A copy of my notes for the sermon I preached today
God's Plan for Music
I took part in a discussion online this week regarding music. A man posed an open-ended question:
"What criteria do you have for accepting or rejecting particular song in your church?"
It got me thinking. We know the best way to approach any question is “what saith the scripture?”
So I've been doing some digging. We won't get into the technicalities of beats or the dynamics of syncopation. Let's just get some stuff out of the Bible that will help us to have the correct mindset when it comes to choosing Biblical Music for our church services, special music, and our own everyday personal entertainment and/or edification.
We want to gain an understanding of how God thinks of music and how He uses it. Our questions to answer today are
- Why do we sing?
- What does godly music consist of?
- How do we define the standard for music?
Let's lay a little groundwork by looking at first mention:
*Sing or Singing: Chronologically Job 38:7 The morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy at the creation of the world. So singing has been around since the beginning of time, and probably before. But first mention is The Song of Moses in Exodus 15:1 Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
The first mention here gives us the answer to our first question: Why do we sing? The ultimate motive: when God delivers us from bondage, the natural response of a full and thankful heart is to break out into singing. That's the way we are wired; the way God created us.
Turn to Psalm 137; speaking of the captivity...
2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
4 How shall we sing the LORD'S song in a strange land?
When you cannot enjoy singing, when you are half-hearted about it , or when you would frankly rather sit down and cry..maybe you are in a strange land. Maybe you are in captivity, even as a Christian, and you need to accept the deliverance you have in Christ Jesus. Maybe you've never experienced deliverance and need to be born again. If you are sitting here today and you've never had a spiritual song just burst from your lips, you should examine yourself to see whether you be in the faith. Homiletics would teach me to save that till the end of the sermon..but like I said this is not an ordinary message. Instead what we are going to do is stand and sing our first song: # :He is able to deliver Thee.
All right, now the first mention of Music: When David and Saul came in from defeating Goliath and the Philistines. Again deliverance. But after that the next few dozen mentions of music and musicians is David appointing musicians for the house of the LORD. This is an important role of David that I have never heard mentioned. David ushered in a new era of worship: that of praising the Lord with music. God did not set the Levites aside to play instruments, aside from some trumpeters. There was no singing choir in the first tabernacle. God waited until David came along to set it up. Not sure why, but it's very interesting. Perhaps to purge the influence of Egypt? Something to think about.
2 Chronicles 23:18:
Also Jehoiada appointed the offices of the house of the LORD by the hand of the priests the Levites, whom David had distributed in the house of the LORD, to offer the burnt offerings of the LORD, as it is written in the law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, as it was ordained by David.
We get an insight in 2 Chronicles 29:25 During Hezekiah's righteous rein, as he set things up much the way David had.
And he set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the LORD by his prophets. God had David as one of His prophets to set up this new method of worship.
Turn to 2 Chronicles 5:12
Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:)
13 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;
14 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.
Here is another reason we sing. This is the one that has been completely turned around and nullified. One of the biggest arguments for contemporary so-called “Christian” music is that “it makes people worship the Lord.” We'll get into that later on, but the point that God's Word makes here is that this is not the primary purpose for singing. It is to usher in the presence of Almighty God. If we would get that do you think it might revolutionize the way we sing as a congregation? We know that where two are three are gathered... but holy singing moves God to display His glory and power.
Turn to 2 Chronicles 20:21
21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.
22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
23 For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another.
24 And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.
Wow, because they met the savage swordsmen with singing servants! Now if they had run away you might say well they aren't the only ones who found traditional Jewish music disturbing. But no, God left no doubt. It wasn't the singing that killed them, it was just God's cue. You can come at me with a Gatling gun, but watch out buddy; in my back pocket I've got a pitch pipe!
Music moves the arm of God. Get that down. Write it down if you are taking notes.
Don't just start your day with Bible reading and prayer. Start your day with music.
With that thought, keep your place in2 Chronicles 20, and let's stand and sing our second song, # : I Need Thee Every Hour. Here's a good one to start a day with.
_______________________________________________________#2. What does godly music consist of? What components are we looking for?
2 Chronicles 20 again what word is in this passage 3 times? Praise. What is the book of Psalms about? Praise. We want a lot of our singing to be uplifting attributes of God, pointing out His love, His mercy, grace, might. Keeping ourselves down here and lifting God up to where He belongs. I can't think of a better song than # O Worship The King. We don't have a new roof on this building yet, so don't worry about lifting this one right off...or inviting God to do it.
You can be seated. Another thing to look for is doctrine, some meat on the bones of a song; some substance. This is where most modern “praise choruses” leave us high and dry. I stayed up past 1 this morning writing a sermon, because of caffeine. But to function in normal day to day life, I need real doctrinal food. Natural vitamins and nutrients.
Go to Psalm 136. If anyone wants justification for a highly repetitious song, this is the only place they can go.
