We know that, as a child, Jesus sang, because it was the custom of Jewish children and families. We also know that He sang with His disciples. “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives.” (Matthew 26:30) Jesus and His disciples were gathered together in the upper room for the institution of the Lord’s Supper. This would be the last time He gathered with His disciples during His earthly ministry. Jesus blessed the broken bread and the fruit of the vine. Then He passed the bread and juice to them. At the end of this heart-wrenching time, they parted by singing a song of praise to God.
Soon the Son of God would suffer as no human being has ever suffered. Soon He would be declared guilty by His own Father for every sin committed by mankind. He willingly accepted His fate, including the excruciating pain that His body would soon face. He experienced terrible separation from His heavenly Father as well as the suffering of the humiliating torments of Hell. In the midst of it all, He wanted to sing.
Ephesians 5:18-20 says, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
The preceding passage of Scripture gives us a clear exhortation to abstain from liquor and a clear command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then, as a result of being separated from the world and being separated unto the Holy Spirit, we will find ourselves singing to ourselves. What will we sing about? The Bible says we will sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We will sing these songs and make melody in our hearts to the Lord.
Genesis 4:21 tells us, “Jubal…was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.” Colossians 3:16 says, “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.”
It is clear from the Word of God that God gives music to man as a blessing. God delivered Moses and the children of Israel from bondage, and they began to sing. The song they sang is recorded in Exodus 15:1-9. Job 38:7 says, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
In II Chronicles 5:12-14, God gives us the story of a choir that consisted of thousands of Levite instrumentalists, which included 120 Levites playing trumpets. A great congregation was assembled for the dedication of the temple. This gigantic crowd was all in one place at the east end of the altar, dressed in white garments. These people had so rehearsed their presentation that they gave one sound in praising God.
The Scripture says, “They lifted their voice with the trumpet and cymbals and instruments of musick.” This mass of people, along with their awesome sound, gave praise to their God in song. God was so pleased with their music that the shekinah glory filled the house of the Lord. It was so overwhelming that the priests were unable to stand to minister. That was some choir special!
THE HYMNBOOK OF THE BIBLE
David was the human pen for the majority of the Psalms. The book of Psalms is called the “hymnbook of the Bible.” The Psalms were songs given to men in the midst of their struggles, their suffering, and even their victories. The Bible speaks of singers, musicians, and musical instruments more than five hundred times.
When we make the Bible the center of our lives, Jesus will become the central figure of our lives. The result will be Jesus becoming the “theme of our music.” His message with Him as the Messenger must be the catalyst of our songs.
When choir members, special singing groups, soloists, and orchestra members are in tune with Christ and with each other, their music can bring about or enhance a spiritual event. The music in our churches should reflect support for the soul winning of the local church. The music in our churches should reflect support for the pulpiteering of the Preacher.
The music in our churches should reflect support for the standards of the Bible, and the music in our churches should reflect the warmth of a caring church.
THE AFFECT OF MUSIC
I Samuel 16:23 says, “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” Depression seemed to be a rather regular occurrence with King Saul. The farther away from God he went, the deeper his depression became. King Saul was backslidden, and as a result, I Samuel 16:15 states that he was troubled by an evil spirit.
When his servants noticed Saul’s condition, they recommended a solution in I Samuel 16:16. “Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well.” To soothe the evil spirit, they sent for David. He came into the presence of Saul.
Notice that when the evil spirit came to trouble Saul, David did not sing. David did not utter a word. He simply took his harp and played it for King Saul. The music refreshed Saul. Someone wisely stated that music is not neutral. It can bring out the best in a man, or it can bring out the worst in a man. Music is an invisible reality. Thus, God’s people must be careful in both their private and public choices of music.
Obviously, if David could create a sound from the harp that calmed a depressed King Saul, then music is a reality that cannot be ignored. The late Dr. Jack Hyles, in a sermon on music, pointed out that Plato said, “Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes the laws.”
Aristotle believed that if you listened to music that reflected a certain mood, you would experience that same mood. He said, “In short, if one listens to the wrong kind of music, he will tend to become the wrong kind of person; but, conversely, if he listens to the right kind of music, he will tend to become the right kind of person.”
THE MOODS OF MUSIC
There is a term that is well known to musicians. It is the term “moods of music.” To play a piece correctly, it is necessary for a musician to discover the “mood” of the piece.
