Singing in “The Hobbit” and With the Saints

hobbit pic of gandalf and bilboI just finished reading The Hobbit for the first time, and I was surprised at all the singing. Surprised–and delighted! In the first and final chapters and in many of those between them, there was a preponderance of songs.

One especially meaningful song appears in Chapter 10 (“A Warm Welcome”). Bilbo had recently rescued the dwarves from imprisonment (in Chapter 9), and now he and the gang were approaching The Lonely Mountain. Along the way, when they came to Lake-town (or Esgaroth), people began to sing “old songs concerning the return of the King under the Mountain.”

The lyrics were:

The King beneath the mountains,
The King of carven stone,
The lord of silver fountains
Shall come into his own!

His crown shall be upholden,
His harp shall be restrung,
His halls shall echo golden
To songs of yore re-sung.

The woods shall wave on mountains
And grass beneath the sun;
His wealth shall flow in fountains
And the rivers golden run.

The streams shall run in gladness,
The lakes shall shine and burn,
All sorrow fail and sadness
At the Mountain-king’s return!

This is prophecy-in-song. The mountain was currently occupied by the despicable dragon Smaug, and people longed for–and sang for–the day when the true Mountain-king would come.

The first verse declares that the king would come. In the second verse, royal music would once again fill the halls. In the third verse, creation would respond as woods and grass wave. In the fourth verse, sorrow and sadness would be no more.

This prophetic song, along with other songs old and new, strengthened the characters. Over the days of such celebration and singing, the dwarves recovered and anticipated the remaining miles of their journey to The Lonely Mountain. Within a week, “Thorin looked and walked as if his kingdom was already regained and Smaug chopped up into little pieces.”

As I read the lyrics of the songs in The Hobbit, I was struck afresh with how important singing is for the saints. We sing not only because of what God has done in Christ but also in view of what he will do. We sing to remember, and we sing for hope. And as was the case with characters in the book, songs strengthen us in the face of fear, trial, and battle. And we mustn’t minimize the power of singing together. The characters joined in song with others. By singing together they grew stronger together.

One final observation about singing in The Hobbit. Even the bad guys, like the goblins, had songs. In Chapter 6 (“Out of the Frying-Pan Into the Fire”), the goblins celebrated their wicked plans with singing. Those songs may be poetic, but ultimately the lines lack the power of the noble songs which come from the souls of the brave and hopeful hobbits, dwarves, and elves. Songs are better which reflect on what is true, beautiful, and worthy.

As I finished the last of the songs in the final chapter of The Hobbit, I found myself looking forward to singing with the saints on the Lord’s Day. I’m ready to remember with them and hope with them. And I’m confident that in singing together we will be stronger together, for what we reflect on is the Lord Jesus Christ, the one most true, beautiful, and worthy.

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It’s Good to be Alive!

sun shining behind treesDid you wake up this morning? If you’re reading this, then the answer is obvious. But for many people around the world, yesterday was their last day. Because of death, their eyes no longer see the sun.

The author of Ecclesiastes says, “Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun” (Eccl. 11:7).

The second part of the verse expands the first. The light in the first part is the sun in the second. In Ecclesiastes those on earth live “under the sun” and thus under its light. For their “eyes to see the sun” means that they are alive. The author tells us what this experience is like: seeing this light is “sweet.”

Light can be many things: bright, illuminating, far-reaching, fast, blinding. But “sweet”? We normally associate that word with food. However, maybe “sweet” is the perfect description of this non-food image of light. This author shows that being alive is sweet! Life tastes good! Opening your eyes to another day is a pleasant thing.

If you read through the book of Ecclesiastes, you’ll note that the author is under no delusion that life is easy and carefree. In the book he is astonishingly, even uncomfortably, candid about life’s vexations and frustrations. So he’s not ignoring the suffering and injustice in the world when he says that “light is sweet.” But suffering and injustice do not make up all the happenings on earth. The author knows life can be hard, but that’s not all it is. We should be willing to say everything that’s true about life.

For each of us under the sun, there is a time to be born and a time to die (Eccl. 3:2), and these times are set by God alone (see 8:15). If you have seen the sun today, then the latter “time” still lies before you. This day, like yesterday, is a gift from God to us. Here is another day to seek him, know him, praise him, fear him, obey him. Here is another day for his glory. It’s good to be alive!