Sing to Jehovah!
“I will make melody to my God as long as I am.”—PS. 146:2.
1. What motivated young David to compose some of his psalms?
IN HIS youth, David spent countless hours in the fields near Bethlehem tending his father’s flocks. As he watched over the sheep, David could observe Jehovah’s magnificent creative works: the starry heavens, “the beasts of the open field,” and “the birds of heaven.” He was deeply affected by what he saw—so much so that he was moved to compose heart-stirring songs of praise to the Maker of these wonderful things. Many of David’s compositions can be found in the book of Psalms.a—Read Psalm 8:3, 4, 7-9.
2 It was likely during this period in his life that David perfected his skills as a musician. He became so accomplished, in fact, that he was invited to play the harp for King Saul. (Prov. 22:29) David’s music had a soothing effect on the troubled monarch, as good music often has on people even today. Whenever David took up his instrument, “there was relief for Saul and it was well with him.” (1 Sam. 16:23) The songs that this God-fearing musician and song writer composed have stood the test of time. Just think of it! Today, more than 3,000 years after David’s birth, millions of people from all walks of life and living in all parts of the earth regularly turn to the psalms of David for comfort and hope.—2 Chron. 7:6; read Psalm 34:7, 8; 139:2-8; Amos 6:5.
Music’s Honorable Place in True Worship
3, 4. What arrangements for performing sacred music were made in David’s day?
3 David had talent, and he used his talent in the best way possible—to glorify Jehovah. After he became king of Israel, David arranged for the tabernacle services to include beautiful music. More than one tenth of all the active Levites—some 4,000 of them—were assigned as “givers of praise,” with 288 being “trained in song to Jehovah, all experts.”—1 Chron. 23:3, 5; 25:7.
4 David himself composed many of the songs that the Levites performed. Any Israelites who were privileged to be present on the occasions when David’s psalms were sung must have been deeply moved by what they heard. Later, when the ark of the covenant was brought up to Jerusalem, “David . . . said to the chiefs of the Levites to station their brothers the singers with the instruments of song, stringed instruments and harps and cymbals, playing aloud to cause a sound of rejoicing to arise.”—1 Chron. 15:16.
5, 6. (a) Why was so much attention given to music during David’s reign? (b) How do we know that music was considered to have an important place in worship in ancient Israel?
5 Why was so much attention given to music in David’s day? Was it just because the king was a musician? No, there was another reason, which was revealed centuries later when righteous King Hezekiah revived the services at the temple. At 2 Chronicles 29:25, we read: “He [that is, Hezekiah] had the Levites stationed at the house of Jehovah, with cymbals, with stringed instruments and with harps, by the commandment of David and of Gad the king’s visionary and of Nathan the prophet, for it was by the hand of Jehovah that the commandment was by means of his prophets.”
6 Yes, through his prophets, Jehovah directed his worshippers to praise him with song. Singers from the priestly tribe were even exempted from duties that other Levites were required to perform so that they could devote sufficient time to composition and, most likely, to rehearsal.—1 Chron. 9:33.
7, 8. Where singing our Kingdom songs is concerned, what is more important than skill?
7 You may say, “Where singing is concerned, I most certainly would never have been counted among the experts who performed at the tabernacle!” But not all of the Levite musicians were experts. According to 1 Chronicles 25:8, there were ‘learners’ as well. It is also worth noting that there may have been some very skilled musicians and singers from among the other tribes of Israel, but Jehovah assigned the Levites to care for the music. We may be sure that whether they were ‘experts’ or ‘learners,’ all of the faithful Levites put their heart into the task.
8 David loved music and he was skilled at it. But is it talent alone that counts with God? At Psalm 33:3, David wrote: “Do your best at playing on the strings along with joyful shouting.” The message is clear: What counts is that we ‘do our best’ in praising Jehovah.
The Role of Music After David’s Day
9. Describe what you might have seen and heard if you had attended the inauguration of the temple during Solomon’s reign.
9 During Solomon’s reign, music was featured in pure worship in a large way. At the inauguration of the temple, there was a full-scale orchestra, with a brass section composed of 120 trumpets. (Read 2 Chronicles 5:12.) The Bible tells us that “the trumpeters [who were all priests] and the singers were as one in causing one sound to be heard in praising and thanking Jehovah, . . . ‘for he is good, for to time indefinite is his loving-kindness.’” As soon as that joyful sound had gone up, “the house itself was filled with a cloud,” indicating Jehovah’s approval. How thrilling, how awe-inspiring it must have been to hear the sound of all those trumpets along with thousands of singers blending as one!—2 Chron. 5:13.
10, 11. What shows that early Christians used music in worship?
10 Music was also used in worship by the early Christians. Of course, first-century worshippers met, not in tabernacles or in temples, but in private homes. Because of persecution and other factors, the conditions under which they met were often less than favorable. Still, those Christians did praise God in song.
11 The apostle Paul exhorted his Christian brothers in Colossae: “Keep on . . . admonishing one another with psalms, praises to God, spiritual songs with graciousness.” (Col. 3:16) After Paul and Silas were thrown into prison, they began “praying and praising God with song,” although they had no songbook to follow. (Acts 16:25) If you were thrown into prison, how many of our Kingdom songs would you be able to sing from memory?
