“Blessed be Jehovah my rock, who teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight. . . . I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.”—Ps. 144:1, 9. AS.
1, 2. Generally, is there a close connection between singing and fighting?
SINGING and fighting—does that strike you as a strange combination? In actual fact, it is not so incongruous as it may sound. Even in connection with the battles and fighting of this world the two are often closely linked. Still more is it true of the warfare mentioned in the Bible, both historic and prophetic, where the fighting is done under Jehovah’s direction and with his approval. And it certainly is most true that his people today are both singers and fighters at the same time.
2 Some of the most stirring music in the world is military music, music intended to set the blood tingling and the feet keeping time in marching rhythm. Many songs, too, have been composed and sung with the object of stirring up the fighting spirit and to inspire confidence in the anticipated victory. Then, too, of course, there is the large volume of songs and music suitable to give expression to the triumphant feelings of the conquerors after the fighting is finished. However, we freely admit that rarely has it been opportune for singing and fighting to be indulged in at the same time, especially in the holocaust of modern warfare.
3. In point of time how far back is there mention of singing in Scripture?
3 We, however, are far more interested in the connection between singing and fighting as recorded in the Scriptures, remembering that “all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction”, and especially for “us upon whom the accomplished ends of the systems of things have arrived”. (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11, NW) But, before coming to a direct discussion of this subject, it is worth our while to note how deep-rooted is the mention of singing in the sacred Record. Away back, long before the creation of the human family, what do we read, as Jehovah demanded of Job: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? . . . when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4, 7, AS) Linked with this, and going even farther back, we have that intensely illuminating account of God’s only-begotten Son, in his prehuman existence, personified as wisdom, where it says: “Jehovah possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth was. . . . When he marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was by him, as a master workman; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, rejoicing in his habitable earth; and my delight was with the sons of men.” (Prov. 8:22, 23, 29-31, AS) Surely his delightful companionship with Jehovah, and his rejoicing before him, would often find expression in the most glorious heavenly singing.
4. What question is thus raised, and what are we led to expect concerning the answer?
4 These records of heavenly singing raise the question in our minds, Is there any mention in Scripture of Jehovah himself singing? The answer is very interesting, for, to our amazement, there appears to be but one reference, contained in a prophecy now finding fulfillment, a prophecy, too, that is linked with fighting. This marks the occasion as unique and outstanding, and it will be given due consideration in the course of our study.
5. (a) How deep-rooted in the human family is the gift of music? (b) Where may we find something still better than music, and why?
5 The record is silent as to whether there was any singing in the garden of Eden when all was perfect. It is difficult to imagine, though, that there was no singing, especially when the man was given his lovely companion and counterpart who could respond and join in, to the accompaniment of the songbirds, in that ideal setting. But it is beyond question that the gift and talent for music is deep-rooted in the human family, for, among the earliest descendants of Adam, Jubal is described as “the father of all such as handle the harp and pipe”. (Gen. 4:21, AS) Yes, as deep-rooted as those other marvelous God-given gifts of speech and of writing. And right down to our day, though so imperfect and estranged from their Creator and unhappily blinded by “the god of this system of things” (2 Cor. 4:4, NW), yet the members of the human family everywhere on earth still evidence that deep-seated desire to express themselves in music and in song. Often perverted and misused, it is true, but the gift is still there. There are some lovely things indeed in the music of this world, but there are far more lovely things, far grander and more appealing, in God’s Word, where God’s name is written in lovelier lines.
