I’ve never been a great singer, but I sang in choir at our first church. My choir escapades are epic, actually. An Easter Sunday cantata in which I sang a long, strong high note right in front of the microphone—and burped. Oh, yes. One of my finest moments.
It was at a Christmas cantata with another one of those long high notes that I watched the choir director’s face contort into an excruciating wince as he looked my way. I heard it too. Someone was terribly off key. I faded to silence. The yowling stopped when I stopped. Drat.
Now, I sing only with an entire congregation to drown me out. But I sing. Oh, how I sing!
And I cry. The songs that remind me of Who God is and what Jesus has done and how the Spirit moves within me—those make the tears come. Thankful tears. Tears of awe and wonder.
Ways of Worship
Folks worshiped a little differently back in the days of Miriam and Moses,, breaking into spontaneous song and dance…
“Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing.” Exodus 15:20
Poor Miriam might have gotten kicked out of my church. Maybe yours too. If some lady danced up the aisle with a tambourine and got the other women all stirred up, I think the instigator might be toast. Or…maybe our pastor would join them…and then others. Hmmmm. Probably not.
But in Miriam’s ancient culture, dancing and singing to a victorious deity was normal—whatever deity they worshiped. It was culturally “normal” for a victory song to reference a god’s intervention in the battle, even to ascribe water as the weapon of choice.
Well, Miriam and these women didn’t dance to just any deity, and they didn’t just ascribe water as the weapon of choice. They’d actually seen Yahweh in a pillar of cloud and fire and watched the Re(e)d Sea part and miraculously crash down on the Egyptian army. The witnessing of these events prompted Moses’s song in Exodus 15:1-17.
“Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord…” Exodus 15:1
Comparing Worship Words
In Moses’s victory song, I was struck by its eloquence and found these verses especially interesting:
“The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away.” Exodus 15:14-15 (emphasis added)
The Hebrew slaves, most of whom had never stepped a foot outside of Goshen (northern Egypt), would have no idea who these nations were, where they were located, or what kind of defenses each of their armies could mount against them.
But Moses knew. He’d been educated by Egypt’s finest minds. He’d likely fought most of these nations in battle as a part of Egypt’s army—perhaps even as a leader of its troops.
Moses was worshiping Yahweh with what he knew, with what his experience had taught him.
Now, look at Miriam’s words of worship…
“Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.” Exodus 15:21
Miriam worshiped Yahweh with what she knew, with her most recent experience. She hadn’t been trained by Egyptian tutors. She hadn’t traveled to exotic lands and she didn’t speak or write foreign languages. She didn’t need to. God had proven himself to her in that moment and she worshiped Him with simple, yet meaningful words.
When we compare our worship or God-sightings to others, we snub God’s good work in our lives. So whether you’re a university president or a retired plumber, God values your worship. Whether you’re a professional writer or clean up finger paints all day, God wants to hear your praise. Whether you sing like an angel or burp in the microphone on Easter Sunday—yes, even then—God loves to hear His kids sing for His glory. In the Jesus Calling devotional, Sarah Young wrote:
“To increase your intimacy with [Jesus], the two traits you need most are receptivity and attentiveness.”
I believe those two traits are also most essential to worship Him where we are—no matter where we are. May we all be more receptive and attentive to our great big God.
- Moses and Miriam worshiped Yahweh with what they knew, with what experience taught them.
- When we compare our worship or God-sightings to others, we snub His good work in our lives.
- Receptivity and attentiveness are essential to worship him no matter where we are.
- What has your great big God done in your life lately that deserves a shout out? (Remember, it doesn’t have to be eloquent like Moses, just recent and heartfelt like Miriam.)