By Sigrid fowler
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
One semester when I was teaching, I had an Iranian student, a Muslim, who told me that her father, who was “very liberal,” would allow her to go to services with a Christian friend. What she remembered was the singing of the congregation. I was both surprised and not surprised to hear this from her. Such singing is typical of Christian worship, and I can’t think of similar examples in other religions–chants, spoken prayers, readings, and sermons, but not congregational singing, not that I remember. Psalm 22: 3 says God is “enthroned upon the praises of Israel.” Does the Almighty draw near to listen to the singing of his people? No wonder it’s a memorable aspect of Christian worship and the worship of Israel.
At one point, celebrating the amazing fact that I could prop my Bible on the music rack of the piano and sing right from its pages, I decided to highlight these lyrics in yellow in one of my Bibles. Even now, I can sing from the Book of Psalms. The lyrics are lines of David’s composition now set to music, often from the beloved King James Version.
And something occurs to me now in this connection. At a time when the question of campaigns lost and the world struggling to deal with crowds of refugees fleeing the aftermath, I’m reminded of what Paul said about war in the Spirit, what it is like. “We struggles not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). When we “take up the whole armor of God” in order to “resist in the evil day” (Eph 6: 13), as Paul tells us in the next verse, our resources are truth, righteousness, faith, the assurance of salvation, the preparation of the gospel of peace, and the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6: 14-17). To be in an attitude of praise, to be vocal about it so that our own ears, as well as the ears of others, hear our singing is to wrap ourselves in these defenses. I’m convinced of this. Singing the praises of our Lord, who is so eternally worthy of every honor, takes up the battle against fear, depression, and downcast spirits.Something that’s really amazing is the Lord’s willingness, indeed his pleasure it seems, to hear the imperfect praise of human voices.
All that being said, I’m reminded of the powerful words of the psalms, many of them with musical settings. Consider the following verses. In fact, if you’re interested, type a bit of a line, adding “song,” and search. Many of these Scripture songs can be found online. You can sing them yourself. They’re simple, and having sung the lines a few times, you’ll find that you’ve memorized that bit of Scripture, it’s in your head. For now, listen with your heart: “My glory and the lifter of my head,” David sings (Ps 3:3) and adds “For Thou, O LORD, art a shield to me, My glory and the lifter of my head.” Check the singing online. You’ll find it.
And another one: “I will call upon the LORD, for he is worthy to be praised. The LORD liveth, and blessed by my Rock, and let the God of my salvation be exalted” (Ps 18: 3, 46). And another: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (Ps 20: 6; the song is vv. 6-8). The beloved Psalm 23 has been set to music many times. This is one example: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days, all the days of my life . . . And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever, and I will eat at the table set for me” (Ps 23: 5-6).
Israel still today sings lines from the psalms. One favorite, the opener of Psalm 133, has at least three tunes. Read it, check it online, and listen. It is like a prescription for many of the current ills of this nation: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” Amazingly, the psalm ends in resurrection hope, the assurance of eternal life God’s people have been promised: “It [the unity mentioned in v. 1] is like the dew of Hermon, coming down upon the mountains of Zion, for there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forevermore.” Here’s another popular song from Scripture I’ve heard in Hebrew, as well as English: “He that watches Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Ps 121: 4). And we join in with the Song of Moses, “I will sing unto the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously, the horse and riderthrown into the sea” (Ex 15: 1-3). All are online.