Music to His Ears
Music has always been a great influence and an expression of inspiration that was given from the Lord.
The Bible is filled with examples of music with all types of instruments and singing in unusual places. 1Chron.25 the Levites used all kinds of Instruments in Ps.150:3-5-the trumpet; the lute, the harp, the timbrel, cymbals, stringed instruments and flutes. The “daughters of music” (Eccl.12:4) are singing women.
Prophecy was often sung not just spoken. Many prophecies are closely associated with worship and musical instruments (1 Sam.10:5-6, 1 Chron. 13:8, 25:1, 2 Chron.29:25,30:21.)
Psalms are the inspired words put to song found in the book of Psalms. The Psalms exhort us to sing and make music to the Lord (Psalm 67:4; 92:l; 95:l; 96:l; 98:1).
The Psalmist writes Ps 100:1-2: “Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing.” (all the Psalms are believed to be sung)
“I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.”(Ps 27:6)
Ps 33:2-3: “Praise the LORD with the harp; make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy.
Ps 57:7-9: “ My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise. Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations.”
Praise was synonymous with a song.
1 Chron. 16:8-9: “Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works!”
Even Job, one of the oldest books in the Bible writes: Job 21:11-12: “They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. They sing to the tambourine and harp, and rejoice to the sound of the flute.”
Exod. 15:1 we have the first song recorded in Scripture, the song of Moses - saying: “I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider he has thrown into the sea!
Moses gives praise to the superiority of the God of Israel- he has become their strength, their song, their deliverer. It is broken up into stanzas each beginning with a praise to the Lord and ends with a description of the Egyptians. Exod 15:20 “Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.”
Most believe that Moses led the men and Miriam the women--the two bands responding alternately, and singing the first verse as a chorus the song of Mariam first prophetess leads the women in timbrel and dancing and sings the same song of Moses. This is the most ancient song that we know of. Even the modern customs of the East, the dance is accompanied with singing and is still led by the principal female of the company, the rest imitating her movements and repeating the words of the song. Moses also had a prophetic song that he spoke to the people (Deut.29:30- 32). Loud and unruly Music accompanied the dances around the golden calf, (Ex 32:17-18) as Joshua and Moses headed down the mountain Joshua mistook it for ‘the noise of war," "the voice of them that shout for the mastery and that cry for being overcome" Moses responded v.18 -19 But he said: "It is not the noise of the shout of victory, nor the noise of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing I hear." So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing.”
During the period of Samuel, David, and Solomon poetry and music excelled. King David was skilled on the harp, and before he became king he was called by King Saul to soothe him with music, he played away Saul's oppression from an evil spirit (1 Sam. 16:16-23).
At many feasts they were festive filled with music, which were memorized in Judaism. Music – especially praise was festive and joyful occasion, where the saints gathered to acknowledge all that God has done and who He is. At other times it was expressive, mournful. At the last supper before His crucifixion, Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn (Mathew 26:30). While there are no examples of specific musical instruments being used at this Pesach, the early church had singing as an integral part of worship. Paul and Silas while they were praying accompanied it by singing out loud when imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:25).
Spiritual songs may be poetry, a praise, Scripture or a testimony put to music. All are promoted with the grace found in ones heart (Ps. 99:5-9). Paul instructed the believers to use psalms and hymns and spiritual songs in their meetings together. to speak to each other “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”. In Colossians 3:16 he also encouraged the church at Colossae to teach and admonish each other with “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”. Hymns are songs of worship and praise to God.
1 Cor.14:14-15: “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.” Both the tongue and the interpretation was sung not just spoken.
In the first century church numerous Scriptures were put to song and became a doxology for the early church (Phos Hilaron was an ancient Christian hymn, another from 1 Tim.3:16). For the last few hundreds of years saints carried a Bible to church and sang from a hymn book the church provided that was filled with biblical concepts. Times have changed, most do not bring a Bible and one will rarely find a hymn book in the seat in front of them at church. In fact, we can sometimes expect the unexpected when it comes to music in the church. Under a leadership that was not expounding the word from the pulpit the church is being led into a different direction. Like anything else oriented towards entertainment. My intent is not to name any specific artists or put the hammer to any song, though some may deserve cold water thrown on them. I want us to think through the issues as trends and styles influence the church’s music.
