Series introduction: 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. If you don’t understand something mentally, you cannot sing it spiritually. Understanding is the kindling that fuels worship, and I want to help pile up kindling in your heart.
The first hymn we will enjoy together is “Come, We That Love the Lord,” written by the great hymn-poet Isaac Watts, and published in Hymns and Spiritual Songs in 1707.
Here is the first stanza:
Come, we that love the Lord,
And let our joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord
And thus surround the throne.
There are two exhortations here. The first is to “let our joys be known.” When you sing this, you are not only calling upon others to proclaim something, but including yourself in that call. And to whom is the exhortation given? It is given to those “that love the Lord.” So when you sing these first two lines, you are calling upon all who “love the Lord” to sing something – to make known their “joys” to others.
Now, Watts implies here that the “joys” we are to make known come from loving the Lord. Do you love the Lord? Do you enjoy opening His Word and hearing Him speak? Do you love the light of His presence instead of the darkness of sin? Then God has transformed you (Col. 1:13). He has opened up the way into His presence, where there is “fullness of joy” and “pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11)! What high, unspeakable joy you have! You have something to sing about!
So the first encouragement you should receive from this first stanza is that loving God brings joy.
The second exhortation is twofold: Sing and surround God’s throne.
First, Watts urges you to “join in a song with sweet accord.” “Join in,” he says. You must sing with others, not just in your bedroom by yourself. God’s will is that you be part of a local church. And all local churches must have congregational singing – it is not an optional part of the service! For Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:19 the result of being filled with the Spirit: ” Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” “Yourselves,” not “yourself.” Singing is a congregational act of worship in which you should express your joy in being saved.
Have you ever been in a church service and heard everyone singing with joy in their voices, praising God? I was recently at a pastors’ conference, and one of the hymns we sang was “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” What a blessing to hear strong, loud, heartfelt praise “with sweet accord”!
And what a blessing to be in a church service where such singing is a regular occurrence, for it helps us to feel and enjoy God’s presence – to “surround the throne” of God. Singing with one heart, Watts says, is the way to come into God’s presence. The psalter agrees; we are called in Psalm 100:4 to ” come before his presence with singing.” We should sing to Him because ” the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:5).
So the second encouragement in this stanza that that you should express your joy in loving God in congregational song.
So, this Sunday, come to your local church and express the joy of your salvation to your Lord in congregational singing. Join us who will sing along with you “in sweet accord”!