With the proliferation of more modern hymns, especially those called “praise songs,” I have started wondering if we have completely lost our understanding of the purpose of singing. It isn’t “because I like the tune,” or “the beat.” It isn’t “because it makes me feel good.” Singing in the services is not, not, not, capital N-O-T, not done to please ourselves. Singing is part of our worship of God and therefore to please Him, and it is an extremely important part of our teaching. After all, how did you learn your alphabet? You sang it until you had it memorized. I am sure that is true of most of your Bible class memory work too—the twelve apostles, the books of the Bible, the sons of Jacob—you learned by singing.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Col 3:16
What is it then, brethren? When ye come together, each one hath a psalm, hath a teaching, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. 1Cor 14:26
Yes, I can also find verses that tell us to praise God in song (e.g., Psalm 100:2; James 5:13). When I was a child we had about a six hymn repertoire of praise songs. But just like usual, that old pendulum has swung way too far and now that’s just about all some of us sing.
As I was going through some old hymnals recently I found a hymn that stopped me in my tracks. Read these lyrics and then think about a few things with me:
And Yet You’re Sinning Still
By J. G. Dailey
(inside cover – The Life of Victory by Meade MacGuire)
When Moses led his people from Egypt’s sunny plain,
From bondage sore and grievous, from hardship, toil, and plain.
They soon began to murmur against the sovereign will;
Forgetting God’s deliverance, we find them sinning still.
When Moses on the mountain had talked with God alone,
Receiving His commandments on tables made of stone,
The people brought their jewels, the sacrifice did kill,
The golden calf they worshiped, and kept on sinning still.
How often when your dear ones were lying near to death,
You earnestly entreated with every passing breath,
“O Father, spare my darling, and I will do Thy will!”
Your prayer was heard and answered, and yet you’re sinning still.
When sickness overtook you, when sorely racked with pain,
You said if God would spare you, you’d bear the cross again;
He gave you strength of body. He gave you strength of will,
But you forgot your promise, and you are sinning still.
How graciously the Savior has lengthened out your days!
His mercy, never ending, is guiding all your ways.
O brother, heed the warning, your broken vows fulfill,
Lest death should overtake you, and find you sinning still.
Oh, flee the wrath impending, and learn His gracious will,
Lest Jesus, coming quickly, should find you sinning still!
Trust me as a musician when I say the music to this song is pleasant and easy to sing. Now ask yourself this question: how well would this go over if you sang it in your assembly this coming Sunday? I have a feeling more than one group would want to run the song leader out on a rail. Who would want to sing such harsh accusations to one another? Who would want to be forced to really look at their lives? Who would want to face up to their hypocrisy, a hypocrisy we all practice occasionally when we excuse our behavior with a “That’s different?” Who among us really wants admonition after all, even if God did say that was an important purpose in singing (Col 3:16)?
Look at the songs you sing this coming Sunday. If you strike out all the repetitious phrases, how much “meat” are you really singing to one another? Or is it just a bunch of feel good fluff? How many times is it a matter of patting your feet instead of buffeting your body? How many times do we want to lift our spirits instead of bowing our hearts in repentance? No, we had rather sing songs we like, songs that pat us on the back and make us feel good. We all want to be told we are just fine and nothing needs to change at all.
“Teaching and admonishing one another,” God said. “Let all things be done unto edifying,” He added. Sometimes those things are painful. You cannot anesthetize yourself to that pain and think it will still do you any good. Godly repentance includes sorrow, Paul tells us. We need to add that to our repertoire too.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. Ps 51:13-14
To find the music go to: