Exploring Deuteronomy Week 14: Singing!
Pastor Dan’s sermon, “Singing” in the Not By Bread Alone series is available here.
Singing! How interesting that God gives Moses a song in order to convey His word to His people. It makes so much sense, though. We remember through song. Words sink into our hearts through song. You could turn on the radio today and hear a song you haven’t listened to in literal years, and the lyrics would spring back into your mind as you hear the tune. God invites us to sing because it helps us remember His truths!
When I was learning Hebrew at seminary, my professor often taught us through living-language methods. Yes, we had to learn verbs and tenses and vocabulary. But she would often speak to us in Hebrew, show us pictures or movies, and most of all — teach us songs. Every class we would open with a song, all of them Scripture in Hebrew. The one we would sing every time we met was the Shema — the crucial words of Scripture Pastor Dan mentioned that Jewish children learn to say when they wake and when they go to bed. I can still sing the Shema today — a reminder to recognize the Lord my God, and love Him with all of my heart, all of my soul, and all of my strength.
The Bible is full of songs — praise and worship. Some of them are joyful and filled with shouts and dancing. Others are desperate and pleading. After the crossing of the Red Sea, the Israelites sing and praise God (Exodus 15). The song in Deuteronomy 32 is filled with some harsh realities about Israel’s unfaithfulness, along with the compassionate grace of God who does not treat them as their sins deserve. A ton of the Psalms were meant to be sung — there’s a whole section of them called the song of ascents (Psalms 120-134) that were sung as the people ascended toward Jerusalem (which is on a hill), when they went to the temple to celebrate the holidays every year. In the New Testament, Mary and Zechariah sing over the news of Jesus and John the Baptist. Songs fill our Bible — they are everywhere!
Even today the Jewish people sing and rejoice in beautiful ways. Every year, synagogues follow a weekly reading schedule with portions of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). A holiday called Simchat Torah (rejoicing in the Torah) ends the cycle — in one year, the Jewish community reads Genesis through Deuteronomy together. Simchat Torah is a holiday in which the last chapter of Deuteronomy is read and then the Torah reading immediately starts over with a reading from the first chapter of Genesis.
Simchat Torah is an extremely joyful holiday — God has given His word, and we are to rejoice in it. In the synagogues, the people come up and recite blessings over the word of God, and then people grab the Torah scrolls and dance and sing together. The people rejoice in the fact that God has given His word — they literally dance and sing as they carry Scripture in their hands, close to their hearts. Shall we celebrate Simchat Torah when Pastor Dan finishes Deuteronomy?!
Songs are a powerful way to praise God because they stick with us. The hymns of old remind us of truth. The choruses of today bring simple praise to our lips. And what is amazing is that God rejoices in us rejoicing in Him. And He sings for us too.
So, what are you favorite hymns or worship songs? Why do they stick with you?