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There are places in the Bible that the sheer power of song explodes upon our understanding. I mean far more than the power of song to express joy, rejoicing, praiseful thanks or unified worship. Im talking about song as an instrument of miracles--of power works; about instances in which the Bible shows songs becoming power-filled for battle, for breakthrough and for birthing.
1. The Song of Battle
The story of Judeas King Jehoshaphat and his victory over the invasion staged by the combined troops of Moab and Ammon is a great argument against the supposition that history is boring.
Vastly outnumbered by an alien host bent on their extermination, he and his people made the Lord their first point of resort. With prayer and fasting they turned to Him, rather than appealing to a neighboring nation as a hired gun to come and rescue them. Their call to God was answered:
"Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but Gods...You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you" (2 Chronicles 20:15-17).
Jehoshaphat and the people responded with awe and praise, but what makes this event memorable--and unique in the annals of military encounter--is the strategy they employed for battle. They took a peculiar action based in the raw conviction that God meant what He said: "You will not need to fight in this battle."
The choir preceded the army and the singers preceded the warriors.
Nobody dictated this arrangement, its just that they concluded this battle was different. Heres how it happened:
"And they rose early in the morning...and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.
"And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.
"Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir...and they were defeated...they helped to destroy one another" (2 Chronicles 20:20-23).
Gods people lifted their song of praise and expressed their belief in His promise. When they did, their enemies were so confounded by it all they turned on one another!
Its a great story, but is it relevant to today? Although some people are nervous about taking Old Testament events and applying the principles of faith they provide to todays circumstances, I think theres truth here for us now. Let me illustrate.
Wyn Lewis is Pastor of Londons Kensington Temple, just down the road from...Kensington Palace. He recently told me of a demanding season of spiritual struggle he and his congregation experienced some years ago.
An exceptional time of evangelism had brought burgeoning growth, but it had also attracted the attention of a band of spiritists in that part of London. An entire coven of witches had begun attempting an infiltration of the services at the Temple.
Anyone who knows the concentrated power of evil when demonic powers are focused against a holy enterprise can appreciate the invisible warfare that begins to ignite in such a setting. Wyn told me:
"One evening, as I rose to preach, the oppression in the sanctuary was so strong I knew I must do something before beginning my message.
"The building was full, mostly with Christians committed to Christs testimony. I said, Brethren and sisters, I think you sense that we are facing a spiritual battle. You and I know that our strength is simply to lift up praise --to sing the overcoming song of our Lord Jesus victory in the Cross.
"I began to lead the people, singing one song after another about the Blood of Jesus; knowing that the Bible teaches that hell is routed when believers exalt the blood of the Lamb at the heart of their testimony (Revelation 12:11).
"As we were singing, suddenly those who had been assigned to bind in an unholy agreement against Gods free and powerful workings in that place, began to rise and run from the room--hands over their ears against the praises of the saints. Needless to say, it was a night of great victory and salvation, and it brought a conclusion to that particular season of spiritual skirmish."
The song of the Lord is a mighty instrument for spiritual battle. Its a timeless resource which Gods Word reveals as a powerful part of the arsenal He has given for our triumph in spiritual conflict.
2. The Song Of Breakthrough
The breakthrough of the Gospel into Europe in the first century was supernatural by every criteria.
--It began as the result of a Holy Spirit-inspired vision which led Paul and his party to move west instead of east in their evangelistic pursuits.
--It was birthed at the edge of a river as Gods Word was preached and confirmed by His power as they gained their first European converts.
--It was assailed by a repeated and deceptive testimony, shouted from the lips of a demon-possessed woman whose sorceries had gained influence over many in that area.
--The sorcerer was delivered from satanic torments when Paul cast the demon from her, setting the woman free to follow Christ.
--For their act of mercy, manifest in that act of exorcism, Paul and Silas were cast in prison, a clear effort of the recently expelled demon to restrain further gospel advance into its principality--the doorway to an entire continent.
--From within their prison cell, the two beaten-and-bound missionaries began to sing praises to God. Even as they sang, an earthquake shook the area, resulting in the miracle of their jailors repentance and his whole households conversion (Acts 16:1-40).
This cluster of events bursts like pressed grapes, flowing the wine of Holy Spirit operations of power and establishing a beachhead for the gospel on a new continent. It seems impossible to cite any single event as pivotal, but one thing shines clearly: the original breakthrough of the gospel westward into Europe was not achieved without an apostolic experience in the sheer power of song.
Not every analyst may relate Paul and Silas song to their miraculous deliverance from the jail. However, the Bible supports the proposition that such may have been the case; that song is a mighty means of breakthrough and liberation:
"You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance" (Psalm 32:7).
"The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation" (Exodus 15:2).
"Behold, God is my salvation. I will trust and not be afraid, for YAH, the Lord, is my strength and my song. He also has become my salvation."
"Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:2-3).
A close examination of these and other passages shows that songs are not only offerings of praise for what God has done, but instruments of our present partnering with His almightiness unto deliverance. Somehow in ways which defy our analysis, the song of the Lord on the lips of His people has a potential for contributing to spiritual overthrow, upheaval and breakthrough. Just as music in the physical realm may strike a wavelength that shatters glass, so songful worship in the spiritual realm can shake Satans dominion, topple principalities of hell and extend the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ!
Yet one more text reveals another attribute of worship musics incredible power.
3. The Song Of Birthing
Isaiah 54 opens with a paradoxical command: "Sing, O barren one!", the irony being that no one would direct a despairing reject to sing.
