Reflection on The Singer

Zephaniah 3:14-17
14 Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem!
15 The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy.
The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.
16 On that day they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp.
17 The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

I have been pondering music lately. All of the songs of Christmas, attending special musical presentations, and hearing the story again of the angels singing to the shepherds have created an awareness of how music affects my day. My car radio is set to Christian radio and I enjoy singing along with many of the songs.

In the Advent devotional book, Protagonist, by Matt and Josh Leroy, that I used this season there was a day’s devotional on singing.

The Singer

“Today the world is filled with music. As Christ draws near, our joy takes the familiar shape of song and carol. What other season is so tied to melody? What other event in human history has sparked so much music? And for good reason. The anticipation of the arrival of Jesus at Christmas gives us something worth singing about.

It’s always been this way. The first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke read like a hymnal, recording the responses of Zechariah at the birth of John the Baptist, the Magnificat of Mary when she learns of Jesus’ coming and the chorus of the angels filling the skies with brilliance and glory.
Why songs? They are not essential They are not very practical. There are far more efficient and clear ways to communicate an idea. Some are not essential, but instead communicate an idea. Songs are not essential, but instead they are extravagant. The overflow of the excess of the hear. They are a means of expressing the heart when mere words won’t do the trick.

Songs are an offered-up act of beauty. And what better way for us to respond to the act of beauty offered up in Christmas? They orient us again in truth that can’t be neatly contained within lists of pro and con, ledgers of black and red. Zephanaiah charges us in this passage to sing and shout and rejoice, even in the face of fear. To raise our voices against the chaos that we face, not in anger, but with a song. As the farmer-poet Wendell Berry in his poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” put it, “So friend, every day do something that won’t compute…Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.” Why? Because the one who defends us also delights over us. The songs we sing don’t start with us. They are echoes back to the Singer himself. Zephaniah tells us that our Might Warrior God is singing over us. What a strange thought. Yes, we sing to him from the overflow of our joy. But imagine a God so filled with love for his people that he sings to us from the overflow of his joy.

When there’s nothing you can say to capture the power of a moment, sometimes you have to let lyrics speak for you. Sometimes you have to let the melody translate what is happening in your heart. Sometimes all you can do is sing.” (pp 18-20)

Music is a significant feature of the Titus 2 Partnership, Inc. recovery program. This past Christmas two of our ladies signed up to sing in the choir. During December they attended rehearsals, learned new songs and honed some singing skills. The joy they had in being a part of group of people singing praise was obvious in the services. It also provided a connection to new friendships within the church through the shared interest in music.

When the piano at Titus 2’s life recovery residence was destroyed in Hurricane Michael, I was grieved by the loss. After several months, I began inquiring about replacing the piano. A technician who tunes pianos located a wonderful replacement piano that we could have just for the cost of moving it professionally. Another technician spent several hours tuning it for us and praised its “voice”. My ear is not that finely tuned to be able to critique the quality of a piano beyond a basic level, but it does sound sweet! And several of our women had enjoyed playing it. We have hymnals from several churches that have been donated.

Since my years as a youth playing hymns for Sunday night services at my home church in Georgia, I have had hymnals open on my piano.  When I am blue I play my way through my favorites in the hymnal.  When I am overjoyed, I am likely to also sit and play, as well.  Music has a way of bringing me back to balance from emotional extremes.

We have a number of Christian CDs and several players in the house so students can enjoy music while cleaning, studying, or engaging in other activities.
Recently, after a particularly difficult court hearing, one lady and I were headed home, saying nothing. She was listening to the radio station’s contemporary Christian music. After several songs, she said, “These songs are all speaking to me. I have not heard them before.”

Nine times Scripture directs our attention to singing new songs or having God give us a new song………

Psalm 40:3 “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.”

Psalm 98:1 “O sing to the LORD a new song, For He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.”

Revelation 5:9 “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”

I have had the experience of having God put a “new song” in my heart, one I had not known before. And there are times when every song on the radio speaks to me, too.

God is like that. He speaks to us when we need to hear words of encouragement and comfort. And oftentimes we hear it through the voice of a song.