The Value of Singing in True Worship
CAN you picture a world without song? Never again to hear the happy singing of children or the sweet voice of the nightingale or the bellbird? No more to hear the magpie’s infectious chuckle or the throaty laughter of a kookaburra? Happily, this will never be. But such contemplation highlights one of God’s many gifts to man: the gift of song.
Jehovah a God of Song
Why does singing bring pleasure and joy to us? For one thing, Jehovah himself enjoys and is pleased with songs of praise by his creatures. Can you picture the occasion when all the angels shouted for joy at the magnificence of Jehovah’s earthly creation? Or can you imagine standing spellbound among the shepherds on the autumn night of Jesus’ human birth, thrilling to the sound of a vast host of angels singing: “Glory in the heights above to God”?—Luke 2:13, 14; Job 38:7.
One way that Jehovah indicated he is a God of song was by making singing part of true worship in Israel. Later, God again revealed the close tie between singing and true worship in the Revelation vision given to the apostle John. In one prophetic scene a tremendous choir—144,000 strong—sings a magnificent new song before the throne of God.—Revelation 14:3.
Singing in Pre-Christian Times
God’s majesty and awesome acts also inspired his earthly servants to break out in song. Feel the stirring effects that singing had on the Israelites soon after their miraculous deliverance from Egyptian slavery. The hearts of Moses and his fellow Israelites were moved emotionally as they sang the victory song recounting what Jehovah had done to Pharaoh and his hosts.—Exodus 15:1-21.
Later in Israel’s history, the momentous day came when, under King David’s direction, the ark of the covenant was to be placed inside its specially erected tent. What a historic event! Not only outstanding singing but soul-stirring orchestral accompaniment added to the grandeur of the day.—1 Chronicles 16:4-36.
David’s love for music and his skillfulness on the harp accentuated his keenness to promote music and singing in true worship. At Psalm 33:1, 3, we hear his passionate plea for worshipers of Jehovah to sing aloud to God with all their heart: “Cry out joyfully, O you righteous ones, because of Jehovah. . . . Do your best at playing on the strings along with joyful shouting.”
Singing in Christian Times
In early Christian times, singing also played a prominent role in true worship. Jesus and his apostles sang together after the evening meal just before Jesus’ death. (Mark 14:26) In prison Paul and Silas sang aloud so that all could hear. (Acts 16:25) Like David the apostle Paul was enthusiastic about the use of song. More than once, he encouraged fellow believers to sing songs of praise to Jehovah.—Ephesians 5:18, 19; Colossians 3:16.
In present-day Christian worship, singing also features prominently. In 1905 the book Hymns of the Millennial Dawn was published. The title page describes its 333 songs as “A Choice Collection of Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs to Aid God’s People in Singing and Making Melody in their Hearts unto the Lord.”
Then in 1928 a revised songbook with 337 songs was provided. It was called Songs of Praise to Jehovah, and its preface said: “These Songs will be found to be in harmony with the divine truths now due to be understood.” However, as years passed and the light of truth increased, it became clear that some of these songs were influenced by thinking carried over from false religion. Additionally, Kingdom songs to encourage preaching the good news were needed, as public declaration came more to the fore.—Matthew 24:14; Hebrews 13:15.
In 1944 Kingdom Service Songbook was provided, with 62 songs. Two decades later, in 1966, the book Singing and Accompanying Yourselves With Music in Your Hearts was released. This contained 119 Kingdom songs that covered every aspect of Christian living and worship, including witnessing to others and praising Jehovah God and Christ Jesus.
Almost another two decades passed, during which the light of truth kept on increasing. (Proverbs 4:18) The need was seen for yet another songbook. So in 1984 came the release of the songbook entitled Sing Praises to Jehovah. It has 225 Kingdom songs, with words and melodies composed entirely by dedicated servants of Jehovah from all parts of the earth.
Use Theocratic Singing to the Full
The illustration shown on the double-spread endsheet at the back of this latest songbook stimulates us to use theocratic singing to the full at Christian meetings. Trained temple singers there depicted are clearly raising their hearts and their voices in song to God.—1 Chronicles 25:7.
We can likewise sing at our Christian meetings, opening our mouths and singing from our hearts. However, not all of us do that. Perhaps pride causes us to miss out on the joy of singing to Jehovah without embarrassment, no matter what sort of voice we have. We may be overly concerned with the impression being made on those standing nearby. Moses had a similar problem—not with singing but with speaking. The answer Jehovah gave him might assist us if we tend to hold back from singing because of lack of ability. Jehovah asked Moses: “Who appointed a mouth for man? . . . Is it not I, Jehovah?” (Exodus 4:11) Surely, Jehovah will gladly listen as we use whatever ability he has given us to sing his praises out loud!
Think, too, how Paul and Silas sang aloud while in prison. No embarrassment there, and they had no musical accompaniment, not even a songbook to follow. Picture the occasion: “But about the middle of the night Paul and Silas were praying and praising God with song; yes, the prisoners were hearing them.” (Acts 16:25) Was this because either Paul or Silas had trained singing voices? Not necessarily. Their chief concern was to sing aloud and from the heart! What is our chief concern when singing songs of praise?
All of Us Can Improve
Musician David’s advice is appropriate here: “Do your best at playing on the strings along with joyful shouting.” (Psalm 33:3) That is what Jehovah expects of all his servants—nothing more, nothing less than that we ‘do our best.’ If we do just that, we can expect Jehovah to bless our efforts, and to our delight—and sometimes to our surprise—we will likely make improvement.*
Here are some practical suggestions that may help to improve the quality of your singing: Try listening frequently to the newer Kingdom melodies, using recorded musical tapes or records where possible. For some, singing the songs at home or at small gatherings with fellow believers has proved beneficial as well as pleasant. At congregation meetings it is important that musical accompaniment be played loud enough to be heard by all those singing. This makes it easier to follow the tune and increases confidence on the part of those singing. The one announcing a song should state its theme, perhaps even noting its appropriateness, not just the number.
Parents, do you encourage your children to sing Kingdom songs with enthusiasm and from their hearts? Families that have encouraged their young ones to sing from the heart, and with understanding, have many times found such singing to be a fine aid to spiritual growth.
Benefits Are Many
There are many benefits from singing aloud and from the heart. Our personal involvement in public worship becomes stronger. Those standing nearby are encouraged to sing louder when they hear our unembarrassed singing. The entire congregation also benefits, for increased volume is contagious!
Additionally, strong singing gives a good witness to those attending meetings for the first time. Those passing by our Kingdom Halls, as well as neighbors living nearby, are impressed by our fine singing, just as doubtless were those other prisoners who heard Paul and Silas. This has even resulted in some hearers’ wanting to know more about the truth.
Most importantly, our improved singing will bring greater praise to Jehovah, the Originator of music and singing, the one deserving to be praised in song above all others.
Some of the latest songs may be a little difficult for us to sing at first, but after we become familiar with them, they may well prove to be our favorites. For example, when the previous songbook came out, song 88, “Walking in Integrity,” was not liked in one country, but later on it became the favorite.