Remember that Song?

Tom Burke

April 2019
© 2019 Scriptural Study Groups.  All Rights Reserved.

Exodus 15:1–5, 21

Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.

The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.

And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

Singing holds a significant place in the Word of God, as it does in the modern church. Most Christians recognize the vital place that music holds in our worship of God. As we sing praises to God, our hearts become engaged in full recognition of who He is and what He has done.

However, many fail to note another crucial function of song: in the ages before computers or the printing press, when few possessed the ability or the means to read, a song could commemorate significant events for decades, and indeed for centuries to come.1

Many songs recorded in the Old Testament, including the song taught to Israel following their departure from Egypt (partially cited above), were instituted not merely for momentary celebration, but to serve as a reminder of some great work of God. Consider a few other examples. (The reader is encouraged to read the entire context of each).

Numbers 21:16–17

And from thence they went to Beer: that is the well whereof the LORD spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water.

Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it:

Judges 4:23 — 5:2

So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.

And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.

Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,

Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.

2 Samuel 22:1–4

And David spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul:

And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;

The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.

I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

In each of these cases, a song was written in order that these acts of God, for the nation and for individuals, might be remembered. Why was this necessary? Because God’s people, even those who directly experience the delivering power of God usually don’t remember. Far too often, the influence of the world around us can cause us to quickly forget even the most dramatic examples of God’s hand of deliverance in our lives.

Isaiah 51:12–13 (New English Translation)

I, I am the one who consoles you. Why are you afraid of mortal men, of mere human beings who are as short-lived as grass?

Why do you forget the LORD, who made you, who stretched out the sky and founded the earth? Why do you constantly tremble all day long at the anger of the oppressor, when he makes plans to destroy? Where is the anger of the oppressor? […]”

Forgetting God when our lives seem untroubled appears to be a persistent tendency for God’s people, doesn’t it? This is powerfully illustrated in the warnings given before Israel was to enter the promised land.

Deuteronomy 8:7–11

For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;

A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey;

A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.

When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.

Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day.

Yet God knew that, despite His admonition, they would forget, which is why He later gave Moses a unique assignment.

Deuteronomy 31:18–22

And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.

Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.

For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant.

And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.

Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel.2

Sadly, not too many years passed before the behavior of God’s people began mirroring the pattern that God had warned against. In times of peace and prosperity, they would indeed forget Him, be drawn into idolatry and subsequently suffer tremendous privation at the hands of various unbelieving nations. And yet, in so many cases, we read of the people eventually turning to God and crying out for help on the basis of the powerful and gracious acts which He had performed for Israel in the past. Someone must have remembered the song!

Yes, God will be faithful to deliver when we cry out. But why settle for knowing Him only as an “emergency God?” Isn’t it better to remember His presence, His power, and His love at all times, so that we might enjoy these benefits at all times?

Psalm 78:2–4  (New International Version, 1984 Edition)

I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old —

what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.

We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.

God’s Word makes it clear that our natural inclination is to forget Him. Yet it is equally clear that we can overcome this inclination. Let us remind our children, remind each other, and remind ourselves of His praiseworthy deeds. Let us remember Him ─ in teaching, in testimony, and yes, even in song.

Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!3

[1]The reader might be interested to note that many songs and ballads still sung in various forms today began as announcements of the “news of the day” regarding serious crimes, significant battles, or the affairs of the ruling class.

[2]The words of the song, accompanied with further exhortation, are given in Deuteronomy 32.

[3] Copyright © 1923  Ren. 1951 Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188  All rights reserved. Used by permission. Reprinted under License No. 78434.