In our day contemporary worship songs can be refreshing, uplifting and certainly can move our hearts in worship to the Lord; as long as the sound does not overcome the words. If it is too loud, all one does is feel it and cannot think on what they are singing. The nature of music and its abilities to play on our emotions is an also important facet to consider. When the sound of the music becomes sensual and takes over, it matters little what the lyrics are. The music just takes you away...
Then there are many songs that are filled with repetitive words, chords and rhythm; it can then do the opposite, dull the senses. Often these melodious tunes are paid more attention to than the lyrics, they become sweet sounds with little substance. We should be just as careful about the doctrine found in the songs, not just in our teaching from the pulpit. Again, music is a powerful medium to teach and if it is not used correctly it can spread false teaching just as fast as someone behind the pulpit.
Much of the “spirit movement’s” influence inside the church is accompanied by a certain “type” of music. It is with this atmosphere of music that many are moved into going deeper or experiencing the “spirit” in these services. Music has become experiential, self focused. The songs we sing in worship are to be toward God, true worship is not intended to move our feelings (though it may happen at times). Over the years the focus of the Church’s worship shifted from the words of Scripture to statements about the Church’s victory, our influence and power or the coming kingdom we are to inherit.
I remember attending a Vineyard meeting a number of years ago where the lights were turned low and the music became melodic. The same chords were repeated over and over again as well as the words for hours. It was putting people in a trance as ministry time began with the laying on of hands. I was well aware of what was taking place yet I still felt as if I was going into a trance. An atmosphere like this can be very powerful and equally manipulative. To those who exercise no resistance they can easily succumb.
Somewhere along the way the Latter Rain influence became stronger and it came into the church via worship songs. Many were unaware of the differences in doctrine and they were not able to resist the melody of the new songs that were becoming popular. The focus of worship shifted from the words of Scripture to proclamations about the Church - her victory, power and importance in the world and in the coming kingdom. With the focus on self, not God, many worship songs became vehicles fore false teaching. Worship and praise is to focus on the Lord and we sing to Him and about Him, not ourselves or how powerful we are or what we will accomplish (i.e. take the land, bind Satan). We are to proclaim what He has done not what we do.
Singing about His attributes or prophecy or history gives us assurance. The old hymns that had us think and reflect on our Savior’s character, life and sacrifice. This has been replaced with shallow words mostly focused on us and not Christ. When this happens it is no longer worship. Even the purpose of the music has changed; we sing about our strength and authority, this is not worship to God.
Singing is often is about worship (“I want to worship you”) but they do not get to worship, so it really is not a worship song but a song sung about the Lord. Emotional love- popular songs to Jesus wanting to touch him or him to touch you, to feel his arms around you, his embrace is a sensual message. We tell him words that we might say to our wife.
For the healing miracle crusades music was the ambience the atmosphere for the Holy Ghost service. Worship is long in a heated auditorium as thousands are close together singing - it unites the people, opening them up to what will soon take place. Experience is the modus operandi of the setting for worship music in these gatherings. In the Emergent church, the lights are dimmed, people light candles and sit in yoga positions or meditate, or they contemplate as they walk through labyrinths with headsets. The atmosphere in the Emergent church meetings of candles, incense and music sets the mood to experience the “spirit.” These mystical services can often introduce you to a completely different way of looking at the world and God. In other words – it is used to engage a paradigm shift: to introduce one to another way of thinking and practicing their Christianity. This is not how Christians worship.
The music has always been a great influence in our worship, it is an expression of inspiration. Music can be refreshing and certainly can move our hearts to worship the Lord. However, when it is filled with repetitive words, chords, and rhythm it can dull the senses. The current style of music, the chanting of musical mantras is like the rosary put to song. Too many songs have developed into extremely repetitive choruses. Repeating stanzas, with the same words of love or I’m going to worship said over and over again. This soon becomes void of meaning. Repeating stanzas or the same words over and over is not to be done when we pray and neither in worship- it is more like a CHANT. Repetitive music and words can also bring one into an altered state and void their meaning. It does not matter what sound or word one chants over and over, the mind is made to shut off after a certain amount of repetition. God tells us not to do this in prayer- why should we be doing it in a song when we are supposed to be worshipping Him intelligently – with all our heart, mind and strength.
