03.01 Editorial: Hymns

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

It is so sad when one glances at the faces of the youths today, whether on MRT trains, buses and along the streets. The expressions are dull and moody, as if they are bearing the entire world on their shoulders. Then when one surveys the faces of youths in the church, it is a wonder why the same blank look is found.

How does this relate to the issue of singing? A singing Christian is a joyful Christian. He may not be singing outwardly but his heart is constantly lifted up in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. He never ceases to worship God. His face is bright, ever ready to break into a smile; his lips drip with honey-sweet words, ever thanking God in all circumstances and encouraging those around him. Does this describe any of us in Truth YF?

More importantly, the first sign of a Spirit-filled Christian is a singing Christian. Ephesians 5:19 is immediately preceded by “and be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18). The Spirit of God already dwells in our hearts on the day we confessed Christ to be our Saviour, as a seal of our salvation. However, if we want to be victorious Christians in our daily life, we must constantly be filled with the Spirit. This means that we are controlled by the Spirit of God in all our thoughts, words and actions. We need His help to grow in grace and abide in Christ. Thus, when we find ourselves slow to praise God (both with our hearts and lips), and even reluctant to sing and make melody in our hearts, then it is a tell-tale sign that we are not walking close with the Lord ie we are not filled with the Spirit.

Before we could fully appreciate the beauty of singing hymns, we must then reflect whether we are obedient Christians. Are you seeking God through your bible reading and prayers? Are you still enjoying the things of the world while trying to hold on to God? Have you pushed God out of your life? Do you still love God?

While this issue aims at stirring up your love for singing hymns, I pray that it may also assist us to examine our spiritual condition. Whenever I pause to silently contemplate on the words of the hymns we sing, I do bemoan at times why I could not express my Christian experience in such language.  Is it because I am not walking well with Christ such that I do not know Him as I should? I have much to think about.

Let me end by sharing a snippet of J.S. Bach’s love for God and his calling as musician. Bach was one of the greatest music composers the world has ever known. If you recall, the haunting melody of “O Sacred Head Thou Wounded” was written by Bach. It has also been said that Bach had a reputation of being called “the fifth evangelist” (after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). When Bach read his Bible, he would often underline verses and write his comments in the margins. Here are just a couple of them (taken from Christian History Issue No. 95): “1 Chronicles 25 lists the members of the musical families of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun who are given the responsibility to lead Israel’s worship, and thus “prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals.” In the margin, Bach wrote: “NB. This chapter is the true foundation of all God-pleasing church music.”

“The heading in the Deutsche Bibel for the section 2 Chronicles 5:11-15 is “How the Glory of the Lord Appeared After Beautiful Music [in the Temple].” Bach underlined “Beautiful Music” and added in the margin by verse 13: “NB. Where there is devotional music, God with his grace is always present.”

At the end of most of Bach’s scores, he would append the letters SDG (Soli Deo Gloria — “To God alone be glory”). Music must bring glory to God. In like fashion, may this issue be to God all glory. Soli Deo Gloria!

(Written by Eileen Chee)

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