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The Importance of Christian Music

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts” (Psalm 33:3).

God never considered music an option. Music has been a vital part of His working with mankind throughout the Bible. Christians, today, should never consider music only “something nice to add to a service”. Music is a vital, instrumental part of praising God, feeding His flock and preaching the Gospel. Christian groups everywhere need a plan and—in many cases—a budget for how they will use music in their mission. More Christian groups need to encourage their children to become the very best artists and the very best producers—and to find the resources to proclaim God and His Word to the World!

Six times, Scripture teaches us to write new songs to God (Psalm 33:3, 40:3; 96:1, 98:1, 149:1, Is 42:10-12). New songs will still be written when Christ returns (Revelation 5:9; 14:3). God appears to utilize all forms of music, from a solo voice or instrument to huge choirs and bands. The Bible mentions stringed, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments of many types. King David made many musical instruments himself and had a staff of four thousand dedicated to praising God with music(1 Chronicles 23:5). For many of these, it was a full-time job—they had no other duties as priests and Levites (1 Chronicles 9:33).

Some biblical musical productions were very large, even by today’s standards. King Solomon's main group of musicians numbered 288 (1 Chronicles 25:6-7) At the dedication of the temple, he had a huge choir and orchestra with a brass section of 120 instruments! (2 Chronicles 5:12-13.) When their awesome music was played, the presence of God filled the temple. When the second temple was rebuilt, groups of 200 and then 245 singers are mentioned (Ezra 2:65; Nehemiah 7:67).

Music is a central part of all that God does. Below, we offer 10 purposes that God has for music.

1. To Praise God at His Services.

...Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day (Psalm 81:1-3).

A PSALM. A SONG FOR THE SABBATH. It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.

And when they [Jesus and his apostles] had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30).

Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place... What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up (1 Corinthians 14:23, 26).

Even after the Last Supper when Christ was about to die, He still wanted to sing. Paul's list of church meeting activities starts with hymns. Fortunately, most church groups today follow the scripture and regularly sponsor congregational music.

Christians must realize not all music honors God. Some is an incitement to do evil—both in word and tone. The golden calf worshippers had music (Exodus 32:18-19). King Nebuchadnezzar ordered people to bow and worship his image when he provided some special music(Daniel 3:5-7). Also, both anciently and today, people use music at their own godless, drunken feasts (Isaiah 5:11-13). Unfortunately, even some music masquerading as “Christian” is depressing, full of unbiblical teaching or both. This article cannot go into the details of the difference between good and bad music, but only repeats the Bible teaching that both exist and encourages readers to pray for wisdom and discernment in the music they hear and produce.

2. To Declare God's Greatness

Praise and worship are thanks to God for what he has done for us. Declaration is separate—a telling of true stories so that others may learn. Many Psalms and other Scriptures make this distinction. The forms of music are often different, too: praise is joyful, worship is reverent and peaceful, but declaration takes on the ballad flavor.

One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts (Psalm 145:4, NKJV).

...“Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted” (Isa 12:4).

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Matthew 21:15-16).

The best of songs should be written to declare the the greatness of God and His creation, and go on to identify Him as the ultimate force in history and events of today. This Psalm is one of many examples:

Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast; who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants; who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings, Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan, and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel (Psalm 135:6-11).

3. To Communicate Christian Joy

This purpose is nearly opposite to the previous two. The expression of joy often requires few words—may be totally instrumental. It is not about conveying a detailed message, but about a Christian expressing his heartfelt feeling.

... I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD (Psalm 27:6).

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise (James 5:13).

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart (Ephesians 5:18-19).

4. To Remember for a Lifetime

Spoken messages, even when they are inspiring, are often quickly forgotten. Even with the advent of audio recording, very few people listen to any speech many times or for many years. But good songs are the opposite. We sing them over hundreds of times and many have been known for hundreds of years. Even average songs we often do not mind hearing multiple times—and we often learn all the words without too much work.

