Singing Matters! – (Exodus 15:1-21, Ephesians 5: 15-20, Colossians 3:15-17)

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

We have today reached our eighth week in our Exodus series. Over the first seven weeks in the book of Exodus we looked together at how God rescued his people out of slavery in Egypt culminating in God’s amazing saving of the Israelites through the Red sea. Then after God’s wonderful rescue we find ourselves at the first song recorded in the bible. That’s right up until this point it has all been spoken. This morning we are going to look at this song of Moses and Miriam, and we are also going to look at two passages that Paul writes about singing. I pray that today’s message will reinforce the gift that singing is to God’s people. The gift that God gives us to be able to praise him. I was looking forward to preaching this passage alongside actually singing together for the first time as a church in nine months. However, that will just have to wait.

Singing is universal

Of course singing is not confined to Christians. I’m not sure if you have ever been to a football match in England. What we here down under would call a soccer match. But one of the things that will inevitably happen if you attend a match is singing. This singing happens because there is a lot of emotion (some positive and some negative) that the crowd want to express. If you have ever been to Wembley stadium in England when two teams are playing, well the singing is quite amazing, quite powerful. During the week as I was preparing this talk, I read a comment where someone had said that they thought if you heard these soccer fans singing individually it would probably be quite terrible, but somehow when there is a whole stadium singing it sounds good.  There is something about singing that is unlike talking, it is even different to shouting. Singing expresses emotion in a unique way. When a team win a match in most sports they have a team song. Now many of you may know that I am a bit of a Manly Sea Eagles fan. I know the team song. It celebrates victory, it is only sung when the team wins, and it is always sung with others. Probably a song that many of us would know is our countries national anthem. This is sung at different occasions, yet generally when we are with others. When a country wins a gold medal at an Olympics, their anthem is sung. It is used as a victory song. Singing is universal and is part of our created nature.

Does singing matter?

It would seem that that Scripture makes a pretty compelling case to say that it does, let’s have a look at four reasons why singing matters.

Singing is talked about often in the Bible

The bible has over four hundred references to singing, including 150 psalms in the book of psalms. So, it would seem that the bible does indeed have a bit to say about singing. It would also seem that being a Christian and singing go together. Let’s have a bit of a look at how this fits together.

Singing is what God’s people do 

We are enabled to sing. That right when we put our trust in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we receive the Holy Spirit. And this leads us to sing. This is what Ephesians 5:18b-19 says.

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The flow of this passage shows that being filled with the Spirit will mean singing and making music from our heart to the Lord.

Singing is commanded in scripture

Singing is more than just something that some Christians do. We are instructed to Sing. Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16. Paul doesn’t say sing if you feel like it. He doesn’t say that this is an optional extra for those that feel this way. No Paul says Sing! As believers, as those who have the Holy Spirit. We are to sing. Now I know that there are some brothers and sisters who will say. Yeah, but I’m not really into singing. For some people if they are honest, they’ve enjoyed the last 9 months not having to stand up and sing each week at church. Now if that is you, I want to say something about singing. It is not only Paul who instructs us to sing, there are literally dozens of passages throughout the bible where we are told to sing. As Christians It is part of our worship to God.

Psalm 105:1-2

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.

Psalm 47:6

Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

We sing because Jesus sings

Jesus sang. Jesus worshipped the Father in song. So, we not only have Paul and many others in the bible commanding us to sing, we also have the very example of Jesus himself. Much like he taught the disciples to pray, he also sang with them. He sang praises to the Father with them. In Matthew 26:30 just after Jesus had initiated the remembrance meal that we will likewise took part in earlier in the service and today call the Lord’s supper. We read the following “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the mount of olives.”

It is likely that one of the psalms from the group of psalms 114-118 were what was sung by Jesus and his disciples. These were the psalms that the Israelites sang at Passover. Let this sink in for a moment. Jesus sang with his disciples praising God the Father in song.

As Christians what are we doing when we sing?

