Every year, there are various awards given to music artists - Grammy awards, Billboard Hall of Fame, GMA Dove awards, etc. Within each award "group" there are various divisions of honor - best album, best single, top artist, etc. I will never win such an "honor". I might sound okay in the shower, but to be able to stand before an audience and belt out a tune, totally on key, and with gusto - that's just not gonna happen. Most of us fall into this category of "singers" - we sing "okay", but our ability to "make music" is not much to write home about! Maybe what makes the song we sing so significant is not the perfect tone, but the audience to whom we sing.
Sing songs to God, sing out! Sing to our King, sing praise! He’s Lord over earth, so sing your best songs to God. (Psalm 47:6-7 MSG)
Our psalmist reminds us "who" it is we sing for - God himself. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords - as such, we sing for his enjoyment and honor - not ours. This psalm tells us to sing to God not once, but seven times! We are told to "shout God-songs", not quietly, but at the top of our lungs! Now, this means we are not to be timid in our worship - but giving it our all. Then we are reminded to give loud cheers as we see God taking his place - enthroned in our lives. If this is not enough, we are instructed to "sing songs", "sing out", "sing to", "sing praise", and to "sing our best songs" to God.
Now, if something is repeated this much in scripture, it must have some importance. Let's examine a little bit about each of these instructions:
- Shout "God-songs": What are "God-songs"? I like to think of these as the songs which emanate from the recesses of our hearts. The songs which come from both a place of deepest sorrow and mountain top exuberance. Each has such significance to God - none is less important. We are to "shout" these songs to him - not to sing them quietly, as though they were not worth his hearing, but with both gusto and exuberance. Why? Maybe it is because his ears are turned toward those who "cry out"! These words capture his attention - moving his heart in response to our expressions of both hurt and hope.
- Give "loud cheers": If you have ever been at a sports game of some type and your team comes from behind to score the winning goal, touchdown, or the like, you probably have knowledge of what "loud cheers" are. They express something of both victory and "applause-words". It is like we are using our words to give applause to the victor. I think God is honored when our "applause words" declare his victories in our lives, don't you?
- "Sing songs to God": If you were a country/western musician, would you want to sing some country ballad at the opera house? Not likely. Why? The "audience" would be all wrong for your particular "brand" of music. The good news is God is the one receiving our songs - as our "audience of one" he receives ALL manners of song, no exceptions. It is not "what" is sung as much as it is TO WHOM the song is lifted. Some of us try to sing our songs to the men and women of this world - wondering why they don't respond to them as we think they should. It is probably because they are not the "audience" who needs to hear them!
- "Sing your best songs": I appreciated something my pastor said this weekend. He took us to the book of Malachi, chapter one, and reminded us of the importance of giving God our best. Why? Simply because God does not want left-overs! The passage is quite plain - we think we honor God by bringing him our left-overs, but really we are capable of much better, and God knows it! We don't fool God by just singing! God looks for us to bring our "first" of everything to him. Now, think about it - how much of your "firsts" has God been a part of? If God is "first" in our lives, then we also deserves to experience the "first" of everything which emanates from our lives. This includes the good stuff, but I also believe it includes the things like our grief, fears, and even our wavering faith. God does much with the simple gift of our "songs" only when they are finally "sung". If we bring him our "song of grief", he is capable of turning it into a "song of hope". When we bring him our "song of fear", he is able to take away the fear and replace it with boldness. Even our "songs of doubt" speak volumes to God - for it is in the honesty and integrity of our heart where he can begin the greatest work of rearranging the pieces to bring the best out of what we see as the worst.
Sing to your audience of one! Sing boldly! Sing loudly! Raise the shouts of praise! But....don't be afraid to sing with honesty! In the honesty of our words God can begin the work of turning ashes into something which reflects his beauty. I think when we are singing with this type of integrity of heart, we are singing with "angels' voices". Just sayin!