Come, Let Us Sing

This weekend, a group of ladies gathered in my home to sing Psalms. Most had never experienced harmonized Psalmody before but after an hour or so there we all were confidently singing our parts following the notes on the page, God’s own words on our lips, our eyes becoming fluent in the language of music given us for the worship of our King. This is not a post about restoring the treasury of Psalms and hymns to our worship services, though I yearn for that with all my heart, it’s a post about restoring the role of Christian women in caring for their families, the elderly, the sick, and the saints. What does Psalm singing have to do with hospitality?

While the singing of lullabies is still considered a natural function of motherhood, we seem to have lost the art of caring for the sick and elderly through song. In fact, we seem to have abandoned the art of caring for the sick and elderly altogether. Restoring the art of caring through song is merely a small part of restoring obedience to the commands of 1 Timothy 5. A widow was only to be supported by the church if she had a “a reputation for good works; if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in affliction, if she has devoted herself to every good work.” When were all these qualifications fulfilled? The moment her husband died? No, they began when she was young, when she was fulfilling the Titus 2 mandate to “love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands…” and when older women in the church were busy teaching her to do those very things. They began when she was obeying the earlier part of 1 Timothy 5 when she was learning “to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return their parents.” This imperative is followed by an indicative that is sadly disregarded today. “For this is pleasing in the sight of God.”

Here’s where I want to address you older parents who are determined “not to be a burden to your kids.” Scripture is clear, that caring for the elderly in your family pleases God. When you rob your children of the opportunity to take care of you, you are robbing them of the opportunity to please God and robbing God of taking pleasure in the good deeds of His children. And it’s generational thievery. You’re also robbing your grandchildren of learning from the example of their own parents in caring for you. This means they will be less likely to care for their own parents.

And I’m not ignoring the very real fact that this can mean putting yourself in what can be a very humbling position, nor that it can be physically and emotionally exhausting, and yes, messy, work for your kids. The difficulty of these circumstances is one of the things that makes this sacrificial act so pleasing to God. My parents modeled this beautifully for me. They cared well for their parents, and my mom and I would often talk of her coming to live with me in her old age. But while the Lord saw fit to take my mother home quite suddenly and unexpectedly, I did have the opportunity to care for my dad in his home during his last days. My middle son, Nathan, was there with me for much of that time. I know it was indescribably difficult for my usually self-reliant father to find himself in the position of needing his most basic physical needs met by others, but he was a model of graciousness through it all. My dad died well. And his last days were filled with song. I chronicle that unforgettable time in another post. Click here.

What a pity that the Psalms and hymns our older generation and the generations before them treasured most are increasingly unknown to the only ones left to sing them in their hour of need. Is it not true that part of honoring our father and mother is honoring the sacrifice of praise they offered to our God and using that means to comfort and cheer them on into their eternal rest? Unlike modern songs, the Psalms and many hymns don’t skirt around the subject of death and dying, rather they prepare our hearts and instruct us in how to face it with confidence and joy.

Younger women, I implore you. Learn the Psalms and hymns. Get comfortable singing them without a rocking band and complicated sound board. Find opportunities to care for others through the simple gift of song. Start with your own grandparents, a sorrowing friend, a neighbor battling cancer, or one of the elder orphans filling the local nursing home.

Finally, I want to recommend 2 podcasts related to this subject. One is by Brian and Lexy Sauve on the subject of deathbed hospitality. Click here for that link. The other, by Owen Strachan (click here), sounds like just another rant about modesty judging by its title, but the second half is devoted to the subject of women’s ministry and I think he makes some excellent points. Namely, that our churches need not be in the business of providing what I lightheartedly refer to as “seminary for chicks.” We do however need godly Christian women willing to model and teach another generation how to care for our families, the elderly, the afflicted, and each other, and our classroom needs to be the home.

Singing may seem like such a small, insignificant part of that, but I can assure you, after this weekend, there’s no more glorious place to start.

The Martyrs’ Psalm

On February 12, 1554 a martyr mounted a London scaffolding having denounced the Catholic doctrines of salvation by works, transubstantiation, and Papal authority even though a simple verbal assent may have proved life-saving.  As from so many other martyrs, it was Psalm 51 they were heard quoting, before the axe fell or the tinder was lit. 

The martyr’s name was Lady Jane Grey.

She was 17 years old.

