To sing, or not to sing, that is the question. At least for some. And, a few weeks ago, for us as elders as we anticipated our church gathering again in our building this Sunday. Lot to think about when it comes to shifting from shelter-in-place to coming together. To sing, or not to sing, is one of those things.
We didn’t deliberate long over the question, but we did ask the question. Came to the conclusion fairly quickly that singing is something the gathered church does and thus, when we gather together, we should sing together. Certainly, to do so mitigating risk as much as possible, but declaring His praise in song, nevertheless. Not saying it’s the right answer, but we’re thinking it’s what the Lord would have us do.
But here’s the thing, even having made the decision, in a sense the question never goes away. As new information comes in, whether that’s reports of COVID outbreaks in other congregations, or feedback about discomfort with singing from our own congregation, for me at least, there’s always the question percolating in the background, “Lord, is this what You would have us to do?”
And it’s into that sort of context that the word of God often speaks. Such was the case this morning for me.
And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres. . . . Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. . . . So both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God . . . And the singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader. And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.
(Nehemiah 12:27, 31a, 40a, 42b-43 ESV)
Not sharing this as some “proof text” of why congregations must sing when they gather. No, just an illustration of how God in His goodness can communicate to people individually who are asking questions specifically if we read His word faithfully.
And I know that every text has a primary meaning and that we need to be careful about making unwarranted interpretations and applications just to give ourselves the answers we want. But at the same time, when the hearts desire is, “Word of God speak!” . . . often it does. Sometimes the living and active Word is actually living and active and speaks into current situations and, answers percolating questions.
Been pretty anxious about getting everything ready for this Sunday. Lot of details to work through. So, as the “to do” list grows so does my anxiety. Not sayin’ it’s right, but it’s kind of how I’m wired. It’s the flesh the Spirit has to work with as it conforms me increasingly into the likeness of the Son. Maybe, someday, I will actually get to the point where I am not “anxious about anything” because I’m quicker to pray about everything (Php. 4:6-7), but for now, it’s still a battle. But it’s into that battle that God, in His patient grace, speaks. And, most often, speaks through His Word.
So, this morning, I read these verses in Nehemiah 12 and almost immediately the question that’s been in the back of mind comes to the front as I sense God saying, “Yeah, you guys sing. It’s what people do who come out of exile.”
And I know it won’t be the same. Fewer people in the sanctuary, socially distanced, only half-face to half-face. But it wasn’t the same for Nehemiah & Co, either. There’s no way the walls resembled the walls of Jerusalem in the glory days. No way the house of God was even a shadow of the magnificent temple built by Solomon. But just as the glory had come down in Solomon’s day, so too the glory would come down as Nehemiah and the people climbed up on those walls, stood in the house of the LORD, and sang the glories of God.
So, Lord willing, we’re gonna sing this weekend. Not recklessly. Not as many songs as we used to. But we’re gonna sing enthusiastically, nevertheless.
Because our God reigns.
And, thank You Lord, because He speaks through His word when you least expect it.
Move evidence of His abiding grace. More reason to give Him all the glory.