“There Has To Be A Song!”

The renowned composer John Philip Sousa said, “I care not who writes my country’s laws if I may write its music.”

Music is doubtless powerful. Before time as we know it began, the heaven of heavens rang out: “When the morning stars sang together, all the sons of God shouted for joy.” (Job 38:7). When revival in the Old Testament came, we are told “all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded….” (2 Chr.29:28) Ezra notes, too, that “they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because He is good, for His mercy endureth forever toward Israel.” (Ezra 3:11) Paul admonishes, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Col. 3:16)

Charles Spurgeon spared no words in exhorting his congregation: “Let no Christian be silent, or slack in praise, for this God is our God. It is to be regretted that the niceties of modern singing frighten our congregations from joining lustily in the hymns. Sing in tune and measure, so that the public may be in harmony; sing with joyful notes, and sound melodious. For the heartiest praise is due to our good Lord. No dullness should ever stupefy our psalmody, or half-heartedness cause it to limp along. Sing aloud, ye debtors to sovereign grace…let your voices express your thankfulness; let no Christian be silent in praise, for this God is our God. The gods of Greece and Rome may be worshipped well enough with classical music but Jehovah can only be adored with the heart, and that music is the best for His service which gives the heart most play. Select a sacred song and then raise it with your hearty voices…beat your tambourines, ye damsels; let the sound be loud and inspiriting. Sound the trumpets; beat the drums. God is not to be served with misery, but with mirthful music; sound ye then the loud timbrel as of old ye smote it by Egypt’s dark sea.”

Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia, sent a report of the activities of the Christians to the Roman Emperor, Trajan: “They meet at dawn to sing a hymn to Christ as God.” The Church alive has always been a church that has gone up to God in Christian praise and song.

Isaac Watts (1684-1748) was 20 years old when, one Sunday, walking home from church with his father, he commented that the metrical psalms sung that day lacked the dignity and beauty that he felt should characterize hymns of worship. His father challenged the young son to write some music that he believed would be worthy. Isaac took up the challenge and began writing hymns, eventually putting the books of Psalms into rhythmic meter for worship. Coming to Psalm 91, he rendered: “Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King; Let every heart, prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing. Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy.” Watts would write 750 more great hymns, including “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past,” eventually becoming known as “the Godfather of English Hymnody.” (Wikipedia)

Years ago, a man and wife attended our Indianapolis church and became faithful members until they were called home to glory. He was known by the name “Sparky,” and it was apparent that he had an “holy” spark about him. He had grown up in a southern state, and never had the benefit of a formal education, but you did not have to know Sparky for long before you realized he received an education that money could never buy. He had the love of Christ in his heart and majored in the Word of God. Occasionally, by request, he would sing a solo in a church service, always without accompaniment and most usually a song that none of us had ever heard. But the rafters were moved a bit, we thought, as Sparky, from the deep recesses of his soul and from the bottom of his heart, belted out a musical tribute to God—to His work of grace and to the salvation He provided with the hope of heaven. No one applauded when Sparky left the platform, for they knew that his was not a performance but an offering of praise to God. 

One August afternoon in 2004, Kelvin Krueger, our missionary intern at the time, and I visited Sparky and his wife in their home on Indy’s eastside. We had not been there too long before I noticed what looked like an old hymnal. Sparky told me it was his favorite songbook, so I thumbed through it and was delighted to find, written in his hand in the foreword section of the songbook, these words:

“There has to be a song; there are too many dark nights, too many troublesome days and too many wearisome miles. There has to be a song, to make our burdens bearable, to make our hopes believable, to transform our successes to praise, to release the chains of past defeats. Somewhere down deep in the corners of one’s heart, there has to be, like a cool drink of water, like the gentle touch of a mother’s hand, like the tender love of a child, there has to be a song.”

I knew enough of Sparky’s life to know that for him there had to be a song. Since that day when Kelvin and I sat on a couch, and each of us individually read the beautiful words handwritten in the foreword of Sparky’s favorite hymnal, Ellen and I lost a precious grandson (2007) to the ice-cold clutches of death; we both bid a final farewell to our parents, until we meet again at Jesus’ feet; and our dear friend, Kelvin, serving on the mission field in South Africa, was called home to heaven following an incapacitating stroke. And so many, many others of our church family, and our families and friends, have suffered losses and are battling physical infirmities.  I thought, when reading those lines there in Sparky’s living room, that I knew something of the meaning of “too many troublesome days…too many wearisome miles.” But I had so much more to learn, and am still learning. And that refrain, “There has to be a song,” has taken on a depth of meaning in my heart that is profound.  

Yes, there has to be a song! “Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord O my soul. While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.” (Ps. 146:1,2)

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” (Eph.5:19)

5 thoughts on ““There Has To Be A Song!”

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