- VOICES FOR SPEAKING. Some are low, some are high. Some are deep, some are shrill. Some are loud, some are soft. Some are happy, some are sad. Some sound sweet, some sound sharp. I’ve often complained about the pitch of my voice. If God called me to teach, why didn’t He give me a deep, commanding, soothing voice—the kind that causes people to want to listen? I’m not sure, but we all have to overcome our dislike for what He gives us and use what we have to His honor and glory and the blessing of others.
Different voices are appealing to different folks. Some people like quiet teaching and praying. Others don’t feel like they’ve been to church if the prayers and sermon aren’t delivered in loud, forceful tones. In fact, some people confuse loud with anointing. But most of us know that volume doesn’t measure the presence of Almighty God for sometimes He chooses to manifest Himself in a “still small voice.”
2. VOICES FOR SINGING. I am an eclectic when it comes to music. I like all styles. I enjoy the old hymns and the new ones, the old choruses and the contemporary ones. I enjoy opera as well as guitar led praise and worship. I’ve heard many wonderful singers with all kinds of voices that are a blessing to many in the body of Christ. I used to listen to Billy Graham crusades to hear Ethel Waters sing “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” I can still listen for hours to the singing of Luciano Pavarotti or Jessy Dixon.
As to the voice used for singing there are many varieties and preferences. Known and unknown. Whether it is David Phelps or Cece Winans, Guy Penrod or Vestal Goodman, Johnny Cash or Bernice Byrd or Frances Dunn, or my niece, Jennifer—all are identified with the sound of their voice. When they sing, something happens in my mind, in my emotions, and in my Spirit. In fact, I can trace victory over a certain circumstance in my life to a moment some years ago when Cissy was singing “My Anchor Holds…in spite of the storm!”
A few years ago at a family gathering, my brother, sister, and I got together and sang the night away. Some precious friends had gifted my sister with a beautiful new ivory baby grand digital piano so we all took turns playing to initiate it, then our daughters invited us to sing. Memories were flowing along with the laughter as we tried to recall the lyrics of the songs we had sung so frequently when we were kids. For two or three years when we were young, we went with our dad to sing in a number of country churches. I still have the receipt for the accordion my parents bought for me to accompany our little trio. As we reminisced we realized our brother was only four to six years old during that time. No wonder the people seemed to enjoy our singing—they were obviously taken with that cute little red-headed guy singing lead at the top of his lungs.
As I got older, I sang with friends, church groups, choirs, duets, trios, and quartets, always aware of the fact that I was NOT a good singer—I just loved to sing. It didn’t take much for me to realize that singing was not my gift. In the Bloomington Church I attended while at IU, the choir director assigned me a five-word solo part—a bridge—in the cantata, and I botched it. I know that God gives us all a “new song” and I still love to sing—in the congregation, in the choir, or in my private worship time but prefer to leave the “special singing” to others more gifted.
3. JOYFUL NOISE. One of my favorite scriptures on this matter is Make a joyful noise unto the Lord. In fact, six out of the seven times this command occurs in the Psalms it refers to singing: Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands (Psa 66:1). Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob (Psa 81:1). O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation (Psa 95:1). Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms (Psa 95:2). Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise (Psa 98:4). With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King (Psa 98:6). Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands (Psa 100:1). It must be that God’s heavenly filter of love processes our off-key singing so that when our joyful noise rises, He only hears beautiful music.
Before I was married, I lived alone and was accustomed to singing as loudly as I wished in the privacy of my own home. I was making a joyful noise! However, soon after our marriage, my husband asked me one day to please not sing. I was offended and asked how could I release my joy if not in song? He was serious about his request; my singing played on his nerves. Soon I learned why. Before he met me, he had kept company with an opera singer. I knew there was no way I could compete with that voice! I would just have to save my singing for times he was out of the house.
