Today begins a new series on this blog, called “Singing with Understanding.” The series will be reflections on some of the great hymns of the church. I don’t want to dissect them for your observation, but to be like a tour guide pointing out beautiful sights for your delight.
The title of this series comes from I Corinthians 14:15, where Paul said, ” I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” I want to help you sing hymns with understanding; that is, to understand what you are singing with your mind, so that you can rejoice in what you are singing with your spirit.
This is because if you do not understand something mentally, you cannot be blessed by it spiritually. This is true most importantly in your relationship with God’s Word. You cannot simply make yourself feel happy in the Lord by trying, nor can you grow spiritually by simply reading God’s Word quickly and mindlessly. You must meditate upon Scripture so that God’s Spirit can use it to change the way you think and the way you act.
Jim Berg wrote about this in his wonderful book on sanctification, Changed into His Image. (That is one book that changed me more than any other in my formative years.) He wrote,
“Believers must take time and effort to hike into the forest of Gods Word and to harvest the logs of truth from that massive timberland. They must by reflection split the logs and stack them in the fireplace of their own heart while they pray for illumination from God to set those logs ablaze. The resulting fire will provide the light that directs their paths and the heat that fuels their passion for God. Unfortunately many people only accumulate a few sticks of kindling from their pastors Sunday sermons- not because he doesn’t present some great truths from God’s Word, but because they reflect little upon those truths, even during the message! Even when God does ignite those splinters of truth, their fire blazes only momentarily because there is so little truth for the Spirit to burn.” (Jim Berg, Changed into His Image, p. 93)
Have you ever been reading and meditating on the Bible and suddenly seen, in a flash, a beautiful truth that you had never seen before? God took a phrase of Scripture and opened your eyes to its truth and beauty. What was the result? You rejoiced in the truth of the Bible and worshipped God. You did the work of piling up kindling in your mind, and the Holy Spirit ignited it into worship.
Understanding is the kindling that fuels worship, and I want to help pile up kindling in your heart by helping you think through the words of some glorious, old hymns – which sadly we so often sing without thinking. If we sing them without thinking, how can we truly worship God?
I hope this series will help you (and me) to sing to the Lord with understanding-fueled worship – singing with understanding.