Church Praise Groups
Q. Do you think our church Praise groups or rock music is evil? Should it be banned in worship? What about secular rock music? I worry about its effects on our children. I'm curious if the Bible says anything about it?
Thanks for asking this question because it is something many of us wonder about as our children are introduced to varied forms of music at school and in church.
Imagery, No - Music, Yes
The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery points out that while there are prohibitions against making visual images (Ex 20:4) the Bible reveals that music was a central part of everyday life and worship in ancient Israel.
"Every facet of its life and every stage of its history were marked by music. Music was present when people greeted each other and said farewell (Gen 31:27; Lk 15:25), when they 'married and were buried' (Jer 7:34; 48:36), when they went off to war and were welcomed back from it (Judg 30:34; Is 30:32). From the least to the greatest, biblical people sang and played instruments (1 Sam 16:18; Job 30:31). At the everyday level we find romantic songs, working songs and drinking songs…Major events in the life of the people, such as the exodus from Egypt, conquering the Canaanites, recapturing the ark, dedicating the temple, crowning the king and returning from exile, were celebrated in music and song" (Ryken 1998, 577).
Tame, Sedate Music?
Lest you think that music was tame and sedate - such as the lovely harp played to the reciting of many of the Psalms, music was also joyous, lively and loud with a strong beat accompanied by singing and dancing! We find God's Word telling us to:
"Praise him with a blast of the
praise him with the lyre and
Praise him with the
tambourine and dancing;
praise him with string and
Praise him with a clash of
praise him with loud
Let everything that breathes
sing praises to the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
(Psalm 150:3-6, NLT).
This Psalm mentions loud, clanging cymbals and tambourines - all percussive instruments - lyres and harps (similar to autoharps and keyboards) and flutes and strings. This lively musical festivity was begun by the blast of the Ram's horn - something like a modern French horn or trombone.
The combination of these instruments with songs and dancing would bring joy and fun into the worshipful experience of those in attendance. There is nothing sedate about it!
The Stars Sing
God created us with an instinctual love of rhythm and melody. We have noticed that even our dogs and cats respond to lively music played in our home. Have you ever observed this in your home?
In the book of Job we read that the morning stars sang together accompanied by angelic shouts of joy at the instant of the creation of our world (Job 38:7). Noted astrophysicist, Barry Setterfield, even points out that the stars emit an F# minor chord played in the second inversion (C#, F#, A) for you music lovers. This is awesome!
Ryken says the famed author, C.S. Lewis, has Aslan the Lion singing creation into existence in The Magician's Nephew. Also "the psalmist sings a 'new song' celebrating the redemptive work of God in which, 'all the trees of the wood sing for joy' (Ps 76:12, RSV)" (Ryken 1998, 577). Again, during God's future redemption of His creation "all the trees of the wood sing for joy" (Ps 96:12). Can we be so sure that this is not a literal description of a future creation?
"Sing a new song to the
"Let the whole earth sing to
Sing to the LORD; praise his
(Psalm 96:1-2, NLT).
Did you know that over 100 Psalms command us to use music to praise God? Not only that, God Himself is noted in 91 out of 107 references as the audience of our music! (Ryken 1998, 577). The Lord listens to us praise Him - He loves music! In a stunning passage referring to our future redemption God even rejoices over us with singing! (Zephaniah 3:17, NKJV). Can you imagine that?
So it is no surprise that the strongest way to express sadness is to refuse music in one's life. The Israelites were so devastated as they were exiled off to Babylon that they cried,
"We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst
For there those who carried us
away captive asked of us a
And those who plundered us
saying, 'Sing us one of the
Songs of Zion!" (Psalm 137:2-3).
"How shall we sing the LORD's
in a foreign land?"
(Psalm 137:4, NKJV).
God is our Inspiration
God is sometimes referenced as the inspiration for our songs. In this sense He is the author of our natural musical skills or abilities (see Ex 31:3, 6; 35:25; 36:1; 1 Chron 15:22; 25:7; 2 Chron 34:12; Ps 33:3).
David said that he was God's anointed singer of the songs of Israel (2 Sam 23:1). In 1 Kings we read,
"And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore…He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five" (1 Kings 4:29, 32, NKJV).
Grand Musical Composer
Ryken points out that not only is God a lawgiver, we "should place the image of God as musical composer," too, as we see in passages like Deuteronomy 31:19 (Ryken 1998, 578) where God taught the people through song:
"Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel."
Festivals of Worship
Ancient Israelites sang, danced and used loud, lively music accompanied by percussive instruments during festivals and worship. These percussive instruments consisted of clanging cymbals and castanets (probably hollowed-out gourds filled with pottery shards or small pebbles).
Their boisterous, fun music would be most similar to our musical praise groups today including modern keyboards, guitars, cymbals, modern castanets and singers. The photo at the right is a depiction of Miriam's celebration from Exodus 15:19. There seems to be a whole lotta dancing going on!
So go ahead and enjoy your musical Praise groups at church - even those with a rock beat - and remember that God is listening, too. That which is meant to praise Him will be brought before Him in joy. That which is unworthy of worship will also be brought before Him. We can praise Him quietly and reverently and we can praise Him joyously, too. The Lord welcomes both.
"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!"
(Ps 150:6, NKJV)
Ryken, Leland, James Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III. 1998. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, ILL: InterVarsity Press.
Tenney, Merrill C. 1975. Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Vol. 4. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.