Hallelujah, How The Angels Sang?

By MICHAEL J. BROOKS / Columnist

This is an opinion column.

The book of Acts tells about Aquila and Priscilla who were helpers in the early church. They had the gift of exhortation, or encouragement, and demonstrated this by serving the apostle Paul, and the teacher Apollos. Apollos is virtually unknown except as an itinerant teacher who spent time in Corinth and, some propose, wrote the book of Hebrews. In his early days he had godly zeal but wasn’t schooled in the fundamentals as he should be. Thus, Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and “taught him the word of the Lord more closely” (Acts 18:26).

I’ve had a few descendants of this couple over the years who tried to school me, too. Sometimes they were correct, but sometimes they seemed argumentative.

One of the latter type stopped me after a Christmas sermon and insisted I’d been in error when I talked about the angels singing at Jesus’ birth.

“It says ‘said,’ it doesn’t say ‘sang,’” he declared.

I looked at Luke 2:14 and discovered he was exactly right. I consulted the Greek lexicon and found “lego” is the verb for “speak,” and the one used in this passage, but “humneo” is the word for “sing.” This second Greek verb is the root of our word “hymn.” I discovered that nowhere does the Bible specifically say the angels sang. It might be inferred they sang as they praised the Lord, but we can’t be dogmatic about this. We do know their major function was serving as messengers for the Lord; a “Western Union” kind of calling.

So, angels may not sing. And to further compound our traditional understanding we find that angels are always described as males. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, had “the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). So much for “she sang like an angel.” In fact, any woman claiming to be an angel could be the devil in disguise, as Elvis warned us years ago!

Upon further reflection it occurred to me that human beings are commanded to do something angels may not do; namely, we’re commanded to sing praise to the Lord. One website suggests there are 64 verses in scripture exhorting us to sing praise to the Lord.

I’ve known numbers of people over the years who’ve refused to sing. “I can’t sing,” they say, or, “I can only make a joyful noise and won’t try,” they say. Sometimes I’ll sweetly remind them that we all sing “Happy Birthday” to children and grandchildren and proudly stand at the stadium to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Why would we not want to lift our voices in song and praise God as he commands? As Luther said, “In singing we all become preachers, telling out the good news.”

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.