But I will sing of Your power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of trouble. To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; for God is my defense, my God of mercy. (Psalm 59:16–17—NKJV)

Music has a very powerful part to play in people’s lives. Hearts are stirred by hearing the national anthem at the Olympics. Joy is enlivened when Happy Birthday is sung to them by their closest friends. Memories are reignited and refreshed when people hear some particular song from their courting days or first year of marriage. Of course, people today seem to pick their choice in music for a given occasion either to produce a mood or to reflect a mood and it passes the time while it flows around them. Entertainment is big in our world. But every now and then one hears of a song that has been written for a special occasion, whether a funeral or a celebration. At one time, in our land, memorializing was one of the chief purposes for new songs—not so much for entertainment but to remember something of special significance, something grand, something important for many people, something to remember for the generations.

In the church there are songs that have lasting significance and seem almost timeless. Amazing Grace is one great example. There are also many songs which come and go just like campfire songs, songs that resemble the ephemeral genre of the moment. Even our churches seem to have allowed the shallowness of our culture to dictate the way music is utilized—as if it is the sum and totality of worship and the artist is celebrated just about as much as the One who is supposed to receive all the glory.

Please do not misunderstand me, ephemeral songs have a place in sacred music, but do not lose sight of the fact that our spiritual condition is graciously elevated above the nature of fallen men and so our music ought to resemble that truth. Just as I sought to teach my children to develop an appreciation for a broad selection of music beyond the music that they naturally favored, so the Christian should practice the same discipline. I think that there is good authority for that concept in Scripture, especially when you review the songs of the redeemed throughout the Word.

The songs of the redeemed begin with the words found in Exodus 15, the Song of Moses. The Children of Israel had been redeemed from slavery in Egypt and had just miraculously passed through the Red Sea. The power, promises, uniqueness, provision, and Sovereignty of the Covenant-Keeping God are extolled by the redeemed people in four stanzas. Moses also closed out his Pentateuch with another great song of the redeemed in Deuteronomy 32. The entire song focuses on God and His steadfastness, righteousness, and the loyal love of Jehovah against the backdrop of sinful man.

Songs of the redeemed are found at the end of the canon of Scripture as well. Revelation 5:9–10 records, “They sang a new song saying…’You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.’” Another new song is quoted in 14:3–5 concerning the 144,000 redeemed Jewish virgins who are claimed by God so that they may evangelize during the Great Tribulation, because they have been “redeemed from the earth…from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” Chapter 15 verses 3 and 4 echo these momentous themes: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your Name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.” These are songs of the tribulation saints as God gets ready to set up His Kingdom, much like the millennial joy evident in Isaiah 35:10.

In the Old Testament the songs of the redeemed are all about God (Isaiah 12:2). There is a testimony of music (Psalm 40:3), a theology of music (Psalm 40:3), a purpose of music (Psalm 77:6), a cause of the music (Psalm 32:7) and a content of the music (Psalm 119:54).

Peppered through the New Testament there are poetic stanzas that suspiciously sound like a hymn of the early church. These songs are filled with theology rather than mere human experience. Take careful note of the tenor and content of passages such as Ephesians 4:4–6, 5:14; Philippians 2:6–11; Colossians 1:15–20; 1 Timothy 3:16; and Hebrews 1:3.

Songs of the redeemed are purposeful, never mindless. They are songs that memorialize the majesty of our great God—timeless, elevating, undistracting, drawing us into worshipful prayer. Trust and obey.