Toward a Biblical Understanding of Music, Part 1

violin3.jpgIn the next several days, I want to go on a journey of the Scripture with you, looking at the major truths that relate to music, and make a plea to you to practice the truths we discover. There are so many different directions we could go in discussing music and worship. It’s a little like trying to communicate the vastness of the solar system from the relatively small space inside a planetarium. Music itself is a vast topic and God’s Word addresses that topic over 800 times in its sixty-six books. So we will begin a journey, painfully aware of our own ignorance and inadequacy yet confident in our Guidebook. I also want to take some time in these sessions to deal with specific questions you have. So, as you read each of these posts and a question comes into your mind, post it and I will do my best to address that issue.

PART ONE: Laying the Foundation

1. What is our authority?

a. Self – This is a very popular belief today.  According to Chuck Swindoll, over 80% of Americans today believe that beliefs should be formed by self, not by church or other influences.

b. Others – think carefully about this one.  Do we allow others, whether they be peers, parents, something in print, or just practice or tradition to become our authority?

c. God’s Word – This must be the sole authority for faith and practice.

d. We must agree that the answers for all of life must come from the Scriptures.

2 Peter 1:3 – According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue. 

I know there are some who believe I take the above verse out-of-context in making this assertion.  I have done the exegetical work on this passage; and, in context, I do indeed maintain that this verse is referring to the Scripture.

2 Timothy 3:16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

They can’t come from ourselves, because our heart will deceive us.

Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

They can’t come from others, because all are sinners.

Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

We must agree that the Bible is authority, period.

2. Where does music come from?

a. Legends

i. The legend of the origin of Indian music dates back to Vedic times. It is said the Universe itself began with the cosmic sound, Om.

ii. In another Indian myth, the story of Ravana also involves music. It is said that Ravana tore his chest open and use his gut-strings as an instrument to play beautiful music upon.

iii. The American Indian tribe of Apache tells the story of how Moumin and Ayeko got lost in the woods.  After a 3-day journey the dust gods offered to show them the way home.  To express their thanks Moumin and Ayeko made a musical instrument out of eagle’s bones and the legs of insects, decorated with butterfly wings.

b. Biblical truth

i. God is a musical Being

Zephaniah 3:17 – The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

Zechariah 9:14 – And the LORD shall be seen over them, and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning: and the LORD God shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south.

Interestingly, some scholars think that at the rapture, God Himself will blow the trumpet that is referred to in 2 Thessalonians 4.

ii. Satan was created to be a musical being

Ezekiel 28:13 – Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.

iii. Is God eternal?  Does He change?…Then “How long has God been a musical Being?”

Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

iv. Is man a musical being?  Certainly, if we are commanded to sing to the Lord, we must have been designed and created with musical capability.

v. Conclusion: Music is a part of the nature of God and is part of the Imago Dei (image of God) put into mankind. (Gen. 1:27)

Genesis 1:26 – And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

3. Is music neutral?

a. This argument can be approached a number of different ways:

i. Quotes for/against the neutrality of music by the "experts"

“The only people that think music is neutral are trying to justify rock music!”

”Rock and roll is 99% sex” – John Oates

”Everybody takes it for granted that rock and roll is synonymous with sex.” – Chris Stein

Aristotle wrote that if a person “habitually listens to the kind of music that rouses ignoble passions, his whole character will be shaped to an ignoble form.  In short, if one listens to the wrong kind of music he will become the wrong kind of person; but conversely, if he listens to the right kind of music, he will tend to become the right kind of person.”

”Music is made up of many ingredients and, according to the proportion of these components, it can be soothing or invigorating, ennobling or vulgarizing, philosophical or orgiastic.  It has powers for evil as well as good.” – Howard Hanson

ii. Illustrations of art and food

iii. Music being like language

Letter “E” in both “PraisE the Lord” and “I HatE God”

iv. Biblical evidence:

1 Samuel 16:23 – And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

Saul seems to have been affected physically, emotionally, and even spiritually by the playing of David on the harp.

Job 30:31 – My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep.

Jeremiah 48:36 – Therefore mine heart shall sound for Moab like pipes, and mine heart shall sound like pipes for the men of Kirheres: because the riches that he hath gotten are perished.

Isaiah 24:8 – The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth.

Psalm 81:2 – Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.

Job 21:12 – They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.

The previous five verse demonstrate that even instrumental music, without lyrics, can communicate such human emotions as mourning, weeping, sadness, joy, and pleasantness.  The biblical evidence does NOT, however, show that any human emotions are intrinsically moral or immoral.  Context determines the morality of any emotional expression, through speech or through musical expression.

v. Conclusion: musical expression, as made through human moral agents, is a form of moral communication and as such is not a neutral entity. 

4. Can music be tainted by sinful man?

I like to illustrate this by reading the following:

"Property Laws of a Toddler"
1. If I like it, it's mine.
2. If it's in my hand, it's mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it's mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.
5. If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
6. If I'm doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
7. If it looks just like mine, it's mine.
8. If I saw it first, it's mine.
9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
10. If it's broken, it's yours.

a. Everything that God originally created good, fallen man perverts with his lust and his pride, including music.

Genesis 1:31 – And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

At the end of God's creative week, He declares all things good.

Genesis 6:5 – And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 8:21 – And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

Here, the Bible shows that before the flood as well as after the flood, man is a depraved being, bent on sinning.

Ecclesiastes 8:11 – Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

b. God was angered to witness His people worshipping the golden calf and participating in corrupt dancing and singing, which Joshua mistook for the sound of war.

Exodus 32:7-8 – And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Exodus 32:17-18 – And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.

5. What is really at stake?

a. Our View of God and His Word – He is either sufficient or not to answer the issues of life.

b. Our View of Ourselves – We either accept the fact that we are evil beings or we don’t.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Gary on August 4, 2009 at 10:17 am

    First rate. Thanks much!


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