Are there any ways that you have spoken unadvisedly, bitterly, untruly this past week? Not believing God’s promises has to be one of our greatest sins.

Rejoice that divine judgment fell upon another – the Prince of peace… (v.4). For all the ways that I have succumbed to the warring ways of the world. I pray that you will do what only desperate people can do, namely, cast yourself on Christ. May you say to him, “You are my only hope. I have no righteousness in myself. Have mercy upon me. I trust you.”

Remember that your deep longing for peace will one day be fully satisfied. What is your journey’s destination? The heavenly Mount Zion – the new Jerusalem (city of peace). When you are there, you will never experience another day of doom and gloom.

There will be full shalom – complete mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional flourishing, well-being, wholeness, health, prosperity, safety, tranquility, rest, harmony, and the absence of all agitation and discord.

William Cowper wrote in his wonderful poem “God Moves in a Mysterious Way:” Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, the clouds you so much dread. Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head!

Join me in praying the following:

Give us grace to turn away from the deceitful dealings and warring ways of the world that infiltrate our hearts and relationships. Enable us to turn to you in repentance and faith for You are the God of peace who has reconciled us to Yourself through the blood of Jesus’ cross. Make me a man who pursues your shalom, in Jesus’ name, AMEN.