Indeed, most Christians have few chapters of the Bible memorized, but know the message of dozens of them through music. This writer sometimes recalls the order of the books of the Bible from a song.(Table of Contents by Mark Graham.) Moses wrote a song to commemorate God's victory over the Egyptian Pharaoh (Exodus 15:1), and that same song will be sung about 3500 years later when Christ returns (Revelation 15:3). When Israel sinned, God gave them a song so they would not forget his correction (Deuteronomy 31:29-30; 32:1-47). Modern research indicates that much of the Bible contains a musical score—which would make it much easier to learn (www.rakkav.com/biblemusic/).

5. To Drive Off Evil Spirits

Many people who have struggled with evil/demonic spirits have found that they are partly or completely relieved by singing or listening to praise and worship music. This was the case when King Saul was troubled by an evil spirit and David played and sang for him (1 Samuel 16:14-23; 18:10-11). Some spirit problems are solved by continual praise and prayer; others require a clear command in Jesus’ name to leave. Even then, some spirits may require more faith and prayer to cast out (Matthew 17:19-20; Mark 9:28-29). Even after demonic spirits have departed, there is a great need to replace their evil influence with good influence, lest they return. Positive Christian music usually fills the bill.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first...” (Matthew 12:43-45).

6. To Bring about Military Victory

If music can bring victory in spiritual warfare, it should be no surprise that it can bring victory on the literal battle field. This is especially relevant as our world is seeing more wars, terrorism, barbarism and governments using their technology and weaponry against their own people. We do not have to throw our lot in with a religious prophetic interpreter who claims to offer protection from the tribulation to come. We can be confident that God can defeat our enemies

And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? (Luke 18:7)

And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat [King of Judah] stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against [their enemies] the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed (2 Chronicles 20:19-22).

7. To Prophesy

The Bible has much to say about the gift of prophecy. All Christians are encouraged to seek it (1 Corinthians 14:1, 39). It may be that musicians, who deal with feelings, moods and things of the spirit are more likely to have these prophetic gifts. But God at some times may want to inspire music along with the words of some a prophecy, so He chooses a musician to convey it. Today's songs and movies use their music background to create a feeling along with the message—God can do the same with prophecy. And of course, words with music are remembered much longer. Examples where prophesying was done with music can be found in 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Chronicles 25:2-3 and several Psalms. Below, an unnamed musician was “drafted” to prophesy on the spot.

Kngs 3:14 And Elisha said, "As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I have regard for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would neither look at you nor see you. But now bring me a musician." And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him. And he said, “Thus says the LORD...” (2 Kings 3:14-16)

It is difficult to know how Many other prophecies of the Bible came with music. All of the Psalms were originally set to music—many of them are prophecies of Christ to come (Psalm 2; 15; 22; 40; 68; 72; 78; 110; 118; 132). Habakkuk 3:1 says it is a prayer “according to Shigionoth”, which is similar to the musical term similar to those found at the beginning of many Psalms. If one accepts that the Bible came with a musical score (www.rakkav.com/biblemusic/), it would be interesting to know which prophecies came with divinely inspired words and music, and which had music composed later.

8. To Communicate Where Prose Cannot

Because music is considered art, with symbolism and exaggeration for effect, with words rearranged and added to make the message fit the meter, composers can write things that prose writers would never get away with. Yes, those who hear the music may have to study it to figure out the real message: What is literal? What is symbolic? What do the symbols stand for? What parts can safely be ignored? This characteristic of music provides a powerful means of communications when a clear writing in prose would likely be rejected or prosecuted. Notice the power of music in these broad categories.

