I love music. It has encouraged me in difficult times, expressed my joy in good times, and been a place of common ground in many relationships. And I am guessing that many of you have had similar experiences. But why? I believe that music is, in a way, the language of the heart. It speaks to our hearts in a deeper way than even words can. Because of this, music can control our hearts in a way that words can’t. This makes it very powerful. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” If this is the case, music must be used very carefully and only for the correct purposes. I would like to explore what Scripture has to say about the purpose of music so we can correctly use this powerful gift.
One use of music that is exemplified in Scripture is expression of joy. Psalm 98:4-5 says, “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing.” But why express happiness through music? Why not words? Why is that people who are in a good mood will quite often break out into song rather than shouting, “I’m really happy!” Perhaps this is because words can’t express exactly the feelings we experience; however, music seems to capture perfectly our emotions. This is why God has provided us with so many examples of songs of praise. The Psalms, which were written to be sung, have numerous examples of worship songs and in Ephesians, we are even commanded to praise God through song (Ephesians 5:18-20). It makes sense for God to desire that we praise Him from our heart in our hearts’ mother tongue.
Joy is not the only emotion that can be expressed through music and Scripture gives us examples of this. David writes in Psalm 69:16-17, “Hear me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness is good; turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies. And do not hide Your face from Your servant, for I am in trouble; hear me speedily.” In the same way that music captures the joy of our hearts, it can also capture the sorrow of our hearts. Some of the best examples we have of this in the Bible are in the Psalms. In Psalm 12, David implores God to save him when he is fleeing Saul; he repents of his sin with Bathsheba in chapter 51; and there are countless other examples throughout the Psalms. We too can follow their example of crying out to God using the Psalms or other songs.
Paul gives us another use of music in Colossians 3:16. He says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” What does it mean to teach through song? If you’re like me, the first thing that popped into your head was a pastor singing his sermon to the congregation. Sounds kind of painful – especially if the pastor can’t sing. Fortunately, I don’t think this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote Colossians 3:16. If you look at the beginning of the verse, it says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you.” What is the message of Christ? The Gospel! And I think we can broaden that to the whole, unified story of Scripture. What this verse is saying is that one way to hide God’s truths in your heart is through song. Learning or memorizing through song is actually quite common. Just think of the ABC song or any Bible story song. Songs have a way of sticking with you which is why Paul commands the Colossians to learn through song. So the next time you have “Baby Shark” stuck in your head, remember this and be thankful.
The final use of music given in the Bible is the expression of love. Song of Solomon 1:15 says, “Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.” So is there any value in love songs? I think yes. If music truly is the language of the heart, then music should be the perfect place to express romantic love. Song of Solomon is the perfect example. It shows how love between a husband and wife can be expressed beautifully through song. As Christians, love songs can be an excellent way to express feelings within the proper bounds of a relationship. However, I will give a warning – music tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The emotions that are expressed through songs you listen to will often become the emotions you experience in your daily life. Therefore, if you aren’t in a relationship where you can express those feelings, they will most likely build up without having any outlet. If you are in this situation, a steady diet of love songs is probably not healthy. Also, many love songs today are sensual and often speak of love outside of its proper context. These types of songs should be avoided.
In all of these examples of music in Scripture, there is a common element. I believe that this commonality is what holds the key to all good music. Are you able to identify it? The feature that is in all of these examples is (drum roll) that they are all outward focused. We praise God. We cry out to God. We teach others. We share our love with others. Much of music today, including Christian music, has become about the feeling that it gives us personally. This is a selfish and sinful attitude. Remember the song that says, “Jesus first, yourself last, and others in between?” The author of this song had it exactly right. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). He then gave the second greatest commandment which is, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:38). We must put Jesus first in everything. Then, we must consider others. So, what is the purpose of music? Music is one of the gifts God has provided through which we can fulfill the two greatest commandments. Through music, we can love God and love others.
|Joshua Blank is from NYC, but will be living in Boston for the next four years where he will be attending Sattler College. He enjoys learning, living in the city, good discussions, and anything related to music. He is hoping to use his business degree as an opportunity in foreign missions.|