DOES GOD CARE ABOUT OUR CHOICE OF MUSIC?
There is no denying the pervasive influence of music in our modern culture. Music is so integral to our lifestyle that it follows us everywhere. At the gas station, supermarket, or at our next door neighbors, we are never too far from a crooning radio or loudspeaker. But why is music so prevalent? And why does it seem to occupy every niche and corner of our world? Perhaps it's because music produces that special atmosphere and arouses our emotions unlike anything else. Indeed, for many, music is as intoxicating and addictive as any other vise, and in many cases just as harmful. So it's fair to say that not all music genres are beneficial. But if this is the case then the issue of music is no longer merely neutral, but rather moral. And therefore the Christian must begin to ask the following questions: What does the Bible teach in respect to music? And does God care about the tunes or songs we listen to? These are the questions we will attempt to address in the following sections.
Lucifer—the Angel of Music
The Scriptures teach that all music is spiritual with underlying principles of good and evil. We can be certain of this fact by studying the history of Lucifer. As one of the highest ranking angels prior to his “fall”, Lucifer was created with the ability to produce music. We cannot find this description in connection with any of the other angels. Notice:
"Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God…the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee" (Ez. 28:13-15).
Now why is this information so important? Why does it matter whether Lucifer was musical or not? The answer is simple. As a fallen angelic being, Lucifer’s abilities and talents were corrupted, including his music. Therefore Satan has used music as a powerful weapon in his quest to corrupt the human race. Consider the fact that the most rebellious revolution of all time, the hippie movement, exploded into existence in the early sixties largely because of the popular “beat” of that day—rock 'n roll. It's no coincidence that the classic slogan of the sixties and seventies was “sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll”. Clearly, music was at the forefront of this rebellion and Satan was conditioning the masses to revolt against the morals of their Christian heritage through their exposure to rock 'n roll.
Yet even today, and more so than ever, satan continues to use his perverted forms of music to entice us into sin. It is no wonder, then, that music has so much power and influence over secular culture.
Music—Intended for Worship
The next important fact to consider is music's intended purpose. According to the Bible, music was created for the purpose of worship. In fact, throughout all ancient cultures music was primarily used in religious ceremony, either in connection with the God of the Bible or deities of pagan origin. Notice: “The Indian music is one of the oldest musical traditions in the world, and Indian classical music (marga) can be found in the scriptures of the Hindu tradition, the Vedas.” –Wikipedia
Throughout the Old Testament, music consistently appears in the following format: “make a joyful noise unto the LORD", "sing unto the LORD", "a festival of rejoicing unto the LORD”, etc. So clearly music was meant for worship. And the Bible reveals that the people of Israel were to use it for worshiping God (Ex. 15:1; Deu. 31:19-22; Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; Isa. 42:10).
But even in the New Testament we find some relevant clues relating to the proper use of music. Notice:
"Speaking to yourselves in psalms and songs of praise and spiritual songs, and striking the strings in your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19).
"...singing with pleasure in your hearts to the Lord in psalms, and songs of praise, and spiritual songs" (Col. 3:16b).
So according to the above verses, music is spiritual and intended for worship. This means that we are not free to use it however we wish. To compose little ditties with subject themes such as women, heartache, and the generalities of life is simply a corruption of music's intended purpose. To God, it’s just as though we were offering Him strange fire like Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2).
But now that we understand that the theme of our songs should be spiritual and focused on God, what about the style of our music? In other words, does the tune or melody make any difference? Many Christians would say no. In fact, most churches today have no problem attaching Christian lyrics to whatever style of music is popular. But while most Christians are guilty of this, I don’t believe the Bible condones it. When digging deeper into the Scriptures, we find evidence that not all music is acceptable when replete with Christian lyrics. For instance, the Bible contains some clear principles that limit our choice of music to certain forms. These principles can help us discern the appropriate and legitimate forms of music from those that are not. Also, they help us define the following guidelines and standards:
1. Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are the only forms of music promoted in the New Testament (Ep. 5:19; Co. 3:16; Jas. 5:13). These three categories describe the style of music common in the Jewish culture and especially the synagogues of Apostle Paul’s day. They should also represent the type of music common in our homes and Churches.
2. God is holy (set apart/different) and music should therefore reflect His holiness. Aside from this, we are also commanded to worship God in a holy manner: "O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness" (Psalm 96:9). This means we should avoid forms of music that clearly belong to the world.
