This past weekend I attended The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, with my daughter. To say the worship in music, led by Keith and Kristyn Getty, was beautiful is an understatement. The music was so delightful in fact that, as I briefly stood in the back with my 2-year-old, up-to-this-point very cranky granddaughter, her whining dissipated as she became totally mesmerized by the sight and sound of 3000 plus women singing praises to God.
If you are interested in learning more about the Getty’s music, on their website, you can hear samples of their music (I especially love the Celtic sounds) find out more about them, and even download free sheet music for some of their more popular hymns. You can also find out why they sing and write songs. In fact, if you approach their website with questions of “Who?” “What?” “When?” “Where?” “Why?” and “How?” of their music you will learn much from these modern hymn writers.
Truly, the Getty’s music communicated the conference title, “Here is Our God.” The words of their songs, the beauty of their melodies, and the skill of their music presented glorious glimpses of our God. Look at the words to “In Christ Alone” for example. The songs at the conference were sung about God to God. They were sung, occasionally in concert form but, most often, by the standing congregation. They were sung joyfully, triumphantly, reverently, and seemingly from the heart.
But, were they doing music right? Should God be the subject matter and audience of the Getty’s modern hymns? Should their music’s melodies and lyrics exclaim, “Here is our God”? Should the lyrics be rooted in joy or something else? Should the Getty’s lead great congregations of people or keep to a recording studio? Should they lead people to stand or sit, to dance or kneel, to lift their voices or to keep silent?
What about us? What about the songs we sing? Are we singing the right words to the right audience in the right place, the right way and for the right reasons? To answer these questions, I took my “Who?” “What?” “When?” “Where?” “Why?” and “How?” questions, not to modern hymn writers, but to the most famous ancient hymn writers of all times, King David and the psalmists. The answers I found are below.
What should we sing?
“Praise” is the overwhelming answer given by the ancient hymn writers. The words of our hymns, they say, should be filled with glorious praise about God, his name, and his power. They should tell about God’s word and his ways. They should tell the glories of God’s strength, righteousness, and steadfast love. Our new songs should tell of his past, present, and future salvation; they should tell of his marvelous wondrous works – they should declare his glory.
Who should sing?
Sing, you saints and servants, chosen and saved by God, who take refuge in him and who are rooted in him, say the psalmists. Sing, both kings and ordinary people. Sing all you nations and everyone in this generation. And, one day, the psalmists promise, the trees of the forest, the pastures of the wilderness, the hills, meadows, valleys, and everyone on the earth will sing praise to God.
Who should we sing to?
The unanimous and singular answer given by the inspired songwriters is “The LORD,” also referenced by the psalmists as “God, our King,” “the God of Jacob,” “the living God,” and “the Rock of our salvation.” I particularly like the psalmists’ references to our audience of One as him who rides the ancient heavens and the LORD who rides through the deserts. Think of one of those visions and sing.
Where should we sing?
The ancient songwriters encourage us to sing both among the nations and in the shadow of God’s wings. Sing either in your bed or in procession to the sanctuary with the great congregation leading the tambourines and musicians. You, who are God’s, sing before the LORD, in his presence, in his house, in his courts, and in the assembly of the godly.
Why should we sing?
The most popular answer the psalmists give is, “for joy.” God’s people are encouraged to sing for joy because he has dealt bountifully with them; he has turned their morning into dancing and their grief into gladness. God’s faithfulness reaches to the clouds, he answers prayers, gives his people a heritage, and everlasting life with him. God’s people sing for joy because God’s steadfast love that reaches to the heavens is better than life, God is their fortress, and God has made their work glad.
God’s people are to sing for joy because of who God is. God is good. God is great and the King above all gods and is greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. The LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. God is good and his glory is great.
God’s people are to sing for joy because of the marvelous things God has done. He has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness, and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God that he has worked.
God’s people are to sing for joy because of what God will do. He will judge the peoples with equity, and righteousness in his faithfulness
We sing for joy because God’s commandments are right and his name is pleasant to us. We sing because it is good, right, and fitting to sing praises to God.
When should we sing?
“Always and forever” is pretty much the consensus of the ancient hymn writers. Specifically the psalmists say sing before dawn. Sing in the morning, from morning to night, from day to day, and day after day. Sing forever as long as you live and have your being. Sing, they say, when you are alone, when you come into God’s presence, on your way out of bondage, and after God has delivered you.
How should we sing?
We are told to sing out loud, with our tongues and lips, with our flesh and our whole heart – with all our being. Sing with raised voices and shouts for joy in a way that awakes the dawn. Sing with melody accompanied by percussion and stringed instruments and sometimes horns all skillfully played. Sing while standing or dancing. Or sing while lying on your bed. We can sing alone or together, but always sing in exultation (glorious rejoicing) before God.
Am I “doing music” right?
If the Getty’s sat down with King David and the psalmists over coffee and discussed their lyrics and music, I think both the ancient and the modern hymn writers would find much to agree on and rejoice in.
Now what about me, “Is there joy in my heart because of who God is, what he has done for me, and what he has promised that explodes out of my mouth morning to night, day to day?” “Am I exulting in God and spontaneously shouting out praises to God loud enough to wake the dawn?” “Do I see his value – his worth, and impulsively raise my voice to praise him?”
O God, show me your glory and cause my heart to sing!
What should the lyrics be about? Ps. 7:17; 9:2,11; 21:13; 30:3-4; 47:6; 51:14; 59:16-17; 61:8; 66:1-2,4; 68:4, 32; 75:9; 84:4; 89:1; 92:1-2; 96:2-3; 98:1; 101:1; 104:3
3; 105:2; 119:172; 138:5;144:9-11; 145:7; 149:1,3,5.
Who should sing? Ps. 5:11; 30:4; 65:12-13; 66:4; 67:4; 87:7; 89:1; 95:1; 96:1,12; 98:8; 100:1; 105:43; 135:1; 138:1,4; 145:4; 149:5.
Who should the audience be? Ps. 9:2,11; 13:6; 18:49; 27:6; 30:4; 47:6; 57:9; 59:17; 68:4,32-33; 75:9; 84:2; 95:1; 96:1; 98:1; 104:33; 105:2; 135:1,3; 149:1.
Where should we sing? Ps. 57:9; 63:7; 68 24-26; 84:4; 98:6, 9; 100:1; 108:3; 135:2; 138:1; 149:1, 5.
Why should we sing? Ps. 5:11; 13:6; 30:11-12; 57:10; 59:17; 61:1-7; 63:3, 7; 67:4; 71:23; 84:2; 92:1, 4; 95:3; 96:4-6, 13; 98:1-3; 108:4; 119:172; 135:3-4; 138:2, 5-6; 147:1; 149:4-5.
When should we sing? 5:11; 51:14; 59:16; 61:8; 71:22; 75:9; 84:4; 92:2; 96:2, 11-12; 100:1; 104:33; 105:43; 108:2; 146:2.
How should we sing? Ps. 33:3; 47:7; 51:14; 57:7-8; 63:3; 68:4; 71:22-23; 81:1-2; 84:2; 92:3; 95:1; 98:4-6,8; 100:1; 105:43; 108:1; 119:172; 135:2; 138:1; 145:7; 147:7; 149:3,5.