Posted by: rcottrill | October 21, 2010

Hindrances to Making Good Music

Music a Creation of God
Though there is no specific statement in the Scriptures to that effect, it is strongly implied. John speaks of Christ, and says, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (Jn. 1:3). Paul says the same thing even more emphatically. “By Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible…” (Col. 1:16), and Romans 11:36 says, “Of Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”

If language means anything and “all” means all, then the Lord God who created “all things” is the Originator of music. It is not surprising, then, that His earthly creation is filled with it. Scripture speaks of “the voice of the turtledove” (Song 2:12) and tells us that “both the pelican and the bittern…shall sing in the windows” (Zeph. 2:14). Birds and crickets and whales have their songs. The wind and the waves make their own unique music. All nature sings.

The Lord Himself Sings
Several passages refer to it. One of the tenderest pictures of God’s relationship with Israel is given in Zephaniah 3:17. The prophet is speaking of the future millennial kingdom, and the Messiah’s comforting of His people Israel (cf. vs. 15). As a mother holds her baby close and sings gentle songs of mother-love, so the Lord will draw Israel to Himself and sing of His love for her.

The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.

Mark, in his Gospel, refers to Jesus and His disciples singing at the Last Supper (Mk. 14:26). Then, in Hebrews 2:12, the Son of God proclaims to His heavenly Father, “I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will sing praise to You.”

As an aside, I have often wondered also whether music is the language of heaven. We know there will be singing there (Rev. 5:9-10). But perhaps, even before the redeemed began to take up residence, God and the angels regularly sang to one another. There is a wonderful line in Lord of the Rings that may reflect the spirit of this. Frodo and his hobbit companions are visiting the home of the magical Tom Bombadil, and Tolkien says, “The guests became suddenly aware that they were singing merrily, as if it was easier and more natural than talking.” That may well be how it is for us, too, in God’s presence.

Mankind’s Gift for Music
Human beings have wonderful gifts to create and share music. That is understandable, since we were made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and God is creative and makes use of music. Adam’s descendant, Jubal, is credited with developing early forms of music (Gen. 4:21). And to this day there are those who are skilled in composing it and performing it.

It is vital to note, however, that although God created music as a form of expression, it is human beings who compose and perform specific songs. At these points, God’s gift passes through the filter of human personality. The notion that because God created music, therefore no music can possibly be corrupt, is nonsense. God created angels too, but we do not approve of Satan’s actions on that account.

Compare the gift of language. Similar to music, it is a God-given means of expression and communication. Adam had this ability on the first day of his creation (Gen. 2:19-20). However, wicked people abuse this gift and produce “corrupt” words (Eph. 4:29) and “filthy language” (Col. 3:8)–even messages that are satanic (Matt. 16:22-23). In a similar way, once the gift of God is subjected to the will of an individual, there is another dimension to be considered. Men and women write the songs we sing. And it is not simply that a good thing is being used for a bad purpose. The thing itself can be polluted.

Therefore, if we are to evaluate music on the basis of its origins, we must not only consider the general origin–that God gave us the gift of music. We also need to consider the human element, the origin of each piece of music. Though we have no way of making a comparison, it seems logical to suppose that, were it not for the fall, man would have been able to produce even more glorious and consistently God-honouring songs. But sin has changed all that. Now, we face an ongoing struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil. That is what hinders us from making good music to the glory of God.

1) The Pressure of the World
This evil world, Satan’s kingdom, with its triple anti-God dogmas of egocentrism, materialism, and sensuality, has aggressively incorporated music as another means to achieve its temporal goals, and communicate its sinful philosophy. And the influence of the world exerts pressure on the one who desires to serve Christ (Rom. 12:2). If we are not on guard, it will affect the music we create and use.

2) The Perversity of the Flesh
Apart from the regenerating work of the Spirit of God, men are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1, 5). Even after the new birth has taken place, our powers are sadly diminished in comparison to what they might have been–and will one day be again. The flesh (the sin nature) is in continual rebellion against the spirit, within the child of God. (Gal. 5:17). This too will tend to affect our music.

3) The Persuasion of the Devil
Further, we have Satan to contend with. He is intent on using everything God has made for a dishonest and destructive purpose (Jn. 8:44; Eph. 6:12). That objective has historically included his appropriation and employment of God’s gift of music (cf. Exod. 32:4-6, 17-19; Job 30:9; Lam. 3:63; Dan. 3:5; Amos 6:3-7).

Bottom line: We must be constantly attentive to the spiritual quality of our music, and depend upon the grace of God to render what is pleasing to Him. As a hymn by George Heath puts it:

My soul, be on thy guard;
Ten thousand foes arise;
The hosts of sin are pressing hard
To draw thee from the skies.

O watch, and fight, and pray;
The battle ne’er give o’er;
Renew it boldly every day,
And help divine implore.

Ne’er think the victory won,
Nor lay thine armour down;
The work of faith will not be done,
Till thou obtain the crown.


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