Pastors across the nation are in search of music that is vibrant, alive, heartwarming, and evangelistic. Never has there been more of a need in the area of music than today. We develop appetites that are worldly, and the effects are as damaging as an NIV Bible. If one type of music can calm you, then it stands to reason that another type can provoke you.
Many a church split was first a mood created by selfish church music sung and played by selfish church members. If our churches are to be all that God intends them to be, we must find the Biblical position for church music. The extremes are found in having either a formal, dead church service with studied classical, or a barnyard hoedown, with warmed-over Oak Ridge Boys specials.
Music affects us in three ways: physically, mentally, and spiritually. Music also has three primary parts: melody, harmony, and rhythm. Melody comes from the Greek word meloidia, which means “choral sing.” Meloidia is derived from melos, “tune,” plus aoiden, “to sing.” Thus, the musical term melody, which follows the Bible command to be filled with the Spirit, is teaching us that music and the fullness of the Holy Spirit are related.
Our mind responds to harmony, the intellectual part of music. The word harmony comes from the Greek word for joint, which implies the concept of fitting together. Thus, the harmony joins the melody and the rhythm together. Our body responds to the rhythm. Rhythm is the Greek word rheo, which means “to flow” or “to pulse.” Rhythm, then, is the physical part of music. Remember, music can be evil or good, depending upon its usage.
The melody must dominate the music of the Christian. The harmony must follow the melody in the supportive role in the music. Last of all, the rhythm must be under strict control in music. In essence, this is a picture of the Christian with his body and its desires under strict control.
Romans 8:13 explains, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” I Corinthians 9:2 says, “If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.”
BALANCE IS THE KEY
The key word for music is balance. Rhythm must not be forsaken. It needs to be in a proper relationship with the harmony and melody. Calvin Johansson’s book Music & Ministry says: “A like principle is at work in the created order, for God has set man over the world and God is over both. We see this principle at work in government, church, and family life. Not everyone can be a chief!
Music shows universal truth as it adheres to this principle of dominance. Not every note, rhythm, or harmony can be in the foreground.” Beethoven shed more light on the need for balance in music when he said, “Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.”
In this day and time, the melody (spiritual) and harmony (intellectual) are not just being overpowered; they are being dissolved by the overpowering, pulsating rhythm (physical). America’s music, both in the church and in the society, reflects an obsession with the physical.
James 1:27 tells us, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
What makes worldly music? Some music, because of its identification with the world, could and should be considered worldly. If the honky-tonks, nightclubs, lounges, etc., where the world congregates to feed their flesh, use it, it would make sense to label it worldly music.
This is interesting…what if the lounges started playing “The Old Rugged Cross” or “Amazing Grace”? The musicians would probably be booed, and most of the customers would leave. Why? Because the music does not match the setting! Then why do so many pastors and Christians think lounge or honky-tonk music belongs in the church house?
The truth is, God’s music is meant to bring praise to God, not to entertain man. In his book Music in the Life of Man, Julius Portnoy says, “The Christian musician is a member of two worlds, the spiritual and the material. The choice is his: to create sacred music that is pleasing to God because it ennobles character or to defile the miracle of creation and produce secular music which arouses lust and desire.”
THE VOCAL SLIDE
There are several characteristics of a worldly sound. The first is a vocal “slide.” Charles Brown, who wrote The Art of Rock and Roll, states, “Some people have characterized these vocal slides as sexual utterance.”
DISRESPECT FOR THE WRITTEN MELODY
The second characteristic is flipping above and below the actual written line of melody. One man wrote, “The classically trained singer has an ingrained respect for any written melody and hesitates to tamper with it. The modern singer, on the other hand, looks on written melody as simply a convenient starting point for his variations.”
WHISPERING, BREATHY, AND AIRY VOICE
The third most obvious characteristic is the ingredient of a whispering, breathy, and airy voice. In The Art of Rock and Roll, Mr. Brown speaks of a trick used vocally by Elvis Presley. He writes, “By softening his voice for certain passages, he could create a personal effect, which made the women in the crowd feel that he was singing directly to them.”
THE IMAGE FORMED IN THE MIND
There is a sound that the world’s music gives out. When music is heard, the mind immediately forms an image because of the sound that is heard. I can only imagine what image comes to mind when bar room music or honky-tonk music is heard. I wonder what image people get when they walk past our churches and hear our music. Do they hear Christians who have copied the sensual tone of voice while singing decent songs with decent words, trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit and to bring their own brand of conviction? Christian, what image are you projecting from your car or in your home? Do not forget, there is a direct correlation between the power of God and the music of God.