Some form of music can be found in every culture throughout history. It does not matter at what point in history you look, it does not matter what culture you research, if you do it carefully, you will find some form of music among those people. It might involve drums, flutes, horns, chants, wails or group singing. There can be bands, string instruments, whistles, all of these things and more. But some form of musical expression will be intrinsic in any culture you look at throughout time.
Why do human beings love music? It can be in the form of whistling or humming. It can be big, sweeping, glorious chorale sounds or solos. It may involve a whole band of instruments with brass, wind, cymbals and drums, a symphonic orchestra, or it can be one person strumming on a guitar. To one degree or another, it is in humanity to love music and to express themselves through that medium.
Have you ever noticed how early in life this starts? Little babies will get still and start to listen when music is played. Why is that? Then as they grow older, they will start to move to the beat and express themselves. It has an impact on them. They were not taught to listen or respond to what they are hearing; they just naturally start to react to the rhythm and sound of music.
If you do a study of music in the Bible, you will quickly discover how important it is to Almighty God. It is a gift that He shares and loves.
When God set the Tabernacle up, He gave strict, precise orders and specific directions for its building, organization and layout. He did the same thing with the Levitical priesthood and the very important duties they had in ancient Israel. This was a sprawling society, and the center of activity for the nation was the Tabernacle—a place where even the Rock Himself would visit from time to time to talk to Moses and Joshua. As He gave instructions on organizing and setting up the Tabernacle the way He wanted it built—the color of everything and the dimensions—He also included music. A very important part of the Levitical priesthood involved music.
A big part of their responsibility and way of life had to do with music, singing, and instruments: “And other of their brethren, of the sons of the Kohathites, were over the shewbread, to prepare it every sabbath. And these are the singers, chief of the fathers of the Levites, who remaining in the chambers were free: for they were employed in that work day and night. These chief fathers of the Levites were chief throughout their generations; these dwelt at Jerusalem” (I Chron. 9:32–34).
The Kohathites were free from other duties because they were responsible for providing the music of the tabernacle “day and night.” God did not have to do it that way. He did it because He wanted to, because it was important. He loves music and wants to share that wonderful gift with all of us.
If you were given that assignment of providing music, you would hope you had a little ability along that line, wouldn’t you? Otherwise, it could be a rough, uphill battle all the way. But God knew who had that talent: “And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy. So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his brethren, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of the sons of Merari their brethren, Ethan the son of Kushaiah” (I Chron. 15:16–17). He built into all of us an appreciation for music, and to some of us He gave outstanding musical gifts and talents. Can you imagine musicians being designated by God to perform music? Think of the kind of chorale singing, the quality of instrumentals, and solos they must have produced.
In Revelation 5:8–9 we get another glimpse of God’s attitude toward music: “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song…”
This is in the third heaven at the throne where God the Father and Jesus Christ are, along with the twenty–four elders and the four living creatures. Before the throne is a sea of glass. A rainbow and thunder and lightning are there. Glory, honor, majesty and dynamic activity are all part of the throne scene (Rev. 4:1–6).
Along with this glory, honor, majesty and activity is the song sung by the elders and living creatures: “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the…[living creatures]…and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Rev. 5:9–11). They are singing this! That is one hundred million angels! Then add to that thousands of thousands. Can you imagine this sound somewhere out there in the third heaven? Think about the glory, honor, majesty, power, joy, praising, worshipping and bowing down before God that takes place there on a regular basis? And it includes singing and music, and involves a mighty multitude.
What kind of sound must it be if you have all of this singing and joy and worshipping and praising God—100 million plus spirit beings, all of them on key, on pitch, hitting the right notes—all of them in harmony? Not one of them missing a note or off pitch. No one taking off on their own. They are all totally together. You can almost hear it all the way down here, can’t you?
Why does God surround Himself with this? Because He loves music. And He has built into every one of us a deep appreciation and love for music, though some may not realize it.
Notice Revelation 14:1–3: “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Zion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: and they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.”
That’s 144,000 firstfruits singing who can really sing! We have not yet heard the kind of music we are going to hear in the Kingdom of God. We only get a little foretaste. God loves music and He has nothing but the best. So the 144,000 singing, right there before His throne, will be stunning!
What is God’s standard for music? Does He give guidelines? Paul tells us that “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (I Cor. 14:33).
