People from all cultures take part in singing in some form and at every age. Babies around the age of 12 months naturally sing and by 18 months they make up recognizable, repeatable songs. By the age of 5, children know a fairly large selection of songs and have the basic music abilities of musically untrained adults. Singing seems to be a God-given aspect of being human. One important way to use singing in our lives is to use it to build up our relationship with God.
Followers of God sing throughout the Bible (e.g., Exodus 15:21; Acts 16:25). Psalm 95:1-2 says, “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” In Ephesians 5:18-20 we’re told we should be “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Jesus and the disciples sang (Matthew 26:30). There is singing in Heaven (Revelation 15:2-4). The whole book of Psalms is the hymnal of the Bible!
There must be many reasons why God uses singing/music so extensively in believers’ lives. Two reasons that readily connect to Scripture engagement are that singing can be a form of Scripture meditation and that singing can help us to memorize Scripture.
Singing Scripture as Meditation
One of the most powerful aspects of singing is that it connects with both our thoughts and emotions. Our relationship with God is about having the correct beliefs and thoughts about him and also about having a strong emotional connection with God, leading us to a life of obedient love. In other words, we use our “heads” (thinking), our “hearts” (emotions) and our “hands” (actions) in our relationship with God. Leaving out any one of these three aspects can lead to a shallow, unsatisfying, and potentially weak relationship with God. Singing the truths in the Bible enhances our experience with God through his Word both emotionally and cognitively.
Singing Scriptures can deepen our thinking about God by helping us meditate on God’s truth. As we sing a passage of Scripture we pray the passage. The more often we sing/pray a passage, the more we understand the passage and are changed by that understanding of God’s Word. Singing helps us in our thinking about God’s Word as well as enhances our dwelling on God’s truth.
But music doesn’t just change our thinking. Excellent music stirs our hearts, enhancing the feelings that are associated with the message of the lyrics. The lyrics of songs are poetry. Poetry, because of its extensive imagery, also helps us feel the truth of a message in a powerful way.
The psalms/songs of the Bible are words spoken to God or about God. They help us to express ourselves honestly to God. Through them we can express our joys and sorrows, successes and failures, and dreams and fears. Every relationship, especially our relationship with God, deepens with honesty. We are designed to have an alive and meaningful relationship with God. The songs of the Bible help us speak to God in true Words that he inspired others to speak to him.
Australian Pastor Matt Jacoby is the lead singer of the group Sons of Korah, which sing exclusively from the Book of Psalms. In his book, Deeper Places: Experiencing God in the Psalms, Matt says that singing the psalms reorients our desires. The psalms are examples not only of what God wants us to do, “but also of what he wants to do within us.” Singing God’s words becomes our guide to worshipping him and helps us encounter God. We are more likely to experience God when we are honest with him about who we are and what we are feeling. By singing/praying the psalms of the Bible we are drawn into an honest relationship with God through the help of biblical authors. We learn by their example how to relate to and experience God.
Do you believe in God and his Word but have trouble emotionally experiencing God? Then turn to God’s Word and sing it!
Singing Scripture Helps Us Memorize Scripture
Row, Row, Row Your Boat, The ABCs, and Mary Had a Little Lamb are all songs from our childhood that we remember, despite not having sung them for years. The power of song to help us remember is irrefutable. Memorizing Scripture is at the heart of Scripture engagement. Memorizing allows a passage to be on our hearts and minds at all times. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” Memorizing Scripture is intentionally sowing our thoughts on God’s Word. Having Scripture memorized in song form both helps in the memorizing process and, if the tune is well done, enhances the emotions of the passage as well. For a more extensive discussion on why it is so critical to memorize Scripture, please refer to the Scripture Memorization section of this website.
We live in a time when there are numerous Scripture resources available to us, including Scripture put to music. On the Singing Scripture Resources page of this website a collection (though not exhaustive by any means) of Scripture set to music is available. Talented musicians have put Scripture to music, appealing to children, youth, and adults. Musical tastes are very diverse. You will most likely have to sample a number of different musicians to find both the musical style that is meaningful to you and the biblical passage you desire to memorize/meditate upon.
In addition to listening to others’ Scripture music, try creating your own! The time you spend mulling over a passage and writing the right tune to go with the words will help deepen the impact of the passage in your own life. The more we invest in a project, the more that project means to us. Perhaps even working together with others to make this a group project would be meaningful. When you are done, consider singing your passage to another group of people. The psalms of the Bible are meant to be sung in a public setting; you can lead a group of people to follow in this rich tradition.
Along with writing your own tunes, you can also “borrow” a tune from a song you already know and put in new Scripture lyrics. Having memorized the tune already, you’ll then be able to focus on memorizing the passage. Many hymns of the church use popular tunes from the time period they were written. Using popular tunes today to develop Scripture songs is always an option.
Music is very powerful. It connects with both our minds and our hearts in ways that deeply impact our lives. Choosing the right music in our lives is an important decision. Saying “I just like the tune, the lyrics don’t impact me” is naïve. Singing Scripture, meeting God in his Word through song, is a potent spiritual discipline. Over time, our musical choices, and indeed everything that we choose to meditate on, will shape us. Singing and listening to God’s Word will increase our personal encounters with God. Knowing and loving God fulfills our ultimate purpose and is where we find our deepest joy.