Psalm 47:1-9 (ESV)
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.
Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
It is easy for us to understand a commandment to sing. If God tells us to sing, we can sing. We open our mouths and let it fly. But God does not just command us to sing. He does not even simply command us to sing loud. He commands us to sing His praises with joy. This means, at the very least, that to sing praises to God without joy is sinful.
God is to be the only Ruler in our hearts, not our emotional state at the moment, not the circumstances that make us sad and certainly not our idiosyncrasies that enslave us to so much hardship.
This commandment also means that in the believer God is working to produce obedience to this type of commandment. If God has given us everything we need for life and godliness then He will give us what we need to sing with joy.
But what about those times when a loved one has died, we have lost our job, the children have gone awry …? Are we to sing with joy then too? And what if our hearts are so preoccupied with the events taking place that we have difficulty doing this kind of singing?
First of all, this commandment does not mean that we cannot mourn when tragedy hits us. Omitting church for a Sunday because of a death is hardly disobedience to this. Never returning to worship with joy again would be.
Secondly, joining in the worship of God and letting those who are not in the midst of great trial lift your heart would be a good therapy. God does not want us to pretend to be happy. He wants us truly happy. If we are not, we are not to wait until we are. We are to do the things that will help us get there. Going to church and feeding on the joyful participation of brothers and sisters in Christ worshipping God from their hearts is part of getting our joy back.
Third, just seeing this commandment is a help to us obeying it. Seeing that we are to worship God in a particular fashion then we, as believers, will seek to be obedient to that call upon us, no matter what. God does not expect us to rejoice in evil or tragedy. But He does expect us to have the joy of salvation, no matter what the circumstance are.
We can be dejected because of a tragedy and joyful over our salvation at the same time. God says to us, “For two hours, get together with the people of God and direct your thoughts to me, even while you are experiencing great turmoil and trouble.” We have to want to do this and that is a work of the Holy Spirit and He will do it for people who call out to God to be able to.