Our best worship songs and hymns are examples of poetry that we sing about and to God. And about our life in God. Scripture is full of this kind of poetry. The psalms are prime examples, called the Song Book of God's people. Examples (some arguably) of poetry that may have been used in the primitive (very early) church are in the New Testament (for example: Romans 11:33-36; Philippians 2:6-11; 1 Timothy 3:16; Revelation 4:8; 4:11; 5:9-10; 5:12; 5:13; 7:12; 11:15; 11:17-18; 12:10-12; 15:3-4; 19:6-8). The Old Testament prophets are written largely in poetic form. And even parts of Scripture not in poetic form (in prose) have been skillfully made into song (examples that would work: Philippians 4:6-7 -see NLT; Romans 8:1-2 -I've heard this one put to song; John 3:16 -many of us have heard that one put to song, etc.)
Perhaps a majority of our best worship songs and hymns come from what A.W. Tozer called, "a sanctified imagination". Such songs are steeped in Scripture, though not found in Scripture. Examples of these abound.
Songs do often reflect ones tradition. Be it Lutheran, Reformed Calvinism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, etc. We should appreciate what we can of such songs (and we may be surprised just how many of these songs we can sing). And use them as we so choose. Many of the songs I like best are those that can be sung in any of the great Christian traditions. We may often disagree as to precisely the meaning of the words in the song. But can heartily sing them as to the Lord.
Christians songs are powerful in shaping peoples' thoughts and lives. They include an element that is, sorry to say, usually lacking in our reading of Scripture: saying and hearing the words spoken. And put to a tune and rhythym, they can penetrate into the very hearts and minds, and then lives, of those who sing them. This can be so easily underrated among us who are heirs of the Protestant Reformation, in which the preaching of the Word of God- Scripture, is given such supreme place in practice. But singing songs in worship to God is on the increase among many of us from that tradition. Just this week at RBC Ministries during our chapel, we had a great time of worship, singing songs and hymns woven well together. It was refreshing. Just as good as hearing a good message or teaching from someone during that half hour. Maybe better, since we seem (to me, myself included) much better practiced in the latter than in the former.
Thank you Father for the gift of music. Let us enter in, singing your praises and glory. Let this be in tune with you. And let this be from us to you, as well as from you to us. In your Son and by your Spirit. Amen.