The “music ministry” has become an industry. As a business, this can be difficult to keep a balance while they are leading worship at church. Tape recordings, CDs, video’s, television and radio have all given a new platform for the influence of music and made stars out of certain musicians. Groups tour with their new hit songs and though some may be good songs it seems a bit odd that they are honored in such a manner as they do in Hollywood; for doing worship. Sometimes the Youth concerts can seem no different than Rock concerts as the music is reduced to being only entertainment, as show.
Biblically based lyrics teach the Bible and help us focus on God correctly because these are words He gave, and they are life. I have become more concerned about lyrics I am hearing in what is called worship or praise music. Some of the lyrics of popular songs are unclear regarding Jesus as the only way, they present Jesus as less than divine or inferior to the Father. Some represent him as just an ordinary man, as the carpenter from Galilee. Songs like: he is my brother, my best friend when one is supposed to be worshipping Him; we don’t worship brothers or best friends. When we are worshipping- it is to God, we should not forget who deserves our worship. The deity of Christ is to be exalted. Jesus is to be acknowledged in the proper place, as God in the flesh!
There are a number of songs that speak of God as the earth, sky and the water; we need to be aware of teaching like this coming through the lyrics. Terms of God being part of creation-Lyrics such as: Your life is the air I breathe or this is the air I breathe – your holy presence is set to a beautiful rhythm however it promotes a non-Christian world view, called Pantheism (prana in Hinduism is what one breathes). We do not believe as Christians that we can breathe in God's presence (true- His Holy Spirit is everywhere, but if this were true than everyone is breathing Him in). There is a better way to say this. Use of pagan ideas in songs- such as the phoenix to describe the church.
I remember at one church the worship leader, though good intentioned, asked everyone to breathe in the Holy Spirit as they were singing this song.
We need to be aware of being introduced to Latter Rain concepts when we sing of new wine, calling on fire, songs about a mighty river, drinking the glory or wine, or wanting to see God in His glory. If His glory actually came into the place we would not continue singing, we may fall dead at his feet, as so many saints did when they were actually confronted with his glory. Since Acts 2 is a non repeatable event we must wait for the second coming for his presence and glory to be on earth.
Songs where Jesus is saying to for us to be sorry and yet the key words: sin, repentance and faith are missing.
If you sing that redemption has come by something other than the blood of Jesus you are wrong. If you sing you are cleansed by His love or the Spirit you are wrong. Applying water not the blood for our cleansing is false teaching for it denies the crucifixion as the only way. These are just a few examples of the many words and terms that are being used in a wrong manner. I understand that songs may need to rhyme but not at the expense of correct doctrine. The song writers need to be aware of this. they need to be base biblically to be used for worship.
Unfortunately, lyrics in many contemporary Christian songs can be shallow, confusing, they can be doctrinally errant, or even blatantly unbiblical. Only a small percentage are actually doctrinally sound. We learn doctrine from music, sometimes more easily than when we are taught from the pulpit. Songs seem to stick longer in the mind, and are easier to remember than words we may read.
A song is not made by putting together a lot of clichés that rhyme. Some of the songs sung sound alluring and are catchy, but the melody becomes more important than what is right or true. The songs meaning should be more important than its sound. In many cases a song sounds beautiful but the words are either unbiblical or do not make any spiritual sense.
The words holiness, repentance, righteousness, judgment, blood of Jesus, and several other biblical terms seem to be missing and in its place are some very different concepts. Songs of desperation are not accurate portrayals of our position in Christ and are a lack faith (meaning anxiety, distressed or worried). We are not desperate for him if we have Christ in us, we may need to surrender but to be desperate is a whole other matter. We have been given everything we need (2 Pt.1:3-4) to live a spiritual life. We shouldn’t sing as if we don’t have it.
