And I wondered, Why is that? Why are we commanded to sing? What's so important about singing?
Because, again, when you step back and think about it this is an interesting point of distinction. If I never went to church I wouldn't sing a whole lot. Yeah, I'd sing here and there with the radio or strumming my guitar. But not like or as much as I sing at church. At the end of the day if I don't go to church I sing hardly at all.
Christians, it seems, are a people who sing.
Pondering this, the following story from the book of Acts came to mind, the story of Paul and Silas's arrest in Philippi:
Acts 16.22-25I wonder why Paul and Silas were singing in jail. They had just been savagely beaten. They had open wounds, were bruised, were suffering from blood loss and they couldn't move much (even to relieve themselves) due to their feet being in stocks. They had to be feeling pretty grim.
The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
And so they sang.
This made me think of the singing during the American Civil Rights Movement. Singing is what drove the movement. People would gather in churches and sing Freedom songs before going out to face angry mobs. And then they sang on the way to jail. And then they sang in the jail. They never stopped singing.
I think for the same reason Paul and Silas were singing. To keep their courage up. Singing is a way of resisting despair and fear. Singing is an act of resistance.
I've witnessed this myself. Some nights at the study I lead at a local prison I can tell the men are down, depressed, discouraged or despairing. Some weeks are hard weeks. And when I get a sense of this, that it's been a particularly hard week, before I get into my material I have them pass out the songbooks so that we can sing.
And once we start singing something starts to change. The singing gets better, louder. The mood becomes more hopeful. Spirits start to lift. Smiles start to appear.
And once we start they don't want to stop.
They keep calling out the numbers to hymns, and I keep my study notes tucked safely away, and we keep singing into the night.