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Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord

Tuesday, June 18, 2024 @ 09:35 AM Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord Shelby Peck Stand Intern MORE

Ephesians 5:19-20 says we are to be “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father...”

As I’ve grown into adulthood, I’ve come to realize worshiping through song is integral to spiritual flourishing. No matter the valleys we walk through, the depravity of our hearts, or the frustrations we face, lifting a joyful noise to the Lord through corporate worship never ceases to remind us of God’s faithful presence.

Beyond our own lives, we see throughout Scripture that no matter the circumstances or trials present in the lives of God’s people, they sang.

  • When God answered Hannah’s pleas for a child, she lifted a song of praise (1 Samuel 2:1-10).
  • When God parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could leave Egypt, Miriam took a tambourine and led the Israelite women in song (Exodus 15:20-21).
  • When Paul and Silas were imprisoned for preaching God’s goodness, they sang, and God answered with a chain-breaking earthquake (Acts 16:16-40).
  • When God gathers His people to Himself in His dwelling place, every tribe, nation, and tongue will praise the Maker of all things (Revelation 7:9-10).

God Himself sings, as the Scripture reminds us in Zephaniah 3:17 that He rejoices over us with shouts and singing. How kind of God that in making us in His image, He gives us the ability to create songs and lift voices of our own (despite our varying skill levels – let me tell you, I will not be leading the church choir any time soon).

There is something sacred and beautiful about the hymn books that have rested on the backs of wooden pews for decades. God is greatly honored by the sight of a congregation following along with the sheet music to declare His goodness verse by verse.

I think about the songs my great-grandmother passed on to my mom, songs she sang over my siblings and me as we drifted off to sleep. There is no recipe for sweeter dreams than letting messages such as “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” or “He Will Hold Me Fast” enter through your heart and permeate your soul.

But even though it feels as if today’s Christian songwriting has lost much of the poetic beauty held by hymns, there is still power in what we sing. We still sing of one God and one Savior with one voice.

Modern worship, in its repetition, reminds us of the simple gospel. It allows us to say over and over again, “How Great is Our God.” In moments of worry or desperation, the truths we’ve heard proclaimed in our congregation surface in our minds, reminding us of the “Goodness of God.”

However, there is a danger in Christian music – past and present – when we make it all about us and try to create an experience with lighting, outfits, and fog machines that detract attention from the Creator.

“My fear …  however, is that in the contemporary worship movement, we have too often trained people to seek a caffeine jolt of emotional bliss,” Matt Merker, director of creative resources and training for Getty Music, said. “Now that contemporary worship has become not only a major feature of evangelical identity in North America but also a multimillion-dollar industry, it’s worth asking an often-neglected question: How does contemporary worship music shape us?”

It’s no secret modern worship music monoliths such as Hillsong, Bethel Music, Elevation Worship, and Austin Stone have come under heavy scrutiny for their controversial theological positions or the failures of their leadership.

Does that mean all Christians should completely boycott their songs?

I believe the answer is that the Holy Spirit convicts us in different ways, as Paul explains in Romans 14. Addressing quarrels in the Roman church about what is and what is not acceptable to eat, Paul asserts the answer may vary among believers.

In verse 17 Paul explains, “[T]he kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

When choosing the songs to sing among our congregations, what is our motivation? Are we seeking to exalt Yahweh, or are we seeking to praise ourselves? Are we pursuing rigid tradition, or are we approaching the Lord with humble and contrite hearts? Are we seeking earthly recognition or heavenly communion?

Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.”

Worship is the opportunity to offer all of what we have to God for all of who He is. It’s living with hearts abandoned, allowing God to speak, move, convict, and transform our hearts as He sees fit.

Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees in Matthew 15, said “It is not what enters the mouth that defiles the person, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles the person.”

Although Jesus was discussing Old Testament dining ethics in this context, His words reveal what God is truly after – our hearts. When choosing the worship music we listen to and bring into our churches, we should first ensure our hearts are humble and receptive to the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

We shouldn’t merely accept (or turn away, for that matter) a song because it’s popular on the radio. We shouldn’t penalize an entire congregation for the failings of their leaders.

What we should do is sing from our hearts, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, while making a joyful noise to the Lord.

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