Friday, December 21, 2012

The Sounds of Acceptable Worship: Part 1 — Created to Sing

Before we begin examining contemporary Christian music through a biblical lens, let’s take a brief look at what the Bible tells us about sounds and music:

Music Comes Directly from God

Did you know the Lord sings? Yes! 

Zephaniah 3:17: “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Music is the Lord’s “idea”; musical sounds and melodies directly emanate from Him. 

All God’s Earthly Creatures sing.

He has also given His creation the capacity to sing, to make melodies, and to worship through music. The Lord gives life and breath to all things (1 Tim.6:13, Acts 17:25). All His creatures return this “breath of life” to Him through worship. In fact, all of creation is commanded to worship Him:

Psalm 150:6: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!”
Psalm 117: “Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!”

One of these expressions of worship, of course, is singing:

Psalm 66:1-2: “Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!”

Psalm 67:3-5: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!”

God’s heavenly creatures also sing to the Lord:

Job 38:7: “…when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

Most commentators believe the term “morning stars” to be figuratively referring to angelic beings, rather than literal stars. Regardless, this passage is more clear:

Revelation 5:8-9: “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you…’”

All of God’s creation “sings”:

Psalm 65:12-13: “The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.”

Psalms 96:11-13: “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.”

Psalm 98:7-9: “Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together”.

Isaiah 44:23: “Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.”

The intricate and ordered sounds and movements of nature are described as songs and praises of joy unto the Lord.

In glory, the saints will continue to joyfully sing to the Lord for all eternity:

Revelation 14:2: “And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.”

Revelation 15:2-4: “And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire--and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Thus we see that sounds and music are no accident, and neither are they purposeless or meaningless. They flow directly from the character and being of God Himself. He is a verbal being, and as such He has privileged His creatures with the capacity to not only communicate through sounds, but also to worship Him through them. 

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