Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Psalm 100.1-2 (KJV)
Bottles and Bugles
If you drive through the American South this time of year, occasionally you’ll spot a tree with colorful bottles swallowing its recently bared limbs. As fable has it, the bottles lure encroaching evil spirits and trap them before they reach the house. When a breeze shakes the tree, they rattle to indicate they’ve snared an imp. When we usher in the New Year with millions of cosmopolitan New Yorkers, Times Square roars with blaring paper bugles—another fable. Medieval Europeans believed a surge of racket warded off last year’s evil to offer a fresh start. Before dismissing these traditions as artifacts of primitive cultures, it bears noting the Bible also endorses making noise. But its reasons have nothing in common with other noise-related fables.
Could Have, Wouldn’t Have
God tells Israel to march around Jericho for a week, adding trumpeters the last day. “When you hear a long blast on the trumpets, give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse,” He says. It does. (Joshua 6.5) The dedication of Solomon’s temple climaxes when the congregation raises its voice in praise; according to 2 Chronicles 5.13-14, a cloud descended “and the priests could not perform their service… for the glory of the LORD filled the temple.” In Acts 16, Paul and Silas pass time in jail, singing and praying aloud. A violent earthquake shakes the jail, its doors fly open, and everyone’s chains come loose. The jailer rushes to the scene. Seeing no one escaped, he converts to Christ on the spot.
Let’s grant it’s unlikely the noise caused these phenomena. More reasonable explanations actually clarify how God’s noise dynamic works. The question isn’t if these miracles could have happened in silence but what wouldn’t have happened had noise not preceded them. Would Israel have been prepared to take Jericho after its fortifications fell? Would worshippers have seen God’s glory? Would Paul and Silas have led the jailer to Christ? It’s possible—but not probable.
Pump Up the Volume
Psalm 100 encourages us to make a joyful noise. As the above accounts prove, when we fill the air with joy, we alter our environment. David sang, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16.11; NKJV) We believe God’s promise to be with us every step of the way. Because He’s there, joy—fullness of joy—is there too. Rain or shine, up or down, alone or in a crowd, whatever we face and wherever we are has no influence on the joy that enfolds us. We have presence of joy.
Joyful noise shows confidence in God outside of other emotions, fears, and doubts we wrestle with. There’s no better time to pump up the volume than when it seems most unrealistic and inappropriate for our circumstances. Facing walls we can’t climb, searching for God’s glory in our lives, or striving to break free of situations we’re locked into, we make some noise—sing, shout, speak, pray, praise, whatever comes naturally to us in times of joy. Joyful noise clears our minds. It clears our vision. It clears the air. It’s bigger than fable. It’s faith.
(Tomorrow: Time Management)