Music is a powerful method of conveying thoughts and emotions. It can reflect a person’s perspective or viewpoint, their feelings and desires, and any number of nouns or verbs- joy, sorrow, happiness, regret and so on. Some songs connect us to significant times in our lives. They can relate to how we felt or actually be the thing that helped us through them. They can remind us of people and places that are dear to us or even stimulate an attitude or determination to make us a better person. Songs can be sung in protest, for motivation, in reverence or camaraderie. And that’s just scratching the surface of the role music plays in our lives. So it is not surprising that it has a large role in the Bible as well.
In fact there is ample evidence that music played a large role in the ancient world in general. Archaeologists have uncovered both music (dated 1400 B. C.) and instructions (dated 1800 B. C.) in digs from Egypt to Mesopotamia. Music was an integral part of Israel’s daily life in Old Testament times. It was played or sung at parties (Gen. 31:27), in celebrating heroes (Jud. 11:34; 1 Sam. 18:6), at coronations (1 Ki. 1:39-40; 2 Ki. 11:14), as entertainment in the royal court (2 Sam. 19:35), at banquets of the wealthy (Is. 5:12; 24:8-9), by workmen to help pace their work (Is. 16:10; Jer. 25:30), was used to express sorrow upon a person’s death (2 Sam. 1:17-18), and was an integral part of worship (Neh. 12:27, 45-46).
The most obvious record of song in ancient Israel is the Book of Psalms which is often referred to as Israel’s Song Book. The “book” is a collection of musical pieces in poetical form, but instead of one composer, there are several and only the lyrics have survived. The 150 individual psalms that we have today are an organized collection, having been grouped the way we are familiar with by the priests and scribes of Ezra’s day. However it is David who is attributed with making the psalms and the music which went with them an integral part of Israel’s worship. Scripture notes that he selected instruments (1 Chron. 16:5), appointed musicians (1 Chron. 16-23), gave out assignments and designated students to perpetuate the addition of music to worship at the Tabernacle (1 Chron. 25:1-8), and subsequently the Temple. David’s detailed organization of musicians and singers reflects how important music was in Hebrew worship.
The Gospels and New Testament letters continue the Old Testament pattern and demonstrate that music remained an important part of the believing community (Mt.9:23; 24:31; Mk. 14:26; Lk. 7:32; 15:25; 1 Cor. 13:1; 14:7-8). Music was a form of communication between believers (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) who often gathered in homes to worship together (Ac. 16:14-15; 1 Cor. 16:19). Music was a way to recount God’s activity in human history (Dt. 31:14-27), to testify to God’s faithfulness (Ex. 15:1-2) and to praise God (Ac. 16:25) and Jesus for His sacrificial work on the cross (Phil. 2: 5-11 is believed to be an early Christian hymn).
When we sing, we are in good company with a number of singers in the Bible- and not just the “professionals” like the sons of Aspah (1 Chron. 6:1-32)! Moses sang (Ex. 15:1), as did his sister Miriam (Ex. 15:20-21), Deborah (Jud. 5:1, 12), Hannah (1 Sam. 2:1), David (2 Sam. 1:17-27; 23:1), the nation of Israel (Num. 21:17; Ez. 3:11), the Apostle Paul (Acts 16:25) and Jesus and His disciples (Mk. 14:26). So, whether we can carry a tune or not, music should be a part of our walk with the Lord. Lawrence Richards noted, “Music in biblical times, as in our own, enriched the daily life of ordinary people. It captured the deepest emotions of the heart, celebrated national and personal joys and sorrows, and expressed the values shared by members of God’s covenant community. Perhaps most of all, music was a vital element in worship, lifting the heart to God, celebrating His goodness, and calling to mind His mighty acts. In a most significant way, the thoughts of the men and women of faith were guided and shaped by music, so that, to a large extent, those believers became what they sang.” Are you letting the Lord speak to you through a song right now? Are you using a song as an expression of your faith in Him or as a form of praise for what He’s done both in your life and for people as a whole? If so you are enjoying one of the Lord’s most creative forms of expression and are fulfilling the words of Ps. 92:1-4.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre