Lullaby Theology 101: Singing the Whole Counsel of God

By Sarah House

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, Wrath, 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…

  • He 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.
  • He needs a God who is 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.
  • He needs a God who is 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.
  • He needs a God who is 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.
  • He needs a God who is near—who is everywhere all the time, even in the middle of the night when parents are sleeping.
  • He even needs a God who is just—who is the standard of right and wrong, who judges and disciplines rightly.
  • He needs a God who is 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 can’t 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 brain 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 all those important words are about.

Written by Children Desiring God

Children Desiring God produces God-centered resources for church and home.

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