There is no doubt that throughout the bible, there is singing. There are songs of victory, songs of joy, songs of promise, songs of lament, prophetic songs. Time and time again, we are given a commission to sing – sing songs of praise, sing the songs of the Lamb, sing in the sanctuary of the Lord. In fact, more than just singing, there is so much music in the word – instruments, clapping, the sound of dancing people. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.” [Psalm 150:6]
Within the Psalms alone, we see such a variety of songs and, within these songs, the fullness of human emotion, life and seasons. In this, we also see the likeness of God the Father, who created us in His very own image. When I think about the music and songs mentioned in the Bible, I see there are some common themes. For example:
- Songs of Adoration
- Songs of Thanksgiving
- Songs of Longing and Struggling
- Songs of Intercession and Proclamation
Many of these songs incorporate multiple components, but all of them seem to come from the overflow of one thing – relational revelation of God’s character.
- Moses, Miriam and the Israelites sang of God’s might, His love and promises for them after He delivered them from Egypt [Exodus 14:26 – 15:21]
- David sang songs out of His love, joy, suffering, repentance and zeal – His songs of praise to the Lord are written throughout all his life’s seasons and emotions
- Mary and Zechariah sing from their knowledge of the faithful Lord who will fulfil His promises [Luke 1]
- Multiple times in Revelation, God’s people sing from their recognition of God’s glory and authority [Revelation 5:9-10, 15:2-4]
The Song of Jesus
Who knows the Father better than the Son? As such, it makes sense that Jesus would sing. Furthermore, since we are made in the image of God, we can assume that God, the Father is also a singer, who loves music. After all, He is the one who created it!
However, there is no record of a specific “Jesus’ Song” in the gospels in contrast to the written record of “Mary’s Song” and “Zechariah’s Song” for example. We do know, however, that Jesus, in human form, sang a hymn with his disciples at the last supper [Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26]. Singing was common at Jewish festivals and it is widely agreed that Jesus and the disciples, at the Last Supper, would have been singing the Jewish “Hallel” (Psalms 113-118). Regardless of what the actual song was, it is quite reasonable to imagine that Jesus would have sung. Singing was part of the Jewish culture and Jesus was a man in full flesh, living on the earth. Like any other man, he walked, talked, ate, and dressed himself. Thus, especially since there is evidence he spent time with people, went to the temple, and fellowshipped with his disciples, it would not be unreasonable to imagine that Jesus also sang. He is fully man, as well as fully God. Psalm 22 is also considered the psalm of the cross, as this is what Jesus cried out just before He died [Matthew 27:46].
Why are there not more accounts of Jesus’ singing recorded in scripture? I don’t know, but John 21:25 says – “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” So, there are a few questions we could ask in relation to “Jesus’ Song”:
- Does Jesus sing?
- Why/what does He sing?
- How does He sing?
Does Jesus sing?
We have already discussed this question a little in the previous section. Moreover, Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever [Hebrews 13:8], so it makes sense that the same Jesus who sang with his disciples, continues to sing with us today. Jesus is One with the Father and the Spirit. Throughout the Bible, there are many references to the songs of God. These are just some of them:
- “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” [Zephaniah 3:17]
- “By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life.” [Psalm 42:8]
- “He put a new song on my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” [Psalm 40:3]
- “Do not get drunk of wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your hearts to the Lord.” [Ephesians 5:18-19]
- “…I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.” [1 Corinthians 14:15]
- “And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.” [Revelation 14:2]
When does Jesus sing? I imagine Jesus is singing all the time – singing over us in intercession, singing to the glory of the Father, singing through people in the world, and releasing His songs of love and justice upon the earth.
Why/What does Jesus sing?
Firstly, He sings because it is an expression of His creativity and His glory. Secondly, as a man, Jesus’ singing is an example of adoration to God. He inspires our voices with His voice, our songs with His singing. More specifically we can look at some of the verses above and see the heart behind this singing.