However, after a year or two of married life, we began to get out the old hymnals at home and sing through songs together—in German and in English—but it caught me by utter surprise when my husband started asking me to sing in church. By then he had grown to like my twangy voice and nasal tones—or more likely his love for me produced deafness to them! I was thankful the Lord kept our congregation supplied with many talented and capable musicians so I was simply not needed. He disagreed and began asking me to sing solos.
I suppose he became weary of my excuses so he stopped asking me in advance. Instead, after we arrived at the church for a service, he would come to me and say “I’d like you to sing this song this morning.” In obedience to my pastor-husband, I would sing (mostly not to embarrass myself or him by arguing). However, when we got home, I would say, (occasionally prefaced with “please”), “Don’t do that to me again.” He obviously didn’t hear. Before long, he was asking me to make a loose leaf folder of his favorite songs and keep them at my seat to sing on a moment’s notice. “Lord,” I prayed, “I want to be obedient to my husband, but You and I both know I’m not called to sing!” The Lord ignored my prayer. He did not deliver me from my internal conflict. My husband disregarded all my protests in spite of the many times I explained to him why “I” shouldn’t sing and preference should be given to others. The longer and the better my husband knew me, the more he seemed to like my voice.
Reluctantly I acquiesced to his requests knowing the Lord could not bless the people through a wife who held anger and resentment toward her husband. I realized it was a pride issue and struggle to give it to the Lord. My desire to be in harmony with my husband was stronger than my desire not to sing. Sometime later, we visited another church and the pastor asked if we had a musical selection to share. You guessed it! My husband volunteered me! I nearly slid under the pew. To sing in the comfort of my own congregation who knew and loved me was very different from singing in front of people I’d never met. However, it would do no good nor would it be appropriate for me to protest. The Lord was strengthening me to respond without anger or resentment—to sing, not only as unto the Lord, but also as a gift to my husband. A few times in recent years, I have actually volunteered to sing. That’s victory!
4. THE VOICE OF THE HEART. Years ago I heard a story about a group of monks who every year at Easter time got together and sang the Gospel story in what was called a cantata. Because they lived in a very remote region, it was most unusual for any visitors to come by. However, one year they invited a specially trained choir to come sing the Gospel story for them. The voices were wonderful and the guests were thrilled with the rendition. After the visitors left and the monks went back to prayer, they heard the Lord say, “Where was my choir this year?” “Why Lord,” they said, “we brought in the best this year. Their voices were clear. They sang in tune. Their harmonies were exhilarating.” To this the Lord answered, “But I’m not looking for the best voices; I’m looking for pure hearts.” In other words, man hears the voice but God hears the heart.
In three different passages, David said: I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah (Psa.3:4). I cried unto God with my voice, [even] unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me (Psa.77:1). Both times he says, God heard him. And when he was hiding in the cave, David said: I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication (Psa.142.1). Hundreds of years later, the Apostle Paul recounted the story of David and commented that God gave this testimony: I have found David the [son] of Jesse, a man after mine own heart (Acts 13:22). When God heard David’s prayers, he heard them through the condition of his heart, not the tone or quality of his voice.
The Apostle Peter writes, For the eyes of the Lord [are] over the righteous, and His ears [are open] unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord [is] against them that do evil (1 Pe.3:12). Again, we see that God hears the prayers of those whose hearts are in the right condition. This begins with a prayer of repentance. Many testimonies are given by people who were selfish, did not honor or worship God, yet when a calamity arose and they cried out to Him, a miracle happened. At that moment, their heart so earnestly desired to know God, that He heard their prayer. This is another example showing it’s not the words we say, nor the tone or volume of the voice that moves God, rather it is the condition of our heart.
5. THE VOICE OF JESUS. When we sing in the congregation, we are never singing solos. Jesus sings with us! For both He that sanctifies and they who are sanctified [are] all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto You [God] (Heb.2:11-12). Furthermore, He says we will recognize His voice! Jesus says, My sheep hear my voice; and I know them and they follow me (John 10:27). The Greek word used here is akouo which means more than just listen; it means to hear with understanding.
