Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him all you peoples For great is his love towards us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever. Praise the Lord.
In that day you will say: “I will praise you, O Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. In that day you will say: “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb… And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
The people of God are summoned many times in the great story of our salvation to sing, to make a joyful noise to our Lord and King. Singing in scripture is the proper response to the free gift of God to us – the gift of his love, his faithfulness, his forgiveness and most of all, the gift of Jesus Christ our Saviour by whom all other gifts come to us. We sing not because we like the sound of our voices so much, but because praise is absolutely the best way to acknowledge that we are beginning to appreciate all that has been done for us. The picture of God’s people from all around the globe joining their voices in song is deeply moving, and we long to experience it for ourselves. One day, we shall!
In the meantime, the song may be hard to sing, because our experience in the world feels so far removed from that triumphant rejoicing which is described in scripture. We are bombarded with accusations of bigotry, cruelty and arrogance from a culture that rejects the gospel; we grieve for the real pain, evil and destruction of God’s beautiful creation; and sometimes we are simply made to feel utterly irrelevant to the lives of those around us – as fools with nothing to offer. It can be hard to tune in to the triumph song of God’s saints when the world’s songs are so loud in our ears.
But as we discipline ourselves to return to God’s word regularly, choosing to preach the good news to ourselves in defiance of the world, we will find that the song of heaven sounds louder again and it becomes easier to sing it with confidence.
We are assured throughout the bible narrative that what is going on around us is far from the whole picture. I find it helpful to think of the scriptures of the Old and New testaments as a minority report on history – a counter-cultural understanding of events based on a conviction that God Almighty is on the throne, that He is faithful, powerful and purposeful, and that His plan is the redemption of a people for himself and the full realisation of his kingdom.
As people who believe in the resurrected Christ, we have every reason to be certain that God will fulfill his plans, that we are as secure in our eternal future as if we were already through death and entered upon it. NOTHING can take that inheritance from us, and no experience of pain, abandonment, age, disappointment need silence our song. Rather, as the realities of this broken world press upon us, we can take comfort in that song which speaks of undying love, fulness of life, a reality more glorious and satisfying than anything we have known here.
Great Author of creation’s song, I praise you this day out of my full heart, and thank you for all that has been done for me in your plan, so that I have a place with you now in glory. Thank you that I can sing heaven’s triumph song here, in defiance of the dark, and in witness to the light. Thank you that as your people sing, they encourage one another and grow in strength. We are created to sing this great music together to your glory, and I pray that no matter what circumstances may weigh upon me, I may sing in harmony and with confidence. Let your song be the loudest in my life, no mere background music but the signature tune of my days. Let it be so, for your glory and the blessing of many, Amen.