God’s Command to Sing
At the end of Deuteronomy, God gives an interesting command to Moses. At the very end of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible that were passed around and taught to generations of Israelites, God gives instruction for how we should worship him. In this penultimate discussion, he calls them to remember.
God warns Moses that the people of Israel, the tribe which Moses was to lead out of slavery and into the Promised Land, would again leave their first love and rush into the arms of other lovers. God knows it will happen, yet he still desires the heart of his people.
So God gives Moses this command:
“Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel…And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring.)”
— Deuteronomy 31:19-22
God wants his people to remember all that has happened in their history, and he wants them to know His true character. Out of this, God chooses to remind his people of his goodness and faithfulness through a song.
Music has a unique property as art. Songs bring us back to places of remembrance when we hear them. Because of the unique power of music, worship leaders need to think through what we sing. We are a people of the Word, so the songs we sing express adoration to God as he is described in the Bible. If the songs we sing are not rooted in Scripture, they are not about our God.
Christians are richly blessed with a catalogue of music dating back centuries. One of my favorite hymns, “Be Thou My Vision,” has been sung by Christians for more than a thousand years. We should sing these songs and connect our people to their history to remind folks that the trials they face are not new. People have suffered in the name of Jesus for centuries. Those hymn writers finished their race, and their songs remind us to finish ours well.
Music to Remember
Are we giving people songs worth remembering? There is a reason some songs live on for generations and some die. I’ve never heard “God of love and God of grace/Bless the astronauts who fly/As they soar beyond the sky” in church, but we often sing, “Prone to wander Lord I feel it/Prone to leave the God I love.” Both have been in hymnals. One lives on and one probably will not make the next edition.
I love to hear our people at Valley Life sing about our God. It brings me such joy to lead them every week. I pray that as we sing to our God, we will be reminded of his faithfulness to his people.