In ancient Israel, nothing less prompted song than the barren condition of a woman. She was disenfranchised, discredited, suspect of spiritual unworthiness and potentially subject to divorce, all on the grounds of her biological incapability of childbearing. Into this depressing situation of personal hopelessness, the Prophet commands the woman to sing; and incredibly, with his next words, directs her to start preparing a nursery for there are babies (plural) coming!
"Enlarge the place of your tent...for you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations...you will forget the shame of your youth...for your Creator is your husband, the Lord of Hosts" (Isaiah 54:1-5).
An entire spool of thought unrolls a continuous thread of blessing which is promised to follow upon the heels of song alone! A tapestry of joy including multiple births is prophesied, complete with promises of widespread fruit and joyous consequences flowing from the midst of the singers song. This passage of promise is far more than poetry.
Here is the declaration of a principle which shines from other passages in the Word of God; for song and birth--praises and new life--are linked together time and time again. The cause and effect relationship are not always the same, but God being the Author of all that is, the issue raised is not our sequence in song but the suffocation of song. The Bible reveals that songlessness--depression, defeat, discouragement, despair--restricts the possible inflow of new life. The spirit of heaviness blankets souls and suffocates hope. But song has a power to explode despair and expand a space for hope to begin.
From the "birth" of creation, when Gods creative activity was accompanied by music, as "the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy," (Job 38:7), to the birth-time songs of Hannah and Mary (1 Samuel 2:1-10; Luke 1:46-55), song and new life are joined together. The distinctive thing about Isaiahs words is that the song he calls for is not just a joyous response to a birth, it declares the promise and sets the atmosphere for its fulfillment! Its a possibility in songs sheer dynamic that may well be believed today.
When The Barren Sang
It doubtless seemed "just another Sunday" as Mike and Cheri were seated with the congregation that day over a decade ago. I didnt know them at all --they were new to our assembly and it would be a full year until I actually met them.
They probably werent thinking about the matter that morning, but the fact was, Mike and Cheri were unable to have children. Medical examination had indicated that it was very unlikely they would ever enjoy the parental privilege short of adopting a baby.
Of course, I knew nothing of these facts, nor of their prayerful desire that after eleven years of marriage they might conceive a child.
That day my subject was "The Conceiving and Bearing of Life." It wasnt really a message on having children, but on overcoming any barrenness in the bleak spots of our life. Isaiah 54 was my text, "Sing, O barren," and I discussed Gods call to worship and to praise Him at any point of our lives which seems hopelessly unfruitful. It was then that something very special took place.
My understanding of at least one manifestation of the spiritual gift called "a word of knowledge" (1 Corinthians 12:8), is that the Holy Spirit will give someone both supernatural insight and a corresponding promise from God regarding the issue being revealed. Thats exactly what happened while I was preaching. I paused midway in the sermon, sensing the Holy Spirits presence and prompting, then I spoke.
"Church," I said, "I need to interrupt myself for just a moment.
"My message has specifically not had to do with natural childbearing, but with life flowing into barren parts of our lives in other respects. Still the Holy Spirit is impressing me that there is a couple here this morning who has longed for a child, who has been told they cannot have one and whom the Lord wants to know He is present to speak to your need in a personal way this morning. His word to you is this: Begin to fill your house with song, and as you do, the life-giving power of that song will establish a new atmosphere and make way for the conception which you have desired."
I didnt ask anyone to indicate their personal situation or response to that word. Rather, I simply went on with the message as I had planned, basically forgetting about the incident. Until nearly a year later.
I engaged Mike and Cheri in conversation that day at the church, prior to the Sunday they were presenting their baby girl for dedication. Although they had joined our church, I had never had a conversation with them, and it was especially nice to talk with them because they were so excited about their baby. After brief opening exchanges, Mike came to the point.
"Pastor Jack, we wanted to talk with you for a few minutes because of this Sundays dedication of our baby. Theres something about it we felt you would want to know..."
With that, he recounted the episode of that Sunday about eleven months before, of their childlessness, their prayer, the Holy Spirits word to them and--their baby.
"Pastor," Mike continued, "we went home that day and began to do what the Holy Spirit instructed us--we began to fill our house with song. Cheri and I would walk hand in hand into each room and simply sing praises and worship to the Lord. We just wanted you to know that the baby were bringing for presentation to the Lord this Sunday is the fruit of that song, that the Lord did fulfill His word given that morning."
Can you imagine how I rejoiced with them?
How gracious our Lord and how tender His ways!
That babys birth was a holy phenomenon, not conjured up by mans efforts or enthusiasm. But it was the precious fruit of one couples natural union which, until the divinely appointed song of the Lord entered their situation, had not found the fruitfulness for which they longed.
And so we dedicated the baby. But theres one last footnote to the story. Its about Aimee, a little eight-year-old girl who came to the prayer room door and signaled that she wanted to talk with me, and who then sang me "the song the Lord had given to her." I was especially touched that morning as little Aimee went back out the door, for as her song was echoing in my ears, I was praising God for the life-begetting power of song. I was reveling in how it can transmit from one generation to another where simple, childlike hearts --and congregations--will welcome it.
For, you see, Aimee is Mike and Cheris daughter. She is the baby who was born as a result of their "filling the house with song," even though years of barrenness without hope had preceded. She was the fruit of a song--a song that now was finding a place in her young life. Who knows what richness her song will bring as her years follow?
Who knows what a new song may bring to you?