The Pharisees contended that they were the religious leaders and as such were the ones who “called the shots.” Jesus, however, neither submitted to them nor to their law. This angered the Pharisees who continually opposed Him and demanded that the people align with them and ignore Jesus. It was in this context that Jesus describes them as false shepherds and pointed out: My sheep hear my voice. They hear their master and understand what He is saying. He calls His own sheep by name, and They know His voice and can distinguish it from that of a stranger and a stranger will they not follow. Anyone who has a pet animal understands the simplicity of this statement. The dog knows the voice of his master—how much more do we as human beings with developed mental faculties discern the various voices in our lives—including the voice of Jesus. Most of us do not hear an audible sound, but deep down inside we KNOW what He’s saying. The times we aren’t sure, it’s usually because we want Him to be saying a certain thing to us and He is not confirming it.
It’s interesting to me that a friend I haven’t talked with for twenty or thirty years can call me on the phone, and the minute I hear the voice, I recognize it! Voices are so unique that they are stamped indelibly in our mind. Even when we can’t immediately put a name with the voice, we recognize it familiarity. Adam and Eve knew God’s voice: they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden (Gen.3:8).
6. VOICE OF JOY. In Jeremiah’s day, he prophesied that the voice of praise would cease because of the iniquities and idolatries of God’s people. The voice of God’s prophets was neither heard nor heeded and therefore no longer did they hear the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride, or of the songs that used to grace the weddings. Although these are voices we love to hear, it is threatened here that there will be nothing to rejoice in as a result of disobedience on the part of God’s people. There will be no joy of weddings; no celebrations. Then I will cause to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth (joy) and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. For the land shall be desolate (Jer.7:34; 16:9).
Isn’t it still true today that the comforts of life are abandoned and everything that makes us happy and joyful disappears whenever unrighteousness prevails. Just as in Jeremiah’s time, there is no joy of prosperity when sinful acts have swallowed up our profits. As a result, people look around and see no reason to rejoice. This unfolds quickly right before our eyes. Our disobedience, and that of others, mars the joy of even the most cheerful.
The wonderful thing about our relationship with the Lord is how quickly situations can be reversed. God intervened then, and still intervenes today, on behalf of His people: Thus says the LORD…Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know…I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me…and …Again there shall be heard in this place…the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say: Praise the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His mercy endures forever and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD…(Jer.33:1-12). Our voice interprets our emotions.
7. MY HUSBAND’S VOICE was unique. Sometimes he sang on tune and sometimes he sang off-tune, but he loved to sing. He often said, “People haven’t asked me to sing, but some have asked me not to sing!” And he would give a chuckle. However, he did not sing quietly! Before he lured me into singing solos, he decided we should sing a duet. So in a Wednesday night service after we had been there a couple of years as pastor, he talked me into singing with him, “Heaven Came Down.” It was indeed a testimony to what God had done in our lives.
Day I will never forget
After I’d wandered in darkness away,
Oh what a tender, compassionate friend,
Shadows dispelling, with joy I am telling,
When at the cross the Savior made me whole
My sins were washed away
My night was turned to day
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.
Justified fully through Calvary’s love
Oh what a standing is mine
And the transaction so quickly was made,
Took of the offer
Of grace He did proffer
He saved me
Oh praise His dear name!
8. All VOICES. Whether soft or loud, timid or bold, sweet or brash, soprano or tenor, we identify with voices. Voice inflection varies from language to language but those fluent in the language identify the spoken tones and pitches with various emotions of joy, sorrow, despair, panic, relief. Whether or not we hear God speak to us in an audible voice as He did to Paul or in a still small voice as He did to Elijah, He does speak to us. We recognize His voice—it brings conviction of sin or commendation for faithfulness such as “Enter into the joy of the Lord.”
It is with our heart that we hear His voice, the voice of love, peace, and joy. It is with our voice that we give Him praise from our heart. And it is with joy that He hears our voice giving Him praise and worship–both in speaking and singing.
For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17 NLT
Reprinted from (c) C. Yvonne Karl, The Alabaster Box, Vol 18 No 05