The sound of music! Everyone loves good music. In fact, music is so universally enjoyed that it’s very name has become synonymous with good things, or a euphemism for things that work well. For instance, when we hear something we like, we say “that is music to my ears.” If something worked well, it is sometimes said that it “worked like a song.” Music can also have such a unique pacific effect on us we sometimes use the expression that “music calms the savage beast.” The Bible also has quite a lot to say about music if we are willing to listen.
When God created the universe and laid the foundations of the earth, it was a time of rejoicing. All “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). Indeed, the heavens themselves declare the glory of God and their voice transcends all languages so that all have heard their song (Psalm 19:1-3). As the hymn, This Is My Father’s World, states, “all nature sings and “round me rings the music of the spheres.” There is such purpose and design to the universe that we all enjoy the harmony of the heavens and the chorus of creation.
Some of the most beautiful music ever produced is the sound of nature in the morning when the sun yawns and stretches out over the horizon and warms the cool morning air as the woodpecker beats out a tune, the sparrows whistles their songs, the Mourning Dove coos and the rest of the avian chorus joins in while the brook murmurs gently over the rocks and the wind rustles through the leaves of the trees. What music they make! And eventide brings an equally beautiful melody when the crickets chirp in unison, the frogs bellow out their tune in the creek bed, the cats meowing and the dogs barking in the meadow as the heavens follow their course and light up the black velvet, night sky.
The first explicit mention we have of music in the Bible is found in Genesis 4:21. Jubal, son of Lamech and Adah, apparently invented stringed and wind instruments of music. This suggests music was already well known by this time. This also suggests that the first music was acapella, before human, mechanical instruments of music were invented. It is not hard to imagine that Adam and Eve would have already employed vocal praise of Jehovah God.
Several songs are mentioned in the Bible but perhaps the most notable is the song of Moses as he led the children of Israel across the Red Sea to safety, and out of the reach of Pharaoh of Egypt. Moses led the children of Israel in a song unto the Lord and in that song he described Jehovah as “my strength and my song” (Ex. 15:1,2). Then there are the beautiful songs (psalms) of David such as the matchless 23rd psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” David’s seventy plus psalms constitute about half of the psalms.
Music has the power to affect the physical and mental well-being of man. When king Saul was in the throes of depression, David, who was “the sweet psalmist of Israel” and “a cunning player on a harp” was called and played and “Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him” (I Sam. 16:14-23). Likewise, it appears that Elisha called for a minstrel to play for him to calm him down before he prophesied for Jehoshaphat because the presence of the despised king of Israel, Jehoram, had angered him (II Kings 3:15).
It should not surprise us then that a “2011 study by researchers from McGill University in Canada found that listening to music increases the amount of dopamine produced in the brain – a mood-enhancing chemical, making it a feasible treatment for depression.”1 Even in the face of heading to the cross, the Lord the took time to sing a hymn with His apostles (Matt. 26:30). Paul and Silas, languishing in the inner prison of a Philippian jail, having been beaten and their feet secured fast in stocks, sought refuge and solace in prayer and in song at the midnight hour (Acts 16:).
Music also expresses heartfelt feelings. The Psalmist said “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:1,2). God said through the prophet Isaiah, “My servants shall sing for joy of heart” (Is. 65:14). James advises, “Is any merry? Let him sing psalms” (James 5:13).
Salvation is an occasion of great joy and singing. At the announcement of the birth of the saviour, a multitude of heavenly hosts appeared to the shepherds in the fields and praised God (Luke 2:13). Jesus said that there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15:7,10). When the elder son came in from the field, having been working all day, he heard music and festivities at the return of his brother, the prodigal son (Luke 15:24,25).
In the Lord’s church, one of the avenues by which we worship God is to sing. The music of the Lord’s church reverts back to the original form of singing, which, as we saw, was acapella. This worship in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is to be a sincere expression of a pure heart and is to be accompanied by grace in our hearts and understanding in our minds (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; I Cor. 15:15). It is said of the Lord that in the midst of the church, He would sing praises with us to Father (Heb. 2:12).
When the Holy Spirit allowed John and us to a glimpse into the throne room of heaven with what are we greeted? The four and twenty elders, representing the redeemed from both dispensations, “casting down their golden crowns around the crystal sea” and worshiping He who sat on the throne. “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” (Revelation 5:9-10).
“He took my burdens all away, up to a brighter day, He gave me a song. A wonderful song. And one of these days in that fair land I’ll sing with a chorus grand, He gave me a song, a wonderful song.”
Eric L. Padgett