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Lullaby Theology: Singing the Whole Counsel of God

At two years old, David is finding his singing voice. From the backseat he warbles about “The Wheels of the Bus,” and in the bathtub he chirps out “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider.” But yesterday I found him on our bed, thumbing through Daddy’s Bible, singing “Jesus Loves Me.” We got out the ESV Bible my parents gave David when he was born and sat on the bed, looking at the pictures and singing the songs he had learned about God. One of those songs was Praise Him, Praise Him, All Ye Little Children:

Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children,
God is love, God is love;
Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children,
God is love, God is love.

I’ve sung this many times around a circle of unruly toddlers and over crying babies in the nursery. When David was born, I started singing it to him at home as he sat in his chair and watched me cook, wash dishes, and fold laundry. Singing truth is a great way to redeem the “mundane” time, putting into practice the commands of Deuteronomy 6:4-7 with children while getting ordinary things done. Rhythm and simple melody make truths easier to learn and brings cheerfulness to otherwise boring chores (really boring chores if you’re only three months old and can only sit and watch).

However, as I worked and sang through my small repertoire of baby praise songs, I began to notice what a small picture of God I was painting for David. There is no doubt that God is love—and that it is important for the smallest and most vulnerable people to know that—but God has many other attributes as well. Having spent six years teaching The ABCs of God  to first grade students at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, I could think of at least 35 other words about God…Almighty, Creator, Faithful, Holy, Jealous, Righteous, Merciful, Wrathful, Patient, Sovereign, Wise, Incomprehensible (my students’ favorite word), to name only a few. These are also truths David needs to know.

I started to list all of the one-syllable, simple adjectives describing God that I could substitute for “love” in the song: good, wise, just, kind, strong, big, near, great, king, etc. I began to add more verses to Praise Him, Praise Him All Ye Little Children. Even though the song grew much longer, the view of God became much bigger and grander. And that is just what a little child needs. A God who is:

  • Good—who always is good, does good, and gives good things like fields full of dandelions, little sisters, puppy kisses, and even medicine and flu vaccines.
  • Wise—to send rain to water the grass at the park, to make rules about obeying mommy and daddy, to make it dark for nighttime.
  • Strong—who never grows tired or crabby, who cannot be stopped from doing His purposes, who can carry His children through all of life, even when earthly daddies can’t.
  • Big—bigger than anything he is afraid of (the dark, owls, mommy leaving, etc.) and bigger than himself, a God who is the boss of everyone, including toddlers.
  • Near—who is everywhere all the time, even in the middle of the night when parents are sleeping.
  • Just—who is the standard of right and wrong, who judges and disciplines rightly.
  • Great—a hero who never fails, never grows boring, and really deserves to be worshiped and followed.

We love to sing about the love of God to children because we so want them to experience His love, to know His tender care, and to see His smile of favor. God is love, and that’s a good place to start. But we must not stop there because the Bible doesn’t stop there. What toddlers don’t need is another warm and fuzzy “god bear” to cuddle for comfort. They need God. When fears, confusion, and rebellion come as threatening storms into his world, David needs the Lion-Lamb God of the Bible, who not only quiets His children with His love, but who vanquishes enemies with a mighty hand. If we truly want our children to truly praise God for His love, we must place His love within the whole counsel of God, including big words that toddlers may not fully understand for a while.

It will be a long time before David can read all the words the Bible uses to describe God, but until then, he can learn to sing them and say them. The words he learns now will prepare his mind and his heart for deeper teaching when he is older. But even now, his little ears are listening, and his young mind can understand more than we imagine. So we sing, and pray that he will come to love and trust the God that all those important words are about.


This article was written by Sarah House who is a Sunday School teacher and mother of four small children. It was first published in 2014.

Lullaby Theology 201: Singing the Grace of Personal Holiness

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In the lower elementary Sunday school class at Bethlehem Baptist Church, I remember learning three hymns: How Great Thou Art, To God Be the Glory, and
Trust and Obey
. It was a safe assumption that one of those songs would show up in our classroom worship every week amid other songs that have since disappeared from my memory. It’s a worship trio that covers a lot of ground: who God is, what He has done, and how it should change our lives as we respond to it. In that classroom, we weren’t all saved, and we didn’t understand everything we were singing, but the teachers were stamping in our hearts and minds a rhythm of grace—saved by grace, living in faith, changing by grace and faith. (more…)

Lullaby Theology 102: Singing the Whole Gospel of God—Part 2

Our lullabies of truth shouldn’t be songs of horror, but they should tell of the whole Gospel, not just the nice parts of the story. Children see and live out the bad news every day of their lives, so we might as well put labels to it. Even toddlers must know they are sinners acting in rebellion against a holy and righteous God, and thus justly deserving of His wrath. When David storms and stomps and bites his mommy, his offense isn’t mainly against his mother, but the God who created him and his mother. And the consequence for that sin is much worse than he can imagine or mommy can implement. This isn’t good news, but it is reality. (more…)

Lullaby Theology 102: Singing the Whole Gospel of God, Part 1

I’m one of those people who don’t believe in playing Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, so while As with Gladness, Men of Old may sneak into sleepy time repertoire a couple of times in the warmer months, we don’t sing Christmas music until Advent begins. Once Advent begins, Christmas music is almost the only music we sing, because it would be hard to top Infant Holy, Infant Lowly or Silent Night at the close of a winter day with a bundle of baby in your arms. The soft and sweet melodies that roll with such gentle adoration for a newborn King speak tender benedictions over the littlest heads with assurances of God’s nearness, mercy, and grace. (more…)