“Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.”
Songs can express our heart position like nothing else. I remember watching a documentary on prisons in America in which many of the prisoners expressed their feelings, fears, and frustrations in music and song. Though talent among the prisoners varied, they all felt an irresistible urge to use music and song to give expression to their inward heart position. We see this kind of thing in the 137th psalm. The writer spoke for many who had been carried away captive by Babylon. “By the rivers of Babylon,” he wrote, “there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:1-4). Ironically, the psalmist penned this song to express the fact that he was too brokenhearted to sing! Though this is tragic, it is nonetheless quite understandable. What is harder to explain, at least naturalistically, is the reaction of Paul and Silas during their unjust incarceration at Philippi. Luke explains that they were arrested, beaten, and thrown into prison, their feet fastened securely in the stocks (Acts 16:22-24). Incredibly, “at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25). Circumstances seemed to matter little to these born-again servants of God. By the Spirit of the Lord, they were able to focus on invisible, spiritual realities and were encouraged and strengthened in doing so. May God grant us similar attitudes and perspectives. The Lord who inhabits the praises of Israel (Psalms 22:3) heard their praises and prayers. He graciously responded by opening the prison doors and releasing Paul and Silas from their bonds (Acts 16:26). The amazing episode ended with the conversion of their jailer and his family. It is a beautiful, touching account (Acts 16:27-34). I have often wondered what songs Paul and Silas were singing that night. Scholars tell us that the New Testament text itself contains sections that look like poetical creedal statements. These sections include 1 Corinthians 15:3-7; Philippians 2:6-11; 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 2:11-13. Perhaps Paul and Silas were singing some or all of these creedal statements, not only in praise to God, but as evangelistic tools to reach the other prisoners. The inspired truths they sang, coupled with their calm, content, and worshipful attitudes (not to mention the supernatural phenomena!) were together an unbeatable combination; souls were translated from darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son that night. May the Lord cause the meditations of our purified hearts to dictate our outward conduct in similar fashion, and may this be part of His blessed, irresistible witness to the world.
God bless you,