Recently, my blog dealt with the fascinating topic of angels. I stated that there are often misconceptions about who they are and how they function in God’s greater plan. In this post I’m continuing with the theme of angels but focusing on one facet — their alleged melodic sensibilities and singing skills.
Now I realize that some folks will likely get their “feathers in a ruffle” over what I’m going to say in this post. My intention is not to offend anyone but to unfold a logical argument for why I believe angels don’t — and actually can’t — sing.
Let me make a couple disclaimers. The first is that I have never spoken to an angel (to my knowledge anyway) so there is the possibility that I’m dead wrong. If that’s the case, I will someday learn otherwise. Second, if angels do happen to sing it certainly wouldn’t offend me; however, the Bible does not say they do and I think there’s some good reasons why.
Okay, some of you are already protesting, “Now just hold it one second, Ryan! My Bible says that they do sing.” Your proof-texts likely include Job 38:7, which states that during the creation of the universe, “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” My rebuttal is that the text mentions “morning stars” but not “angels.” Could the text not be referring to the evocative sounds emanating from stars that astronomers have recorded through a technique called stellar seismology? These resonances supposedly supply scientists with clues about what may be occurring within the stars’ interiors. Mind-blowing stuff!
Another biblical passage is Luke 2:13-14, which describes the appearance of the angelic host to the shepherds tending their flocks in the fields at the birth of Jesus. The Bible says, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” But, notice the text states they were “saying” not “singing.” It was a proclamation of praise, not an angelic choir’s cantata. Now I’m not disputing that the angels were worshipping and praising God, but that does not suggest they were singing — just exalting or proclaiming.
In the Book of Revelation, on a couple of occasions humans are presented as singing, while immediately thereafter heavenly beings are described as speaking. The twenty-four elders surrounding the throne of God, each holding a harp, “sang a new song” to the Lamb of God (Rev. 5:8-10). Next, the living creatures, elders and myriads of angels begin “saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’” (Rev. 5:11-12).
In Revelation 15, those who have overcome the beast (presumably symbolizing the evil Roman emperors), stand beside the sea of glass with harps as they “sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (verse 3). These are apparently martyrs who have paid the ultimate price for their faith and now dwell in God’s presence. Revelation 14:1-3 describes 144,000 redeemed people who are singing a new song, the words of which nobody else can learn, because of their virginity, purity and special status “as firstfruits for God and the Lamb” (verse 4).
Therefore, in the Bible there is a sense in which only humans, and particularly the redeemed, possess the privilege and capability to sing praises to God. The glorious mystery of the prophets fulfilled in Christ, as revealed by the Holy Spirit, involves “things into which angels long to look” (1 Pet. 1:12). However, angels are unable to fully grasp what it feels like or even means to be saved. Only the redeemed can sing redemption’s sweet song. Only the saved can sing about amazing grace. This incomparable gift is beyond the scope of angels’ personal experience.
That is why I believe singing is reserved for the human race. Believers are blessed with the gift of song to praise God and, in turn, receive spiritual encouragement. God has endowed human beings with an innate, natural affinity for music and singing, especially in regard to worship (Eph. 5:19-20). This is one way we are unique in God’s created order — and distinct from the angels.