Archives For Music

It is understandable that unbelievers understand and practice music from a man-centered perspective. Believers, however, must reject a man-centered understanding and practice of music.

Three lines of biblical reasoning show that we must reject such an understanding and practice of music.

The Existence of Angelic Beings Who Produce Music in Heaven

Scripture reveals the existence of angelic beings who play music in heaven:

Revelation 5:8 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.

Revelation 8:6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. 7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

The existence of angelic beings who produce music in heaven shows that humans are not the originators of all music and that they are not the producers of all the music of heaven. In fact, we do not have any basis that any of the music that these heavenly beings play is of human origin in any way.

Because the music of heaven is the most important music of all, we must reject an understanding and practice of music that is man-centered.

The Existence and Use of Musical Instruments Not Originated by Humans

Not only does the Bible reveal to us that angelic beings play music in heaven that is not at all of human origin, but also it reveals the existence and use of musical instruments that are not at all of human origin.

Revelation 8:2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.

Revelation 15:2 And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.

We do not have any basis to hold that these instruments used in heaven were originated by humans. Humans, therefore, are not the originators of all musical instruments.

Because the music of heaven is the most important music of all, the existence and use of musical instruments in heaven that are not at all of human origin teaches us that we must reject an understanding and practice of music that is man-centered.

The Reality of Divine Production of Music

Most importantly, Scripture reveals that God Himself plays a musical instrument:

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.

Certainly, God did not learn anything about music from humans. His playing a musical instrument profoundly shows us that humans are not the originators of all music.

Furthermore, because any music produced by God is music that is perfect in every way, we plainly understand that we must reject an understanding and practice of music that is man-centered.

Application

By considering carefully what certain Scripture passages reveals about music and musical instruments that are not at all of human origin, we learn unmistakably that we must reject an understanding and practice of music that is man-centered. Rather, we must base our understanding and practice of music foremost on what Scripture reveals about the music of heaven and of heavenly beings, most of all of God Himself.

Suppose you arrive late to a temple where people are worshiping. As you head toward the building, you hear loud sounds emanating from it

Because you are outside the building and still quite a distance from it, you are unable to tell what exactly you are hearing. All you hear are composite, pulsating sounds that you can feel even in your body. What you hear sounds chaotic and raucous to you.

When you get to the heart of the temple, you discover that the people are wildly dancing and chanting and moaning with words and sounds that you cannot make any sense about what they mean. You are also completely unfamiliar with the strange instrumental music that is blaring deafeningly throughout the building.

Because you cannot make any sense of either the verbal sounds being produced or the instrumental music being played, the composite sound sounds to you like confused noise. Would you think that God would be accepting that worship that sounded like confused noise from a distance and sounds like confused noise even when you are directly in the middle of it?

Many believers may not understand the profound importance of what Psalm 117 teaches because of its brevity–it is the shortest chapter in the Bible.

Psalm 117:1 O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. 2 For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD.

In spite of its brevity, examining how the NT uses Psalm 117:1 makes clear the profound importance of that teaching in a way that any believer can readily understand.

The Use of Psalm 117:1 in Romans 15:11

The following comparison shows that Romans 15:11 cites verse 1 of Psalm 117:

Psalm 117:1 O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.

Romans 15:11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.

The first two words of Romans 15:11 show that Paul cites Psalm 117:1 as biblical proof of what he teaches earlier in the passage:

Romans 15:8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: 9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. 10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. 11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.

Specifically, Paul teaches that Psalm 117:1 is proof that “Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God” in order that “the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy”! The NT thus instructs us that Psalm 117:1 is a divine mandate to all the Gentiles and all people to glorify God by praising and lauding Him!

Because glorifying God is the premier obligation toward God that every human being has, we see the profound importance of what Psalm 117:1 teaches about what God mandates. Moreover, because Psalm 117:2 explains the bases for that divine demand and reiterates the divine demand of praising Him given in Psalm 117:1, we learn that Psalm 117 emphatically makes known the universal obligation for all humans to glorify God by praising Him for His mercy!

Application

God wants all the world to glorify Him by praising Him for His mercy. We must use Psalm 117 to make known to all men everywhere the divine mandates for them to do so!

Reading recently in John 2, a directly stated distinction between two wines caught my attention. Pondering that passage led me to consider whether something similar is also true about instrumental musics.

Some Wine That Was Better Than Other Wine

It was apparently commonly agreed among the Jews that some wine was better than other wine:

John 2:10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

Since Jesus was the One who created the wine in this account, we can be certain that it was wine that was objectively better than other wine that the ruler of the feast had previously tasted.

Are There Similar Differences among Instrumental Musics?

We have seen that there was some wine that truly was better than other wine. Does something similar also apply to styles/genres of instrumental music, or are there no styles/genres of instrumental music that we can objectively say are better than others?

If there are not any instrumental musics that are better than others, why are instrumental musics different than wines? How do we know that instrumental musics are different than wines in that respect?

