Holy Spirit Song Book
Have you ever been amazed at how many Christmas songs “everybody” seems to know? We know them because we’ve heard them around Christmas since we were children. In ancient Israel, “everyone” became familiar with a certain group of songs in much the same way. Jewish people would go to Jerusalem and sing them – if they could make the trip – three times a year, during the holidays of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Today, we have the song lyrics they sang collected in our Bible in the ‘book’ called The Psalms.
Picture, if you will, New York City decorated for Christmas with lights and wreaths during a Christmas parade, or decorated with red-white-&-blue flags during a 4th of July parade. In similar fashion, ancient Jerusalem was decorated with streamers and banners during their festival holidays. At the appointed hours of sacrifice, choirs of Levites – trained musicians who cared for the Temple – would direct great processions of people through the streets and up to the Temple, while leading them in antiphonal singing of The Psalms. The scene was loud, colorful, and glorious! “Antiphonal” singing means that first the Levites would sing a phrase, and then the people would repeat it back. If you know the worship song “Hail Jesus, You’re My King”, you get the idea. But the musical feel was that of a Middle Eastern minor key, rather than a Western European major key. So the vibe was more like “Hava Nagila” as opposed to “Do Re Mi”. The bottom line is that the singing of worship songs was a very important part of what it meant to be a Godly person in the Old Testament, and the Book of Psalms was their songbook.
But does this importance-of-worship-singing idea continue into the New Testament? If one understands the context of the Gospels and Epistles, the answer is absolutely “Yes”. First of all, Jesus and his disciples concluded the Last Supper by singing a medley made up of Psalm 115-118, which was the traditional Passover Hallel (Mark 14:22-26). To me — because the Last Supper is so important in the model of Godliness that He left for us to follow — the singing of this medley was a clear invitation to future believers like you and me to feature worship songs at our Christian gatherings! But beyond that, we have the famous admonition from the Apostle Paul, instructing believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit by making melody in their hearts with 1) Psalms, and 2) hymns, and 3) spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:17-19). I agree with those who say Paul was probably speaking of 1) Temple Psalms (which we have discussed), 2) popular Christian favorites of his day (sort of like Christian radio songs currently in vogue) and 3) melodies given spontaneously by the Holy Spirit! In any case, If you believe in Jesus, you are now the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and God’s Temple has always been a place of song (1 Corinthians 6:19)!
So, the next time you go to church, or turn on Christian radio, or play your favorite worship CD, remember how important your singing is to God, and sing with all your heart! And if you are one of the relatively few who have a musical gifting from God, it is not a small thing. It is a very, very big deal! Not just for you, but for the benefit of everyone else in the Body of Christ who wants to sing praises to Jesus!