  • Denominational Harmony: Church denominations generally allow the singing of songs from other denominations even though they would not allow ministers from other congregations to speak there. Paul told us not to form denominations (1 Corinthians 1:10-15; 3:3-8), but since we cannot quickly undo them, we can cooperate among them—through music.
  • Doctrinal Truth: Composers sometimes write songs inspired by the Bible that are contrary to the composer’s denomination’s doctrine. The denomination almost never censures the composer—especially if he/she is popular. The Jewish leaders considered it blasphemy when Jesus said was was the son of God (John 10:21-34). But Psalm 82:6 had always said “You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High”—music is a great place to hide unpopular truth!
  • Politically Unpopular Truth: When King Saul and David returned from a war, a man might have been in serious trouble for publicly stating that David was a better warrior than Saul. But since women sang about it in a song, they suffered no recrimination, the message was received by Saul and Saul became jealous of David (1 Samuel 18:6-9). Throughout history, songwriters have been able to effectively comment on the wars, corrupt leaders and other political events of the day—when speakers and writers were restrained or punished. Christians today can do more with their music!
  • Gender Barrier Breakdown: This writer once attended a denomination that would not allow any women to speak to their congregations. Nevertheless, a woman who believed she had a message for the congregation could compose a song—or select an existing piece—and perform it there as “special music”.
  • Finding Lost Sheep: A great many people have had a bad experience with a Christian church and they do not want to go back. But they still listen to music. They can be reached with the Gospel this way. The better the music, the more likely it is to be elevated to venues where it will reach out to those who have given up on churches.

9. To Draw Young People to God

Musical abilities are frequently very apparent in children during the first few years of life. This writer's children played and sang in church services beginning in their early elementary years—accompanying other adults. Many other children have done likewise. Even the high-quality temple service made use of skilled child musicians:

...For God had given Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God.... (1 Chronicles 25:5-6).

At times, my children were much more interested in the music and their friends than they were in the sermons. Even some non-musician friends came largely for the music and the fellowship. Young people of all cultures are greatly attracted to music during their teen years. Teaching them, and giving them opportunity to play Godly music should be a priority for all Christians.

10. To Usher in the Kingdom of God

Sometimes, people ask why it takes weeks to plan and practice the music for some important event. Be patient! God has been planning the music to initiate his Kingdom for over 2000 years! It is an integral part of that event. This writer can't wait to hear it!

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 to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:8-10).

Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. 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. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb (Revelation 14:1-4).

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”(Revelation 15:3-4).

Non-musicians Also Play a Part

This concludes our 10 Christian purposes for music.This author would be interested in hearing about any others. Those who do not have musical ability can still play a big part in the musical aspect of God’ work. There is a great deal of logistical organization and planning that goes into musical productions: sound reinforcement, staging, lighting, clothing, transportation, financing etc. Some great musicians are not gifted in these areas and could use help. Some musicians struggle to keep a schedule and take care of the essentials of life. Yes, they probably need to improve in this area, but a little friendship on someone's part can often save artistry that is not easily replaceable.

For centuries, there has been a tendency for only a few well-connected artists to be able to compose and publish music. Only big governments, universities and businesses could afford to have a full orchestra on site, ready to play the works of a small group of select composers. But electronics, affordable instruments and the Internet have changed all of that. Today, a dedicated middle-income person can produce music in his own home that exceeds the quality of studio music of 50 years ago. Christians need to take advantage of this.

Everyone can listen to good music, find sources for it, and share it with others. Look for moving songs with a godly message conveyed will by the music. Don't give up, even when there is difficulty. Participate in group music as you can. Encourage children to learn and play an instrument so they can find out where their talents lie. Make music a part of your church and your family. The cost of music today is probably lower than at any time in history.

May God strengthen all of us to more effectively use this wonderful gift that He has given to us.

Teaching reaches the intellect; music reaches the heart and emotions. Most people enjoy being on their feet for moving music; few stand through a sermon.

Click for 2-minute video summary of this praise and worship session.

Feast 2013 music with an electric string bass!

Feast 2013 playing outside under the stars.

Feast 2010 worshippers inspired by the music.

Choir music has been around for millenia and has a character of its own. (Feast 2010.)

Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes! (Psalm 150:4, NLT).