SINGING PRAISES TO GOD
By Wayne S. Walker
"He has put a new song in my mouth–praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD" (Ps. 40.3). There are basically three kinds of songs. First, there are songs which are evil because they discuss subjects and use language which are in opposition to the Lord’s will. Unfortunately, a lot of "modern music" falls into this category. Second, there are songs which are not evil of themselves and thus not necessarily wrong to sing or enjoy, but they do not praise God. These would include many of the "good, old songs" that have endured through the generations. Third, there are "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" by which we can be "teaching and admonishing one another" and "singing with grace in [our] hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16).
Only the "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" are acceptable in "singing and making melody in [our] hearts to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19). Conybeare and Howson remarked on these passage, "St. Paul appears to intend (as in Eph. v.18, 18, which throws light on the present passage) to contrast the songs which Christians were to employ at their meetings with those impure or bacchanalian strains which they formerly sang at their heathen revels. It should be remembered that singing always formed a part of the entertainment at the banquets of the Greeks….When you meet, let your enjoyment consist, not in fullness of wine, but fullness of the Spirit; let your songs be, not the drinking-songs of heathen feasts, but psalms and hymns; and their accompaniment, not the music of the lyre, but the melody of the heart; while you sing them to the praise, not of Bacchus or Venus, but of the Lord Jesus Christ (The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, pp. 760, 775).
Even in choosing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs for worship, care must be exercised. There is an old joke about a song director who always led "Ready to Suffer" just before the sermon. I have actually been in a Sunday morning service where, after I had exhorted those wishing to respond to the invitation to come now, the song director led, "O Why Not Tonight?" The lovely song "Break Thou the Bread of Life" has often been used "to prepare our minds for the Lord’s supper;" however, the "bread" of the song has nothing to do with the unleavened bread but is symbolic of the word that goes forth from the Lord’s mouth (see Isaiah 55:10-11). The song was written as a Bible study hymn. It is not sinful to sing about "The Old Oaken Bucket" or going "Up, Up and Away in My Beautiful Balloon." Yet, that is not worship, so let us not forget that as Christians, God has put a new song of praise in our mouths, and as we sing it, many will hear and fear and trust in the Lord.