FIGHTING AND SINGING IN THE DAY OF JEHOVAH
6. Following what theme is this subject going to be discussed?
6 Let us come, then, to the main theme of our discussion, and see what the Scriptures have to say and what we can learn for our encouragement and guidance on this dual subject of singing and fighting. First, we propose to state briefly what is the theme, and then show how this is amply supported by God’s Word. To begin with, since A. D. 1914 we have been living in the most momentous of all times, in “that day”, “the great day of Jehovah.” (Isa. 26:1; Zeph. 1:14; 3:8, AS) There is much fighting that takes place within this day, for which Jehovah is responsible. The fighting is actually done by Christ Jesus, who in prophecy may correspond to the “arm” of Jehovah. (Ps. 98:1, AS) Under Christ Jesus, there are heavenly forces placed at his disposal. God’s people on earth also have their part to play. By a series of victories, leading to a complete and final conquest over all God’s enemies at the battle of Armageddon, a great and eternal salvation is accomplished, seen in the secure establishment of a “new heavens and a new earth”, and on behalf of all those who will gain everlasting life in that new world. (Isa. 65:17, AS) This glorious salvation, which has already begun to be accomplished, is the main burden of our singing, which, mark you, gives all the credit and all the praise to whom it rightly belongs, to Jehovah, through his strong, “holy arm.”
7. In what prophetic drama were singing and fighting involved, revealing what particular purpose on Jehovah’s part?
7 Most of our readers are familiar with the wealth of Scriptural evidence, frequently discussed in detail in these columns, showing that A. D. 1914 marked the beginning of Jehovah’s day. Therefore, instead of taking time now to submit proof concerning this, we purpose to discuss, first, one of those prophetic dramas worked out in real life in God’s leadings and dealings with his chosen people, Israel, showing forcefully the present-day issue involving both singing and fighting. We refer to the occasion when God visited Egypt to effect a mighty deliverance and salvation for the children of Israel, as expressed in that question put by David: “And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem unto himself for a people, and to make him a name?” (2 Sam. 7:23, AS) In line with that, we remember that God caused Moses to notify and warn Pharaoh of the issue involved in that battle of the gods, as recorded at Exodus 9:16, quoted by Paul as follows: “For this very purpose I have let you remain, that in connection with you I may demonstrate my power and that my name may be published throughout all the earth.”—Rom. 9:17, NW.
8. How was God’s announced purpose fulfilled, particularly as to the part played by Moses and the children of Israel?
8 Please take particular note as to how that pronouncement was fulfilled. Primarily, it was by God’s mighty acts and fighting on behalf of his people, beginning with a series of plagues in Egypt, and culminating in that spectacular destruction of all Pharaoh’s hosts in the Red sea. This caused Jehovah’s name and fame to spread far and wide, as testified to by Rahab and the Gibeonites. (Josh. 2:10; 9:9) Yes, but those mighty acts did not in themselves identify by name the one to whom the credit was due. That was where Moses came into the picture, besides all the children of Israel. First, in Pharaoh’s presence, that holy name was declared and the issue set, as recorded at Exodus 5:1, 2 (AS). It began as a battle of words, a cold war. (Who would say Moses was not a fighter?) But, after the climax of the drama had been reached, with Israel safely across the Red sea, even by dry land through the midst thereof, and now able to look back and witness the complete destruction of the enemy forces, then there arose a great song of triumphant praise to Jehovah, with Moses taking the lead in those matchless opening phrases: “I will sing unto Jehovah, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. Jehovah is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: this is my God, and I will praise him; my father’s God, and I will exalt him. Jehovah is a man of war: Jehovah is his name.”—Ex. 15:1-3, AS.
9. What points are to be observed in the record at Exodus, chapter 15?
9 As you read the words of this song at Exodus, chapter 15, observe how strongly the fact is emphasized that all the glory and praise for this great salvation are to be given to Jehovah. Observe, too, the beauty and forcefulness of the language, and the sense of poetry and music conveyed in the short, simple words and phrases, even though we are not reading it in the original Hebrew. We also learn how “Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them [taking up the leading refrain], Sing ye to Jehovah, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea”. (Ex. 15:20, 21, AS) Perhaps they sang and danced on into the night, and we can imagine the scene in that lofty, open-air ballroom, under a black velvet canopy studded with stars and a rising moon now beyond the full, and with that dramatic background of darkly rolling waters, deeply burying all Egypt’s hosts.
