May 1, 2013

Joy — with or without singing

The Christmas carols have words about angels singing, but there is only one place in the Bible that says angels actually sing. It is in Job 38, where God describes the world in pristine beauty springing from His hand and says that the “morning stars (angels) sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7), but this is the only place that says angels sing.

Some Bibles translate the noise of angels as singing, but properly translated, these creatures shout or speak. At the birth of Jesus, a multitude of the heavenly hosts praised God, saying, “Glory to God in the Highest,” but the Greek text does not say that they sang nor do any of the other verses about angels.

Perhaps their song was stilled when sin marred God’s beautiful creation? Or maybe the passages that say the angels praised God including singing, even though they do not use the word? One of those passages is this verse spoken by Jesus about angels…

Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10)

The devotional writer asks why angels sing over repentant sinners, or perhaps better phrased, why do they feel joy when I repent? As I scan through the many references to angels, those that tell of their joy concern creation and other praises given to God for what He is doing.

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts… Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created. And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. (Psalm 148:2, 5–6)

The redeemed will sing “a new song” often called the song of redemption and angels will praise the Lamb of God, though it does not say they will sing.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:11–12)

Does it matter if the angels sang or merely shouted? Is this too much like the silly question of how many angels can fit on the head of a pin? Or is God trying to tell us something about the joy in heaven, giving me insight into what truly matters? Is this about the things that put joy into the heart of His angels, even into His own heart that should also give me joy?

Actually, creation gives me joy. The little bit of trivia in my life includes frequent changes in my computer wallpaper using landscapes and other pictures of beauty in God’s creation. When I wind down at night, I often go to an online jigsaw puzzle site and assemble all my favorites — pictures of God’s handiwork.

However, repentance also puts joy in my heart. When I confess and turn from sin, God is happy and I feel His joy. It is the same when others repent and tell me about it. As Jesus said, repentant sinners give “joy before the angels” yet also joy in the hearts of God’s people.

Some of us may sing with joy, for some have singing voices and singing hearts. We may shout, as that is another legitimate way to express joy. We may smile broadly, or do a de-da dance, or leap and click our heels, or clap our hands. Sometimes joy is only an elated emotion with an added spark in the eyes, but however it is expressed, it is a gift from the Lord of hosts to His angels and to His children.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him. (Psalm 28:7)

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