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“Sing for joy to God our strength;

make a joyful noise to the God of Jacob.”

-Psalm 81:1

When we visit the doctor’s office, or even the dentist, one of the first things they’ll do is check our blood pressure. It’s an essential preliminary diagnostic. Before they get into looking at bumps on the skin, cleaning our teeth, or even stitching up a wound, they need to know the condition of our hearts.

Singing congregational hymns and songs of praise as worship is sort of like our spiritual blood pressure. Ever been in a church worship service where people mosey in after the time of worship? Ever visited a church where it's considered normal or okay for folks, maybe even church staff, to continue their private conversations during a special time dedicated to praising God? Even been surrounded by people, or maybe even a whole congregation, who are present but not passionately singing praise to Christ Jesus? It’s not just odd, Scripture reveals that God actually considers it loathsome.

Scripture makes no mention of our sitting back and delegating our privilege of praise to the band, choir, or worship team. Chris Tomlin once said the problem with many leading worship today is they’re not actually leading anyone into anything. Many are nothing more than performers craving the attention of the spotlight. What Scripture compels us to do is to sing praises unto the LORD… to “make a joyful noise!”

The root issue isn’t that of lacking a good singing voice or our being bashful. The same dispassionate silent spectators on Sunday mornings are those unashamedly singing their hearts out in their vehicles and showers. In a truly miraculous turn of events, their singing voices simultaneously appear while their bashfulness evaporates as they rock out at a festival or on stage at a karaoke bar.

Ultimately, what it boils down to is a heart issue. When our stone hearts of sin truly are transformed into new hearts in our being reborn of the Holy Spirit’s power, then, songs of praise, like exhaling, are the most natural expression of that reality.

Psalm 81 provides clarity and rebuke for much of what ails not only our country but the local church too. In v.4 the LORD says, “For this is a statute… an ordinance of the God of Jacob. He has set it up as a decree…” The LORD goes on to say, in v.8, “Listen, My people, and I will admonish you… if you would only listen to Me!” The problem, as God reveals in vv.11-12 is that “My people did not listen to My voice… did not obey Me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own plans.”

So what is the LORD’s command? What are we supposed to be listening to? What’s the statute? What’s His ordinance? What has the LORD decreed we do to evidence we truly are a kingdom of priests and a people set apart for Christ and His Great Commission? We find out when we go back to the very first verse of Psalm 81:

“Sing for joy to God our strength;

make a joyful noise to the God of Jacob.”

-Psalm 81:1

The answer is a united congregation singing joyful songs of praise to our God of Holy Trinity!

The reason we end up in dark times of rampant and flourishing evil is always the same, and it dates back to Eden’s garden. Quite simply, we don’t listen to God’s voice. We refuse to obey our Creator and Sovereign. Our sinful hearts are stubborn, so the LORD gives us over to our own plans. Sure, we might show up on Sunday mornings out of some warped sense of religious obligation or guilt instilled by a parent or pastor, but the true litmus test is whether or not we’re lifting up our voices in praise - always public and always vocal.

Churches can be part of some state or national cooperative missions program. We can boast about our men’s, women’s, kids’, and youth ministries on our church websites. The pastor can show up every Sunday and preach solid exegetical sermons. The band, choir, or worship team can blow the roof off with their performances… But what Psalm 81 reveals is that the LORD of our redemption, our God who has saved us by grace through faith, has given us the gift and privilege of praise - always public and always vocal - for our benefit as an essential diagnostic of the spiritual health of His people.

Ephesians 5:15-20 reveals, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to unsavedness. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The public language of the Holy Spirit is not, in fact, angelic tongues. On the contrary, 1 Cor 14:2 states, “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries in the Spirit.” Nowhere in Scripture are we told to conduct business meetings according to Robert’s Rules of Order. Instead, the common language of the gathered church, which reveals our being filled and led by the Holy Spirit, is that of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your hearts to the Lord.

The Lord’s admonition and rebuke aren’t out of some twisted and sadistic pleasure. In Psalm 83 the psalmist reveals the LORD’s heart, even in divine rebuke, discipline, and punishment: “ that they will seek Your Name, LORD… may they know that You alone - whose Name is the LORD - are the Most High over the whole earth!”

If only we would listen… If only we would lift up a song… the LORD promises:

“I would quickly subdue their enemies

and turn my hand against their foes.”

Those who hate the LORD

would cower to Him;

their doom would last forever.

But He would feed him

with the best wheat.

“I would satisfy you

with honey from the Rock.”

-Psalm 81:14-16

Turns out the simple solution to all the rebellion and evil, in fact, everything that is broken and wrong in this fallen world, is as simple as a song of praise to God - our glorious honey spilling forth from stone hearts made new and alive in Christ!

The question is, will you listen to the LORD’s rebuke? Will you obey His decree? Will you sing songs of praise to Christ Jesus our victorious and resurrected LORD this Sunday? Will you offer Him sweet honey in declaring:

He is risen.

He is risen indeed!

Grace and Peace,


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