Here is a guest post from a dear brother at TCC, Kent Capps. My prayer is that it will help us meditate even further on Exodus 15 (Sunday’s sermon here) and respond to God’s glorious salvation with joyful singing.
How essential is singing to the Christian life? Is it a peripheral practice that can be set aside if one doesn’t possess a particular affinity for music or the ability to carry a tune? I think not. While the Bible makes no prescriptions for how often believers should sing—the purpose is not ritual requirement but expression of the heart’s gladness in God—it does indicate that all believers must and will regularly lift their voices to God. “For it is good to sing praises to our God” (Psalm 147:1).
Have you ever noticed that, at crucial points in redemptive history, God’s people sing? Exodus 14 tells the story of God bringing his people across the Red Sea to escape slavery in Egypt. The final verses of the chapter summarize the event: “Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 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” (Exodus 14:30-31). End of story? No, notice how Exodus 15 begins: “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, ‘I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously . . . . The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him’” (Exodus 15:1-2). The song continues for eighteen verses, recounting God’s mighty act of redemption and highlighting his majestic holiness, awesome deeds, and steadfast love.
Much later, when Isaiah peers into the future at the messianic kingdom, he couches the coming salvation in Exodus terms. God will lead his people across the Sea of Egypt in sandals, and “there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that remains of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt” (11:15-16). End of story? No, notice what immediately follows in Isaiah 12:
You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation [the very words of Exodus 15:2!].” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” [Isaiah 12:1-6].
When God’s people experience the new and final Exodus, the salvation that will arrive through the Messiah, they will again sing! Song accompanies salvation like heat accompanies fire. (The same step from salvation to singing appears in Isaiah 25-26 and other places. When God makes a rich feast for all peoples and swallows up death forever, “In that day, this song will be sung in the land of Judah . . . ” [26:1].)
The New Testament provides its own examples, such as Mary’s Magnificat. Pregnant with the promised Messiah and struck by the magnificent mercy of God, she adds a crescendo to the redemption chorus: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). Her song continues for another eight verses, highlighting God’s faithfulness to his saving promises. She plays right into what Isaiah envisioned—singing saints. She simply couldn’t help herself.
The Apostle Paul calls the believers in Ephesus to take their part in the great choir of witnesses: being filled with God’s Spirit, address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (see Ephesians 5:18-21; cf. Colossians 3:16-17). Paul knows that a heart filled with the Spirit will sing.
Finally, it is no accident that, in John’s final vision, we find the heavenly multitude singing “a new song” to the Lamb: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9-10). Singing must and will find glad expression on the lips of those who have been ransomed with the precious blood of Christ.
So, if God has brought you out of slavery to sin, and you have drawn water from the wells of salvation, then, whatever you do, sing! Don’t just listen to the music. Let it make its way from your heart to your lips. Sing among others. Sing by yourself (make your “quiet times” louder!). Take your gospel strains to the shower, the car, the elevator, and even the bed (Psalm 149:5). Follow the Spirit’s prodding and make melody to the Lord with all your heart.