10. How do we see the modern fulfillment of this drama, leading to what conclusion?
10 Today we are witnessing the working out of that prophetic drama in its fulfillment before our very eyes. Pharaoh and his mighty men and military hosts fittingly picture the enemies of God and of God’s people, namely, Satan and his leading representatives, his “seed”, and all the old-world forces. On the other hand, Moses and the children of Israel, including Miriam and all the women who took part, fittingly represent Christ Jesus (the foretold prophet greater than Moses) and the new-world forces of God’s people on earth, including all who take part in “singing the song of Moses the slave of God and the song of the Lamb”. (Acts 3:22, 23; Rev. 15:3, NW) As then Pharaoh and his hosts, under the influence of their gods, flouted Jehovah, in the persistence of which they were led on to that catastrophe at the Red sea, so now “the kings [rulers and leaders] of the entire inhabited earth” defy Jehovah and his announced purpose and warning, and under demonic influence are led on to Armageddon. (Rev. 16:13-16, NW) Viewing the drama as a whole, we can see that Moses and the children of Israel, by their stand against Pharaoh and resisting his demands and pressure, and by the proclamation of Jehovah’s name and purpose and their final song of praise, can properly be described as singing fighters, even though they did not fight with military weapons. Are not Jehovah’s people in exactly the same position today and can they not be similarly described?
11. What question is raised concerning the point of time in the singing of Moses’ song?
11 But we hear someone say: ‘Since that song, in which Moses took the lead, was not sung till after the destruction of Egypt’s hosts in the Red sea, would that not indicate that we cannot indulge in a united song of triumphant praise to Jehovah until after Armageddon has been fought and all our enemies have been destroyed?’ To get the right viewpoint on this important question, let us look at other passages of Scripture that have a bearing on the same subject.
THE KEY TO THE SITUATION
12. (a) Where in Scripture and in what way is the birth of the Kingdom described? (b) What exact proclamation followed the war in heaven?
12 Going back to A. D. 1914, our agreed starting point for the commencement of Jehovah’s day, we are reminded that at Revelation, chapter 12, this turning point in the outworking of God’s purpose was marked by the birth of the Kingdom, the man child brought forth by the symbolic woman “seen in heaven”. “War broke out in heaven” immediately thereafter, as the result of which Satan and his angels were hurled out of heaven down to earth. (Rev. 12:3, 5, 7, NW) This was completed by A. D. 1918, as often Scripturally explained in these pages. Listen carefully to the exact wording of the jubilant cry of triumph that then rang through the heavenly courts: “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ.”—Rev. 12:10, NW.
13. How is that proclamation the key to the situation, and leading to what?
13 There we have the key to the whole situation. That was the first of a series of victories that brought salvation to Zion and secured the establishment of the “new heavens” and the “new earth”. We are not confusing that war in heaven with the battle of Armageddon, but because of that initial victory and because of our unbounded faith in Jehovah and his enthroned King, Christ Jesus, we know beyond a shadow of doubt that the final victory by that “faithful and true” warrior is absolutely guaranteed. (Rev. 19:11, NW) Again, because of that victory, and because of our faith and dedication of ourselves, our lives, to Jehovah, then the following expression has also become our happy experience: “And they conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their witnessing, and they did not love their souls even despite the danger of death.” Therefore, as it goes on to say: “On this account be glad [rejoice and sing], you heavens and you who reside in them!” Who could do otherwise than sing?—Rev. 12:11, 12, NW; see also 1 John 5:4; Eph. 2:6, NW.
14. Is there good evidence to believe the war in heaven has already taken place?
14 Does someone ask at this point, How can you be so sure about these things and that the war in heaven has already taken place? We answer: The concrete evidence seen in the preservation and prosperity and increase of Jehovah’s people serving in unity under the direction of his organization since A. D. 1918, in spite of all the hatred and persecution suffered at the hands of their enemies, is just as convincing proof of the successful outcome of that war as the coming of the holy spirit at Pentecost was proof of the acceptance of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice in the heavenly courts.
