My father passed away last month (February, 2013). For twenty-one days he tried to recover in the ICU, but to no avail. It occurred to me, a few days into those three weeks, that I was waking up each day with a different hymn in mind. That’s not something that usually happens to me. More strangely, it wouldn’t always be the first verse (or best known), but sometimes a different verse I had not sung in a while. Yet the words came to mind with vivid clarity and even at the end, hymns came like a flood. Sometimes they encouraged anguish. At others, peace and calm.
For nearly six decades, hymns have been a part of my life. I usually sing from memory. I mention all this to note the importance of music among God’s people. The longest book in the Bible is a book of hymns and poems. And here, in Deuteronomy 31, as Moses and God contemplate a people without Moses’ presence and leadership, God summarizes His relationship with Israel in a song and urges Moses to teach it to them.
Music is part of our divine heritage. It brings together the truths of God in memorable fashion, engages the heart and mind together, provides a defense against sin and despair and encourages faithfulness during times of joy, sorrow, temptation and regret.
I would suggest that music does what prose alone cannot, and God knew it.
There have always been, and probably will always be, those who denigrate music in favor of singular prose, but those people will always miss a depth of spirituality that reaches to the heart.
Every Christian should own a Bible. But every Christian should also own a hymnal, and every Christian should make use of both. I can tell you, it helps to awake each day to hymn of God you can at least hear in your mind, if not sing with your mouth.