Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Music and Worship - Part II

Last week, I began writing a series of posts focusing on the role music plays in the spiritual life of the believer.  We began by looking at music's ability to calm the human spirit.  Let's continue this week by looking at what causes the calming influence:  music connects man with the Divine.

Throughout history, music has played an integral role in the worship practices of all cultures and religions.  In Daniel 3, we read that the Babylonians used musical instruments to signal the beginning of worship to Nebuchadnezzar's statue.  Ancient hieroglyphics suggest that music played a vital role in Egyptian religious rites honoring their many gods.  In Greece, a roofed concert hall, the Odeion, was built on the slope of the sacred acropolis site.

While these cultures all agreed upon the importance of music in connecting man to the Divine, we will now focus exclusively on music connecting the Christian to God.  The process I am describing is one that many believers study throughout their lives.  What a worthy pursuit -- studying how to worship God effectively through music.  I pray that I will be a lifelong student of His worship!  Instruments can be used in the worship of God in a very special way, but for the present discussion I want to focus on singing since it is a form of music making that is available to all people.

Take a look through the book of Psalms and you will repeatedly encounter the phrase "Sing to the Lord!"  While there are instructions to "play skillfully" (see Psalm 33:3), we are also told to "Make a joyful noise unto God" (Psalm 66:1).  That leaves us without excuse and essentially tells us that regardless of our skill level -- or the quality of our voice -- we are to SING!  Take a look with me at a few of the things singing does for our spirit.

Psalm 66:2 instructs us to "Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious!"  Let me be abundantly clear here;  singing is NOT the only act of worship in which we can participate.  However, I DO think it is held in high esteem by the Heavenly Father.  Think about it...angels sang their celebratory praise song at the announcement of Christ's birth and they continue to sing praises around Heaven's throne!  We as believers join our voices to the Heavenly chorus as we sing praises to the One who alone is worthy of our highest praise!

The New Testament provides some additional insight into the role of singing.  While Ephesians 5:19 shares the evangelistic power of music, I have been drawn to I Corinthians 14:15 recently.  In this verse, the Apostle Paul writes, ". . .I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind."  In the context of the chapter, Paul is speaking about the orderly use of the gift of tongues in the church.   I think we can examine this single phrase out of context and discover a priceless gem of truth.  Singing is identified as both a spiritual act and a mental act.  It is possible to go through the physical motions of singing without engaging the spirit man;  the opposite, however, is not true.  Singing becomes an act of worship when our mind and spirit come in agreement and recognition of His absolute Lordship.  When we finally reach this point, we are fully submitted to His will, enabling Him to transform us as He wills.  It is then that we begin to experience the final role of music in the life of the believer -- that it often precedes major victories!