15. Are the reasons sound for concluding that God’s people can now be described as singing fighters?
15 There is no question that God’s people now, “who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus,” are engaged in a war with the “dragon”, even though “the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly”, militaristic. (Rev. 12:17; 2 Cor. 10:4, NW) By Jehovah’s help and marvelous provision through his organization, Zion, they are continually proving to be conquerors and rejoicing in Jehovah’s salvation. Who can deny that God’s people today can properly be described as singing fighters?
16. What Bible character is outstanding for both singing and fighting, with the credit going to whom?
16 There is so much in Scripture that confirms the foregoing that we find it difficult to choose the most appropriate passages. But let us turn our attention next to that other Bible character who, perhaps more outstanding even than Moses, was noted as a sweet singer and a great fighter, certainly more noted as far as literal singing and fighting were concerned. We refer, of course, to David, who, under inspiration, described himself as “the sweet psalmist of Israel”. But, in line with our study, note how he gave all the credit to Jehovah, who taught him to “play [the harp] skilfully”, for he immediately goes on to say: “The spirit of Jehovah spake by me, and his word was upon my tongue.” Also regarding his prowess as a fighter he writes: “Blessed be Jehovah my rock, who teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.”—2 Sam. 23:1, 2; Pss. 33:3; 144:1, AS.
17. Who wrote most of the Psalms, and how are they to be viewed?
17 Under inspiration, David wrote the majority of the Psalms, mostly based on his own experiences, and prefiguring the experiences of Jesus Christ, also of Christ’s followers as a class. Not only are they beautiful songs, composed of rich, sacred poetry, but they are primarily prophecies, part of ‘all the things that were written aforetime for our instruction’; and with this in mind we want to consider Psalm 118. It is a remarkable confirmation of the fact that right now, before Armageddon, is the time to sing and rejoice “and [publicly] declare the works of Jehovah” on account of salvation already accomplished on our behalf.—Ps. 118:17, AS.
18 The oft-recurring theme of this psalm is found in the expression: “For his loving-kindness endureth for ever.” This forms the basis for the opening call of the psalm: “Oh give thanks unto Jehovah.” (Ps. 118:1, AS) It is therefore a psalm, or song, of thanksgiving, not to any creature, not even David himself who was so mightily used to subdue Israel’s enemies, but to Jehovah, Israel’s real mighty Fighter and Savior. This idea finds expression time and again throughout the psalm, as David tells how his numerous enemies, “all nations,” tried to overwhelm him and the little kingdom of Israel, as he aptly says at one place, “they compassed me about like bees.” He then adds: “But Jehovah helped me,” and this leads him to the particular expression that arrests our attention: “Jehovah is my strength [as a fighter] and song; and he is become my salvation.” (Ps. 118:10-14, AS) A cry corresponding exactly to that at Revelation 12:10, NW.
19. Tied in with what particular events did David prosper as a fighter?
19 Notice, too, corresponding with the argument already presented, that David did not attain to his very strong position of superiority over all his enemies by just one smashing victory, foreshadowing Armageddon, but it was by a series of victories. This is similar to what is said of Christ Jesus, the Greater David: “He went forth conquering and to complete his conquest.” (Rev. 6:2, NW) Neither did David wait till the final victory before starting to sing. The record shows that the key to the situation regarding David’s prosperity as Israel’s king is pinpointed to the time when he captured the hill of Zion and there established his throne, and later brought up the ark, the center of true worship for Israel. (See 2 Samuel, chapters 5 and 6.) From then on he prospered, while still fighting, and at the same time singing that Jehovah “is become my salvation”. As the record says: “And David waxed greater and greater; for Jehovah, the God of hosts, was with him,” until “Jehovah had given him rest from all his enemies round about”.—2 Sam. 5:10; 7:1, AS.
