Thinking about the “polemical” nature of singing this morning, I was reminded of an episode in my own life when the singing people of God were instrumental in calling me away from serving other gods.
I was eighteen years old, and at a true crossroads in my life. I had been raised in a godly home by godly parents, had “stayed out of trouble” throughout my high school years, and had displayed an interest in following Christ since I was very young. Now I was a freshman in college, away from home for the first time in my life, and, perhaps unbeknownst to observers, my heart was falling in love with the world. I looked around at some of my friends and the pleasure-seeking lives they were pursuing, and could feel an almost irresistible pull in that direction. I was listening to the siren call of the spirit of the age, and was ready to follow wherever it may have lead me.
But something (or some One) compelled me to get up one Sunday morning that fall and go to church. I can still remember getting dressed and quietly stepping out of my dorm room while my roommates slept. I drove to an Assemblies of God church, where I did not know a soul, and slipped into the back row as the music played. I don’t remember what they were singing that morning, but I remember it was an old hymn that had some real substance to it – they were singing about the blood of Christ and the faithfulness of God. And suddenly, the truth of those words washed over me, the Spirit who had called me from death to life and who had lead me to that seat personally visited me, and the difference in the two paths I had been considering became so clear. I had to sit down. I wept silently, unable to sing anymore, but listened to the broader body of Christ teaching and admonishing their anonymous younger brother in song. I can still see a few members turning around and casting a compassionate, almost knowing glance in my direction, then turning back and continuing to sing.
Looking back now, I can see that this was one of the key moments the Lord used to break me like Jacob at the River Jabbok, to show me my helpless estate and his boundless mercy, and ultimately to call me into his service as a minister of the Gospel.
And he used a singing people to do it.
Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary (Psalm 96:1-6)