Archives For Music

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

Any song that God has inspired to be in Scripture is a perfect song. Scripture reveals that God has provided us with a song that is a perfect love song!

“A Song of Loves”

The Spirit inspired Psalm 45 to begin with an explicit statement that it is a love song:

Psalm 45:1 <To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim, for the sons of Korah, Maschil, A Song of loves.> My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

From this divine love song, we learn many striking lessons that God intends us to profit from greatly. This post will only treat a few selected truths from the song. The post is by no mean an exhaustive treatment of the valuable lessons that this song provides.

The Subject of This Perfect Love Song

From the beginning of the song, we learn that the subject of this perfect love song is a king (Ps. 45:1). New Testament use of Psalm 45:6-7 teaches us that the ultimate Subject of this perfect love song is God’s own anointed King, the divine Messiah:

Psalm 45:6 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. 7 Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Hebrews 1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Fearful Activity Revealed in This Perfect Love Song

Second, the Spirit teaches us that this divine King is a mighty Warrior (Ps. 45:3-4) who will engage in fearful activity:

Psalm 45:5 Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.

Strikingly, this perfect love song speaks explicitly of the King’s destroying His enemies in battle! We thus learn that far from being inappropriate content in a love song, fearful activity by the divine King as the Messianic Judge who judges evil people is fitting content to include in such a song!

The Glorious Character of the Subject of This Perfect Love Song

Third, this perfect love song highlights two key aspects of the glorious character of its Subject (Ps. 45:7). The first key aspect of the glorious character of the King is that He loves righteousness. The Spirit thus teaches us that extolling someone who loves what is right and loves doing right is fitting content for a perfect love song.

The second key aspect of the glorious character of the King is that He hates wickedness. Saying this, the Spirit teaches us that extolling someone who hates what is wicked and hates evildoing is also fitting content for a perfect love song.

Application

Psalm 45 is a perfect love song because God inspired it to be in Scripture. The lessons treated above teach us that speaking about the Messianic Judge as the divine King who renders divine judgment on wicked people is fitting content for a perfect love song!

Moreover, extolling the glorious character of the One who loves righteousness and hates wickedness is fitting content for a perfect love song!

We must sing songs of love that include this glorious content.

Sing to God the King!

January 25, 2020

At least six passages in Scripture highlight singing to God because He is the King.

Psalm 22

Psalm 22:21 Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

Psalm 22:22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

Psalm 22:23 Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.

Psalm 22:24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

Psalm 22:25 My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.

Psalm 22:26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.

Psalm 22:27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.

Psalm 22:28 For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations.

Psalm 47

Psalm 47:1 <To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.> O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.

Psalm 47:2 For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.

Psalm 47:3 He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.

Psalm 47:4 He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved. Selah.

Psalm 47:5 God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.

Psalm 47:6 Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.

Psalm 47:7 For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.

Psalm 47:8 God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.

Psalm 68

Psalm 68:24 They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary.

Psalm 68:25 The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels playing with timbrels.

Psalm 68:26 Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel.

Psalm 95

Psalm 95:1 O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.

Psalm 95:2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

Psalm 95:3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

Psalm 98

Psalm 98:1 <A Psalm.> O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.

Psalm 98:2 The LORD hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen.

Psalm 98:3 He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Psalm 98:4 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

Psalm 98:5 Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.

Psalm 98:6 With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King.

Revelation 15

Revelation 15:1 And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.

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.

Revelation 15:3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.

Revelation 15:4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.

Application

Only by meditating much on these passages will we as Christians fully have the right mindset about singing in worship of our God who is the great King!

“Silent Night! Holy Night!” is a beautiful Christmas carol! This PDF provides a chord-melody solo of the carol that includes the notes, chords, chord diagrams, and lyrics for the first line.