Music to God's Ears (Part 1)
Music. It is virtually everywhere in our society today; homes, cars, retail stores, concert halls, and (amazingly) elevators. There are even places that have music playing outside, such as parks and outdoor shopping centers. A recent search on Spotify, a major music platform, shows that there are roughly 60,000 new songs added to the platform every day—and that’s just one music platform! We are surrounded by music. On a casual walk downtown, odds are that you will see someone with headphones in their ears, or someone (loudly) enjoying their favorite songs in their car. Each year, hundreds of thousands of concert halls across the world are showcasing popular bands and premier musicians to sell-out crowds.
Unfortunately, much of the popular music today is full of vulgar phrases and explicit word pictures that promote sin in the most blatant way possible. Drugs, sex and violence are common themes among many music artists, and society is clamoring for more. In many music venues, explicit songs are often matched by dancing—which is more like sensualized movements than it is like dancing. Artists are praised for their music that is laced with profanity, and music videos showing despicable actions are watched millions of times.
This, of course, is no surprise to Christians. We understand the fallen, sinful ways of man. Romans 1 sums it up nicely: “even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (v 21). Paul goes on to provide an extensive list of attributes pertaining to these ungodly individuals: “being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents…” (vv 29ff). The list goes on without apology from Paul. Sin is pervasive in all aspects of life, and music is no exception.
So how should Christians view music? It plays such a large role in humanity that it cannot be overlooked. Rather, it must be understood within the framework of Scripture, that is, it must be viewed the same way that God views it. So what is a biblical understanding of music?
First and foremost, we need to understand that music was created by God as a means of giving praise to God. This is evident throughout the Psalms. To name a few, “I will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving” (Ps 69:30); “I will sing of the loving kindness of the LORD forever; to all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth” (Ps 89:1); “Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; speak of all His wonders” (Ps 105:2).
In several narratives, singing is used as a response to what God has done for individuals. For example, Moses and the Israelites sing a song to the Lord after they are delivered from Egypt (Ex 15:1-21). Deborah and Barak also sang to God when they had defeated the king of Canaan (Jdg 5), and Mary even sang when the angel delivered the news of her coming child, Christ Jesus (Lk 1:46-55). These songs are all praises in response to the work of God, whether it be deliverance from Egypt, or the impending birth of the true King.
When Christians gather and sing, their foremost purpose is to give praise to God for what He has done. There is even a hymn that begins by stating, “To God be the glory great things He has done.” It is only God who deserves this praise for is it only through Him that we have our life and being (Acts 17:28a). That is God-glorifying music.