20. On the basis of these events, how does Psalm 118 reveal its prophetic significance for our own day?
20 It is from this point of time, from the time of the secure establishment of Zion, after a period of distress, that Psalm 118 is true, both in David’s experience and in what was foreshadowed thereby. The sure guide in this psalm, fixing this point of time in the great fulfillment in our own day, is found in the expression: “The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner.” (Ps. 118:22, AS) Linking this with Isaiah 28:16 and; 1 Peter 2:6, 7, The Watchtower as of October 1, 1951, has given detailed proof that the laying of the cornerstone in Zion in the complete fulfillment took place A. D. 1918, when Christ was presented as King, corresponding to the miniature fulfillment at the first advent. (See Matthew 21:4-9, NW.) That was indeed a very special period of time, or “day”. In contrast with a 24-hour day, which appears to follow its predecessor as a matter of course, this prophetic day was specially made by Jehovah, and is a cause for great rejoicing and singing, as it says: “This is the day which Jehovah hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps. 118:24, AS) Observe, too, how David not only speaks for himself, as when he says, “Jehovah is my strength and song,” but includes all true Israelites sharing with him, as when he next says: “The voice of rejoicing [singing] and salvation is in the tents of the righteous.” So now, let us all rejoice and sing aloud of Jehovah’s salvation wrought in Zion in this, his own day.—Ps. 118:14, 15, AS.
21. To what course of action are we stirred by an appreciation of these truths?
21 As we appreciate that Jehovah has given us the light of truth on his Word, not only understanding it and seeing it being fulfilled in this marvelous day, but also being privileged to have part therein, then we gladly ‘give thanks unto Jehovah for his loving-kindness’. Not only so, but we are filled with the fighting spirit of determination to “observe the commandments of God” in “the work of bearing witness to Jesus”, “even despite the danger of death.” We unselfishly dedicate and bind ourselves to this course of action. See how beautifully this is expressed: “Jehovah is God, and he hath given us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.”—Rev. 12:11, 17, NW; Ps. 118:27, AS.
22. How is Isaiah 12:1-6 related to our study?
22 But did you specially notice that remark (¶ 20) about the establishment of Zion “after a period of distress”? This is referred to in Psalm 118 verse 18: “Jehovah hath chastened me sore; but he hath not given me over unto death.” But now turn to Isaiah, chapter 12, AS, and see how this short prophecy in its every word abundantly confirms the main points of our study. As often explained in The Watchtower, Jehovah’s anger with his people in the early part of “that day” was due to their failure to live up to the commission of being singing fighters. But God, in his loving-kindness, remedied the situation and comforted his people by bringing salvation to Zion. “For a splendid thing hath he done,—well known is this in all the earth.” [Isa. 12:5, Ro] So again the refrain comes in: “For Jehovah, even Jehovah, is my strength and song; and he is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” Yes, as Jesus indicated in his conversation with the Samaritan woman at a certain literal well, the life-giving water of truth can now be freely and joyfully drawn for all thirsting ones who desire to render sacred service in the spirit of true worship. A mighty response is therefore now rising from all quarters in response to the ringing command: “Cry aloud and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion; for great in the midst of thee is the Holy One of Israel.”—Isa. 12:2, 3, 6, AS; John 4:14, 23; Rev. 22:17, NW.
23. Where in Scripture is Jehovah referred to as singing, and for what reason and with what encouragement to us?
23 Finally, you remember we mentioned early herein about the one instance in Scripture where Jehovah himself is referred to as singing. This is found at Zephaniah 3:14-17 (AS). First, for our encouragement as singers, comes the command to ‘sing and shout, and to be glad and rejoice with all the heart’. Why? Because “Jehovah hath taken away [“set aside,” Ro] thy [adverse] judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy [the Babylonish and Pharaohlike oppressors]: the King of Israel, even Jehovah, is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not fear evil [“calamity,” Ro] any more.” Then, for our encouragement as fighters, comes the thrilling command: “In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not; O Zion, let not thy hands be slack. Jehovah thy God is in the midst of thee, a mighty one who will save [from the enemy]; he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing.” On what more stirring and exalted note could we conclude this study?—Compare Psalm 132:13-18, AS.