God Loves to Reveal Himself Through Music

In my last blog I wrote about how God describes the kind of artist he uses to do his work—artists who are “filled with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship” (Exodus 35:31). This is the kind of artist God values and uses to build his kingdom, and therefore it is the kind of artists the church must be committed to attracting and developing.

I would suggest that if you have not yet read that previous blog post, that you do so by clicking here.

What I’d like to now discuss is how God uses musical artists to reveal himself in a special way in the hearts and souls and minds of his people. There are numerous examples of this in the Bible.

In the Old Testament, one of the primary roles the priests (also called “Levites”) carried out was their mediating the presence of God for his people in worship. And a major way in which they did that was through their music.

For example, when King David (one of the Bible’s premier musicians and songwriters) wanted to draw himself and his people in worship before the Lord, it says, “David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their fellow Levites as musicians to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals” (1 Chronicles 15:16). A lyre was kind of like a little guitar. And those who mediated the presence of God needed to be skilled with a wide variety of stringed instruments, wind instruments, and percussion instruments. This is how God wants his people to worship him.

When the temple was finally completed and dedicated to God for his glory, it was the musicians that mediated the special presence of God so much that God’s Spirit filled the temple in a visible way.

2 Chronicles 5:12-14 (TNIV)
“All the Levites who were musicians …stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: ‘He is good; his love endures forever.’ Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.”

The Bible’s longest book is a collection of songs (the Psalms). That’s not insignificant. And the very last song in the Psalms urges us to continue with the music.

Psalms 150:3–6 ESV
“Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!”

So we can say that one enormous function of any church is to use a wide variety of musical instruments and styles in order to keep worship fresh.

Sometimes the best worship is simply through listening to a well-performed instrumental.

2 Chronicles 29:28 (TNIV)
“The whole assembly bowed in worship, while the musicians played and the trumpets sounded.”

This was true of the prophet Elisha, who needed to listen to a skilled musician in order to allow the Holy Spirit to touch his heart and mind in a special way before he could prophesy. So Elisha had to make a request…

2 Kings 3:15 (TNIV)
“’But now bring me a harpist.’ While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came on Elisha.”

We saw the power of well-played music when a young, musically talented, Spirit-filled David was brought into the presence of King Saul. When Saul was being tormented by an evil spirit, the Bible says that “David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him” (1 Samuel 16:23 TNIV).

Of course, it was NOT that the lyre was a magical instrument. It was that David was “filled with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship,” and so God’s Spirit used him to touch the soul of Saul in a spiritually powerful way.

There’s a power in Spirit-filled and skilled musicians and vocalists to touch our hearts and souls in ways mere words cannot do. And the Holy Spirit is the one who is in our midst in a special way when he inspires his musicians and vocalists in song.

As Nathan pointed out in his blog last week, there is no style of music prescribed for us in the Bible. But what IS prescribed is variety: a wide variety of instruments and a constant flow of new songs. In the Bible, there are nine instances where God commands or speaks of His people singing a “new song” (Ps 33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1; Is 42:10; Rev 5:9, 14:3).

These many varied instruments and songs are not some kind of cacophony rising in a chaotic, unskilled, unplanned, unprepared manner. They are to be prepared and performed with thoughtfulness and skill.

Psalms 33:3 ESV
“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”

Think about it—God wants his church to understand and carry out the priority of attracting and developing and having skilled musicians and vocalists and songwriters so that his people can worship him in a fresh and Spirit-filled way.

We’re told that the angels sang together when God created the earth (Job 38:7). And the Book of Revelation shows us angels and other heavenly beings playing instruments and singing the gospel before the throne of God (Revelation 5:8-12).

The Bible also tells us that God himself loves to sing—that God is a singing God.

Zephaniah 3:17 ESV
“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

The night before Jesus was crucified, he sang a hymn with his disciples according to Matthew 26:30. And Ephesians 5:18-19 indicates that the Holy Spirit inspires songs in believers’ hearts as he fills them.

As Bob Kauflin writes in his excellent book on worship entitled, “Worship Matters”—
“…God gave us music to deepen and develop our relationship with him. The Father sings, the Son sings, and the Spirit sings. How can we keep from singing?” (p. 99).

It’s clear all throughout the Bible that part of being created in the image of God is to be beings who express our deepest hearts through song, and that we therefore sense God’s presence in a more profound way when we gather to sing and listen to others sing and play in worship. That’s why churches need to take very seriously the call and the challenge of raising up and investing in musicians and vocalists and songwriters who are “filled with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship.”

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