Shout to the Lord, all the earth;
break out in praise and sing for joy!
Sing your praise to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song,
with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn.
Make a joyful symphony before the Lord, the King!
Psalm 98:4-6 NLT
One of my professors once said that you can tell a lot about a people on the basis of their vocabulary. The more important something is to them, the more words they have to express the various connotations. So, it is said, the Eskimos have seven different words for snow.
This is an especially important point in the Hebrew language, because it has a very small general vocabulary. That means that for some important words, there will be several different, though-related, English ideas expressed by one single Hebrew word. So, when we find several Hebrew words used for a single idea, it means that idea is really important. So for concepts related to sin there are at least eight different Hebrew words.
But the same thing is true with the idea of singing joyfully. In Psalm 99 no fewer than five different words for musical rejoicing appear, four of them in verse 4 alone. Why would this be the case? Why wouldn’t one all-purpose word, like “sing,” for instance, be enough? Clearly it is not enough because the Israelites need more ways than just one of expressing the wonder they have found in Yahweh, their God. He is the creator, the savior, the wonder-worker, the deliverer, the One who made the world in order, and who, praise his name, is coming to set it in order (the meaning of the word often translated “judge”) again. He is Love, he is Truth, he is Power.
This is why Christmas is a musical season. He has come! One carol is not enough. We need every one in the repertoire, and we need some new ones. But it is not just about the Baby; it is about the fact that the creator-savior-wonder-worker-deliverer-reoderer has come! Our God is cause for rejoicing. If you are not singing for joy these days, maybe you need to reflect a little more deeply on the wonder of our God.