In the first seven parts of this series, we have looked at a number of things that should be part of our individual walk with God–if our hope and desire is to have intimacy with Him. Praise, worship, thanksgiving, and prayer are often integrated with each other. Music is one of the pathways God has designed for each one of these. We will spend a few minutes on music and how it is a universal expression of these very things.
Music was designed, or “orchestrated” by God. People forget where music comes from, but it was not man who invented it. God, as with everything else in creation, created not only sound, but music. He also designed the ability to hear sound, without which we would not be able to enjoy sound or distinguish one sound from another. Most of us can distinguish between the sound of a cannon going off and the sound of a hen cackling after she has laid an egg.
Then there is music. God was the one that designed the 13-note musical octave which is so obvious on any piano. There are 8 whole notes (the white keys) and 5 half notes (the black keys) in each octave. With those 13 distinguishable notes, human beings have been writing millions of tunes for thousands of years! On a full sized piano keyboard, there are 88 different notes. No one has any idea how many songs have been written using those same 88 notes! .
Of all of the music written over the thousands of years since the time of Adam, there has been both good and bad music. Can there really be “bad” music, you might ask? Absolutely! It depends on what or “who” inspires the music that is written. Humans are designed to be “moved” by music. It affects the “soulish” part of the human being, and inevitably will usually express itself physically. There is music that is inspired via the human spirit, and then there is music that is inspired via the soul. Music can also be inspired from the pit of hell! How, you ask?
Satan, aka “the devil,” “ the fallen Lucifer,” “Beelzebub,” along with a host of other names, was a very high ranking angel, or cherubim that at one time eons ago was responsible for coordinating the music in God’s Heaven. God had designed into him musical abilities that can suggest that he was in actuality a musical instrument himself. Although he fell from his lofty position in God’s Heaven, he did not lose all of his musical abilities. He also didn’t lose his knowledge of how music affects God’s creation. Music can be used to affect in a good way or in an evil way. Man was created by God with the ability to choose which he will allow himself to be influenced by.
Every culture on earth has its own style of music. There is nothing about the difference between them culturally that designates one wrong and another right. What makes the difference is how it was inspired. That of course will lead us to the difference in religions. Since there is only one true Almighty God, there can also be only one truly right belief system. You might ask, “Isn’t that a bit narrow minded?” It might seem so to the mind of man, but since there is only one God that created us, there can not be a choice of many “gods” and the influences they bring. That has nothing to do with culture but spirituality, true or counterfeit.
This Creator God will not inspire music that encourages people to break His own laws. Neither will He inspire music that helps to cause the kind of chaos that has been a plague to mankind since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden. The God who created mankind also will not inspire music that glorifies anything that would take away from the glorious relationship that mankind can have with his or her Creator.
This is not the time to go into a long discussion on music and where it comes from and the damage it does or does not do to mankind. I would just like to show how the Bible speaks of music and how it was designed as a means to deepen one’s relationship with his or her Creator. This should interest us as most of us enjoy music to one degree or another.
King David in the Old Testament was a prolific writer of music. He not only wrote the words as poetry or prose, but he was also an instrumentalist. When one reads the book of Psalms, we read the thoughts of King David’s heart put to music. Unfortunately we have no way of hearing David’s music but we do have some of the words that he put to music. When you take a good look at the words, it is not hard to see why God called King David a man after His own heart. So, with this in mind, let’s look at why this is so important to the life of a true follower of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. I cannot help but think of Psalms 149. It reads thus:
“Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker, let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise His Name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine and harp. For the Lord takes delight in his people; He crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds. May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them. This is the glory of all his saints. Praise the LORD!” (NIV)
King David had to fight battles his whole life and so his writings show the double-edged sword of his deep, deep devotion to the Lord God, but also his willingness and ability to fight for his people, Israel. Notice however how he emphasizes the use of voice and instrumentation to praise and worship the Lord his God. Psalms 150 shows this even more:
“Praise the LORD. Praise GOD in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens. Praise Him for His acts of power, praise Him for His surpassing greatness. Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise Him with the harp and lyre, praise Him with tambourine and dancing, praise Him with the strings and flute, praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!”
Music is just another way we can express praise and worship to our God. We can play it on musical instruments or we can sing our praises to God, but it is important to put it to voice in one way or another. God designed us this way. 1 Chronicles 23:5 speaks of King David designating 4,000 musicians to play their praises to God during the future building of Solomon’s temple while others worked. In another Scripture, Psalms 33:1-3 says this:
“Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.”
There are Scriptures throughout the Old Testament describing the use of all kinds of instruments in our expression of thanksgiving, praise, and worship to our God. The first recorded song of praise however, actually came from the prophet Moses. It is found in Exodus 15:1-18:
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone.
“Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power, Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger, it consumed them like stubble. By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood firm like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.
“The enemy boasted, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’ But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
“Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you–majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them.
“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall upon them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone–until your people pass by, O Lord, until the people you bought pass by. You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance–the place, O Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established. The Lord will reign forever and ever.”
This song of Moses shows how a victory the Children of Israel experienced in their flight from the Egyptian Pharaoh and his army, was turned into a song of praise to the Lord God, their protector. People of God have been doing this ever since. It is an example of how we can express our thanksgiving and praise to God even today.
Singing was connected with praise in Psalms 69:30; Psalms 9:11; 147:7; 2 Samuel 22:50; 1 Chronicles 16:9, as well as other passages. Many Scriptures speak of singing a new song.
One of these is found in Psalms 40:3 where it says:
“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
In Solomon’s day, this is what we read about part of the dedication of the new temple which had just been built on Mount Moriah:
“The priests then withdrew from the Holy Place. All the priests who were there had consecrated themselves, regardless of their divisions. All the Levites who were musicians–Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives–stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: ‘He is good; his love endures forever.’ Then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.”
The Old Testament gives us numerous examples of the people praising God en mass, both with voices and also with instruments. Another example was during Nehemiah’s time–again as the Temple was being dedicated, this time the second Temple. Here is how Nehemiah 12:46 reads:
“For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the singers and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. So in the days of Zerubbabel and of Nehemiah, all Israel contributed the daily portions for the singers and gatekeepers. They also set aside the portion for the other Levites, and the Levites set aside the portion for the descendants of Aaron.”
God’s people throughout history have always praised God through word and song. Music was always an integral part of all of the festivities. It was something that God built into the way of life of God’s people, not just for early times, but also for today. For seven days the Levites would praise God during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This is found in 2 Chronicles 30:21:
“The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great rejoicing, while the Levites and priests sang to the Lord every day, accompanied by the Lord.”
We have many other examples of God’s people praising through music in the Bible. There was great praise when Jesus was born. This was of course a very happy occasion. We find that praise and thanksgiving was given in song even when things were not going so well. The Apostle Paul and his coworker Silas praised God while in prison. This is found in Acts 16:22-25:
“The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”
It is easy to joyfully sing and praise God when everything is going pretty well for us. We are taught however that we can and should also be just as committed in our thanksgiving to God when we are in those dark valleys. We can’t allow ourselves to be shallow enough to only be thankful and give God praise when we are on the mountain top. Many of the greatest hymns of all time were written during the author’s deepest trials. One example of this is the old hymn, “It is well with my soul.” The author wrote this song right after finding out that he had just lost his wife and four daughters at sea as they were traveling from England to meet him in America. Praise was something that the early church was also known for. These people went to the temple together, they met in homes together, eating meals, having fellowship, singing, and praying every day. Acts 2:46-47 tells us this:
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Earlier in this series we learned about “praise.” Here I have brought it back into the discussion to show how important music is in our life of praise. Music has a strong effect on the human soul, and can change us either for the good or the bad. A person who inundates their life with one kind of music will be pulled that direction with their thinking. People who listen to violent musical lyrics will find themselves thinking more and more violent thoughts. People who listen to music that glorifies a life that has no moral compass, will find themselves gradually allowing their own morals to slip. Those that fill their lives with good God-glorifying music, will find their own spiritual walk with God deepening. This is just the way we were created.
Songs of praise are often connected to blessing and thanksgiving to God. One example of this is found in Psalms 69:30-34:
“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs. The poor will see and be glad–you who seek God, may your hearts live. The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people. Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them…”
“Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!”
Then verses 6-7:
“Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.”
Many people’s “religious” life is designed around their attendance in church. This is never going to be enough, no matter how spiritually alive a church may be. Our walk with God must be one that involves every day of our life; in fact, every moment of our life. The Bible speaks to this as well. Let’s look at Psalms 145:1-3:
“I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name forever and ever. Everyday I will praise you and extol your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.”
Psalms 66:1-4 shows the importance of honoring God for “Who” He is, using every means at our disposal; shouting, singing, and anything else that our spirit stirs us to use as a tool:
“Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious! Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!’ So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. all the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name.”
Our God is worthy of all praise, all worship, every hour of every day until we either breathe our last or the Lord calls us all home when the dispensation of grace comes to a close. We shout, we clap, we dance, we sing, we play instruments, and we laugh and cry. God deserves our very best. He gave His best for us!
To Be Continued in Part 9 where we will discuss “Meditating” on God and His Word.