In a recent thread on Sharper Iron, I posted the following remarks concerning why many believers reject secular testimonies that speak about demons and music:

Another frequently used basis for rejecting these testimonies is the claim that believers who use these testimonies to argue for the rejection of music of the occult commit multiple logical fallacies in how they use those testimonies. Such claims include the purported use of guilt-by-association (GBA), the genetic fallacy, hasty generalization, and ad hominem.

To address the claim that GBA is routinely used to support the fallacious rejection of music of the occult, it is necessary to examine various passages of Scripture. Consider the following comparison of passages about Balaam:

Numbers 31:14 And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle. 15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? 16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. 17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

Revelation 2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. 14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

In spite of 1400-1500 years (we do not know this time span exactly but can approximate it closely enough for our purposes) having elapsed after Balaam’s death, the glorified Christ indicted believers in a Christian church for having people in their midst who were holding the doctrine of Balaam. We know with certainty that Christ was not guilty of using the GBA fallacy when he rebuked the believers in this church for doing so.

Scripture does not provide any basis for our understanding that the doctrine of Balaam had been faithfully transmitted by his followers for all those hundreds of years since his death and had spread from where the Midianites had been all the way to Pergamos. How, then, was the glorified Christ able to validly declare that in essence the same perverse doctrine that greatly corrupted ancient Israel was corrupting a first-century church?

Because I have not received any interaction on that thread for several weeks now, I have decide to discontinue posting on that thread and continue posting further information on the topic here. To profit fully from what I plan to treat in future posts, I encourage you to go and read all my preceding remarks in the thread, “What Does 1 Corinthians 2:14 Teach about What Unbelievers Cannot Know?

Many people believe that they have the ability to decide whether music is fit for human use by listening to the music and analyzing it musicologically. They even think that they have the ability to analyze music of the occult in the same manner.

The following comparison between consuming spiked beverages and listening to music of the occult shows just how faulty and deadly this thinking is.

Consuming Spiked Beverages

Suppose a malicious scientist invents a colorless, odorless, sweet-tasting liquid that slowly poisons people so that their brains very gradually malfunction more and more. In collaboration with a corrupt, secret government organization, beverage manufacturers mix this poison in various beverages and then ship them to select grocery stores in neighborhoods of enemies of the state.

Not knowing what the government has done, scores of political enemies gradually go insane because they were never able to detect that the beverages were spiked. Because of the properties of the poison that make detecting its presence impossible through ordinary means, those who drink it have no ability to know of its presence and its poisonous effects merely by tasting, smelling, seeing, or drinking the spiked beverages.

To them the spiked beverages look, smell, and taste perfectly fine. Using their aesthetic abilities to determine the fitness of the beverages has disastrous consequences for them.

Listening to Music of the Occult

Music of the occult is music that evil humans produce either under the influence of demons or for summoning them or both (see footnote 1 in this post for some information about such music). Because demons are supernatural beings whose knowledge, ability, and experience concerning music far surpasses any ability or knowledge of humans, such music is incredibly dangerous music.

Humans who assert that we must listen to such music to know whether it is demonic music wrongly think that they have the ability to understand and detect anything about the music that would make it either harmful for humans to listen to it or unrighteous for them to listen to it or both. As with the spiked beverages, however, humans completely lack the understanding and capabilities to detect and determine accurately the deadly properties of this music.

Application

Christians should never assent to challenges to listen to music of the occult for the purposes of analyzing it and explaining what is demonic about it. Rather, we must totally reject all such music without exposing ourselves to it in any way.

 

The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Psalms to write exactly the words that He wanted to be written in every Psalm. Comparing the frequency in the Psalms of two key titles for God reveals that the Psalms stress the one title considerably more than the other.

God as Judge in the Psalms

The Psalms speak of or speak to God as the Judge four times:

Ps. 50:6 And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself. Selah.

Ps. 68:5 A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.

Ps. 75:7 But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

Ps. 94:2 Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth: render a reward to the proud.

God as Savior in the Psalms

The Psalms speak of God as the Savior one time:

Ps. 106:21 They forgat God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt;

A Revealing Comparison

Speaking of or to God, the Psalmists speak of God as the Judge four times, but they only speak of God as the Savior once. The inspired hymnal thus uses the title Judge for God four times as often as it does the title Savior for God.

Questions for Application

The revealing comparison presented in this post raises some questions for us to consider about how we are to apply this biblical information.

Should our sacred music also have this same biblical proportion in it for the use of these titles?

If so, does our sacred music presently have this biblical proportion in it for the use of these titles?

If so and if our sacred music does not do so, why does it not do so?

If so and if our sacred music does not do so, what should we do to change what we are singing in our sacred music so that it is in keeping with this biblical proportion?

The phrase “my God” occurs in Scripture 148 times in 137 verses in 32 books. A comparative evaluation of the frequency of the occurrence of this phrase in Psalms with its use in a modern hymnal reveals an important change that needs to be made in our hymnology.

Use in the Book of Psalms

Strikingly, the book of Psalms has the phrase 53x in 53 verses in 34 Psalms, which far exceeds its use in any other book of Scripture.

Because 34/150 Psalms have this phrase in them, we learn that 22.7% of the songs in the perfect hymnal of God use this expression. The significance of this frequency becomes clear when it is compared to the use of the phrase in a modern hymnal.

