Singing—a Part of Our Worship
THE good news of God’s kingdom that Jehovah’s servants bring to the people of earth is termed a song, and not without good reason. It is beautiful, harmonious, bringing comfort and joy to the listeners, even as does a beautiful literal song. Most fittingly we are repeatedly commanded to sing that song, as at Psalm 96:1 and Isaiah 42:10: “Sing to Jehovah a new song.”
As Jehovah’s servants we are not only commanded to sing this figurative song, but are also encouraged to sing literal songs as a part of our worship. And it might well be said that, of all the ways in which we can worship and praise Jehovah God—by prayer, by public talks, by our field ministry and by our exemplary conduct—one of the most beautiful of them is this literal singing of songs to Jehovah’s praise.
Our singing of such songs, then, is a part of the Christian’s worship of Jehovah God. Jehovah listens to these songs, even as he does to our prayers. The singing of these songs furnishes an opportunity for all to share actively in the worship. To the extent that we fully enter into this feature of our worship, to that extent we will receive joy and spiritual uplift from doing so.
IN ANCIENT TIMES
It is indeed interesting to note how musical God’s ancient people were and what a prominent part music played in their worship. Thus music historian Kurt Sachs says: “Among the world’s books, few can lay claim to greater importance for the history of music than the Bible.” The Oxford Companion to Music tells that “throughout the ancient history of the Jewish people . . . we find music mentioned with a frequency that perhaps exceeds its mention in the history of any other people.” And Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Volume 4, asks: ‘Were the Jews especially a musical people?’ It answers: “Yes . . . King Sennacherib demanded and received as tribute from King Hezekiah many Jewish musicians, male and female. During the exile the Babylonians demanded of their Jewish captives that they should entertain them with their songs.” Psalm 137 gives us to understand that the songs of these exiles were primarily “the songs of Zion,” “the song of Jehovah.”
How typical, then, is the admonition: “Make melody to God, make melody. Make melody to our King, make melody. For God is King of all the earth; make melody, acting with discretion.” (Ps. 47:6, 7) The very first recorded instance of the Israelites’ praising Jehovah with melody was after their deliverance at the Red Sea. How jubilantly they must have sung the words! “Let me sing to Jehovah, for he has become highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has pitched into the sea.”—Ex. 15:1-21.
Vocal and instrumental music became a prominent part of the temple worship at Jerusalem. King David arranged for 4,000 out of a total of 38,000 Levites to be “givers of praise to Jehovah.” (1 Chron. 23:3, 5) In particular was vocal and instrumental praise to Jehovah featured on special occasions, as when David brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, when Solomon dedicated the temple he had built to Jehovah, and when the Israelites under Nehemiah inaugurated the wall of Jerusalem they had rebuilt.—1 Chron. 15:1-28; 2 Chron. 5:11-14; Neh. 12:27-30, 38-42.
IN APOSTOLIC TIMES
Singing was also a part of worship in apostolic times. Of Jesus it had been foretold: “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the middle of the congregation I will praise you with song.” (Heb. 2:12; Ps. 22:22) During and after the last valid Passover celebration Jesus and his apostles sang a number of songs or psalms as was then the custom. (Matt. 26:30) The apostle Paul gives us to understand that singing was a regular part of congregational worship, for he says: “What is to be done, then? . . . I will sing praise with the gift of the spirit,” that is, in an unknown tongue, “but I will also sing praise with my mind.”—1 Cor. 14:15, 16.
Paul not only sang himself but also urged Christians to sing: “Keep . . . speaking to yourselves with psalms and praises to God and spiritual songs, singing and accompanying yourselves with music in your hearts to Jehovah.” “Keep on teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, praises to God, spiritual songs with graciousness, singing in your hearts to Jehovah.”—Eph. 5:18-20; Col. 3:16.
IN MODERN TIMES
Do Jehovah’s people in modern times offer praise to Jehovah and teach and admonish one another with song? Yes, and for this purpose they have been publishing songbooks ever since 1879, the year that the very first issue of The Watchtower was published. How they are praising God and admonishing one another in song today can be seen from the themes found in their latest songbook, “Singing and Accompanying Yourselves with Music in Your Hearts.” Among these are: “Jehovah Has Become King!” “Jehovah Is My Shepherd,” “‘Preach the Word’!” “Proof of Discipleship.”
This being so, it follows that by singing such songs as part of our worship we are also obeying the command of the apostle Paul: “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering . . . And let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works.” (Heb. 10:23, 24) Yes, when we sing such songs as “We Are Jehovah’s Witnesses” and “The Resurrection Joy” we are making public declaration of our hope. And when we sing such songs as “We Must Have the Faith!” and “The Fruitage of the Spirit,” are we not inciting one another to love and fine works? Surely!
If we pay attention to the words of these songs, take them to heart and try to live up to their sentiments to the best of our ability, just what will be the result? Why, it will help us as Jehovah’s people to be zealous in our ministry, to be bringing forth all the fruits of the spirit, and so we will be getting along fine with our fellow Christians as well as with the members of our own families. What a blessing!
AIDS TO SINGING
Since these songs are a part of our worship, we should want to sing them as well as we can. That means that we need to give thought also to their music, their melodies. Just what is required? First of all is the matter of getting familiar with the melodies. Some appear to have a little difficulty with this. Some have limited musical ability and in some homes there is no musical instrument to help out. This is one of the reasons why the Watch Tower Society provided recordings of the songs. By obtaining a set of these recordings and playing them in their homes, listening carefully, all such can be aided to become familiar with the melodies and learn just how they are to be sung.
Once we are familiar with the melodies, what else is required? Another thing required to sing these songs well is to give attention to the moods of the various songs. To aid in this there is, at the beginning of each song just above the first staff of music, a word or phrase indicating just how the song should be interpreted; whether happily or fervently, vigorously or tenderly, and so forth. Paying attention to these suggestions will help us to get into the right mood for the various songs so as to sing them with the feeling or spirit required by both the words and the music.
Applying the principles learned in the Theocratic Ministry School will also greatly aid us in our efforts to sing well. Even as with public speaking, one of the basic requirements is singing these with sufficient volume. Of course, not all can raise their voices to the same degree. Some are naturally soft-spoken, others may not be feeling well, others may be feeble because of old age; some may not be able to sing at all. But each one can have the spirit of the songs in his heart and then give expression to it to the extent he can.
Then again, in our Theocratic Ministry School training we are counseled on enthusiasm and on warmth and feeling. These qualities are even more important to our singing well our songs of praise to Jehovah. So we want to sing them with spirit and feeling, especially those the moods of which are heartfelt. And even as sense stress is important in speaking, so stress, that is, the stress of the beat, is important in singing if we would do justice to the spirit of the song.
How fitting it is that we sing praise to Jehovah in view of how wonderful and loving he is! How fitting that we also teach and admonish one another in song! By reason of the fact that singing is a part of our worship all can have an active part in it, even though not all are privileged to speak from the platform. So let us take this part of our worship seriously, for Jehovah is listening to our singing of songs of praise even as he listens to our prayers.
And, above all, let us pay more than usual attention to the words. It is by the words that we worship Jehovah God, bringing praise to Him, and it is by the words that we teach and admonish one another. If we truly enter into the singing part of our worship with all our hearts we will bring joy to Jehovah, honor to his name, and we will bring encouragement and happiness to others as well as to ourselves. Yes, “make melody to God, make melody.”