What Does the Bible Say About Singing?

by Nathan, a Friend of Bibles.net
Time: 12 Minutes

Do you sing?

We’re not talking about singing professionally or even singing on a stage. We’re talking about singing as a regular habit of life, and as a habit we enjoy.

People will often joke about only singing in the privacy of their shower or car. Not everyone likes to sing. For some, it may be because we think we lack the necessary training. For others, it may be that they think they’re bad singers. Some may think it’s merely a hobby for those with the talent for it.

But interestingly, we all can sing. It’s something God designed us to do.

If you ask anyone who believes the message of the Bible, “Do you sing?” their answer will probably be “Yes!”—for good reason!

So why do Christians sing? Let’s open the Bible to find out.

1

Significant Moments Marked by Singing

Throughout Scripture, we read about many significant moments in the history of God’s people. Often, these moments are closely followed by singing.

1. The Exodus

One major event in Israelite history is the climax of the Exodus. For 400 years, the Israelites were enslaved to the Egyptians. In the book of Exodus, we hear how God led his people out of Egypt.

In Exodus chapter 14, we read the dramatic account of how Yahweh (or, “The LORD,” the proper name for the God of Israel) demonstrates incredible might by parting the Red Sea so his people can pass through on dry ground. When the powerful Egyptian army chases them, the Lord collapses the walls of the sea, defeating the Egyptians with the Israelites safely on the other side.

Exodus 14:31 states that “Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses” (ESV).

The very next verse after this says, “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD” (Exodus 15:1 ESV).

2. The Temple Rebuilding

Though God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and slavery, his people repeatedly strayed from worshiping him. After centuries of sending warnings through judges and prophets, God responded to their persistent unfaithfulness by eventually allowing other nations to overtake his people as a form of chastisement, even sending them into exile.

Seventy years after being exiled to Babylon, the Israelites were released from captivity and sent back to their homeland. An important part of re-establishing national identity and repentance toward God was rebuilding the Temple. In the book of Ezra, we read,

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel” (Ezra 3:10-11 ESV).

3. The Lord’s Supper

Without a doubt, one of the most significant moments of the New Testament is the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus breaks the bread, symbolizing his body, which he sacrifices for the salvation of humanity. He gives the cup, which “is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins,” and the establishment of his covenant (Matthew 26:28 ESV). Christ instituted this liturgy of worship and remembrance which Christians still observe today.

In Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels, we read that Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn after establishing the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26).

4. Jesus’ Reign in Heaven

These are all examples of significant moments from the past. The book of Revelation shows us what we look forward to in the future.

In chapter 5, we see that the One who is seated on the throne in heaven holds a scroll with seven seals. An angel loudly proclaims: “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” As he watches, John begins to weep since it appears that “no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it” (Revelation 5:2, 4 ESV).

Then, he sees “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6 ESV). This Lamb, who is Jesus Christ, approaches the throne and takes the scroll. Immediately, those around the throne fall “down before the Lamb . . . and they sang a new song” (vv.8-9 ESV).

The late Eugene Peterson beautifully commented on this passage:

“In the vision, the moment the Lamb takes the scroll, St. John’s tears cease. The next sound is not weeping but a great redemption hymn, confident in worldwide salvation.”

2

What Does the Bible Say About Singing?

Without a doubt, historically, traditionally, and presently, God’s people sing. And yet, not everyone loves to sing. Some would even argue that they can’t sing. Despite this, Christians should know—if it isn’t clear already—that signing is an important aspect of our faith. Why?

It would be easy enough to say that we sing because that’s what God tells us to do in the Bible. But let’s identify some of the reasons Scripture gives us for why God commands us to sing:

  • We sing praises to the Lord because it is good (Psalm 147:1)
  • We sing because our Creator God sings (Zephaniah 3:17)
  • We sing to express gratitude (Psalm 95:1-2)
  • We sing because of our freedom and salvation (Psalm 68)
  • We sing as worship to God when we’re cheerful (James 5:13)
  • We sing to each other to encourage each other (Ephesians 5:18-20)
  • We sing when indwelled with the Word of Christ, to express truth to others (Colossians 3:16)

These are a few of the reasons why we should be motivated to sing, and there are plenty more in Scripture. Perhaps the sheer number of exhortations to sing makes a sufficient case for the importance of singing.

3

What’s the Purpose of Singing?

Many of us may wonder why God calls us to sing. What does singing actually accomplish?

1. Glorify God

First, singing is a means to glorify God. The primary motivator for any action, choice, or thought in a Christian’s life should be the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). We manage our finances, relationships, and circumstances with the aim of orienting them toward the honor of our Lord. It’s no different when we choose to sing. Singing is yet another way we can worship the Lord. We are singing to him of all of his goodness, just like we might sing to someone we love of all the things we admire about them.

2. Encourage Others

Second, singing edifies and builds up other believers. The Christian life was never intended to be one of long-term isolation. As part of Christ’s Body, his church, we are called to be in community with other believers. The easiest way to do so is to engage with your local church. In church, small groups, and one-on-one meetings, believers participate with the broader community of God’s kingdom. They can sing together about their shared faith in the Lord (Hebrews 12:2). Believers can also encourage one another by singing during difficult times.

Recall Acts 16, when Paul and Silas were beaten and then thrown into prison. They didn’t wallow in miserable self-pity. They “were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (v.25 ESV). Sometimes, a brother or sister in the faith will go through deeply troubling times. It will seem as if they’re unable to sing to God, and in those moments, we ought to sing to them and for them to remind them of God’s steadfast faithfulness. When we ourselves go through these times, we will be glad when our fellowship of saints does likewise for us.

3. Share the Good News

Third, singing is an opportunity to witness to non-believers. Scripture presents us with the incredible truth that God did not limit salvation only to Jews in the biological line of Abraham, but he also extended it to Gentiles—the rest of the world.

In Romans 15, Paul quotes some of the Old Testament when he writes: “I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name” (v.9 NIV). In the present day, believers in fellowship with the Lord are in his family.

One way we can proclaim the good news of Jesus to non-believers (present-day “Gentiles”) is through song. We sing about God and all he has done for us because that’s what fills our hearts with joy.

4

How Will You Start Singing More Today?

Encouragement and commandments to sing abound throughout Scripture. God’s people have been singing for millennia—ascribing praise, glory, and honor to the only One who is worthy to receive them.

If you want to sing more but don’t know where to start, consider these suggestions:

  • Create or find a playlist of praise music. Play it often and sing along!
  • Complete chores such as washing dishes or folding laundry while singing hymns.
  • End your daily devotional time by singing the chorus to your favorite worship song.
  • In church, sing boldly since (a) God is worthy of your best effort and (b) you are singing truths to and with your brothers and sisters around you.

As fellow saints, we have the opportunity to participate in this form of worship by singing along. It is one thing we can do today that we will continue to do for eternity. We hope the next time someone asks you if you sing, you’ll heartily respond with a “yes,” and you’ll be able to explain why.

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