"Sing"

Are we sufficiently alive to the fact that the first business of the Christian is to sing, and that if praise be silent we do not glorify God, no matter how zealous we may be in other matters? Do we not need to be reminded that "whoso offereth praise glorifieth God;" and to be lifted, perhaps, out of the gloom and despondency of the earthly outlook — and no year within our memory has opened with prospect so cheerless as this — into the triumphant gladness of the ransomed company, that songs of praise may more constantly engage our hearts and lips. We believe we do; and so feel constrained to say at the opening of this year, "Brethren, let us sing."

Do we belong to the ransomed company? Then let us not forget that there lie behind us foes, broken and defeated; death's power, confronted and annulled; the judgment of God, borne and exhausted; and that there shines before us the glory of our God, our heavenly destiny; and as we keep these things in mind, let us sing.

In the days of our spiritual youth we sang, when we went after our Lord in the wilderness — and He has not forgotten the sweetness of those first feeble notes — but now we dwell, we fear, so little in the glory above that we are easily overcome by the circumstances beneath, and so the chords of our souls become mute, or, if they speak at all, it is with the discordant sound of discontent. We are often like pilgrims, footsore and weary, with hearts disconsolate, and harps unstrung; who have lost the joy of redemption, and who have forgotten that their resources in God are inexhaustible, and who do not consider that their song is immortal because the cause of it can neither know dishonour nor decay: who do not consider the imperishable character of the glory of "JESUS CHRIST the same yesterday, and today and for ever." If this is so, how much we need reviving, and may the Holy Ghost revive us by the ministry of Christ. Let us during the opening moments of this year stir up our minds to consider Him, our Lord and Saviour — His love, His grace, His glory, who is infinitely better than the best that can be said of Him, and as surely as we do it we shall sing, for as our hearts indite this good matter they will bubble up — they will be as the pen of the ready writer.

It is well known that the first mention of singing in the Bible is in Exodus 15. With an outstretched arm Jehovah had redeemed His people from a long and cruel slavery. He had overwhelmed their foes in the waters of death; He had set them free. Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, "I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea." Israel's deliverance from the ruthless oppressor is a figure of our deliverance from a greater tyrant and a harder bondage, and it is the heart that is in the sense of deliverance that breaks into song. If we know the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and the deliverance that He has gained for us by His death and resurrection, we shall not be silent, and sweet to Him our song shall be.

"Sing" is the first word of Isaiah 54. Nor would any other word have been in place there. There is that appropriateness, that divine perfection about it that does not surprise the reverent reader of the Word. How could the heart and lip but sing that had read and understood Isaiah 53, that had believed that He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed . . . when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand."

Here in the story of His unspeakable love and signal triumph we find our food for song. Let others sing their anthems in praise of the country of their birth, and raise their paeans in honour of war; God has given to us a nobler theme:

"Of Christ and His love will we sing,
None other our lips shall employ."

A famous bard has written mournfully of the harp that hangs voiceless upon the silent walls of an ancient fortress, or which, if it speaks, has but one chord that breaks the night to tell its tale of ruin. Why are those harp-strings still? Because the glory of the former days is vanished; the royal line is extinct, and the castle a broken heap. Good cause indeed for a silent harp!

But we have no such cause for silence, for the glory of God, which is our joy because we are His children, can never pass away. It was maintained to the full in the life of Jesus here below; it was established on an impregnable basis by His death upon the cross; and it shines today, like a glorious sun which shall never set or be eclipsed, in His blessed face, a Man upon the throne of God. The world does not see it yet, though it shall in the day of His appearing, but we see it; and as we behold the glory of the Lord our hearts vibrate with praise. He cannot fail; and He is the Firstborn of a new race, to every man of which He gives eternal life; and that which He builds shall never be overthrown.

Of old the exiles from Jerusalem sat down in sorrow beside the waters of Babylon, and hanged their harps upon the willow trees. The fame of their sweet melodies had reached that heathen city before them, and their captors demanded a song from them. But they could not sing, for God's centre for His people was a silent ruin, and they, driven far from it, were strangers in a strange land. But we have no such cause for silent sadness, for Christ is now God's Centre for His saints, and He can never fail, and from Him and His love no power can separate them. And as we think of Him as the glorious and never-failing Centre for His saints we learn what Christian singing is in its truest and highest character.

