Singing hymns and praises to God is an essential part of our modern-day worship experience. Numerous references to music in worship are found throughout the Bible from both the Old and New Testaments. The first mention of music is found in Genesis 4:21 where Jubal is identified as “the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.” The last mention is found in Revelation 18:20-23 where Heaven rejoices over Babylon’s final fall “… and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters [of Babylon], will be heard in you no more.” (v. 22a)
We know from the Scriptures that music permeated the worship of God’s chosen people. Hymns and praises were often used to verbally teach and pass along the memory of important events in Israel’s long history. For example, after miraculously crossing the parted waters of the Red Sea in their escape from Egypt, Moses and the Israelites composed and sang a poem of thanksgiving praise and joy to the Lord as recorded in Exodus 15. The story recorded in that song has been told and re-told to countless generations all over the world to this very day.
Exodus 15:20-21 (ESV) – 20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. 21 And Miriam sang to them:
“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”
Miriam, a Hebrew, was the elder sister of Aaron and Moses. The scripture tells us that she was a “prophetess.” Miriam’s father was Amram and her mother was Jochebed (Exodus 2:1, Numbers 26:59). The family lived in Egypt as slaves at the time that Pharaoh had decreed that all Jewish baby boys were to be killed by throwing them into the Nile river. Pharoah feared that the Hebrews would become too powerful and thus be a threat to him.
Exodus 2:1-10 relates the story of how baby Moses was placed by his mother in a basket made of bulrushes and set at the river’s edge in the reeds. Moses’ sister Miriam, a mere child herself, “… stood at a distance to know what would be done to him.” (Exodus 2:4) Through God’s leadership, Moses was found by Pharoah’s daughter who decided to spare him. Ironically, Miriam recommended Jochebed to be the nurse for Moses. Not knowing that Jochebed was the mother of Moses, Pharoah’s daughter agreed and Moses was nursed by his own mother, raised to be familiar with his background as a Hebrew, and ultimately adopted as the son of Pharoah’s daughter.
Many years later after Moses led the Hebrews safely through the Red Sea on dry land, the Bible records that Miriam is there to lead the ladies in celebration with their tambourines while singing praise to the Lord “for He has triumphed gloriously.” Commemorating the unparalleled event for the Hebrews, Miriam sang to them the inspired words breathed by God and recorded by Moses in their entirety in the scripture (Exodus 15:1-18). As you read the sacred words of this hymn, imagine yourself singing along with Miriam, Moses and all of the Hebrews as they sing their praises to the Lord!!
Exodus 15:1-18 (ESV)
“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
2 The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
3 The Lord is a man of war;
the Lord is his name.
4 “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,
and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
5 The floods covered them;
they went down into the depths like a stone.
6 Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
7 In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
8 At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;
the floods stood up in a heap;
the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
10 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
they sank like lead in the mighty waters.
11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand;
the earth swallowed them.
13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
14 The peoples have heard; they tremble;
pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
15 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
16 Terror and dread fall upon them;
because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,
till your people, O Lord, pass by,
till the people pass by whom you have purchased.
17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
18 The Lord will reign forever and ever.”
Holy Father, we give you praise for being our deliverer, our strength, our song, our salvation!! We lift our voices in thanksgiving praise that You are our God! Amen and amen.