How amazing is the human voice! To think of it, more intricate than any man-made instrument, dwelling within the fabric of our bodies. How amazing is music in general, with its complexity and order in the execution of the various chords and rhythms. Music is a fascinating means of communication and expression that God has granted to His people, and it would be difficult to envision a life devoid of this gift. Indeed, music has pervaded our entire culture in different genres and contexts. As a heaven-oriented people we are given a specific attitude and purpose towards this great gift of song.
An unknown author once wrote “We cannot actively attempt the creation of something beautiful without reference to Beauty itself, Who is God.” This holds true in music as well. All of creation reflects and bears testimony of its Creator. Music has to it a certain complexity in its movement, timing, and interweaving of the various notes. Yet too through this intricacy is a beautiful order. All of this reflects the mighty hand of our orderly God. Music in its essence and apart from any application and intent of man bears witness of its Creator and gives praise and glory to Him.
We, who have been gifted with music, have a specific calling in what we do with it and how we use it. “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). We make music and use our talents to the best of our ability for our God on high. Great is the Lord, and worthy of praise! The Psalms repeat this over and over, and how rightly so! How great a God we have, Who is so mighty and just and merciful–Who holds all things in His hand! Who orders our lives and lets not even a hair of our head fall to the ground without His direction and His will for us! Who has given us, who were “black” and repulsive with the stains of sin, great worth and glory in Him, making us His beautiful and “comely” Bride (alluding to Song of Solomon 1:5)! We have our life in Him, and thus we do all things to Him and for His glory (I Corinthians 10:30), seeking to draw closer to Him in all that we do. We use our talents to praise Him, to thank Him. In music we strive to magnify His holy name.
It is important then in the light of this that we have the correct attitude when we make music. Because we use music to glorify and worship our Lord, we treat it differently than the world does. Though praise may indeed bring us great enjoyment and happiness, we must be wary with our music that we do not use it for our own fleshly desires.
Likewise, we do not sing or make music to draw attention to ourselves. If we are making music only to delight in our talent, or if we sing praise only to hear the sounds of our own voices, we cannot expect that we are worshipping God, but rather music itself or our own talent. Surely the most off-tune man singing his heart out to the Lord is more honoring than the most beautiful warbler, whose heart is not focused on to Whom she is singing and why.
This is of deeper emphasis when lyrics are added to the music, such as in the singing of the Psalms. The music is no longer simply a tune, but a message. In the instance of the Psalms it may be a message of pleas to God (Ps. 74), a message of adoration, perhaps telling of God’s greatness, mercy or power (Ps 103:9-11 and Ps 7:1,2), or a message of thanksgiving (Ps 95). Whatever message the song may have, the Psalms are all songs of praise, for they all give glory and honor to the One on Whom our soul depends. They are a prayer–a song directed to and about God and His relationship with His people. The singer in the presence of the Lord proclaims His deeds and attributes and cries out to Him.
When singing words we must keep in mind one more thing. We must know what we are saying. Psalm 47:7 instructs us to “sing ye praises with understanding” (emphasis my own). We cannot simply make vain repetitions. Just as we cannot expect to praise God if we are singing only to hear the sound of our own voice, we also cannot expect to worship our Lord if we aren’t even aware of the words we are speaking. If we only sing a song because it is familiar, we enjoy how the tune goes, or everyone else is singing it…we’re doing it wrong. We are communicating with the Most High God and King of all Creation (and also walk as examples to those around us)! We cannot take that lightly!
Last of all, let us continue to sing and make songs of praise! What a gift we have been given, to be able to lift up our voices to our Maker, or to take up our instruments to glorify His name! To even be allowed to come into the presence of our King and Savior! Scripture over and over commands us to praise the Lord with music, and what a beautiful thing that is! Let us make song!
Praise ye the Lord: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely. (Psalm 147:1)
Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints. (Psalm 149:1)
Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. (Psalm 33:2)
Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. (Psalm 47:6)