A few years ago, I overheard another Christian complaining about a worship leader repeating particular parts of a song during a church service. Her main gripe was that the congregation had sung the line once and that was clearly long enough to understand what was being said and we should move on and sing something else. More recently, I’ve heard people joke about the repetitive nature of songs by artists like Jesus Culture and Bethel whose refrains, to quote one of Jesus Culture’s most famous songs go “on and on and on”.
But if we look at the bible we see a huge deal of repetition in the Psalms and elsewhere in scripture, particularly in the setting of corporate worship. So perhaps there is something in this? Maybe the worship leader hasn’t run out of songs on his list, or Jesus Culture aren’t lazy song writers, but in repeating the same sentence as we worship, it gives us time for our minds to pause and focus on something that is true about God. In the same way, when visiting an art gallery, we take our time to sit and absorb the beauty of a painting; in worship we miss something if we rush.
Psalm 136 demonstrates this beautifully. Each verse tells of something incredible that God is or has done for his people and pairs this with the refrain “for his steadfast love endures forever”. As we read this Psalm, each verse reveals a further layer to God’s love for us and by verse 26 we’re almost shouting about God’s love because we’ve more fully comprehended its vastness!
It’s like our mouths can sing it out, but it takes a few times of singing it before our souls catch up and join in. Some of the most precious times of corporate worship I’ve ever experienced, have been times of singing a simple, rich, timeless truth about God, and then singing it again and again each time more fully grasping what an incredible God we have.
In Isaiah 6 we read of the seraphim singing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” When we read John’s vision in Revelation, written hundreds of years later, the heavenly creatures are still singing the same song! When we truly grasp the greatness of our wonderful God, 10,000 years of singing the same song will be nowhere near enough!
By Justin Sloan