They can be sad: I Can Still Make Cheyenne;
Its in our human nature to sing when things are going well, when things are falling apart, or when words alone just wont do. So when the Hebrews stood on the far side of the Red Sea, having watched their God let loose of the walls of water, drowning the Egyptian Chariots, their first thought was to sing.
When God acts, the people sing. So goes the expression in Scripture. They would sing again in Numbers 21 after years of marching through the desert and God leads them to water (Num. 21.17). Moses would lead them in song again at the end of his life. What sums up a life begun in a basket in the Nile, forged in the Deserts of Midian, standing before the most powerful man in the world, and leading a million people to freedom? A song that God gives him (Deut. 31.19; Deut. 32). The people would sing of God’s goodness (Ps. 13.6); songs of his strength (Ps. 59.16); songs of his love (Ps. 89.1); songs of his love and justice (Ps 101.1); and songs of his wonderful acts (1 Chron. 16.9).
Confession: I don’t sing much anymore…and I haven’t sang in quite sometime. People closest to me think its the holidays that I dislike, but it has been years since I sang. I look for the things that God has done and search for the things that speak of His love and justice but can’t see them lately.
If the story of the Crossing of the Red Sea was a play, the Israelites would have two speaking parts: the lengthy song of celebration about the Lord’s deliverance by parting the waters (Ex. 15.1-18) and the complaint that began the narrative (Exodus 14.11-12). When the Israelites questioned what God was doing, their first thought was to complain.
Complaining and Singing are two opposites. They are antithetical responses to God’s action and his presence. The people complained because instead of living a life of imprisonment and slavery, they were now free people who had to trust in the Lord’s goodness, justice, love and deliverence. In Egypt, they didn’t need to trust God and they didn’t, but now the banks of the Red Sea looked far more dangerous than Rameses. It always is more scary to trust! The people complained:
Was it becuase there were no graves in Egypt htat you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert! (Ex 14.11-12)
I don’t sing much, but I complain often to God about His (percieved) inactivity. I don’t celebrate because its easier to complain. “God you didn’t do this!”; “Why has this happened?”; “Where is your justice?” Complainers cant Sing…a lesson God is teaching me over and over. But still the complaints come…
Complaining is a selfish act. It focuses on the complainer at the expense of everything surrounding it. Compliaing looks out for its self, where as Singing looks outward. A celebration of what is beyond the Ego.
So how does complaining in Exodus 14 become singing in Exodus 15…witnessing the action, activity, and power of God at the Red Sea! How does our complaining become celebration, our problems and selfishness become singing, by searching out and finding the power of God in action around us. By looking for His love, His goodness, His justice, His mercy. When we understand and dwell on His deliverance of us from sin and death our complaints will turn to song. When we think about what Jesus on the cross, the salavtion He provided for us through His son, our complaints will turn to melody.
Songs really do convey more than mere words…may my words of complaint be turned to song! How often do you sing?