If you were to ask a Christian what the role of music is in their religion, they would probably refer to worship services on a Sunday morning. The band gets on stage with their instruments and sound system, and the congregation joins them in musical worship of God! Music plays a very interesting role in the Bible and religion as a whole. Especially these days when music is so widespread and there is such a variety of uses for music, it is important for us to understand how it was used in the Bible and what role it should play in our walks with Christ today.
The people of God sing. Throughout history, the people of God have sung of His glory and in the worship of His name. It wasn’t always organized, there weren’t always instruments, but they sang nonetheless. A great example of this is when the people of Israel escaped from the Egyptians across the Red Sea and sang a song to the Lord in Exodus 15 in response to their redemption. Singing was also part of Israel’s worship in both the tabernacle and the temple and throughout the Psalms, we see that even through the hardest of times, the faithful raise their voices through song to the Lord, praising Him even in the trials.
In Colossians 3:16-17, Paul instructs the church to
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
Colossians 3:16-17 (NASB)
Music and spiritual songs are meant to be lifted to God as a community and as a congregation, but do we still hold to the spirit of worshipful music today?
Unfortunately, we live in a world saturated with commercialized music. Whether part of video games, TV shows, movies, or just straight music, music is often used to gain something. The reason this is the case is because music is powerful! It can elicit emotions in us that weren’t there before experiencing the music. It can make us sad, happy, joyful, depressed, and can even inspire genuine awe in us. The question is, what is the state of our use of music in the church? Do we compose our worship music for participation in the worship of the Lord, or do we compose it for performance for the worship of ourselves?
Music is a powerful ally, yet also provides powerful temptation to be misused. If we want to know the effects music can have, we need to look no further than King David and his harp! In 1 Samuel 16:23, we are told that
“So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him.”
1 Samuel 16:23 (NASB)
Clearly, music can have spiritual effects on people to comfort and calm them.
However, I believe that we must use music in a God-honoring way in order to achieve such effects. Unfortunately, I feel as though we lack genuine musical worship in today’s church because we tend to be so preoccupied with other purposes. Worship leaders are out to play the perfect chords, stretch their vocal ranges to the fullest, and construct the perfect setlist. So often we ignore or disregard the voice and leading of the Spirit because we are too concerned with the quality of the music rather than the quality of the worship.
I believe that we can change this. I believe that we can bring Spirit-led music and worship back into our churches and experience the true spiritual power that music can have for people when it is Spirit-led and God-honoring rather than person-led and band-glorifying.
Let us strive to follow in the steps of David and use musical talents, gifts, and interests to comfort those around us. It is no secret that the world is broken and that a lot of people are hurting. God has given us music as a tool to bring His Spirit upon people and to minister to them through music and worship. The question is, are we going to use it?