Saturday, December 14, 2013

Does it really matter what kind of worship music is played in church services?

"But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him." (2 Kings 3:15)

To answer the question I'd posed in the title right away, yes, it matters. Here is why, from the bible.

Bibleatlas.org
In the scene above in 2 Kings 3, after Ahab King of Israel died, Ahab's son Jehoram took over. At that time, Moab decided to cease their tribute to Israel. Mesha, King of Moab was a sheep breeder, and he was bound "to deliver to the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams." (2 Kings 3:4). This was a heavy burden so one day Mesha King of Moab decided to stop paying it. This could not stand, so Jehoram of Israel formed a coalition with two kings, Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and the King of Edom. The three kings set off south toward the Dead Sea to circle around and attack Moab.

The area at the bottom of the Dead Sea is arid and desolate. The advancing army ran out of water. No spring was found in the area either. (2 Kings 3:9). It is a serious matter for three armies on the march to run out of water, and they were only halfway there. They were about to circle north, march through Edom and set upon Moab. They had to be refreshed. What to do?

King Jehoshaphat of Judah asked if there was a prophet among them to which they could go and inquire of the LORD. (2 Kings 3:11). There was, Elisha.

As the kings approached Elisha and posed their petition, Elisha called for a musician. That was the verse I opened with. You can see from the context, that the situation is dire, they Kings needed to commune with the LORD and receive direction. Elisha was the prophetic intermediary at the time, and the scene was one of entering into prayer and supplication to the LORD. It was a worshipful situation.

So why was Elisha's immediate response to call for a musician? Was he going to party? Did he want to 'rock the house'? Did he feel like performing a jig? Was he not taking the situation seriously? As a matter of fact, Elisha was taking it extremely seriously, that was why he called for a musician.

"But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him." (2 Kings 3:15)

Pulpit Commentary says of this verse,
"But now bring me a minstrel. A player on the harp seems to be intended. Music was cultivated in the schools of the prophets (1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Chronicles 25:1-3), and was employed to soothe and quiet the soul, to help it to forget things earthly and external, and bring it into that ecstatic condition in which it was most open to the reception of Divine influences."

Ah! Music was the precursor to prayer and petition and thanks and praise! Music was used as a vehicle to alter a physical, emotional, and biological state; and to prepare the heart and mind for close communion with God.

"David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. " (1 Chronicles 25:1).

They prophesied with Lyre.

King David composing the Psalms.
From Folio 30V of The Vespasian Psalter, English c750
Public domain image
"After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying." (1 Samuel 10:5)

They prophesied with instruments.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says, "bring me a minstrel—The effect of music in soothing the mind is much regarded in the East; and it appears that the ancient prophets, before entering their work, commonly resorted to it, as a preparative, by praise and prayer, to their receiving the prophetic afflatus."

We are not prophets today, seeking a direct revelation from the Lord (I hope) but when we enter the church sanctuary, we are there to inquire of the Lord via preaching of the Word, there to praise Him, and to offer our thanks to Him. It is an important moment in our worship. Even though we are not prophets as Elisha was, we are still humans, with the same variety of emotions we experience at any given moment, and the same proclivities which prevent us from a proper attitude of receptivity. Music is acknowledged as a method for altering our mental state and bringing us into receptivity. The kind of music therefore played brings us into which kind of receptivity- Divine or demonic.

As Dr John MacArthur explained in his Q&A "Contemporary Worship, Civil War in the Church"
"I think you have to be very careful with music, musical form that is inseparably linked to the base expressions of the culture. I just don’t think you go there and bring honor to the Lord with that. You say, “Well the words sanctify the music.” I don’t think so. The music is the power in the expression, that’s why it’s musical. And I think you have to be very careful using that which is associated with sex and drugs and the baser things as a vehicle to convey the lofty sacred holy serious realities about God and the glory of Christ."

Rend Collective Experiment,
a 'worship' band from N. Ireland.
As we press our position that the type of worship music matters, we are far from old fuddy-duddies who are out of touch with the 'new' styles. Music is linked to base expressions, our baser instincts, and can bring about an interior attitude that either reflects holiness or accepts carnality.

Let's look at the comment Pulpit Commentary again. If music was used throughout the Old Testament in prophetic and worship situations in order to bring it into that ecstatic condition in which it was most open to the reception of Divine influences, then does one not believe that satan also brings us into that ecstatic condition in which it was most open to the reception of demonic influences? Music has the power to prepare us to receive Him, it also has the power to prepare us to receive the beast, also. That's what Dr MacArthur was referring to when he mentioned the base expressions.

Satan is a liar and a beast. He seeks to thwart every move of God in every arena possible. Corporate worship is a high target for him to disrupt. We have seen even in the last five short years, the decline of preaching, the collapse of biblical discernment among the sheep, the rise of false teachers and doctrines and the worldwide desire for tickled ears. Of course satan will use music in order to confuse the heart and make it receptive to his demon-influence. Do we think that we are appropriately prepared for respectful worship after this?

