We praise God that our government has recently eased some COVID-related restrictions, one of which is the allowing of congregational hymn singing with effect from 5 April 2021.
Christians have always been a singing people. In the church, we sing worship hymns expressing our adoration of the Lord God Almighty Who alone is worthy of our praise. Singing hymns together as a church not only glorifies God, but reflects our love for God and our unity as His redeemed people: “Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints” (Ps 149: 1). This spiritual activity also edifies and blesses our soul. Let us therefore resolve to be in God’s house often to sing praises to Him.
The word, “hymn” or “hymns” appears four times in the English Bible. Both Matthew and Mark noted that Jesus sang a hymn with His disciples on His last night with them (Matt 26: 30; Mk 14: 26). In his epistle to the Colossians, the apostle Paul exhorted them to sing hymns of praise to God with thankful hearts: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
Hymn singing has always been an integral part of Christian worship. This is because we have so much to be thankful for. The God Whom we worship is a great God Who has shown mercy, and done wondrous things for His people: “For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone” (Ps 86: 10); “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (Ps 103: 8).
More importantly, our chief end in life is to glorify God. One way of honouring God is to praise Him through our singing. A clear example of singing that pleased God is found in II Chronicles 5: 13-14 when Solomon dedicated the temple to God: “It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; 14 So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.”
The Bible records many songs of praise that were sung by God’s people when He graciously delivered them or answered their prayers. The Book of Psalms is often referred to as the songbook of Israel. Some of the more familiar songs were sung by: Moses (Ex 15: 1-19; Deut 32); Deborah and Barak (Judges 5); Hannah (I Sam 2: 1-10); Mary (Lk 1: 46-55); Zacharias (Lk 1: 67-80); Simeon (Lk 2: 27-32). In all these examples, God’s attributes such as His power, wisdom, holiness, goodness, mercies and truth were highlighted.
Luke’s Gospel records one of the most blessed songs of praise – that was sung by angels on the night of the Saviour’s birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Lk 2: 14). Just before this, an angel had appeared and proclaimed the good news to the shepherds – “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Lk 2: 10). Thank God for this wonderful message of salvation and hope which we have received and believed. Like the angels, we give “glory to God in the highest” for extending grace to us, a sinful and unworthy people.
God’s people in all ages have sung hymns extolling the Name of God. Like them, let us gather to sing praises to God with a joyful and thankful heart: “Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings” (Ps 9: 11).
We end with an exhortation by Church Father Augustine: “Look, you tell me, I am singing. Yes indeed, you are singing; you are singing clearly, I can hear you. But make sure that your life does not contradict your words. Sing with your voices, your hearts, your lips and your lives: Sing to the Lord a new song. Our singing should be an honest and joyful expression of who we are in Christ.” May our songs of praise come from a sincere heart that truly loves our Lord.