People from all cultures take part in singing in some form and at every age. Babies around the age of 12 months naturally sing, and by 18 months they make up recognizable, repeatable songs. By age 5, children know a fairly large selection of songs. Singing seems to be a God-given aspect of being human. One important way to use singing in your life is to use it to build up your relationship with God.
Followers of God sing throughout the Bible (e.g., Exodus 15:21; Acts 16:25). Psalm 95:1-2 says, “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” In Ephesians 5:19, we’re told we should be “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” The entire book of Psalms is the hymnal of the Bible! For the whole life of the church, Christians have been singing psalms and other portions of Scripture.
There must be many reasons why God uses music and singing so extensively in believers’ lives. Two reasons that readily connect to Scripture engagement are that singing can be a form of Scripture meditation and that singing can help us to memorize Scripture.
Singing Scripture as Meditation
One of the most powerful aspects of singing is that it connects with both your thoughts and emotions. Your relationship with God is about having the correct beliefs and thoughts about him and also about having a strong emotional connection with him, leading you to a life of obedient love. In other words, you use your head (thinking), your heart (emotions), and your hands (actions) in your relationship with God. Leaving out any one of these three aspects can lead to a shallow, unsatisfying, and potentially weak relationship with God. Singing the truths in the Bible can enhance your experience with God through his Word both emotionally and cognitively.
Singing Scriptures can deepen your thinking about God by helping you meditate on God’s truth. As you sing a passage of Scripture, you’re praying the passage. The more often you sing/pray a passage, the more you’ll understand the passage and will be changed by that understanding of God’s Word. Singing can help you in your thinking about God’s Word as well as enhance your dwelling on God’s truth.
But music doesn’t just change your thinking. Excellent music will stir your heart, enhancing the feelings that are associated with the message of the lyrics. The lyrics of songs are poetry. Because of its extensive imagery, poetry also can help you feel the truth of a message in a powerful way. Your feelings will help your motivation to act on biblical truths you are learning.
The psalms/songs of the Bible are words spoken to God or about God. They can help you to express yourself honestly to him. Through them, you can express your joys and sorrows, successes and failures, dreams and fears. Every relationship, especially your relationship with God, deepens with honesty. You are designed to have an alive and meaningful relationship with God. The songs of the Bible can help you speak to him in true Words that he inspired others to speak to him.
Australian Pastor Matt Jacoby is the lead singer of the group Sons of Korah, which sings exclusively from the book of Psalms. In his book,Deeper Places: Experiencing God in the Psalms, Matt says that singing the psalms reorients our desires. The psalms are examples not only of what God wants us to do, “but also of what he wants to do within us.” Singing God’s words becomes your guide to worshiping him and will help you encounter him. You are more likely to experience God when you’re honest with him about who you are and what you’re feeling. By singing/praying the psalms of the Bible, you can be drawn into an honest relationship with God through the help of biblical authors. You will learn by their example how to relate to and experience God.
Do you believe in God and his Word but have trouble emotionally experiencing God? Then turn to God’s Word and sing it!
Singing Scripture Helps Us Memorize Scripture
Row, Row, Row Your Boat. The ABCs. Mary Had a Little Lamb. You probably remember these songs from your childhood, despite perhaps not having sung them for years. The power of song to help remember is irrefutable. Memorizing Scripture is at the heart of Scripture engagement. Memorizing allows a passage to be on your heart and mind at all times. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” Memorizing Scripture is intentionally sowing your thoughts on God’s Word. Having Scripture memorized in song form both helps in the memorizing process and, if the tune is well done, enhances the emotions of the passage as well. For a more extensive discussion on why it is so critical to memorize Scripture, please refer to the Scripture Memorization section of this website.
We live in a time when there are numerous Scripture resources available to us, including Scripture put to music. On the Singing Scripture Resources page of this website, a collection (though not exhaustive by any means) of Scripture set to music is available. Talented musicians have put Scripture to music that appeals to children, youth, and adults. Musical tastes are very diverse, so you will most likely have to sample a number of different musicians to find both the musical style that is meaningful to you and the biblical passage you desire to memorize/meditate upon.
In addition to listening to others’ Scripture music, try creating your own! The time you spend mulling over a passage and writing the right tune to go with the words will help deepen the impact of the passage in your own life. The more you invest in a project, the more that project means to you. Perhaps even working together with others to make this a group project would be meaningful. When you’re finished, consider singing your passage to another group of people. The psalms of the Bible are meant to be sung in a public setting; you can lead a group of people to follow in this rich tradition.
Along with writing your own tunes, you can also “borrow” a tune from a song you already know and put in new Scripture lyrics. Having memorized the tune already, you’ll then be able to focus on memorizing the passage. Many hymns of the church used popular tunes from the time period they were written. Using popular tunes today to develop Scripture songs is always an option.
Music is very powerful. It connects with both your mind and your heart in ways that deeply impact your life. Choosing the right music in your life is an important decision. Saying, “I just like the tune; the lyrics don’t impact me” is naïve. Singing Scripture—meeting God in his Word through song—is a potent spiritual discipline. Over time, your musical choices, and indeed everything that you choose to meditate on, will shape you. Singing and listening to God’s Word will increase your personal encounters with God. Knowing and loving God fulfills your ultimate purpose and is where you will find your deepest joy.