"Passion 2013: We Rocked the Dome"
Is that the job of preparatory worship music, to 'rock it out'? Is this what Elisha did as he prepared his heart to go before the LORD? Hardly.

still from video of Elevation Church, Charlotte, NC
Code Orange Christmas dance
The war on music is not one of tastes. There is terrific modern music which uplifts Jesus as much as music from past centuries. The issue isn't which instruments should be allowed on the stage, either. Drums, piano, guitars, trumpets, as long as the music the instruments are playing uplifts Jesus ... AND adequately creates an atmosphere where the hearts of people can be soothed and prepared for communion with Him. I'm not saying music has to be quiet, as long as the worship team, choir, or praise band has mindfully prepared it to play for the people to create an atmosphere of reverence.

Be aware of music's influence. Just as it lifts your spirits in the car when your favorite song comes on, so it lifts or depresses your spirits at church. Music opens you to the Divine or the demonic. Music pleases or displeases the Lord.

Music prepares the listener for receiving satan, or receiving God. He hates the former (Amos 5:21-23) and loves the latter. (2 Chronicles 5:13)

Which do you listen to? Which does your child listen to? Which does your church play? Yes, it matters what kind of worship music is played in church services.

And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him.

14 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this. We struggle with the music at the church we attend. I love hymns and other songs worthy to be sung to our Savior but I really have a problem with repetitive and trance inducing music that seems to have taken over nearly every church in our area. While our church is solid theology-wise, it was a complete heartbreak to hear that our worship leader will never, ever play a hymn because he doesn't like them.

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    1. Hi Tara,

      Thank you for reading, and for commenting. I'm so sorry that this kind of music is so rampant in your area. I agree, it is heartbreaking. I'm sorrier that the music leader has that attitude. The sacredness of the music as part of worship is not a cafeteria selection of personal preferences and selfish choices. I'm so sorry...definitely pray for him or her. I hope you can prayerfully approach him or her with some verses which the Spirit leads you to which speaks to the issue. :)

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  2. Al Mohler recently posted an article on Christian rap on his blog. INteresting perspective and an unexpected conclusion from him.

    http://www.albertmohler.com/2013/12/01/thinking-about-thinking-about-rap-unexpected-thoughts-over-thanksgiving/

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    1. Dr Mohler said "Form matters when it comes to music, and the form of music is not incidental to the meaning communicated". I agree.

      I stayed away from the rap controversy so I'm not sure whether this was a discussion over appropriate corporate worship music in church or not. The essay you linked to doesn't really say. I've heard some excellent rap which is Gospel oriented and devastatingly spiritually pointed. But not in church.

      My point is music has a purpose and the OT prophets showed us what that purpose is: to open one to proper receptivity of the attitude we must adopt as we prepare to enter communion with Jesus; and secondly my other point was that we're mindful of the kind of music we allow because some of it brings overt receptivity to satan and not Jesus.

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  3. The beat of rock music is the same as a reverse heartbeat and has a documented physical effect on a person's heart rate. Amongst a whole host of other things.

    http://www.av1611.org/neutral.html

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  4. Have you ever been to a Russian Orthodox Devine Liturgy? It happens exactly as you describe in this article.

    I grew up with fundamentalists in the 1980s who ranted and raved about godless communism, but in fact, Russia was never godless, just as the United States was never really Christian. It always surprises people to hear the Boris Yeltsin kept an Icon on his bedstand his entire life. Yes, he was a communist, until he renounced it before the fall, but then again, wasn't there that one general who Elija or Elisha cured of leprosy and who the prophet said would not be condemned for bowing to the donkey god, since the king made him do this?

    Anyway, I find it interesting that I have experienced what you describe above with the music/holiness by attending Russian, Antiochian, and Greek Orthodox services.

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  5. There's something to be said about those who allow all kinds of music without as much as a discernment filter, as well as those who nitpick pretty much everything to the point of suppressing the Spirit. Both extremes are dangerous, and in almost two years of reading this blog, I realize the author has the tendency toward the other extreme.

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    1. Thank you for reading the blog for two years! Have a pleasant Lord's day.

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  6. Yes it does matter. I think we've lost a sense of excellence and reverence in our musical offerings to the Lord. Lyric content & music style both need to be examined for appropriateness to our holy God. And yes, I appreciate some of the quality CCM offerings as much as I love the solid old hymns. But sadly much of what is on the radio and sung in churches today frankly is lyrically vacuous, and the style either distracting or unfitting.

    Another good scripture to go with this post:

    "22 Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was in charge of the singing; he gave instruction in singing because he was skillful." 1 Chron 15

    -Carolyn

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    Replies
    1. Carolyn, thanks for your beautiful comment and thanks deeply for the scripture

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    2. Anonymous, when you say "sadly much of what is on the radio and sung in churches today frankly is lyrically vacuous, and the style either distracting or unfitting" what radio stations are you referring to? K-love? Christian music stations?

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    3. Anonymous, do you have specific songs that have been sung in church that you disagree with as stated in your post?

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    4. Elizabeth, you're welcome sister.

      Matt A,

      First, I posted my name - it is Carolyn. I post my name so people have a reference.

      Next, do your own homework, friend. Open a hymnal and read the lyrics. Then, turn on the Christian radio and listen to the lyrics of many of the current tunes.

      If you can't figure it out on your own, nothing I say is going to help.

      -Carolyn

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    5. I am sorry Carolyn for not using your name. I don't know why, but I feel there was a harsh tone to your comment. I was simply asking your opinion of what songs you feel should not be sung in church? I don't understand why I have to do homework to figure out which songs you disagree with?? My question was simply just a question about what you believe, I am sorry if the wrong impression was conveyed.

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