"The ransomed of the Lord [can] come . . . with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads." They can "break forth into joy and sing together," "with the voice together [can] they sing;" and the stones of the street might well find tongue and cry their shame if they were silent in the presence of the unmingled grace of God, and the glory of Christ. But there is something more wonderful than the praise of saints, and this we are apt to overlook. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself has said: "In the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee" (Ps. 22:22). "In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee" (Heb. 2:12). This we must not pass by as though it were a matter of small importance, for in it lies the inner and the deeper joys. Here we reach, not the courtyard of the tabernacle where the brazen altar stands, but the Holiest of all, the very sanctuary of God, where He delights in the unveiled perfections of His beloved Son, and where the Son of God delights in the Father's love, well-known, and His eternal purposes secured.

To understand it, we must trace the road that led up to it, and discern the purpose that led the Lord to take that road. We may trace the road in Psalm 22. How dark, how terrible, it was! We are allowed to stand by and listen to the cries that broke the darkness from the lips of the One in whose heart every sorrow found its centre; and knowing Him to be the Lord of the universe, and the only-begotten and well-beloved of the Father we might well ask, Why did He tread that road? Was it to save us from the lake of fire? It was, but more. Was it to deliver us from Satan's power and make us happy and free? It was, but more. Was it that, justified from all things, we might he glorified in heaven with Him. It was, but more than this also.

"No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John 1:18); and He has declared Him as the One who seeks true worshippers, who shall worship Him, the Father, in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). But those whom the Father sought were dead in trespasses and sins, they lay under the judgment of God, and in the power of the devil, and from thence they had to be extricated and righteously set free; and Jesus died for this. He laid down His life that He might take it again, and that, as the corn of wheat that falls into the ground and dies, and so brings forth much fruit, He might bring those for whom He died into association with Himself in His resurrection life, and declare unto them, as His brethren, the Father's name, that name of ineffable love, that they might share with Him the joy of this, to them, new relationship, and know the love peculiar to it.

Let us consider this greatest of all the thoughts of God to us-ward, and may we by the Holy Spirit's power enter into it in a larger measure. When here on earth the Lord declared the Father's name to His disciples, but they were dull of hearing and slow of heart; they believed that He came from God, but they did not understand this revelation of the Father, and so there were none with whom the Lord could share His thoughts, or who could have fellowship with Him in the Father's love. But in resurrection all is changed. He can, now that is a fact, stand triumphant in the midst of His brethren — the assembly, and there declare to ears that can hearken and to hearts that can appreciate what He knows of the Father.

Those of us whose privilege it is to sometimes speak of Jesus and His love that surpasses all human thought have known what it is to have our souls glow and thrill with the blessedness of that of which we speak until every chord within us broke out in song.

We speak with reverence, for we tread here on holy ground, but it seems to us that thus it is in an infinitely blessed way with our risen Lord as He declares to His brethren the Father's name. He has found a company at last, redeemed from the kingdom of darkness, sanctified and made one with Him, indwelt by His Spirit, and His brethren for ever, in the midst of which He may tell out the secrets of the Father's love, and the joy of it makes Him sing. For surely this is the connection: "I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee" (Heb. 2:12). He is the Singer there. He it is that makes sweet music in the Father's ear. He sings praise unto God. But do not we sing also? Yes, it is our high privilege so to do, for we are one with Him in that favoured spot, His brethren. His Father is our Father and His God is our God, and all that He has received of His Father He makes known to us. But whether we take up our privilege in this respect or not depends upon our spiritual state. If we are in His presence, absorbed with Him, with ears attuned to His words, then shall our voices be attuned to His and we shall render unto the Father sweeter praise than angel voice can sing.

How wonderful is this perfect love of Jesus. When the question of judgment arose He stood alone. "Let these go their way" expressed His tender thought for them, but now having drunk the dreadful cup, and passed through all the darkness, He calls His own to share His joy and sing with Him the triumph song.

Brethren, let us sing — "speaking to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord," for our song is immortal since the subject of it can know neither dishonour nor decay — "JESUS CHRIST THE SAME YESTERDAY, AND TODAY, AND FOR EVER."