“It is good to sing praises to our God.”—PS. 147:1.
SONGS: 9, 138
1. What does singing enable us to do?
A POPULAR lyricist once said: “Words make you think thoughts. Music makes you feel a feeling. But a song makes you feel a thought.” What better thoughts could we “feel” than those that express praise and love for our heavenly Father, Jehovah? It is no wonder that singing is a prominent aspect of pure worship, whether we are alone when we sing or we are with the congregation of God’s people.
2, 3. (a) How might some feel about singing aloud with the congregation? (b) What questions will we consider?
2 How, though, do you feel about singing aloud with the congregation? Do you find it embarrassing? In some cultures, men may feel uncomfortable singing in public. This view can affect the whole congregation, especially if those taking the lead find reasons to hold back or to engage in other activities while the rest of the congregation is singing.—Ps. 30:12.
3 If we truly consider singing as part of our worship, we certainly will not want to walk out on or be absent from that part of the meeting program. Thus, each one of us should ask himself: ‘How do I view the singing at our meetings for worship? How can I overcome any apprehension that may hold me back from singing out joyfully? And what can I do to express fully the feeling of the songs we sing?’
SINGING—AN INTEGRAL PART OF TRUE WORSHIP
4, 5. How extensive were the arrangements for singing in worship in ancient Israel?
4 Faithful worshippers of Jehovah have long used music as a way to praise Jehovah. It is noteworthy that when the ancient Israelites were faithfully serving Jehovah, singing was prominent in their worship. For example, in preparation for service at the temple, King David organized 4,000 Levites to provide music of praise. Among these, 288 were “trained in song to Jehovah, all experts.”—1 Chron. 23:5; 25:7.
5 At the inauguration of the temple, music and singing played a prominent role. The account tells us: “At the moment when the trumpeters and the singers were praising and thanking Jehovah in unison, and as the sound ascended from the trumpets, the cymbals, and the other musical instruments as they were praising Jehovah, . . . the glory of Jehovah filled the house of the true God.” What a faith-strengthening occasion that must have been!—2 Chron. 5:13, 14; 7:6.
6. Describe the special presentation of singing during Nehemiah’s rule as governor in Jerusalem.
6 When Nehemiah led the faithful Israelites in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, he also organized the Levite singers with full instrumental accompaniment. When the rebuilt walls were dedicated, the special music presentation contributed greatly to the joy of the occasion. This time, there were “two large thanksgiving choirs.” Walking in opposite directions, the choirs met on the wall close to the temple area to create a sound that could be heard from far away. (Neh. 12:27, 28, 31, 38, 40, 43) Jehovah was no doubt pleased to hear his worshippers enthusiastically praising him in song.
7. How did Jesus emphasize the need for singing in Christian worship?
7 With the establishment of the Christian congregation, music continued to be a prominent feature of true worship. On the most important night in human history, Jesus included the singing of songs after the institution of the Lord’s Evening Meal.—Read Matthew 26:30.
8. How did the first-century Christians set a pattern of singing in worship?
8 First-century Christians set a pattern of praising God together in song. Even though they often met in private homes, the modest surroundings for worship did not diminish their zeal for singing to Jehovah. Under inspiration, the apostle Paul directed his Christian brothers: “Keep on teaching and encouraging one another with psalms, praises to God, spiritual songs sung with gratitude, singing in your hearts to Jehovah.” (Col. 3:16) The songs in our songbook are truly “spiritual songs [to be] sung with gratitude.” They are a part of the spiritual food provided by “the faithful and discreet slave.”—Matt. 24:45.
OVERCOMING APPREHENSION ABOUT SINGING
9. (a) What might prevent some from singing out joyfully at our meetings and assemblies? (b) How should we sing praises to Jehovah, and who should take the lead?
9 What if singing is not customary in your family, culture, or environment? If this is the case in your situation, it might cause you to feel uneasy copying sign language songs at the Kingdom Hall. That, however, should not interfere with your responsibility to sing praises to Jehovah. Therefore, when you copy songs at the Kingdom Hall, lift your head and hands, and sign with all your heart! (Ezra 3:11; read Psalm 147:1) It is also of interest that the singing of Kingdom songs has been made part of the Kingdom Ministry School curriculum for elders. This emphasizes the need for elders to take the lead in congregation singing
10. What should we remember if fear inhibits us from signing with all our heart?
10 One factor that causes many to hold back from signing with all their heart is fear. It may be fear of standing out, or of possibly looking unpleasant to others. However, we should keep in mind that when we speak “we all stumble many times.” (Jas. 3:2) Yet, that does not stop us from speaking. So, why should we let any awkwardness or mistakes in signing stop us from praising Jehovah in song?
11, 12. What are some suggestions for improving our singing?
11 Perhaps we are apprehensive about singing because we are unsure of how to sing. Yet, we can improve our singing by applying some basic suggestions.
