Clap Your Hands

     One of the joys of raising babies is teaching them simple forms of expression. When a baby can imitate smiling, waving, and clapping, you know they are on their way toward higher forms of communication.

     I play the “clappity clap clap” game with my grandbabies and I love to sing and clap with them. They take this skill into other places, and soon learn to clap when food is presented, when a sibling is being silly, or when they simply are happy. Our youngest set of twins are almost one, and I can envision that joyful first birthday party with its colorful balloons, their first messy bites of cake, and a lot of clapping … mostly by me.

     Why don’t we clap more? Clapping is a natural response to something that feels good. We clap and shout at football games, at the end of a great theater performance, and when the bad guy gets caught in a movie, but many of us were taught that clapping and shouting in church are things we shouldn’t do.

     I think the Scriptures say otherwise. Today’s reading starts with the direction to “Clap your hands, all you people!” It could hardly be clearer than this! The psalm was written for the music leader and the sons of Korah, who were Levite priests. We can assume that this joyful song of victory was presented in the tabernacle and temple ceremonies as victories were being celebrated. Thus the people of God were invited to clap, shout, and sing in the context of worship.

Psalm 47

Clap your hands, all you people!
    Shout joyfully to God with a joyous shout!
Because the Lord Most High is awesome,
    he is the great king of the whole world.
He subdues the nations under us,
    subdues all people beneath our feet.
He chooses our inheritance for us:
    the heights of Jacob, which he loves. Selah

God has gone up with a joyous shout—
    the Lord with the blast of the ram’s horn.
Sing praises to God! Sing praises!
    Sing praises to our king! Sing praises
    because God is king of the whole world!
    Sing praises with a song of instruction!

God is king over the nations.
    God sits on his holy throne.
The leaders of all people are gathered
    with the people of Abraham’s God
    because the earth’s guardians belong to God;
        God is exalted beyond all.

     Worship should always be a joyful experience. In verses 6 and 7 the phrase “sing praise” is used five times, just so we get the point. We have so much to celebrate! God is the king over all the earth. God has subdued the nations under Israel. God sits on the holy throne and reigns from on high. Everyone and everything belongs to God.

     How easy it is to see the messianic prophecy in this psalm, and easier still to see Jesus as the fulfillment. Jesus went up with a “joyous shout” (verse 5) at his ascension and will come again to be “king over the nations” (verse 8). For this alone, we rejoice.

     I think worship should feel like a child’s first birthday party. Noise makers, hand clapping, singing, and joy should be a part of our experience whenever we gather together as God’s assembly. Every week!

     How do you worship? Do you go into a service with anticipatory joy or a sense of obligation? Do you feel the pure happiness that comes from being in God’s presence, or are you distracted by your worries as you sit down?

     We are invited to praise God with joy. God is worthy of our praise! We can’t praise enough.

Sing Praise by Michelle Robertson

The Shields of the Earth

Everything is hard right now, and for this pastor, not being able to do corporate singing is one of the harder things the pandemic has brought. That is one piece that we are struggling with as we consider when to re-gather for worship. Notice I didn’t say re-open. The church never closed, we just moved online. Many churches have seen an uptick in the number of people they can effectively reach because of this.

I call that the “Romans 8:28 factor.” In Romans 8:28, we are assured that God can use ALL things for the good of those who love him. So even in a pandemic, creative use of technology has enabled the church to not only remain open, but expand its witness.

But we can’t figure out a way to safely sing together. The droplets expelled from the mouth when singing are apparently significantly increased when the gathered people sing, so we have been discouraged from singing together once we re-gather.

Church without singing is like a day without sunshine for me. And I miss it to the point of tears.

Today’s Psalm makes many references to singing praises. In fact, “sing praise” is repeated five times. Way to rub it in, psalmist! In defense of the writer, one could hardly have ever imagined a time when singing praises was impossible, but here we are.

In concert with that instruction, we also are given an image of God as our most high King, who reigns over all the nations from his holy throne. Surely we can take comfort in that imagery. When Christ returns to establish his kingdom on earth, singing will not only be possible, but irresistible. Even the very rocks and stones will sing for joy.

Psalm 47 New King James Version

Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!
For the Lord Most High is awesome;
He is a great King over all the earth.
He will subdue the peoples under us,
And the nations under our feet.
He will choose our inheritance for us,
The excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah

God has gone up with a shout,
The Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises with understanding.

So while we wait, know this: the shields of the earth belong to God. In this context, shields is synonymous with princes. In a prophetic way, the psalmist is pointing to a time when the people of the God of Abraham recognize their messiah has come, and have gathered with the kings of every tribe on the earth and submit to the authority of God.

God reigns over the nations;
God sits on His holy throne.
The princes of the people have gathered together,
The people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
He is greatly exalted.

So today our song is, “E’en So Lord Jesus! Quickly come.”

Until we sing again…

Nothing Stops a Lab from Singing