The song was passed on to the Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser, printed on September 20, and immediately became popular. It may have been 1931 before Congress officially declared it our national anthem, but it had been treated so almost from the beginning, certainly by the 1820s and 30s. It had already become the national anthem of the US Army and Navy by the beginning of World War I. I can understand why. It may be one of the most difficult songs to sing for ordinary people (or even some professionals!), but it never fails to send a thrill or two down my spine. There is just something about it. Which is why people become highly offended by anyone who disrespects this symbol of our country.
This is NOT something new. God knew exactly how music effects the beings he created. His people have always sung. And in at least two dispensations, they were commanded to do so, sometimes in very specific ways. What is it exactly that singing does for us?
1) Singing teaches. How did you learn your alphabet? How did you learn the twelve apostles, the sons of Jacob, and the books of both the Old and New Testaments? You sang them. If you are like me, you sometimes have to sing them under your breath still to find the one you want! Singing can teach in other ways than lists too. "Psalm 19" will help you memorize a portion of that great psalm.
2) Singing admonishes. Even pop music has been known to carry serious messages. Do you remember "The Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin? I imagine I am giving away my age, but if you have never heard it, google the lyrics. If pop music can do it, surely the spiritual songs and hymns we sing can not only admonish us, but bring us to our knees. "Follow Me" and "Angry Words" come immediately to mind. Similar to a sermon, if a hymn can't cause repentance, I wonder if it is worth singing.
3) Singing comforts us. Did you know that the majority of psalms are laments? It's David or Solomon or Moses or Asaph or some other writer casting his complaints before God in the plainest of words, words that sometimes make me cringe. Can I actually talk to God that way? Since he saved those songs and prayers for us, I think so. And notice this, in those laments when the complaining is over, the praise begins—even before God has fixed the problem. The psalmist is so comforted that he treats the answer to his petition as already having been received. Talk about faith! "In the Hour of Trial" and "Be with Me Lord" seem to fall into this category.
4) Singing encourages. It moves us to fight harder and never give up. I read an article once in which the writer made it obvious that he hates songs that call us soldiers. Well, Paul calls us exactly that. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2Tim 2:3). And what do soldiers often do as they go off into battle? They sing! It raises the spirits and gives inner strength. It reminds us that trials make us stronger and buoy our spirits when the going is hard. "Count Your Many Blessings" and "The Battle Belongs to the Lord" are great examples. Did you ever exercise or run to music? Sometimes that is how I make those last ten steps when otherwise I would have stopped long before. Singing spiritual songs can do the same for us.
5) And singing unifies. If "The Star Spangled Banner" can make for instant camaraderie in a highly partisan crowd of spectators at a sporting event, surely "Marching to Zion" and "Blessed Be the Tie" can do so in our spiritual assembly. If we can all sing the same words, it means we are all in this together, fighting the same enemy, spreading the Word, and holding one another up as we do so. We are one people headed for the same place.
Is it really so amazing that our Creator knew how this activity would affect us? If it isn't affecting you that way, maybe you should pay more attention to what you are singing. If it's all about you, all about what you think, all about how you feel, and nothing about the God we worship and the gratitude and reverence we should have for him, maybe that's the problem.
And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD (Ps 27:6).
For myths concerning the writing of our national anthem, which I have tried to correct in this article, see www.constitutioncenter.org.