Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Role of Music in the Bible

By Angela Bhandal

This is a topic dear to my heart. I love music. I love hearing instruments played. I love hearing people sing. I love to sing also. Look around you. Where ever you go music can be heard. In people’s cars, in shopping malls, in public toilets, in airports, at church, at sports events, on TV, on peoples phones, ipods, at your workplace, even as I sit here typing this I can hear cicadas chirping loudly outside. Maybe you whistle or hum without even realising it. So music is all around us. I am often amazed at how many songs have been written all over the world. There are only so many notes you can play but different songs keep being churned out every day of every week. Unbelievable. It’s like music is eternal. It just keeps going on and on.

If you analyse worldly music the theme that’s pretty popular to sing about is LOVE. Love that pampers the flesh and feels good in the moment. On the video clips are attractive and beautiful people which creates an ideal that love is only for those who fit a certain criteria. Outside of that I’m sorry, you don’t qualify for love. Praise God that we are children of God and have an unconditional love regardless of our looks, hair colour, skin colour, physic, dollars we earn, how much bling we wear etc… And tonight I want to focus our attention on music that is found in the Bible. So let us begin.

There are so many verses in the Bible that refer to music. Until I did my own study I really had no idea of how powerful music is in the Bible. Tonight’s study is really a small overview.

The bible first mentions musical instruments in Genesis. In the beginning was a man called Jubal. Genesis 4:20 says, “Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute.” That is pretty impressive considering they did not have the technology or machinery we have in the 21 century. They would have made their instruments from scratch. And if instruments didn’t exist before, how did they know to even make them or how they would sound. God was really with these people and guiding them. God gave them insight, intelligence, skills and material needed to make the first instruments.

David soothed Saul with his harp. God allowed Saul to have an evil spirit torment him. Whenever David took his instrument and made music, Saul’s soul would be soothed. I remember when I was a new graduate nurse in Ward 25 (cancer ward), I used to take my Hillsong music book into the ward. At the end of my shift, I would go and play the piano which was at the far end of the ward. Within a couple of minutes, the lounge where the piano was would start filling with patients and visiting family members. They had come to watch me play. It was a very humbling experience. They were attracted to the music that was coming from the piano. Some of the sicker patients would often comment on how much they enjoyed listening to the music and how soothing it was.

There is something about music that touches us deep inside. Music is something we can’t even see or physically touch. Our ears can hear it but it’s not something tangible. This is something that God created and is of great importance to Him as we will discover in this study.

There were people in the Bible who God dedicated solely to music. They were the Levites.
1 Chronicles 9:33
Music in the Bible is found in every circumstance - in Psalms of lamentation or joy, it is used to comfort the deepest sorrows or to express the highest peaks of joy and victory. Music was there when Jesus was born and music is also in Heaven as we speak now. Music fills the courts of heaven as heavenly beings praise our Lord and Creator. When God created the world, the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy (Job 38:7). God created man in His own image, to be an instrument of praise. He gave humans the ability to sing and to make music with musical instruments to complement the voice.

Songs and poetry were also means to improve the memory, to help remember significant events or warnings. When they sang to God they really sang with all their might and with the particular instruments they had it must have been very loud -
2 Samuel 6:5 “David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums (a small u-shaped frame with a handle attached at the bottom of the curve. Pieces of metal or other small objects were strung on small bars stretched from one side of the sistrum to the other) and cymbals.

David sang to God a song that was in relation to God saving him from the hand of his enemies. It’s rather long so if you want to read it it’s found in 2 Samuel 22:1-51

Have we ever rejoiced so greatly that the ground shook? When Zadok the priest anointed Solomon the people went up after him playing flutes and rejoicing greatly so that the ground shook with the sound (1 Kings 1:39-43) Wow - imagine making the ground shake - that’s powerful singing!

Solomon’s songs numbered 1005! (1Kings 4:32)

Did you know there was a four thousand member choir in the Bible - 1 Chr 23:4 David said “…four thousand are to praise the Lord with the musical instruments I have provided for that purpose.” Wow - that’s a lot of voices singing together. How beautiful that must have sounded. When I am feeling a bit low spiritually, what helps me also is turning on a Christian CD that I really like praising God too. When the music and singing hits my ears, it’s like the breath of the Holy Spirit floods my soul and I immediately have that feeling of being in the presence of God Almighty. My soul feels encouraged to start speaking to Jesus or to start worshipping Him. I love worshipping God with music.

There is something very powerful in praising God with song and music. When we praise God we are giving Him the adoration that He deserves. Nothing else matters when we are consumed with worshipping Him in song. We are acknowledging his worthiness. In 2 Chr 5:13 it says “The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.” Do we want God’s glory to be in our lives? Then worship Him. Acknowledge His worth ship in song and praise and in dancing and in raising of your voice and hands. Make a fool of yourself before Him and He will accept the fruit of your praise. (By fool I mean don’t care about who is next to you, don’t worry if you can’t sing in tune, just belt out those songs with a heart bursting with joy and express all that you can to God Almighty in song with your voice and body!)

If you are still not convinced that God wants us to praise Him, then look no further than the book of Psalms. The word Psalm means Songs! The entire book is primarily composed of songs and poems, songs of praise, of lament, of mourning, or thanksgiving. “Praise be to the Lord, O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever, sing joyfully to the Lord, yet I will praise Him, my Saviour and God, Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise…do these sound familiar? They are all in Psalms and of which I’m sure we have read many times! Do we really get what God is telling us to do? And that’s to praise Him, to tell Him of His awesome wonders, deeds and powers. It feels good to be acknowledged for things we have done on this earth; God is no different - He desires to be acknowledged also by those that love Him. Praise Him with the trumpet, harp, lyre, tambourine, dancing, strings, flute, cymbals… let everything that has breath praise the Lord! (Ps 150)

The rock stars of this world that play really great music, make loads of money and have a fabulous life think that they are untouchable, invincible and like being worshipped and adored by millions of fans worldwide. Unfortunately for them, their glory will be short-lived and only for this present earth because in Isaiah 5, God has some harsh things to say to these people.

Isaiah 5:11-12 says “Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink, Who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them! Their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, by tambourine and flute and by wine; But they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord, Nor do they consider the work of His hands.” Vs 14 “therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened it mouth without measure…”

In other words, Hell will be full of people who did their own thing, who had a great life drinking, eating, having a merry party-of-a-time with no regard for their Creator.

Death cannot praise you. For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living - they praise you, as I am doing today; fathers tell their children about your faithfulness. The LORD will save me and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the Lord. Isaiah 38:18-20

There are so many stories in the Bible where singing/instruments were used in a powerful way -
Deborah and Barak (Judges 5)
King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20)
Disciples sang a hymn after the Passover meal
The loving father celebrates the return of his wayward son
Paul and Silas sang hymns in jail and their chains came loose
At the sound of the trumpet the dead will be raised imperishable (1 Corinthians 15)
Only the 144,000 could learn to sing this song (Rev 14)
The great multitude sings the song of Moses (Rev 15)
The four living creatures and the elders worshipped God in heaven

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