12 You can learn to sign songs with enthusiasm by arousing your heart. Much as electricity powers a light bulb, enthusiasm can energize your signing. You should sign songs as confidently as you would sign from the Bible. (See the suggestions found in Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education, lesson 10, “Enthusiasm.”)In fact, within the context of singing praises, the Scriptures sometimes direct Jehovah’s worshippers to “shout joyfully.”—Ps. 33:1-3.
13. Explain how we can increase our confidence in our singing.
13 During family worship or even on your own, try the following: Choose one of your favorite songs from our videos. First, watch the entire song. As you watch, do your best to identify what type of poetry is being used. For example: Do various signs blend together? (Song #20) Or does the song focus on one or two specific handshapes? (Song #41) Or maybe it uses a particular rhythm? (Song #17) Does it employ a consistent pattern of movement? (Song #139, 140) Or numbers? (Song #15) Once you have identified the type of poetry, then copy the song from one occurrence of poetry to the next. In this way, your hands and body start to become used to the handshapes and movements involved. Repeat these phrases until you feel comfortable. This will build your confidence. Then sign the whole song again straight through. You should feel the signs flowing, one falling into the next. Do not let it scare you or embarrass you!
14. (a) How can opening our mouth wider help our singing? (b) What suggestions for overcoming voice problems do you find practical?
14 Another suggestion that will help you sign with enthusiasm is your use of the space around your body. While being mindful of the people around you, make good use of the space around your body, perhaps enlarging it just a bit. This may aid in taking away any inhibition and encourage you to increase your facial expressions. Maintain good posture. This will help you to be alert as you copy the song. In addition, be aware of any modulation used during the signing of the song. Does the signing speed up? Slow down? At what points? What about the use of space? Is it large? Small? Does it change during the song? When? What about the intensity or warmth of facial expressions? Be mindful of these things as you sign along. As a result, you will start to feel the emotions the song is expressing. In turn, this will feed your enthusiasm.
SING PRAISES FROM THE HEART
15. (a) What announcement was made at the 2016 annual meeting? (b) What are some of the objectives of the new songbook?
15 There was excitement at the 2016 annual meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania when Brother Stephen Lett of the Governing Body announced that a new songbook, entitled “Sing Out Joyfully” to Jehovah, would soon be available for use at the meetings. Brother Lett explained that one objective of the revision was to bring the songs into harmony with the revised New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. This required removing or revising lyrics that used expressions no longer found in the New World Translation as a result of the 2013 revision. Further, new songs about our preaching work and songs that express our appreciation for the ransom have been included. Also, because singing is an integral part of our worship, the Governing Body wanted to produce a high-quality book that matches the cover of the revised New World Translation.
16, 17. What refinements were made in the new songbook?
16 To make “Sing Out Joyfully” to Jehovah easier to use, the songs are arranged by subject matter. For example, the first 12 songs relate to Jehovah, the next 8 songs are about Jesus and the ransom, and so on. There is a subject index that will be helpful, for instance, when choosing a song for a public talk.
17 To help everyone to sing from the heart, some lyrics have been revised to improve clarity of thought and to remove words that are no longer in common use. For example, the title “Long-Suffering” has been changed to “Exercise Patience,” and the lyrics have been adjusted accordingly. The change of the title “Guard Your Heart” to “We Guard Our Hearts” was most considerate. Why? In the audience at our meetings, assemblies, and conventions are many new ones, interested ones, young ones, and sisters who by singing the words would be put in the awkward position of telling others what to do. So the title and the lyrics were modified.
18. Why should we become familiar with the songs in our new songbook?
18 Many of our songs are in the form of a prayer. With these songs, you can express your personal feelings to Jehovah. Other songs will help “to incite [us] to love and fine works.” (Heb. 10:24) Surely we want to become familiar with the melodies, rhythms, and lyrics of our songs. You can do so by watching the songs available on jw.org. By practicing the songs at home, you can learn to sing them with confidence and heartfelt expression. *
^ par. 18 Our songs also have well-thought-out artwork and pictures in the background. These are intended to complement the signing and help us capture the spirit of the song’s message. To help us get into the spirit of singing, each of the convention and assembly program sessions opens with a ten-minute music presentation. These orchestral arrangements are composed in such a way that they will prepare our heart and mind for the program to follow. Therefore, we are encouraged to be in our seats from the start and to listen attentively to these music programs.
19. How can all in the congregation directly share in worshipping Jehovah?
19 Remember that singing is an important feature of our worship. It is a powerful way to show our love and appreciation for Jehovah. (Read Isaiah 12:5.) When you sing out joyfully, you will also encourage others to sing with confidence. Indeed, all in the congregation—young, old, and newly interested ones—can join in this form of direct worship of Jehovah. So do not hold back in expressing yourself in song. Instead, obey the clear direction from the inspired psalmist: “Sing to Jehovah!” Yes, make a joyful sound!—Ps. 96:1.
HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER?
What role does singing play in true worship?
How can you overcome obstacles and sing praises to Jehovah with feeling?
What improvements have been made in the new songbook, and how can you make the best use of it?