12. How can we show appreciation for our Kingdom songs?
12 Since music has an honorable place in our worship, we do well to ask ourselves: ‘Do I show proper appreciation for it? Do I do my best to arrive at meetings, assemblies, and conventions in time to join my brothers and sisters in the opening song, and then do I sing out with feeling? Do I encourage my children not to view the song between the Theocratic Ministry School and the Service Meeting or the one between the public talk and the Watchtower Study as a sort of intermission, an opportunity for them to leave their seats unnecessarily, perhaps just to stretch their legs?’ Singing is part of our worship. Yes, whether we are ‘experts’ or ‘learners,’ all of us can—and should—unite our voices to Jehovah’s praise.—Compare 2 Corinthians 8:12.
Changing Times, Changing Needs
13, 14. What value is there in singing out wholeheartedly during congregation meetings? Illustrate.
13 More than 100 years ago, Zion’s Watch Tower explained one of the reasons why our Kingdom songs are so important. It stated: “The singing of the truth is a good way to get it into the heads and hearts of God’s people.” Many of the lyrics of our songs are tied to passages of Scripture, so learning the words of at least some of the songs can be an excellent way to sound down the truth into our hearts. Often, a first-time visitor to our meetings has been deeply moved by the heartfelt singing of the congregation.
14 One evening in 1869, C. T. Russell was returning home from work when he heard singing coming from a basement hall. At that time in his life, he had despaired of ever finding the truth about God. So he had decided to devote himself to his business interests, reasoning that if he made some money, he would at least be able to address the physical needs of people even if he could not help them spiritually. Brother Russell entered the dusty, dingy hall and found that religious services were being held there. He sat down and listened. He later wrote that what he heard that night “was sufficient, under God, to re-establish [his] wavering faith in the divine inspiration of the Bible.” Notice that it was the singing that initially attracted Brother Russell to the meeting.
15. What refinements in understanding made a revision of the songbook advisable?
15 As time passes, refinements are made in our understanding of the Scriptures. Proverbs 4:18 says: “The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” Increased light inevitably leads to adjustments in the way in which we ‘sing the truth.’ For the past 25 years, Jehovah’s Witnesses in many lands have enjoyed using the songbook entitled Sing Praises to Jehovah.b In the years since that book was first published, the light has been getting brighter on a number of topics, and some of the expressions used in that songbook have become outdated. For example, we no longer speak of “the new order” but of “the new world.” And we now state that Jehovah’s name will be “sanctified,” not “vindicated.” Clearly, from a doctrinal standpoint, there has been a need to bring our songbook up-to-date.
16. How will our new songbook help us to follow Paul’s counsel found at Ephesians 5:19?
16 For that and other reasons, the Governing Body approved the publication of a new songbook entitled Sing to Jehovah. The number of songs in our new book has been reduced to 135. Because there are fewer songs to learn, it should be possible for us to memorize the lyrics of at least some of the new songs. This is in harmony with Paul’s counsel recorded at Ephesians 5:19.—Read.
You Can Show Your Appreciation
17. What thoughts can help us overcome the fear of embarrassment where congregation singing is concerned?
17 Should we allow fear of embarrassment to prevent us from singing out at Christian meetings? Look at it this way: Where the spoken word is concerned, is it not true that “we all stumble many times”? (Jas. 3:2) Yet, we do not allow our less-than-perfect speech to prevent us from praising Jehovah from house to house. Why, then, should our imperfect singing voices prevent us from praising God in song? Jehovah, who “appointed a mouth for man,” is pleased to listen as we use our voices to sing his praises.—Ex. 4:11.
18. Give suggestions for learning the lyrics of the songs.
18 The CDs entitled Sing to Jehovah—Vocal Renditions have been made available in a number of languages. They feature beautiful orchestral and choral renderings of the new songs. The musical arrangements make for most enjoyable listening. Listen to them often; in that way you will soon learn the lyrics of at least some of our new songs. The lyrics of many of the songs have been composed in such a way that when you sing one line, you will almost be able to anticipate what comes next. So when you play the CDs, why not try to sing along with the chorus? If you get well-acquainted with the lyrics and the music at home, you will no doubt be able to sing out more confidently at the Kingdom Hall.
19. What steps are involved in preparing orchestral renditions of our Kingdom songs?
19 It is easy to take for granted the musical accompaniment that we enjoy at our special assembly days, circuit assemblies, and district conventions. A lot of work is involved in its preparation. After the music has been selected, orchestral arrangements must be carefully written for the 64-member Watchtower orchestra to play. The musicians then spend countless hours reviewing the material that they will rehearse and finally record at our studios in Patterson, New York. Ten of these brothers and sisters live outside the United States. All count it a privilege to share in providing beautiful music for our theocratic events. We can show our appreciation for their loving efforts. When the chairman at our assemblies and conventions invites us to do so, let us take our seats promptly and listen quietly to the music that has been so lovingly prepared.
20. What are you determined to do?
20 Jehovah takes note of our songs of praise. They are important to him. We can make his heart glad by singing out with all our heart whenever we meet for worship. Yes, whether we are experts or learners, let us “sing to Jehovah”!—Ps. 104:33.
a Interestingly, ten centuries after David’s death, a host of angels announced the birth of the Messiah to shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks in the fields near Bethlehem.—Luke 2:4, 8, 13, 14.
b The entire collection of 225 songs was available in over 100 languages.
What Do You Think?
• What examples from Bible times show that music has an important role in our worship?
• What connection do you see between obeying Jesus’ command recorded at Matthew 22:37 and sharing wholeheartedly in singing Kingdom songs?
• What are some ways in which we can show proper appreciation for our Kingdom songs?
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Do you discourage your children from leaving their seat unnecessarily during the song?
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Are you learning the lyrics of our new songs at home?