Thanks for joining our discussion of what the Bible says about music. In some respects, this study is a continuation of Vol. 114: “What the Bible says about praising God.” Similarly, again I was “called” to write about this musical topic, exactly how I described in Vol. 114, when on the big screen at church, a passage from Psalm 46 was displayed with the full verse that reads:
“God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises” (Psalm 47:5-6).
And so we must – because the moment I began writing this study, a simple thought penetrated my brain: When we sing in church, we are singing to God. We are actively praising Him as if He is standing before us. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t think that way until this personal revelation. Going forward I always will, and believe I was supposed to share that musical message with you.
That said, let’s review some passages, mostly in Old Testament where music is mentioned much more frequently than in the New Testament.
In the beginning, as written in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, God created everything in heaven and on earth, proclaiming it “was good.” Although it is not explicitly mentioned in Genesis, He also created music and inspired humankind to invent instruments with sounds to praise Him. Here is the first reference:
I found only one other Genesis passage that mentions music:
” ‘Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps?’ ” (Genesis 31:27). (For context, the soap-opera-worthy family drama between Laban and Jacob is recorded in Genesis chapters 29 – 31.)
Notice that music then (as now) was used for human celebrations in addition to praising God. And if you are unfamiliar with “timbrels”: “Similar to a frame-drum or a modern tambourine, timbrels were the primary percussion instrument of the ancient Israelites and were used for celebrations.”
In Exodus, the second Old Testament book, there was no mention of music until the Israelites miraculously escaped Egyptian bondage — still observed as the Passover holiday. Immediately, Moses and his people celebrated their freedom in Exodus chapter 15, subtitled the “Song of Moses and Miriam,” beginning:
“Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea’ ” (Exodus 15:1).
Revisit Vol. 114 to review the influential praise verses in the Song of Moses 15:1-18, repeated in Psalm 118:14: and Isaiah 12:1-2. But, with respect to the topic of music, Moses and Aaron’s sister Miriam was the song and dance leader after the Israelites walked through the sea onto dry land, described again in Exodus 15:19 and:
“Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.’ “
Now we turn to David who, more than any biblical character, was associated with music and could be considered the Bible’s first rock star. David was initially recruited into King Saul’s court due to his talent for harp-playing. But, that was part of God’s greater plan for David to ascend to the throne as king.
To make a long story short:
“Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him” (1 Samuel 16:14). So, Saul’s loyal advisors suggested a harp (or lyre) should “ ‘play when the evil spirit from God comes upon you and you will feel better ’ ” (1 Samuel 16:16).
Let’s pause for an explanation of “an evil spirit from the Lord.” I was perplexed, but the footnote in my NIV Study Bible said in part, “evil spirits are subject to God’s control and operate only within divinely determined boundaries.” And that explains why:
“Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him” (1 Samuel 16:23).
As Saul slowly descended into madness, he became more dependent on, yet jealous of, David’s many talents. However, the critical point is how the Holy Spirit was present in music then and now. Of course, we also know that music can have a soothing, peaceful influence on the mind and body, but this was the first time such an effect was recognized in the Bible and sanctioned by God. Indeed, the opposite is true with evil vibes in music that can foster sinful behaviors.
This being a “quick” Bible study, we will breeze through Psalms (praises) because they are all songs of praise and worship, and some cry out for the Lord’s help. Again, refer to Vol. 114. Here are a few that highlight music:
“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth” (Psalm 96:1).
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;” (Psalm 98:4).
In the New Testament, the book of Revelation has several musical references:
“And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation’ ” (Revelation 5:9).
For more music-related verses, click here.
Today, we learned that music in the Bible is to communicate, praise, and glorify the Lord. Therefore, sing His music loud and proud, as if He were standing in front of you (because He is).
Author’s Note: Readers can find all previous volumes of this series here. The first 56 volumes are compiled into the book “Bible Study For Those Who Don’t Read The Bible.” Part Two with volumes 57-113 will be published later this year.
Myra Kahn Adams is a conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. Her book, “Bible Study For Those Who Don’t Read The Bible,” reprints the first 56 volumes of this popular study. Myra is also Executive Director of SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to Shroud of Turin education. SignFromGod was a proud sponsor of the Museum of the Bible’s opening events for its high-tech exhibition about the Shroud of Turin, open through July 31. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or Twitter @MyraKAdams.
Cross-posted at Townhall and Substack.