It’s hard to sing freedom’s song in the land of one’s captivity. The Israelites found it so. Psalm 137 speaks of the captive Jews hanging their harps on the willows by the rivers of Babylon. The sound of music was not to be heard among them now. Their captors taunted them. “Sing us one of your happy songs!” But they couldn’t do it. The music was gone from their souls. They wept when they remembered Zion…wept over what they once had, took for granted and lost…wept over the reason they no longer had it…wept over their present circumstances. But they took a vow not to forget Jerusalem as their chief joy. The music would return. Their tears and their vow were their first steps back home, even though it might yet be many years before the captives physically returned. God’s faithfulness would get it done.
Even when you can’t lift up your voice, you can lift up your eyes, can’t you? And even when you can’t lift up your voice, you can lift up your heart. One of my favorite singers can hardly hit a single note, but his whole being is engaged as he offers his best to Father God. I know that what my friend offers God is music to His ears.
I, too, have been lifted nearly to the third heaven by sharing in spiritual praises with some of God’s beloved. But I have known other sacred times…when the suffering faithful sing their songs to God in the night of their distress. Some of the finest songs I ever heard have no music and no spoken words. They are all heart, and they flow directly to God. Their melody follows me still…sometimes calling to me across distant memories…inspiring me…preventing me from hanging my harp on the willow.
We sometimes speak of the command to sing in worship. Isn’t it really rather permission to sing? Listen to James (5:13b), Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. My sisters and brothers, whatever else is going on in our lives in terms of trouble or loss, don’t we still have reason to praise the God Who set us free in Christ Jesus? Isn’t it true that God knew something wonderful would die within us, if we couldn’t sing out our hearts to Him? Let’s sing out…good or poor voices…if we’re familiar with the song or not…if we feel like it or not…because we can’t help it…and because He hears our hearts. And that, by the way, is one of my favorite songs (Listen to our Hearts)…I don’t know it well…but it knows me well, and it reflects the heart of my Father God well. Here’s part of that song: We will use the words we know to tell You what an awesome God You are; but words are not enough to tell You of our love so listen to our hearts.
I like your song, dear ones. It honors God. Sing it out loud when you can. If there comes a time when you can’t do that, whisper it. If you can’t sing it, say it. And if you can’t say it, pray it. And if in your weariness or pain or confusion you forget some of the words, hum it. And if you have to be still for some unknown reason, let it remain your heartsong, and He Who has His way in the sudden stillness will be honored by it. He is your Chief Joy and will forever inspire the music of your soul. Sing and make melody to the Lord with your heart! (See Ephesians 5:19)