 The bible doesn’t instruct us to sing for no reason. There is a purpose in why we sing. Let’s briefly look at four things that should be happening according to Paul when we sing.

We are singing to God and about God

And as we sing to the Lord we sing praises to God for who he is, and what he has done. Singing about God, his greatness, his Salvation, his Glory. We sing to Glorify God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

As Eph 5:20 says “Giving thanks to God the Father in everything…” That is at the heart of what we are doing. In fact, when we sing this music isn’t just words that we are singing. As verse nineteen make clear, we are singing from our heart to God. Singing engages our heart. I am not saying that we don’t use our heart when we pray or when we read the bible. Romans 10:9 “If we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart.’ It is both the heart and the head that believe together and worship together.

As we sing, we are learning and remembering scripture

In his Letter to the Colossians Paul describes it this way:

16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

What is in view here is that through singing we are to teach, learn, warn, and do all of this while being thankful. I personally am thankful for the songs that we sing here at CBC. As Pastors we take care to ensure that what we are singing fits this description. It is the message of Christ that we sing. It is the Gospel, the Good news. Now today we were going to finish our service by singing O Praise the name of the Lord our God. This song clearly spells out Christs death on the cross for our sins and his resurrection to new life that conquers death and then the certain hope of Jesus return and our going to live with Jesus forever as we sing praises to him endlessly. Many of the scriptures that I have memorised, I have done so through song. There is something about singing songs that aids the memory. According to a 2015 article in Harvard Health, music can boost memory and mood. Singing helps the word of God to dwell in us richly.

We sing together in Christian Community

 Most of the singing found in the Bible is to be done in community. That is, we are to sing together. Jesus sang with his disciples. Moses sings with the whole Israelite community as we will look at in a little while. We sing with many voices alongside each other in Church, when indeed we are able to sing. We sing to one another as we sing to God. Ephesians 5 has both the vertical (us to God) and the horizontal (us to each other) in view. Of course, these two communications serve different purposes. We are not trying to praise our brothers and sisters. No, we are praising God together and in so doing encouraging one another in the Lord. Both Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 have the words ‘one another’. Both envisage singing being done with one another to God. We sing together to joyfully proclaim Christ together.

Singing is part of our Worship

We sing because saying words are not enough. We sing because it is a way of worshipping that goes beyond the spoken word. We are to speak and sing. Songs connect with us in a different way. In the Lords supper we actively participate through the sharing of bread and juice. In singing together we actively participate in praising God in song. Bob Kauflin from Sovereign Grace music puts it well when he states, “God gave us singing to combine objective truth with thankfulness, doctrine with devotion, and intellect with emotion.”

Exodus 15

So, with a better understanding of the biblical foundation of why we sing we come to Exodus 15.

As we come to Exodus 15 the Israelites have been rescued by God. They have now safely crossed the sea and Pharaoh’s entire army has been wiped out as we read in Exodus 14:28. The first 14 chapters of Exodus have told us the incredible story of God’s rescue of his people. The Israelites became slaves in Egypt and they cried out to God as we read in Exodus 2:23-25 those beautiful words: ‘God looked on the Israelites and was concerned for them.’ Through the next 12 chapters we read about God’s salvation of his covenant people through judgement on Egypt.

So, what do Moses, Miriam and the Israelites do in response to God’s goodness. In response to all that God has done in saving his people and judging the Egyptians. They sing. They all sing. They sing the first victory song in the Bible.

A Great Example

Exodus 15 is not only the first example of a song and singing in the Bible. It is also a great example. It really does agree with what the rest of the Bible will go on to expound about singing.

They sing to the Lord Exodus 15:1-12

Let’s read the first five verses together

15 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:

“I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.

“The Lord is my strength and my defense[a];
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a warrior;
the Lord is his name.
Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers
are drowned in the Red Sea.[b]
The deep waters have covered them;
they sank to the depths like a stone.

