Worship: Music and praise in the Bible
1) Worship is communion with God 2) in which believers, 3) by grace, 4) center their mind’s attention and their 5) heart’s affection on the Lord, 6) humbly 7) glorifying God 8) in response to his glory and his word.
Why do we sing/use music? Why should Christians sing/use music? Is there a biblical mandate to play music and sing?
Music and singing are God’s creation.
Sound originates in created order, and the arrangement of those sounds, by instruments created by image bearers to generate them, into coherent music is a “God-like” action. Music originates from the arrangement of created order and exists because God made it so.
God himself is a singer.
Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
C.S. Lewis captured the essence of this idea in “The Magician’s Nephew” when he depicts Aslan creating Narnia through song and music from his own mouth. Lewis emphasizes the divine nature of music, and the grasping of that truth by humans through the depiction of the believing ones being able to hear Aslan’s creating as music as opposed to unbelievers, like Uncle Andrew who only hearing angry roaring.
Those who have ears to hear, hear the song and its origin. Those who don’t have transformed ears can’t hear it or understand it.
What does the Old Testament say?
David set the pace for music and worship in the Old Testament and set the model for the elements of New Testament worship today.
The reason for this in salvation history is the mighty grace of God in redeeming David from his sin. See Psalm 51!
- David instituted music and singing into the worship of the Lord. We must see this as God’s will and purpose as it’s part of the revelation of God’s word as we see the progression of redeemed man knowing the Lord and his purposes and applying that will to corporate worship.
1 Chronicles 6:31-33 (ESV) These are the men whom David put in charge of the service of song in the house of the Lord after the ark rested there. 32 They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting until Solomon built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they performed their service according to their order. 33 These are the men who served and their sons. Of the sons of the Kohathites: Heman the singer the son of Joel, son of Samuel,
1 Chronicles 9:33-34 (ESV) Now these, the singers, the heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, were in the chambers of the temple free from other service, for they were on duty day and night. 34 These were heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, according to their generations, leaders. These lived in Jerusalem.
- David leading the Levites in bringing the Ark into Jerusalem.
1 Chronicles 15:16-28 (ESV) David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. 17 So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his brothers Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of the sons of Merari, their brothers, Ethan the son of Kushaiah; 18 and with them their brothers of the second order, Zechariah, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, and Mikneiah, and the gatekeepers Obed-edom and Jeiel. 19 The singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were to sound bronze cymbals; 20 Zechariah, Aziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah, and Benaiah were to play harps according to Alamoth; 21 but Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-edom, Jeiel, and Azaziah were to lead with lyres according to the Sheminith. 22 Chenaniah, leader of the Levites in music, should direct the music, for he understood it. 23 Berechiah and Elkanah were to be gatekeepers for the ark. 24 Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah, and Eliezer, the priests, should blow the trumpets before the ark of God. Obed-edom and Jehiah were to be gatekeepers for the ark.
25 So David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of thousands went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-edom with rejoicing. 26 And because God helped the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. 27 David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as also were all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and the singers and Chenaniah the leader of the music of the singers. And David wore a linen ephod. 28 So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres.
- David’s instructions for music in worship at the end of his life.
1 Chronicles 23:2-6 (ESV) 2 David assembled all the leaders of Israel and the priests and the Levites. 3 The Levites, thirty years old and upward, were numbered, and the total was 38,000 men. 4 “Twenty-four thousand of these,” David said, “shall have charge of the work in the house of the Lord, 6,000 shall be officers and judges, 5 4,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 shall offer praises to the Lord with the instruments that I have made for praise.” 6 And David organized them in divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.
1 Chronicles 25:1-8 (ESV) David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was: 2 Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah, sons of Asaph, under the direction of Asaph, who prophesied under the direction of the king. 3 Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the Lord. 4 Of Heman, the sons of Heman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, and Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, Mahazioth. 5 All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer, according to the promise of God to exalt him, for God had given Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. 6 They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the order of the king. 7 The number of them along with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the Lord, all who were skillful, was 288. 8 And they cast lots for their duties, small and great, teacher and pupil alike.
- Nehemiah’s dedication of the wall being rebuilt in Jerusalem.
Nehemiah 12:8-9 (ESV) And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his brothers was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. 9 And Bakbukiah and Unni and their brothers stood opposite them in the service.
Nehemiah 12:24 (ESV) And the chiefs of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brothers who stood opposite them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, watch by watch.
Nehemiah 12:27-31 (ESV) And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres. 28 And the sons of the singers gathered together from the district surrounding Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites; 29 also from Beth-gilgal and from the region of Geba and Azmaveth, for the singers had built for themselves villages around Jerusalem. 30 And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and they purified the people and the gates and the wall.