Why Psalm 51?  Why the confession of an adulterous, murderous King on the sweet lips of this young girl and countless others willing to die for their faith?

(Click here to read Psalm 51 and for even greater effect you can choose Kristin Getty’s voice to read it aloud to you and then imagine the words coming from a 17 year old girl with her pious head on a chopping block).

Like King David, Lady Jane Grey held the throne, albeit for a mere nine days, and like King David she was hunted by another monarch, only her persecutor met with ultimate success.  Neither sought the throne themselves and yet that is where their royal similarities seem to end. Except for the thing they held most in common– the God they served.  And in her time of deepest testing, it was the failed king’s Psalm of repentance that sprang from Lady Jane Grey’s lips.

If the words of Psalm 51, give us a glimpse into the heart of this teenage martyr, consider some of the other recorded words of Lady Jane Grey.  This excerpt is from a letter written shortly before her execution to her younger sister:

“I have sent you, good sister Katherine, a book which, although it is not outwardly framed with gold, yet inwardly it is of more worth than precious stones. It is the book, dear sister, of the law of the Lord. It is His testament and last will which He bequeathed unto us wretches; which shall lead you into the path of eternal joys; and if you with a good mind read it, and with an earnest mind do purpose to follow it it shall bring you to an immortal and everlasting life. It shall teach you to live and learn you to die.”

What kind of life experience produces that kind of spiritual maturity in the face of persecution?  Consider these events from her history:

1536 (or 37) Lady Jane Grey is born to conniving parents Henry and Frances who in an attempt to gain access to the British throne commenced an unusual method of education with the hopes of marrying their daughter off to Henry VIII’s son, Edward.

1542 Providence places Jane under the tutelage of protestant John Aylmer who instructs 6 year old Jane in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French and Spanish and more importantly the Tyndale English Bible.  She becomes so proficient in languages that she eventually is able to correspond in Latin and Greek with noteworthy Reformers such as Martin Bucer and Heinrich Bullinger.

1545 9-year-old Jane is sent to live permanently at court as maid-of-honor to King Henry VIII’s 6th wife, Catherine Parr, a devout Christian.  There she engages in regular Bible study with other believers and comes to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.  Prince Edward also is surrounded by strong Christian influences at this time including Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer and develops a deep zeal for the protestant faith.

1547 King Henry VIII dies and 9-year-old Edward becomes King of England but quickly falls victim to scheming Uncle Edward Seymour who assumes custody and thus control of the throne.  Edward Seymour’s brother, Thomas, now married to King Henry VIII’s widow, Catherine Parr, is busy with his own schemes and convinces Jane’s father to sell her to him for 2000 pounds in exchange for a promised union with the young King Edward VI.  11-year-old Jane is now a ward of the Seymour’s and happily back under the Christian influence of Catherine.  Unfortunately, Catherine soon after dies in childbirth just before Thomas himself is beheaded for attempted kidnapping of the king.  Another conniving counselor to young King Edward VI, John Dudley, convinces Jane’s parents to transfer guardianship to himself.

1553 Dudley retains hopes of marrying his ward to King Edward VI until it becomes apparent that the young king is in fact dying of tuberculosis. So 16-year-old Jane is instead forced to marry John Dudley’s own son, Guilford. But Dudley keeps a foot in the royal door by demanding the marriage be considered unconsummated in case the young king pulls through and an annulment can be made, freeing Jane up to marry him.  King Edward VI doesn’t pull through.  He dies just a month and a half later after amending the original document of succession to name his Protestant cousin Lady Jane Grey as heir to the throne rather than either of his 1/2 sisters. 17-year-old Jane, is proclaimed the new Queen of England by John Dudley himself.  Jane responds to her new title with these words: “The crown is not my right, and pleaseth me not. The Lady Mary is the rightful heir.”

Lady Jane Grey reluctantly holds the throne just over a week before her Catholic cousin Mary arrives with troops to depose her.  Queen Jane hands over the crown and spends the rest of her short life imprisoned in the Tower of London. Her parents immediately renounce their allegiance to Jane and turn their support to Queen Mary. Her mother and sister even going so far as to carrying the train of Queen Mary’s gown on her coronation day and then moving into the new queen’s court while Jane herself is still imprisoned. 

Jane’s young husband, Guilford, is also imprisoned in the tower of London and during the brief times they are allowed to be together seems to come under the godly influence of his wife and evidences a remarkable change in character and maturing in faith. The two, previously strangers and pawns, develop a genuine affection for one another before their executions on the same day.

