Monday, 31 August 2009

Song - The Gift of God to the Soul of Man

Someone happened to mention to me recently, that angels don't sing. My "that sounds dodgy" antenna went up immediately. I wasn't too sure about that. After all, every Christmas, for as long as I can remember, I gustily sing out the traditional "Sing Choirs of Angels..." from O Come All Ye Faithful and Hark the Herald... You know the rest. But if you look in the bible, that person was right. In fact according to the Bible, the rest of creation doesn't sing either! Declares? Yes. Calls? Yes. But doesn't sing.

Singing is God's gift exclusively to those made in his image. Every time you put on your MP3 player, whether you're listening to Christian or secular songs, classical or modern, you are hearing an echo of the image of God from the depths of those who are made in their image. Whether they acknowledge it or not. Every time you open your mouth in song, whether you sound like a French horn or a foghorn, you are displaying something unique to the rest of creation.

When we sing, we are displaying/experiencing something of the divine life. And surely it can only be that way, for only humans can experience what it is to be forgiven and saved. Angels don't. Creation doesn't. Greater depths of emotion and experience require greater depths of expression to do them justice. Song is just that - a beautiful union of words and music. The intelligible, united to the ineffable.

So much singing all down history and all over the world has hijacked God's intent for this gift and forced it into the service of sinful and even diabolical ends, but this post isn't a knee jerk call for Christians to burn all of their non-Christian CDs, (although discernment is clearly needed in choosing what you feed your soul with). Rather to ask us all to stop a while and listen with renewed ears. Singing is sacred a gift of God to the souls of men and women, a gift that we can either squander or gratefully use every day to nourish our souls with truth and to have fellowship with the living and true God. A gift that the mighty angels have only ever been able to wonder at, and all the more will they do so, on that great and final day when they hush themselves to listen whilst those who have been redeemed by the living God, sing a new song to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb: face to face...

So what to sing this Christmas? Hark the herald angels say... doesn't quite have the same ring to it... :-S


Dave K said...

Not to pick holes, but don't Psalm 148, Psalm 96 and Isaiah 55:12 (from a quick search) suggest creation does sing?

Richard Walker said...

My "shoot from the hip" response would be to say that it is poetic, not literal.

Creation praises for sure, but it is not in the comprehensible mix of words and melody that make up human song.

Trees clap their hands not in the sense that they actually have hands that clap, but in the sense that when the wind passes through them it sounds like applause.

Same with the sound of rushing waters.

To be a squirming lawyer for a second, the words translated song/sing in those passages can be translated other ways and there is more to praise (Ps 148) than just singing.

By the way thank you for raising it. Please do pick more holes! It helps me grow and learn! ;-)

Richard Walker said...

And I am open to being proven wrong, however painful that may be! :-)

Dave K said...

Sure its poetic. But isn't it poetic to say that it speaks or declares things too?

I love my music. But I don't get quite what the significance of what you're trying to say is.

BTW, have been reading your blog for a while. I like it.

Richard Walker said...

Thinking aloud, the significance is perhaps less practical and more ontological.

In short the point is: Be in humble awe at the status/place God has given us humans in the whole creation.

I'll be honest, at the time of writing, I was getting a bit nauseous with the way that society at large was shoving the two hundredth anniversary of Darwin's "incredible discovery" down our throats, steam-rollering everything we know in our spirits to be true, yet suppressing it in our wickedness.

In our denial of the truth, we raise everything beneath us in creation up to our level. (You only need to look at films like WALL-E and Madagascar to see that we have elevated created things to be little gods like us.) In so doing we have obliterated our own God-bestowed significance. We don't really ponder our God given place in the created order that much, for if we did we as a race might turn and repent.

Song is one of the bestowed significances on the human race. Angels can speak intelligibly, but not sing. (That has already caused me to fall silent during the lines of some carols this Christmas.) But then maybe I'm just an extremist wacko with too much time on his hands! ;-)

One of the reasons, I like to think, why angels enjoy listening in on the worship of the church is not check and point vindictive fingers at women who aren't wearing head coverings, but rather to enjoy watching the life of God, the manifold wisdom of God, being unfolded in song and in many other ways as they display the manifold wisdom of God.

Dave, It's great to have your comments! I love being challenged and provoked (in a healthy way, of course!).

In as much as I have gone public here, I should expect to be publicly challenged. ;-)