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Pastoral 2012

Why Did God Give Music to His People?

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In the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, there is a constant reference to music. Some books in the Bible, in part or in their entirety, are songs or poems (e.g. The Book of Psalms). In God’s plan, music is the accompanying counterpart to the Word of God. Therefore, in our churches, we must regard scriptural music highly.

Music is God’s gift

The Bible makes clear reference to music as a blessed means of praise given by the Almighty to His creation. When God unveiled His glory to Job, He told him that “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). Here, the phrase “sons of God” is a reference to the angelic host of God. This verse bears a clear testimony that billions of stars and all the angels of God joined in songs to praise the Almighty in the days of creation. In the Scriptures, we read again and again God calling His creation to sing His glories – “Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel” (Isaiah 44:23).

Man also joined the angels, the stars and other creations to praise the Lord with his own invention of musical instruments. Genesis 4:21 tells us that Jubal is “the father of all such as handle the harp and organ”. Man has been enjoying this marvellous gift of God since the very beginning. Job 35:10 testifies that the giver of the gift of music is none other than God Himself – “God my maker, who giveth songs in the night.” The Psalmist says in Psalm 40:3 that “he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.”

The purpose of music

Music is to glorify God – Why did God give the gift of music to His creation? The first and foremost purpose of the gift of music is to glorify God. Therefore, the subject and aim of our song must be God and His glory. “Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding” (Psalm 47:6-7; cf. Psalms 68:32; 92:1; 135:3).

Moses said, “The LORD is my… song” (Exodus 15:2). Likewise, Isaiah said that “the LORD JEHOVAH is... my song” (Isaiah 12:2). The prophet Habakkuk declared, “I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments” (Habakkuk 3:18-19).

Music is also to teach and edify believers – All that bring glory to God will also bring edification to His people. That is why the Scriptures exhort us to sing in the midst of His congregation. Psalm 149:1 says, “Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.” The Scriptures tell us how the Israelites worshipped while they were rebuilding the temple of the Lord – “they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD” (Ezra 3:11).

The Lord said to Moses, “Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel” (Deuteronomy 31:19). Colossians 3:16 reminds believers – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Music is a God-appointed means of instruction in doctrines and Christian values.

Music is to affirm people in the goodness and righteousness of God – “They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness” (Psalm 145:7). Music enhances the memory of the church in rehearsing what God has done. It has been an integral and powerful tool which God gives to His church for the proclamation of His wondrous deeds to the young and old.

Music comforts the suffering believers – Spiritual songs and melodies have always been a means of comfort. When Paul and Silas were beaten and thrust into the inner prison with their feet fastened in the stocks, they received comfort and peace through songs and prayers. Acts 16:25 says, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”

The warning about music

As much as music is a gift of God, it can also be a tool of the devil – The purpose of music is the praise of God. But it has been perverted throughout human history. The Bible records for us the serious aftermath of godly and ungodly music. While godly music blesses man with the presence of God, ungodly music leads man to worship other gods and even himself.

2 Chronicles 5:13-14 tells us how God blessed the Israelites with His presence as they praised the Lord with songs: “It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.”

On the other hand, Daniel 3:7 tells us how perverted music can compel people to turn away from the living and true God – “Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”

Therefore, the church must show extreme scriptural discipline in its practice of music. We should not fall prey to the world in using its type of music. Music that is used to provoke Satan worship and sensual activities should not be brought to the church. Let us be reminded that though the world might be free to use music without discipline, the church is not.

Music can also give false spiritual assurance, which will finally usher in God’s condemnation. God spoke through Amos against the offering of music that lacks true devotion and understanding: “Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols” (Amos 5:23). “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion,... that chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David” (Amos 6:1, 5). The Israelites in Amos’ time thought that their music was accepted by God because it was much like that of David. In their case, nothing was further from the truth. The prophet Isaiah also pronounced God’s condemnation on Israel’s misguided music – “the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands” (Isaiah 5:12). For sure, music, though sung among God’s people, if it is not offered with true devotion and purity of thought, will be rejected and condemned by God.

Conclusion

We must sing and minister to one another through music as it is God’s gift to His people for His glory and their edification. But it requires vigilance as the Scriptures have warned us. If not, it will become a “sugar-coated poison pill”. So with vigilance, we must delight and rejoice in the use of music as God has intended it.

 

Pastoral Exhortation