The memory of music I have loved is overwhelmingly strong. Each song spurs on specific recollections of people, places, and events. Memories like sitting in the car as a child listening to my mother’s Buddy Holly cassette tape or the endless hours squirreled away in my bedroom flooded with the sounds of the 90s. The music we consumed as young adults is neurologically powerful, cementing the words and emotions we experienced every time “that song” plays. In a sense, the music of our adolescent years is defining and serves as an expression of who we believe we are.
The LORD tells Moses that the younger generation, those twenty and younger (Numbers 14), which would inherit the Promised Land would forsake the LORD in the future. God then preemptively provides a song. This was music for the younger generation of Israel which would serve “as a witness” for God when that day would come when they would find themselves in trouble because they had left Him. Moses tells this generation that this song would be their life, not merely an idle, or empty, word. In my mind’s eye I can see this youthful, energetic nation ready to seize what the LORD provided for them. They were young and quite literally had everything going for them. The enormity and enthusiasm of what was to come coupled with Moses’ song must have left an indelible mark on their minds.
Space prohibits me from recollecting the many ways music and praise are expressed in the Old Testament. David is arguably the most noted musician in Scripture and aptly named the “sweet psalmist of Israel.” He is credited for roughly half of all of the psalms. Some of David’s psalms share with the reader a note about the context. David wrote psalms during many pivotal moments of his life such as when he fled from Saul, after Nathan confronted him about his affair with Bathsheba, and when he fled from his own son, Absalom. The last recorded words David spoke were even in a song. Psalm 108:1, written by David, says, “My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul.” His life was characterized by the continuous song he had in his heart for God no matter the circumstance!
Paul writes to both the Ephesian and Colossian churches about what will flow forth from a Spirit-filled life – speak, teach, and admonish one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. These words spark the image of the many martyrs and prisoners for Christ whose deaths and imprisonments were filled with singing. I’m reminded of the spirituals sung by African slaves. I remember hymnists like Fanny Crosby, whose blindness did not prohibit her from penning over 8,000 hymns and gospel songs, many of which the church sings today. These were men, women, and children who were able to have a song in their heart and on their lips in the midst of great adversity and the threat of death. Are you suffering? Sing! Are you joyful? Sing! It is the natural overflow of a Spirit led life.
The way our minds respond to music is by design. It aids in memorization, in meditation, and touches us in a very personal way. We may not remember what we read or heard spoken but we easily remember music. Choose music that is rich with doctrine and draws you closer to the LORD. Let the word of Christ dwell richly in you and allow the Holy Spirit have to His way so that you can’t help but sing with thankfulness in your heart to God.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?