In the same manner we do not sing songs like come Holy Spirit as if He his not among us. Many people may think this is splitting hairs, but really it is not. This is a lack of faith, because the Bible tells us (promises) He is among us. We can sing is for Him to do His work in us, to do something in our heart, but to sing for him to come and be present as if He is not among us is wrong.
Even word of faith confess it doctrine has been found in Christian songs saying, Let the sick say I am healed; or, claiming it in the name of Jesus, this is not worship toward God.
Spiritual warfare songs are popularized and people had no idea that along with them comes a new theology of dominionism. Many believe that the Lord is going to anoint some of His musicians with a new sound that will save people without the gospel – just reach into their hearts.
This new music claims it will assist us in spiritual warfare against Satan’s kingdom. Banners are waved, the assembly becomes infatuated with the lyrics establishing God on his throne and Satan dethroned. Songs like: we have declared war. 'The church seems to become empowered by these songs but they are not giving any spiritual content of truth. Singing spiritual warfare dominionst songs are associated with Prayer marches. The chief objective of the March for Jesus is to change the spiritual atmosphere of the marched areas by claiming victory over the demons and forces of evil in that area. The March for Jesus book, written by the MFJ's British co-founders in 1992, explained the main reason for the March, “Our objectives were first and foremost spiritual. We wanted to see a change in the spiritual atmosphere over our country” (March for Jesus by Kendrick, Coates, Forster & Green (Kingsway, 1992)
Its main purpose is not evangelism, witnessing but spiritual warfare. They believed that by doing the singing the atmosphere would change. According to Gerald Coates, the March is “a prophetic act” which claims the ground for God “by shifting the spiritual powers that have been allocated in the structures of the nations.”
It’s good to listen to Christian music that would replace the polluted songs from the world. Since many of these songs are influential and can plant ideas in ones head. Again we are to be transformed by listening to the word of God. And there are many encouraging Christian songs that are biblically based
While I can’t say anything about the heart of the many musicians, no doubt some have good intentions and want to glorify the Lord. At the same time I think it is obvious that some are untrained in the word and have a low view of theology, it shows in the content of their songs. It then becomes detrimental to be led into worship as a congregation by them.
Music is to be Joyful, we are to acknowledge his grace and mercy and sing about the greatness of God in all His attributes. If we put every song through the fire – asking if this is lifting him up, is it worthy, is about Him then we can’t go wrong.
Some of these musicians have a very large talent, a God given talent. What we need to do is encourage them to keep it focused on what God says in His Word and not be influenced by any trends. Songs can also explain the Scripture to people that know nothing about God. However, worship is only for the saints. We need to insist that the words contained in the songs refer to sound doctrine.
They should have enough respect for Scripture to make sure they are not giving out something to sing that is not of sound doctrine or biblically based. Songwriters need to be accountable for what they are presenting to their own assembly. But it will not do much good if they have no discernment and are untrained in the word as they are supposed to be. If the Christian Music companies could be more cooperative with the songwriters and artists by allowing their lyrics to be read by reputable theologians or Bible scholars that will be honest enough to give them of some kind of doctrinal accuracy, it would be beneficial to all.
In closing: Heaven is filled with the songs of the redeemed (Revelation 5:8-10; 14:3). The four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb and sang a new song: saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation”
The 144,000 in Rev.14:3: “sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.”
In Rev.15:2-3 the song of the lamb sung on a sea of glass instead of the Red Sea. And we can see the images centered on God, sea of glass, mingled with fire (purification). They stand at the sea of glass before God’s throne as Moses and Israel stood at the Red Sea before his glory in heaven as they watched the salvation of their God.
In Rev.15:2-4 those who had victory over the beast sing the song of Moses and the song of the lamb, saying: “Great and marvelous are Your works, lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.”
Two companies of people, Jews and Gentiles-the body of Christ, as well as tribulation saints will all be gathered together. And what a worship time that will be as all the cares, all the problems of this world are behind us as we worship our King in beauty and holiness.