- He rejoices over us with singing because of His love [Zephaniah 3:17]. In this song, we discover our beloved of the Lord, we realise that God delights in our sincere love, even in weakness and immaturity.
- His song reminds us of His salvation and His life [Psalm 42:8]. These are songs that testify, that grasp our heart as we remember the cross and our Saviour’s love. His song in us is a prayer of life, one which recognises that life comes through the Son, who is the only way to the Father.
- His song gives revelation of God’s character and moves our hearts to proclaim His praise [Psalm 40:3]. There are songs from the Spirit and songs of understanding [1 Corinthians 14:15]. Our Spirit worships the Lord, and we choose to adore Him out of our revelation of who He is. When we sing, we sing songs of praise and adoration to the God who we know and love.
There are different kinds of singing. In my own experience and testimony, I’ve felt the Lord sing over me directly, and through people. There are so many times when a song would pop up continuously in my head and from that melody and those lyrics, the Lord would direct me, or show me something. I also recall an occasion when I was very angry about a situation. I don’t get angry very often and I hated the feeling of anger in my heart and I went for a walk. As I was complaining to the Lord, being angry, and also calling out to Him, the Spirit began to sing over me. I don’t know how to describe it, but it was strange, especially since the song was such a contrast to how I was feeling and speaking to the Lord. Here, in the midst of my humanity and fleshly feelings, a song was being sung to me, seemingly out of my very own heart. It was full of gentleness and peace as again and again, I heard “I’ve got joy like a fountain, I’ve got joy like a fountain, I’ve got joy like a fountain in my heart.” This was the Spirit reminding me of what He does in my heart, reminding me of who God is, and who I am as one created in His image. I began to sing along and within moments, my heart was filled with peace. Then, as I thought about what happened, the Lord spoke again, so I obeyed with joy and returned home from my walk.
This is not the only way in which Jesus sings over us. He sings as we sing songs of worship. He puts new songs in our mouths – songs of revelation, prophetic songs, songs to encourage each other. “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skilled writer.” [Psalm 45:1]
Sing a New Song to the Lord
There are so many references in the bible which reveal the heart of worship through music and song. I have just picked a few, in the Psalms, which reveal the reason for our singing in worship, the content of these songs, and the result of this singing.
“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.
FOR you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have made.”
“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all people.
FOR great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.”
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn – shout for joy before the Lord, the King. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord,
FOR he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.”
I have not included all the verses in these psalms, but even so, a pattern emerges. The psalm begins with a call to praise the Lord, and with adoration. Then, the psalmist, David, explains the reason of this call to worship, based, describing a characteristic of God. Afterwards, he continues in adoration of the Lord, having experienced Him like this. It is a continuous cycle of worship, revelation of God, and joy. We see Jesus, and are filled with joy. Out of this joy, we worship Him. And, as we worship Him, we see more of who He is and are filled with even greater abundance of joy, so again we overflow with worship. The revelation of character that comes through this worship is given by the Holy Spirit. Paul exhorts the Ephesians to be filled with the Holy Spirit, “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” He continues, saying, “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why? Paul had just told the Ephesians to be careful how to live, to live as wise and make the most of every opportunity. This then, is His suggestion of how they might live this kind of life [Ephesians 5:12-20].
Remember, however, that this cycle of adoration, worship and revelation doesn’t just happen by itself. Yes, there is spontaneous worship which comes from the overflow of an encounter with heart of the Lord; but there is also deliberate worship, which comes from pursuing relationship with, and knowledge of God, not just emotional highs. The invitation to seek and find is always there [Isaiah 55, Proverbs 25:2, Matthew 6:7-8], but it requires us to make the choice to seek. Psalm 63 has become my own testimony as, even in time when I do not physically feel the presence of the Lord as strongly as I desire, I know that He is faithful, and that His love and promises never fail. So, in faith, I set my heart to praise Him, and in faith I choose to sing of His love.
“I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I WILL praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I WILL lift up my hands.
I WILL be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth WILL praise you.”