1 O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
2 O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.
3 O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.
4 To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.
5 To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.
6 To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.
7 To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:
8 The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:
9 The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.
10 To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:
11 And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever:
12 With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.
13 To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever:
14 And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever:
15 But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.
16 To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever.
17 To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:
18 And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:
19 Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever:
20 And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever:
21 And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever:
22 Even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.
23 Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:
24 And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.
25 Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever.
26 O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Some repetitious material, sure, but in this short Psalm we have an account of creation and the entire history of Israel! So let's avoid the light, fluffy stuff and get songs that we can use to fulfill Collosians 3:16 Let's go there and take a fresh perspective of this verse. We always start in the middle of this verse when quoting it, but we miss the crucial context.
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.
These Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are to be based on the Word of Christ. We sing songs that reiterate, uphold, confirm Scripture. If they do not, we scrap 'em!
OPBBC Choir, a conservative, God-honoring church group.
We want songs that, as a secondary function, cause us to want to worship. Let's dig into the dynamics of this controversial topic a little. The best analogy I could come up with to illustrate this is starting fluid. It's a bit of a necessary evil in some pieces of equipment, but it's not a good source of constant fuel. Starting fluid can be sprayed in the intake of a gas or diesel engine, and it will run very well, very fast, on the vapors of that ether alone. It will appear to be doing the job. But in a few short minutes that engine will be completely ruined beyond repair. Starting fluid is worship in the flesh. Real diesel fuel is worship in the spirit. Both get the ball rolling, both have the best of intentions, and both get people to praise and worship and lift their hands and shed tears. But worship ignited in the flesh is rather useless and temporary. I have been to a Christian rock concert where hundreds of teens went forward and “made a decision” for Christ. Oh, it all looked very real. The hair stood up on the back of my neck and everything; surely the spirit of God was in that place. Or was He? Was it perhaps just emotions running the show? If people were genuinely converted at these huge events, this nation would have had a ten-fold revival by now, and that's a fact.
Another thing to look for is a godly composer. Yes, God used reformers and Wesleyans and maybe even a few Catholics to write some of our hymns, but a lot of these men were closer to God than we are. And we look for soundness of doctrine in the songs and we find it, so we sing them. But what about contemporary Christian Music? There are some godly composers and song writers and hymn writers today. “Contemporary” does not mean “evil” But beware of “hymn arrangers”. We do not need new music to old hymns. Some new music is just fine. Some is slowly but surely leading us down the road towards the world's rhythms and styles. I think we should go the other direction. (old hymnal) A lot of these have been forgotten, but they are great profitable songs!
God gave us a warning about those who think they are qualified to make musick. Reading this I had to think of modern Christian rock bands. Go to Amos 6
Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near;
4 That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall;Full; in need of nothing, inordinately rich.
5 That chant to the sound of the viol, [and] invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David;
They think they are like David, sent from God to usher in a new mode of worship.
6 That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. The latest fashion, all painted and glossed, sparkly lights, looking just like the world... Music is a very large part of the carnality of the church today. Because it appeals to the flesh.
That brings me to the first part of my third point.
#3 How do we determine what is right and wrong music?
One of the biggest giveaways is my flesh. Yes, we can use our flesh as a meter. Does this piece of music appeal to my flesh or my spirit? Does it make my emotions rise up or does it truly feed my spiritual side?
Does it make me happy or make me joyful?
Does it make me feel spiritual or does it make me be spiritual?
When we cannot determine within ourselves what is fleshly and what is spiritual, we have fallen into Satan's trap. He desires to blur line. The devil desires worship and if he can bring the world's music into the church and the church's music into the world, he can begin to mix and mingle. Christmas songs in stores. Not as good as we would like. Satan “gives ground” so he can take it from the other side. Be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good manners.
We all know Romans 12:2:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
If we try to put evolution into the Bible we end up with a mess. If we try to put homosexuality into the Bible as acceptable, we turn our churches into a cesspool of immorality and abomination. If we try to fit any of the world's philosophies and ideologies into the Bible, we are conformed to the world. That includes music. The world's philosophies on music do not fit into God's plan for Christians.
And if we believe that it is the will of God for us to have music to worship Him and to enjoy ourselves, then to have perfect music we must know the perfect will of God.
Most importantly, turn to John 14:26.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
If you have the Holy Spirit of God inside you – which you do if you are born again – you will know. You will be told when a song is not wholesome. You will be told when to turn the radio off or throw that cd in the trash, remove that album from your ipod. It's not just rock music. I've heard a capella Mennonite music that was complete rubbish. There aren't real cut-and-dry lines; that's what makes this difficult.
I'm not going to stand here and tell you what is right and wrong when it comes to music. If you bring me a particular song or album, I can tell you. But my desire today is to encourage all of us to stay in the fight for holy, God-honoring music. And to equip you with some tools, maybe to plant a seed with a Christian who needs to be nudged a little back towards a biblical view of music.