Use in a Modern Hymnal

Through an examination of more than 700 hymns in a modern hymnal, I discovered that the phrase “my God” occurs only 20 times in 13 songs in this hymnal! This data reveals that the entirety of the hymnal has the phrase in under 2% of the songs.

A Revealing Comparison

Comparing the less than 2% frequency of the songs that have the phrase in a modern hymnal to the 22.7% of the songs in the Psalms shows that the Psalms use this phrase more than ten times as often as this modern hymnal does. Because Psalms is an inspired hymnal, this data teaches us that we do not use this key phrase nearly as often as we should in our hymnody.

Application

Writers of sacred songs should allow the Psalms to shape every aspect of what they write. This study shows that we need to use the phrase “my God” much more often in our sacred songs today.

The harp is the most important musical instrument in Scripture. This importance comprises at least the following truths that can be grouped into three categories:

Earliest Information about Music Mentions the Harp

The oldest chronological information in Scripture about human musical activity mentions the harp:

Genesis 4:21 And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.

The first canonical statement about music mentions the harp:

Genesis 4:21 And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.

Divine Commands about the Use of the Harp

God has commanded His people multiple times to use the harp to worship Him:

2 Chronicles 29:25 And he set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the LORD by his prophets.

Psalm 33:2 Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.

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

Psalm 147:7 Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God:

Psalm 150:3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

God has commanded the whole world to use the harp to worship Him:

Psalm 98:4 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. 5 Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.

Uniqueness of the Harp among Musical Instruments

The harp is the only musical instrument used in the only account in Scripture of God’s using humanly played music to deliver a human from demonically caused affliction:

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.

The harp is the only musical instrument that Scripture describes as pleasant:

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

Scripture mentions only the harp as the musical instrument that is played in the worship music of heaven1:

Revelation 5:8 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.

Revelation 14:2 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:

Revelation 15:2 And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.

Applications

1. Christians should accept the surpassing biblical importance of the harp above all other musical instruments. They should also disciple others about that importance.

2. Christians should learn to play the harp for use in corporate worship, and they should use it regularly in corporate worship.

3. Christians should disciple the whole world to learn to play the harp and use it in corporate worship.

4. Christians should listen to instrumental sacred music played on the harp by consecrated believers. In addition, they should esteem such musical use of the harp as pleasant.


1 Scripture does also reveal the use of trumpets in heaven, but none of those statements are explicitly about their use in the worship music of heaven.

A comparative graphical analysis of the number of words in each Psalm provides valuable insight into some truths about the songs that God has given us to sing. It also helps us to evaluate in helpful ways the other songs that we esteem highly.

Total Words in Each Psalm

This graph strikingly shows how much longer Psalm 119 is from all the other Psalms in the total number of words it has compared to them!


Psalm 119 has almost twice as many words as the next longest Psalm (Psalm 119 – 2445; Psalm 78 – 1228). Noting the great length of Psalm 119, we learn that singing some songs that are much longer than the vast majority of our songs is biblical.

 

Number of Psalms with Total Number of Words

A comparison of the number of Psalms within the ranges of total number of words specified in the graph below provides additional information to us about the songs that God has given us to sing.

This graph reveals that 10% (15/150) of the Psalms have 500 or more words, which means that 90% (135/150) of the Psalms are shorter than 500 words.

Moreover, 66% (99/150) of the Psalms are shorter than 300 words. The ten shortest Psalms (6.7%) have fewer than 100 words.

Psalms Compared with “The Greatest/Best Sacred Songs of All Time”

Through a recent informal survey of friends and some other brethren, I compiled a list of what they thought was the greatest/best sacred song of all time that was not in the Bible. Comparing the total number of words in these top songs with the Psalms reveals some interesting facts.

Of 20 songs named in the survey that have been sung frequently in churches, all were under 300 words. Fifteen (75%) of the songs were under 200 words; five (25%) were between 200-299.1

This data suggests that our current sacred songs are roughly in keeping with the majority of Psalms in the total number of words that they have.

Application

This graphical analysis of the Psalms and a comparison of the Psalms with 20 sacred songs considered to be among the greatest/best of all time leads me to think that we need to work on writing more top-notch songs that are longer and that we need to sing more of such songs. In fact, we need to sing some songs that are much longer than the vast majority of the songs that we currently esteem very highly.

We also need to keep in mind that it is biblical to sing songs that are quite short! We should learn from this aspect of the Psalms to sing such songs more often than most of us probably do in our services.

Let us allow these insights to direct us to glorify God all the more in our singing in our churches!


1 Songs under 200 words: Amazing Grace; Be Thou My Vision; Blessed Assurance; Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing; For All the Saints; Great Is Thy Faithfulness; Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah; He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions; Holy, Holy, Holy; How Sweet and Awful Is the Place; Jesus Paid It All; Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness; O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing!; Praise Ye the Lord!; Psalm 100 (All People That on Earth Do Dwell)

Songs with 200-299 words: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God; And Can It Be?; Great God of Wonders; How Great Thou Art; It Is Well with My Soul