31 Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. One went to the south on the wall to the Dung Gate.
Nehemiah 12:38-43 (ESV) The other choir of those who gave thanks went to the north, and I followed them with half of the people, on the wall, above the Tower of the Ovens, to the Broad Wall, 39 and above the Gate of Ephraim, and by the Gate of Yeshanah, and by the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, to the Sheep Gate; and they came to a halt at the Gate of the Guard. 40 So both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God, and I and half of the officials with me; 41 and the priests Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; 42 and Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader. 43 And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.
What does the New Testament say?
- Jesus observing the Passover with his disciples, sang a song as part of their service.
Matthew 26:26-30 (ESV) Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
- Mary’s response to God’s call on her.
Luke 1:46-55 (ESV) And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
- The angel’s worship at the birth of their Creator into the world he created.
Luke 2:13-14 (ESV) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
- The church prays together, gathered, for boldness after Peter and John’s release and they experience the power of God together.
Acts 4:23-31 (ESV) When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— 27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
- Paul and Silas sing and pray in a Philippi prison.
Acts 16:25-26 (ESV) About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.
- “Spirit filling” results in singing that addresses each other.
Ephesians 5:18-21 (ESV) And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
- The word of Christ that teaches us also brings us to sing to God with thanksgiving.
Colossians 3:16 (ESV) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
- Because Jesus sacrificed to bring us to God the Father, we suffer with Christ when we suffer, and we praise him, and that is truly a sacrifice because it comes when praises are least likely to come.
Hebrews 13:15 (ESV) Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
- Worship in heaven.
Revelation 4:8-11 (ESV) And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” 9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Worship in heaven in response to Jesus’ salvation of people from all nations.
Revelation 5:8-14 (ESV) And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Rejoicing in heaven over God’s victory against those who come against his people. Revelation 19:1-8 (ESV) 1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” The Marriage Supper of the Lamb 6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—
What should we believe about song/music and worship and what are we to do with this truth?
Service – our action to God and for each other (our worship of God always affects others because a life of living sacrifice displayed publicly in corporate worship is to move each other along in their growth into Christ as our lead shepherd.
Song – music as well as singing, praise that is spoken, encouragement that is given
Service of Song – the gathering of the local church to glorify God and encourage each other through God’s means, in God’s way as living sacrifices.
- The service of song originates in the divine nature of God. The curse corrupted all things, including the use of music. The people of God grew and had musical styles and music evolved for the people of God, so we should be on the cutting edge of composing and singing good music in church and out of church. We should be redeeming music for God’s glory. Not by doing church music or worship music, but by doing the best music.
- The service of song is to be orderly, skillful and well done by the leaders and by all worshipers present following their lead.
- Song and music was ordered before God 24 hours a day! Therefore, the service of song is to have the effect of us continuing our singing either out loud or in our hearts until the next time we gather.
- The service of song is to have teacher equipping student with proportionate amount learning and growing and serving and preparation to lead God’s people in song now and for the future. There was a continual preparation for the future of leading God’s people.
- The service of song should be doctrinally good enough that we can play it before God and he find no fault in it. They were playing before the presence of God. We are more so. We must sing good stuff. Remember Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10…strange fire.
- The service of song should be loud and full of joy.
- The service of song can flow out of suffering as well as easy times. Don’t shallow your music out to simply light and fluffy times. Deepen your song through suffering as you praise in view of the relief God is sure to bring. That’s faith practiced. Those who don’t know our God will get to know him when we joyously make much of him when we are suffering.
The image I get is that of children discovering drums and banging on them proudly for their parents to see with great delight and joy.
- The service of song was observed by Jesus and the disciples. So, we don’t stop that. Reject trends that are so novel they leave behind the biblical models.
- The service of song is always a response to God’s grace…Mary, the angels…so we must be engaged in our “revelation and response” service as receiving from God in order to respond to God. Be engaged and be intentional about corporate worship.
- The Service of song should be approached in examination and preparation.
- The service of song is for the gathered local church, on mission together, unified and holistically moving to the soul as it moved the gathered church in Acts 4.
- The service of song should flow out of the teaching of God’s word and minister to God’s people as well as be thanksgiving and glory to God. The words of our songs and our joyful exulting in song should encourage people to walk closer to the Lord as they are encouraged by our praise.
- The service of song is currently happening before the Lord, will continue, and we are to join that service…It is not optional.
Will you respond to God’s word today in song?
 Definition adapted from the course, “Church Music” by Dr. Bruce Leafblad, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.