Given the betrayal this young girl experienced at the hands of the very people whose job it was to protect her, it’s amazing that she didn’t quote the following words from a few Psalms later, 55:12-14 

“For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, Then I could bear it; Nor is it one who hates me who has magnified himself against me, Then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, My close companion and my familiar friend; We who had sweet counsel together Walked in the house of God in the throng.”

But in all of Jane’s writings there is no hint of self-pity, or entitlement, bitterness over betrayal, or bemoaning her victim status. Instead her choice of Psalm 51 proves especially poignant given her circumstances.

In this Psalm, King David uses no fewer than 5 different terms for his acts of adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband:  transgressions, iniquity, sin, evil, and bloodguiltiness.  For these he is pleading with God for mercy, for washing, cleansing, purging, renewal, restoration, deliverance and salvation.  David confesses that the sin he was born in and continued to walk in are not just constantly visible to his own eyes but to God’s as well.  In fact, even though others suffered deadly consequences as a result of his adultery and murder it was God Himself that David repents of sinning against. 

Today there is a popular message floating around that Bathsheba was most assuredly raped even though there is no scriptural evidence for that claim. Simultaneously, a mildly pornographic movie supposedly retelling the story of Hosea portrays his harlot wife, Gomer, also as a victim. And at the same time, our daughters have truly become the victims of perverted injustice as men are allowed to invade their locker-rooms and steal their trophies. But how many of us turned a blind eye when our sisters were invading the boys locker-rooms and club-houses and insisting on being one of the guys? How many of us are willing to confess and repent of the immodest, immoral, defiant, discontented, selfish, spoiled lifestyles that have contributed to the ugliness we now want to hide from?

The fact is, we live in a day when women in general are losing touch with their own sinfulness and instead adopting a communal identity of victimhood and spiritual superiority to men. Psalms of confession and contrition rarely leave our lips. And it’s killing us. David well understood this. Psalm 32:3 describes the spiritual and physical toll of unconfessed sin, the literal wasting away of a body shrouded in silent iniquity. 2 Timothy 3:6 gives further insight into the effects of festering sin on the spiritual well being of women in particular.

“For among them are those who enter into households and take captive weak women weighed down with sins, being led on by various desires, always learning and never able to come to the full knowledge of the truth.” 4 things to note from this verse:

1) Unconfessed sin weakens women and weighs them down. We are especially prone to this today when we refuse to even identify sin as such. Instead we apply psychological labels and even personality categories to our sin or shift the blame to some other person/event from our past

2) We are still following the example of Eve and being led by our desires. Genesis 3:6 tells us that “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, so she took from its fruit and ate.” Eve’s desires seem harmless enough in and of themselves. But she let them lead her into disobedience against God who benevolently had given only one single prohibition for her to mind.

3) Current women’s ministry models can perpetuate this rebellion by providing endless opportunities for women to avoid facing their own sin and instead pursue activities, books, and even solidly doctrinal studies, all things desired to make one wise, without ever coming to “the full knowledge of the truth.”

4) All these put us in a vulnerable position to be taken captive by false teachers. At the time of Paul’s admonition to Timothy, these teachers were creeping into churches and households in person. Today, we carry those false teachers in an infinite array around with us in our back pocket where they have access to us via social media, podcasts, and other web-based platforms 24/7.

Today is Good Friday. Many of us will be attending services and taking communion where there will be a time of confession as we remember the atoning sacrifice of our Lord. What an example of humble contrition young Lady Jane is for us this day. Our heads may not be on the chopping block but let’s bring back the gentle beauty of women on their knees in quiet repentance before our King of Kings, Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us. 

God Made Known


who loves to breathe the mountain air,

to see the the scrub jays hopping here and there,

to listen as the winds through tall pines blow,

to feel the frigid stream through fingers flow,

to smell the campfire wafting in the breeze,

to taste wild berries picked on hands and knees,

to wrestle with and win a wild trout;


who stands with splendor all about;

Know this:

there is a God

and through creation

He has Himself made known.

So if your heart has lately hardened grown,

look again.

For God has thus revealed Himself to you

and having sight leaves man without excuse.

by Julie McEntee

from “On Eshom Creek: Poems for Anglers Young and Used-to-be”