“Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.” Ps 27:6
“Just as singing is a natural effect of joy in the heart so it has also a natural power of rendering the heart joyful…There is nothing that so clears away for your prayers, nothing that so disperses dullness of heart, nothing that so purifies the soul from poor and little passions, nothing that so opens heaven, or carries your heart so near it, as these songs of praise. They create a sense of delight in God, they awaken holy desires, they teach you how to ask, and they prevail with God to give. They kindle a holy flame, they turn your heart into an altar, your prayers into incense, and carry them as a sweet smelling savor to the throne of grace.” William Law
The enemy we fight is so clever and versatile. He comes at us from all angles. But, God has not left us vulnerable. He has given us all the weapons we need to stand firm in the faith. At this point in Psalm 27, we discover a weapon that could certainly be called “unconventional.” We are introduced to this weapon when the psalmist, suddenly and unexpectedly, turns his thoughts toward worship in the tabernacle: He declares, “At his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.” [Ps 27:6] Why does he put that here? It seems so awkward and out of place. He has been talking about God’s protection. What does sacrifice, shouts of joy and singing have to do with fighting our enemy and spiritual weapons?
I think I am correct to say that the vast majority of Christians have never thought of praise and singing as weapons in the arsenal of spiritual warfare. I know I haven’t. But, a quick survey of scriptures reveals several incidents where God’s people conquered enemies by using praise and song. Here are examples of some of them.
2 Chronicles 20, tells the story of a vast army coming against Israel and their king, Jehoshaphat. The king, knowing that the armies are too great for Israel to win, stood before the assembled people and prayed to the Lord for deliverance. First, he declares the greatness of the Lord and then reminds the Lord that they were his people. Then, he cries out for help. The Lord responded by sending a prophet Jahaziel with this word of hope: “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.'” [2 Chron 20:17]
On the day of battle, Jehoshaphat exhorts the people to have faith in God and to trust the words of the prophets. Then, 2 Chronicles 20:21-22 records, “After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.” As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” God defeated the enemies as His people sang his praises.
Fast forward with me to the New Testament. In Acts 16, we see that Paul and Silas have been arrested, stripped, severely flogged, thrown into an inner cell and fastened securely in stocks. Now, what do you think you or I would do if we found ourselves in such a predicament? In agony, unable to sleep, not knowing what would happen next, what would we do? We would pray. They did that. But would we also sing hymns to God? That is the surprising thing Paul and Silas do in the midst of the prison, in the middle of the night. What happened next was unbelievable. Verse 26 records: “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.” Again, just as he did with Jehoshaphat and Israel, God receives an offering of praise in song and turns it into a power for deliverance. God brings victory for his servants and defeat to his enemy and glory to his name through songs of praise.
Similar stories come from the lives of modern day missionaries. Mary Slosser of China once said, “I sing the Doxology and dismiss the devil.” Amy Carmichael of India wrote, “I believe truly that Satan cannot endure it and so slips out of the room- more or less- when there is true song.” Martin Luther, the guiding light of the Reformation, wrote these things about music: “Music drives away the devil and makes people gay.” “Next after theology I give to music the highest place and greatest honor.” “We know that to the devil music is distasteful and insufferable.” “My heart bubbles up and overflows in response to music, which has so often refreshed me and delivered me from dire plagues.”
In his Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis makes a similar point. Toadpipe, Screwtape’s secretary, is in the midst of instructing Wormwood on the finer points of spiritual warfare. He bemoans the subtle and unfair tactics that the Enemy [God] employs, like speaking of “fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses,” when his real purpose is to bring not loss and death but “pleasures at his right hand.” Heaven in fact, is “the regions where there is only life and therefore all that is not music is silence.” That thought provokes this angry out-burst from Screwtape: “Music and silence-how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered hell…no square inch of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise-the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and vile- Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end.”
Our Enemy promotes noise. Our God promotes music. Noise fosters alienation, confusion, purposeless, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness. Music fosters peace, order, harmony, rest, hope, joy and pleasure. The Enemy seeks to foment noise in our lives to rob us of the rest and the joy we have found in Jesus. Music, the harmonic flow of the heart toward God in faith and praise and truth drives noise from our lives. It unites head and heart in the moment of battle. It grants boldness when facing overwhelming odds. It gives joy in the midst of a night of pain and uncertainty. It gives courage and even joy at the moment of our death.
On January 8, 1956, Jim Elliot and four other young missionaries prepared to bring the gospel to the feared Auca Indian tribe of the jungles of Ecuador. Their last recorded act before they left was to sing this hymn together:
We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
And needing more each day thy grace to know,
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
We rest on thee, and in thy name we go.
All five of those young men would die that day for their faith in the Lord and for the sheer joy of being privileged to declare his gospel to the ends of the earth. God protected them too, from fear, cowardice, unbelief and noise. The enemy could not stop or prevent them from accomplishing their mission of joy. The pleasures of God and the harmony that he brought to their hearts was strengthened and released in the sacrifice of praise and the making of music to the Lord. Music, praise, and hymns which extol the awesome glory of our God, are mighty weapons in times of spiritual warfare.
We have two great weapons in worship: the Word of God and song. The next time your heart is filled with the noise of the enemy, try singing God’s praises. Drive away the noise of hell with the music of heaven!
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