To God be the Glory

Did Moses and the Israelites pat themselves on the back and say, how good are we. How well have we done. Did they take credit for their rescue? No, the song of Moses and Miriam is at pains to ensure that the credit, in fact all the credit, all the glory, all of the accolades go to God. There is not one bit of praise that is not directed at God. This song is Pure praise and it is also Pure understanding of God and what he did.

Charles Spurgeon says it much better that I could “Notice, the song is all of God; there is not a word about Moses. Read this song through, and neither Moses, nor Aaron, nor Miriam are in it: God is all in all.”

Only God can save

Verse two speaks of God being Israel’s salvation. This is the Bible’s message is it not. Only God can rescue us from our sins. Only God has the strength, the ability to be our defense, to be our salvation.

The Lord is all powerful

That is what is in view when we see the words, the Lord is a warrior. God is the real warrior. We had just read in Exodus 14: “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” In Exodus 15 verse 3 we see Moses and the Israelites singing about God’s as the warrior who defeated Egypt.

God isn’t just a warrior, God is all powerful. His deeds prove this.

We see this displayed in the imagery of the next seven verses.

Read them with me.

Your right hand, Lord,
    was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord,
    shattered the enemy.

“In the greatness of your majesty
    you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger;
    it consumed them like stubble.
By the blast of your nostrils
    the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood up like a wall;
    the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy boasted,
    ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them.
I will divide the spoils;
    I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword
    and my hand will destroy them.’
10 But you blew with your breath,
    and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
    in the mighty waters.

Once again there is only one person in view here and that is God. It is about God’s power. V6 Your right hand lord. This is not talking about the literal right hand of God, but is a way of showing God’s power using a human characteristic, this is also known as a anthropomorphism, just in case you wanted to learn a new word.

The idea of the lord’s right hand is used over 50 times in scripture. It is a way of envisioning God’s power and might. The same can be said of verse 8 where we read of the blast of God’s nostrils holding the waters up, recalling the sea being held back so that the Israelites could flee. This is again using figurative language to speak of God’s mighty acts. Verse 11 then summarises God’s mighty power in defeating the Egyptians.

11 Who among the gods
    is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
    majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
    working wonders?

12 “You stretch out your right hand,
    and the earth swallows your enemies.

There is no one like our God. Moses and the Israelites through song exalt and glorify God. They give God all of the glory. In a sense at this stage things are looking really good. God has done exactly what he promised and has been glorified. The Israelites are rightly thankful to God for their salvation and praising God in song for all that he has done.

This passage, this song very much serves as the bridge between the two halves of the book of Exodus. Verse 13 begins the second half of the book. Moses and the Israelites now look forward to what will happen post redemption. Read with me verses 13 as well as 17 & 18.

13 In your unfailing love you will lead
    the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
    to your holy dwelling.

17 You will bring them in and plant them
    on the mountain of your inheritance—
the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling,
    the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.


18 
“The Lord reigns

    for ever and ever.”

 

Moses and the Israelites now sing of the future. The song moves from Israel’s rescue out of Egypt towards God’s people worshipping God at Mt Sinai and eventually to enter the promised Land. God will lead his people and God will indeed reign for ever and ever. This is what Moses and the Israelites sing in the second half of this song. Verse 13 shows us that God redeemed his people for a purpose. He redeemed them so that he could lead them. More than this God redeemed his people so that they could be with him. Now we look forward to next year continuing our series in the book of Exodus as we delve into the post Egypt portion of the book.

So yes, singing matters

Singing is part of our worship of God. It is part of how we tell of His greatness, His sovereignty, His might and His victory through Christ. As Christians the songs we sing together need to be telling the Gospel just like our preaching does.

Tonight you have the opportunity at 6:30pm to sing at home. Sing praises to God as we remember his mighty act in sending Jesus to earth. Hopefully today’s message has helped to ready you for this.

The Good news needs to be preached and sung! Just like the Israelites did, we sing praises to God and through this remind each other that there is no one like our God, who reigns for ever and ever. Amen.