Singing is good for us. A few years ago, I co-authored a book, Songs of the Saints, on congregational singing. In the book, we spoke about the power of singing. One reason singing can have such a positive effect on us is that it embraces our emotions as well as our minds. There’s now an entire school of psychotherapy called ″singing therapy″ because people have discovered that through singing, suppressed emotions can thaw out and people can begin to release their inner pain. Psychologist Dr Gene Cohen claimed that tests have shown that elderly people who sing have fewer medical appointments, use less medication, and become less depressed.
It’s not surprising, then, that in some of the darkest periods of his life, David writes and sings songs. David’s songs express the pain and injustice of his sufferings, and renew his confidence in the Lord who protects and delivers him at the same time.
Psalms 52 to 59 mainly recall the time in David’s life when King Saul was trying to kill him. The superscription of tells us that it was written ″when he had fled from Saul into the cave″. The superscription also tells the song leaders to sing the song to the tune of ″Do not Destroy″ (see also Psalms 58 and 59). This tune is appropriate given the historical context. 1 Samuel 24 recounts the time when Saul entered a cave where David and his men were hiding. Although David could have easily killed the unsuspecting king, he vows that he will not touch the Lord’s anointed (1 Samuel 24:12).
David describes his enemies colourfully. He says they are like ″lions″ and ″ravenous beasts″ (Psalm 57:4), stalking their prey. They are like hunters who ″spread a net for my feet″ (v. 6). Traditionally, scholars believed that David was on the run from Saul for about seven years. If this estimation is accurate, we can appreciate how hard it was for David to be constantly on his guard against those who wanted to kill him.
However, the psalm emphasises David’s trust in God. He finds refuge ″in the shadow of [God’s] wings″ (v. 1) and he cries out to the God who saves him (vv. 2-3). David closes his psalm with words of praise to God (vv. 9-11). But before he does that, he affirms that his heart is steadfast, and he will ″sing and make music″ (v. 7). Indeed, it’s as he sings that he ″awakens the dawn″ in his dark heart (v. 8).
David knew how singing God-centred songs can refocus our thoughts. David knew the power of singing to re-energise our faith and spiritual passion. May the songs we sing produce the same joy and trust in God in our lives.
Apart from ″praising God″, can you think of other reasons why we sing in church?
Are there times in your life when songs you’ve heard or sung have deeply ministered to you and strengthened your faith in God?