The People Who Sing
“In the end, all shall be music.” This saying of, I believe, Jonathan Edwards, the great American theologian and preacher, captures in its poetry a reality that is deeply resonant with us who belong to the church of Jesus Christ. For there is something essentially musical about being the redeemed people of God. We belong to the God who sings out His joy in redemption over us, and through the Holy Spirit of God we sing back songs of joy in His great redeeming works. When Israel was saved through the sea, and their enemies were destroyed, all they could do was sing and dance to it.
Poetry does something that simple prose cannot do; music does something that simple recitation cannot do; dancing does something that simple walking cannot do. At their best, each give an “emotional-in-rational” response to the truth of God. That clunky phrase, “emotional-in-rational” is an attempt to find that combination of feeling and thought that is the truest response to the truth of God. (C. S. Lewis explores this in his first published prose work, The Pilgrim’s Regress.) Emotion and rationality by themselves end in very messy and self-indulgent ways. Yet the two together belong to loving the Lord with all of our soul and mind. Combined with the will (heart) and the body (strength), they make the great unified quartet of powers by which we love God.
What do the people who sing, sing about? The song of Miriam, Moses and the people tells us – they sing about God the Saviour and about His saving acts. There is something very definite about their songs – they are not feeling-dominated but act-dominated. This is what enables the songs to be about God. (Feeling-dominated songs tend to be about ourselves, what’s happening in us; and there is a place for this – but it is a very secondary place.)
And the acts of God also then make a very definite statement about which God we are praising and rejoicing over. It is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t worship some generic “god”, some abstract “You” who ends up being closer to our ideal boyfriend/girlfriend than the God who saves!
And the acts of God have their place in a wider plan. All that God is doing in Jesus Christ is leading to the day when He will “bring [us] in and plant [us] on [His] holy mountain.” The people who sing have eternity in their hearts – an eternity with a definite destination that is settled by the saving acts of God in Christ.