How do you relate to others? It is a fact of life that the words we speak–as my mother used to say–are like birds: once you release them they are forever gone. So, as you daily encounter the people in your life, do you bless and speak life into them, or do you curse them with your words and attitude?
“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:19)
Today’s verse seems to paint a Disney-like scenario of constant song, yet upon greater examination we see that rather than limiting our communication with each other to psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, it teaches us that we are to communicate who God is and what He has done to others with a cheerful heart.
To begin with, we know that God tells us, “Let no corrupt [rotten, worthless, bad] word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification [building up], that it may impart grace [in this usage, a benefit] to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29) We are to be careful to not speak thoughtlessly, but only whatever will build the other person up in Christ.
Furthermore, The Complete Word Study New Testament (Zodhiates, p.962) explains the difference between psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs:
“Whereas a psalm is the story of man’s deliverance or a commemoration of mercies received [in Scripture this word typically referred to the Old Testament book of Psalms], a hymn is a magnificent proclaiming of how great someone or something is. It is a direct address of praise and glory to God.” Zodhiates further continues, “According to Augustine, a hymn has three characteristics: it must be sung; it must be praise; it must be to God.” Later (p. 969), Zodhiates also explains that, “Paul qualifies it [“ode”–song]…as spiritual songs in association with psalms and hymns because ode by itself might mean any kind of song, as of battle, [or] harvest…”
In other words, we learn that as the people of God, we should be communicating to others how God saved us (“the story of man’s deliverance”), everything He has done for us (commemorating “mercies received”), and how great He is! Yet do we?
Jesus said, “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” (Matthew 12:34, 35) Someone who doesn’t really know God or think He has done anything particularly good for him won’t be telling others how great He is. God has to be real to you for you to even want to discuss Him!
So while the first half of today’s verse tells us what we are to be communicating to each other, the second part tells us how. We are told that we are to be singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord–in other words we should be joyous, which derives from our gratitude to Him for what He has done! But just as someone who hasn’t recognized God’s goodness will not tell others about it, a person who isn’t full of joy cannot radiate it outward to others.
So, ultimately, the question is–have you experienced God’s goodness? Do you really know Him from His Word yourself? Because unless you do, you won’t feel like obeying this verse. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” will seem like a church service that never ends, something burdensome and unpleasant.
Help us read the Bible daily, so we can truly know You and then “…tell of your marvelous works!” (Psalm 9:1) Amen.