Singing praises to the Lord is a common experience during worship services. Whether traditional hymns, contemporary praise songs, or a mixture of both, most Christians cannot imagine a church gathering without lifting their voices in song. Spanning back to the earliest times in the Old Testament up to the era of the early church, singing has been an integral activity for followers of the Lord.
Within the Bible, there are numerous examples of people singing praises to the Lord and telling of His mighty deeds. Such use of music is a form of worship to the Lord, offering praises to Him through song and melody. Significantly, singing to the Lord is an indicative sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Also, songs have an instructional quality in being used to teach others biblical truths.
Examples of Song in Scripture
One of the earliest examples of song in Scripture is Moses and Miriam’s song recorded in Exodus 15:1-18 and 15:21.
After the Israelites had crossed through the Red Sea, and the waters had closed over the Egyptians, Moses and the Israelites sang to the Lord in praise, describing what He had done to save them (Exodus 15:1).
Likewise, Miriam led the women in song as they danced with tambourines, singing, “Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea” (Exodus 15:21, NIV).
Later, Moses recorded a song, which he taught the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 31:30-32:43). This song was a lengthy one and served as a reminder for the Israelites to obey the Lord and His commandments (Deuteronomy 32:44-47).
Moses’ song of exhortation included praises to the Lord, but also warnings to the Israelites for disobeying God.
In a similar story-telling fashion, Deborah and Barak sang a song after the Lord had helped Israel to defeat the Canaanites, who had oppressed them (Judges 4:23-24; 5:1-31).
In their song, they describe singers who recite the great deeds of the Lord and of His warriors (Judges 5:11). A great deal of the song records the events of the battle and defeat of the Canaanite commander Sisera at the hands of Jael (Judges 5:13-31).
One of the most well-known examples in the Bible of singing to the Lord is found in the book of Psalms. While the book does read like poetry, the Psalms are meant to be sung.
A common theme in multiple of the Psalms is the call to sing to the Lord and praise Him: “Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth” (Psalm 96:1, NIV).
Not all those who sing in the Bible are human. Angels are recorded as singing to God. At the birth of Jesus, a multitude of angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest heaven …” (Luke 2:14, NIV).
In heaven, angels too numerous to count all sing praises to Jesus, the Lamb who is worthy (Revelation 5:11-13). Singing praise to God is not a new behavior of the angels, as they sang out to the Lord with a shout when they witnessed the creation of the world (Job 38:7).
Not only do the angels sing, but the Lord God Himself also sings. In Zephaniah 3:17, Scripture records, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (NIV).
In context, this verse is referring to the future Millennial Kingdom when Jesus will reign (Zephaniah 3:14-16). At that time, He will sing over His beloved followers in joy.
Singing as a Form of Worship
As was shown from multiple examples in the Bible, singing is a major part of worship. When the Israelites went to worship at the Tabernacle and Temple, Levites would sing praises to the Lord.
Often, songs would be sung as sacrifices were offered on the altar (2 Chronicles 29:24-26). Music was such a significant part of worship that David prescribed singers and musicians to be a part of the Temple service (1 Chronicles 16:4-28; 23:5; 2 Chronicles 29:25).
At the dedication of the Temple during Solomon’s reign, a great procession was described as singing praises to the Lord and playing instruments (2 Chronicles 5:13).
As they sang and declared “he is good; his love endures forever,” the glory of God filled the Temple with a thick cloud (2 Chronicles 5:13-14). Such worship through song was an important aspect of the Temple’s dedication that day.
In the New Testament, believers would meet and sing hymns (Ephesians 5:19). Based on the example of Jesus at the Last Supper, the church would regularly take part in the Lord’s Supper and sing hymns afterward (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26).
Integrated within their times of worship as the church, believers regularly took part in singing praises to the Lord.
Singing as a Sign of Spirit Fullness
In addition to being an important part of worship, singing is also a sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Not to be confused with Spirit indwelling, which occurs at the moment of salvation, Spirit fullness is a state of maturity in the Christian life.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit occurs as believers immerse themselves into the truths of Scripture, allowing the “word of Christ [to] dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16, ESV).
Singing praises to the Lord is the result of Spirit fullness. When Paul discussed being filled with the Holy Spirit, he immediately includes singing psalms and hymns to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18-19).
As Christians mature in their walk with Christ and delve into the Word of God, living out the truth of Scripture, they will be filled with the Holy Spirit. Such fullness will result in joyful singing to the Lord, in both good and hard times.
Such Spirit filling was evident in the life of the Apostle Paul. When Paul and his missionary companion, Silas, were thrown into the Philippian prison, the two men sang hymns to the Lord (Acts 16:22-25).
Even amid their imprisonment and suffering due to flogging, Paul and Silas were able to joyfully sing to the Lord because of their Spirit-filled lives.
Singing as a Form of Teaching
Another reason why singing is significant in the Bible is that songs can be didactic. As was shown from the example of Moses, he intended his song in Deuteronomy to be used by the Israelites to remind themselves and their children to obey the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:44-47).
Those who were entering the Promised Land were to teach their children the song to help them to remember to obey the Lord’s commands.
Parts of Paul’s writing in his epistles are also widely thought by biblical scholars and commentators to be hymns.
For instance, Philippians 2:6-11 is a passage rich in biblical truth and doctrine, which discusses Christ’s “emptying” in adding humanity to His divinity at the incarnation when He took on the nature of a servant to die for mankind (Philippians 2:6-8).
Many biblical scholars believe this passage to be a hymn in praise of Christ. Likewise, Colossians 1:15-18 and 1 Timothy 3:16 are also widely thought to be “Christ hymns.” Such hymns would certainly serve a teaching purpose in the church, emphasizing the exalted Christ.
Sing to the Lord
Singing, therefore, is quite significant in the Bible. Multiple examples in both the Old and New Testament demonstrate the use of song by mankind, angels, and the Lord Himself. Throughout Scripture, singing is used to worship the Lord, offering praises through song to God.
In addition, singing is a sign of Spirit fullness, since those who are filled with the Holy Spirit often joyfully sing despite their circumstances.
Finally, singing is significant in the Bible because songs also have teaching value. Whether one is learning about the need to obey the Lord or the exaltation of Christ, many songs in Scripture have a didactic purpose.
Christians today should continue to write rich and meaningful songs in praise of God their Savior.
Utilizing psalms, hymns, and other songs, believers can sing to the Lord and have confidence that voices lifted in praise have a long and significant history in the Bible.
As the psalmist said, “Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him — his name is the LORD” (Psalm 68:4, NIV).
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry, she is passionate about the Bible and her faith in Jesus. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.