There is the basic guideline for music. He does not want it to be confusing. He wants it done well, and He wants it to be something that is peaceful. That eliminates a whole lot that is called music today. When you really study music, you find out quickly that it is a discipline. You either hit the note, or you don’t hit the note. You either start and stop when you are supposed to, or you don’t. You have to practice, practice, practice. You have to push yourself because most of that practice is done by yourself. That demands discipline.
Some people have this talent and will work at it and some do not. But everyone can enjoy good music by listening to it or participating in it one way or the other. If it is sincere and right, then it is well–pleasing to God.
When considering music, think about the words. Are they ugly, filthy, vile, mean, hateful or violent? That is not good music. All good music has melody, rhythm and harmony.
Ask yourself when you listen to music—does it uplift you? Does it settle you down? What kind of atmosphere does it create? Does it stir you up in the right way, as in an anthem or a march? Music is able to create a mood. Maybe it is a somber mood. Sometimes it is a peaceful, relaxing mood. Other times it is inspiring and uplifting. It can be full of joy. Perhaps it is light, or it can be really detailed, and yet, still develop the right mood. What kind of action does it generate? Good music is based on good values!
Some concerts have generated a riot, just by music! They can whip the crowd up to a frenzy where they will start destroying things, attacking one another and turning into an out–of–control mob. And what triggered it? So–called music! Discordant music with destructive words and the wrong kind of beat will never produce peace, inspiration or right actions. The wrong kind of music played in the wrong way for the wrong reason guarantees the outcome will always be wrong. Frankly, it is not really even music. It is just ugly noise that generates ugly results.
Some music can have a beautiful sound, but be filled with lying words celebrating paganism, sin and evil. Just drop the words out and it can have a catchy tune, yet still be very wrong. We must be on guard against this kind of music, which can entice us into worldliness and lure us into thinking in the wrong direction.
When you listen to good music, you will probably hear some words that ought not be there. It is hard to get it perfect in this world today. However, when it starts going in the wrong direction and promoting the wrong mood, filling the air with bad words, then we should not listen to that at all. The Bible makes that plain.
Mr. and Mrs. Herbert W. Armstrong loved music, but it had to be good music. When you attended Ambassador College, you found out right away that music was a big part of the College, and thankfully so. Taking Music Appreciation was a graduation requirement. You learned to like and appreciate really good music.
Sometimes it was classical, played by a symphony orchestra, other times it was big band music or a chorale. There was bluegrass, country and instrumentals of all kinds. We had pop music and waltzes, music of all tempos and volumes. But it was all good and it was all based on the guidelines found in God’s Holy word.
The Bible contains guidelines for every aspect of living the Christian life, either specifically or in principle, including music. For instance, notice Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
Music is communication. You are actually giving when you serve in that way. It is just a matter of sharing a gift that God has given you in a form of communication. But it must be the right kind of music. It cannot be corrupt in any way. Is it from the heart? Is it a joyful sound? The Bible says make a joyful noise (Psa. 95:1–2). When our six children started singing, they were off key, they were out of rhythm and sometimes you could not even understand the words. But we never did interrupt them. We loved hearing them sing.
God looks on His children with the same feeling. When you are whistling or humming or singing in the car or at home or out working in the yard, by yourself or in a crowd—don’t worry about being a professional. That is not necessary or what God requires. He looks at the attitude and considers what we mean when we express ourselves through music. He is the one who put the desire and love of music in all of us—the emotion and feeling, and He has that same emotion, feeling, desire and love.
What a blessing music is if it is used correctly. What a joy and what a gift. We sing and enjoy music as a special, and very important, part of worshipping God in church services. Don’t hold back singing just because you do not think that you are a great singer. You do not hold back praying or studying or serving God, so don’t hold back in singing to Almighty God with all your might and from the heart. Your singing should still be singing, not yelling, and you should blend in with your brethren, but it doesn’t have to be a virtuoso performance. You are singing to God, and He is listening.
One of the most prodigious musicians that ever lived was King David—versatile and brilliant. He wrote music, sung music and played instruments. It was a major part of his life. We, of course, do not need to have his ability in order to enjoy good music and to appreciate it as God intended.
Look at what he said in Psalms 150:1–6: “Praise you the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord. Praise you the Lord.”
When we read that Psalm, we should ask ourselves, “Do I get the point?” The point is to praise God in every way, and one of the most important ways we have in praising Him is through the expression of music. We need to consider this—is the kind of music we enjoy pleasing to and approved by God, or something He rejects? Is it beneficial to us and others, or detrimental? What a thrill and pleasure it is that we can be involved with this powerful gift from God—music, music, wonderful music.
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