By Suzanne Provagna
One of the characteristics I love about God is that He is direct. Every word has direction and meaning. Like the first commandment: Deuteronomy 5:6 “I am the LORD your GOD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”
Please allow me now to be direct.
Worship begins and ends with God. True worship music begins and ends with God. It is for God and to God. God cares deeply about music and we need to study how it is to be used in church services.
The evidence is in the Bible.
I believe that it was a strategic decision that God waited only until the second of the sixty-six books in the Bible to record the first song. In Genesis, God declares His authority over earth and man and His desire to have a relationship with man. The first recorded song is that of Moses and Miriam found in chapter 15 of the second book of the Bible, Exodus. The song of Moses and Miriam is a long song (eighteen verses) and begins with these lyrics: “I will sing to the Lord for He is highly exalted. The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God and I will exalt Him!” How and when God places the first song in the Bible is not an accident.
It is recorded in the Bible that God, Himself, sings over us.
Zephaniah 3:17 says: “The LORD YOUR GOD is with you, HE IS MIGHTY TO SAVE. HE will take great delight in you, HE will quiet you with HIS LOVE, HE will rejoice over you with singing.”
When my children were young I would sing over them. I could have held my daughter and said, “Hush little baby, don’t you cry” but I didn’t. I sang it. “Hush little baby, don’t you cry, momma’s gonna sing you a lullaby”. I would hold my child and sing to her when she was upset, scared, or hurt. And sometimes I sang to her simply because my love for her was so great that I felt like I had to sing. Does God sing over us for the same reasons?
And, what does it sound like? Imagine it. GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, THE CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH rejoicing over you and me with singing? Quieting us with His love. One thing I know is that it is personal. When you sing over your child it is personal and when God sings over us it is personal. If GOD the CREATOR of the UNIVERSE sings over us, music must be important to GOD. If music is important to God, then studying how music is used in His worship services must be important to Him as well.
And, it is recorded in the Bible that Jesus Christ sang to God, His Father.
Matthew 26:26-30 “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then HE took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
God wanted it recorded that Jesus Christ sang a hymn with His disciples. And Jesus did this just after eating His last supper. Why there? The last supper – one of the most profound events in the Bible filled with such deep emotion. What was Jesus feeling? Love, loss, sadness, fear, sorrow, loneliness. He knew He was going to be betrayed. He knew He was going to feel horrific physical and emotional pain. Think on this – He knew He would see His mother at the foot of the cross and know that her heart was breaking. He knew that He would bear the sins of the world and the wrath of God. In the middle of this what did he do? He chose to worship God by singing a hymn to His Father in Heaven with His disciples. Matthew 26:30 “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
God chose this event to record Jesus singing a hymn to His Father with His disciples. Why? Maybe because music expresses deep emotion in a way that words alone cannot. Maybe because singing to God helps us to keep God first in the middle of chaos and tragedy. Music is important to God.
And finally, when we sing praise to God here, on earth, we are joined with angels in heaven singing praise to God.
Revelation 4:8-11 Day and night they never stop saying: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and worship Him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: You are worthy, our Lord and GOD, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being.”
Revelation 5:9-12 And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth. Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels numbering thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!
Is worshiping God through music important? Yes. Is studying how God wants music used in His worship services important? Yes.
If we don’t understand GOD’s purpose for music in worship, we can misuse it.
The third commandment says: “You shall not misuse my name.” Misusing God’s purpose for music in worship services is both dangerous and sad. It is dangerous because offering a sacrifice of praise that is not pleasing to the FATHER has consequences. There are frightening examples in the Bible of what God has done when unacceptable sacrifices were offered to Him. Worship music is not entertainment time, it is not done to announce the beginning of the service, it is not done because people like music, or to wake them up.
Sadly, we could miss the opportunity to communicate through music our gratitude to God, our love, our deepest places of trust, and our complete surrender to Him. Music at its best expresses God-glorifying emotion. Our most intimate, strongest, purest affections should be reserved for GOD HIMSELF and I believe HE gave us singing for that purpose. Studying music and how it is to be used in worship services is important to our Creator. As worship leaders we are called by a great and awesome God to lead others into His presence. May we always rise up to the privilege and responsibility of leadership by continuing to study God and music.
Worship music begins and ends with God. There will always be more to learn…