3. Music should elevate us into the presence of God and place the focus on Him, not anything else (Eph. 5:19). Are we focused on the rhythm and drumbeat, or on God? When music is loud, discordant, and chaotic, or when the instrumentals far exceed the vocals, it is no longer harmonious and fit for spiritual reflection. If it's intended to arouse our carnal passions, rather than edifying our spirit (God's dwelling place), it should be diligently avoided.
4. Music such as rock 'n roll has its origins in pagan worship and is particularly dangerous. The loud and irregular drumbeat commonly employed by secular artists is strictly of pagan origin. It will always provoke behavior of an immoral nature. We may surmise that the Israelites used this style of music while worshiping the golden calf in place of Jehovah. The Scriptures tell us that the people of Israel sang and danced in the nude (Ex. 32:6;18;25). If our style of music is conducive to this type of behavior and arouses our sexual feelings, then we must be extremely vigilant to remove it from our homes and places of worship.
5. The book of Psalms is a compilation of ancient songs and a good reference point for wholesome music. By studying the Psalms we discover the following description of what worship music ought to be like. Notice:
A) Worship can be lively and joyful (Ps. 95:1-2; 98:4-6).
B) Worship can be accompanied by a variety of instruments such as the harp, lyre, tambourine (hand drum), cymbals, organs, and trumpets (Ps. 33:1-4; 81:1-3; 92:3).
C) Worship may also involve dancing (Ps. 150:2-6).
So by combining all three of these descriptions we can now better pinpoint the
acceptable forms of praise and worship.
NOTE: The “timbrel” mentioned throughout the Psalms is sometimes incorrectly compared to the modern drum. But according to the Web dictionary, a timbrel is “a small hand drum similar to the tambourine”. In case you haven’t heard one, a tambourine does not produce the same vibration or repercussion as the drum beat. While the drum can be played in similar fashion to the tambourine, I don’t recommend keeping it around your Church. Too many youth get carried away with drums and try to emulate the worldly performances of our day.
SPECIAL NOTE: Worship dance, like the use of drums, is a tricky thing. There is a good way to dance, and a sensual one also. The proper form of dancing is clearly exemplified in 2 Samuel 6:16. Here we read of King David “leaping” for joy before the Lord. This clearly has nothing to do with the sort of erotic dancing associated with the disco or night club of our day.
IMPORTANT: To learn more about the wrong vs right forms of music, I highly recommend the following teaching by an expert musician with a lot of in-depth knowledge of music and its history here. You can also watch an eye-opening documentary on the history of rock 'n roll by clicking here. And to access wholesome Christian music, available for free, please click here.
The “spiritual songs” mentioned in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 may be defined as music imparted by the Holy Spirit. They are usually spontaneous and arise out of our sincere praise and worship for God. Sadly, only a few Churches still retain or even permit spiritual songs.
Allow me to end this study by quoting a former Christian turned secular writer. In an article titled “Sniffing Glue”, she has this to share about Christian contemporary music (CCM):
“I couldn’t have told you what the word irony meant, but I knew I’d been cheated by Christian rock. Without my parents’ knowledge, I had just discovered MTV. This was crack, and I’ve been wasting my time sniffing glue (CCM). This was the real stuff (MTV). This was what CCM was a poor imitation of.
“My parents disapproved of secular music. So I continued to listen to it in secret. Despite all of my teenage rebellion, I continued to call myself a Christian into my early twenties. When I finally stopped, it wasn’t because being a Believer made me un-cool, outdated, or freakish. It was because being a Christian no longer meant anything. It was a label to slap on my FB page next to my music preference. The gospel became just another product someone was trying to sell me, and a paltry one at that. Because the church is in Viacom, it doesn’t have a department of brand strategy and planning. Staying relevant in late consumer capitalism requires highly sophisticated resources and a willingness to tailor your values to whatever your audience wants. In trying to compete in this market, the church has forfeited the one advantage it had in the game to attract disillusioned youth—AUTHENTICITY.
“When it comes to fundamental values, the profit driven world has zilch to offer. If Christian leaders weren’t so ashamed of those unvarnished values, they might have something more attractive to offer than anything in today’s secular market. In the meantime, they’ve lost one more kid to the competition.”
Wow! What a deeply profound revelation. This candid testimony is truly a tell all. It plainly exposes the reasons for why our young people are so disillusioned with Christianity and why they are turning to the world for fulfillment.
Friends, one of the worst tragedies presently afflicting our churches is the fact that we have failed to raise a standard on the matter of music. Sadly, because of our failure, the devil has used this tool to penetrate the hearts and minds of our young people and to turn them into hardened rebels. I deeply hope that we may learn from our mistakes and ask God to give us the wisdom necessary to remedy the damage already present.