It felt like a dream. My eyes were closed, my body swayed, then my hands rose effortlessly to conduct the melodious music. I was completely enraptured by the wondrous sound. I was seated in the Verizon Center in Washington DC, only five rows from the floor section listening to the angelic voice of “the fourth tenor,” Andrea Bocelli. Bocelli has emerged as one of the most popular voices in the arena of light classical music. He has recorded albums in pop, classical and opera music, selling over 80 million records worldwide. His voice has a majestic, ethereal quality that can transport his listeners into heavenly rhapsody. At least that is how I felt and thousands others that filled the Verizon Center that evening. Clearly I am an Andrea Bocelli fan. Yet my musical dream could easily be another person’s nightmare.
If you speak to a person who dislikes classical music, when they hear Andrea Bocelli they are likely to express a very different opinion. The music I consider heavenly they will consider horrible! The songs that allow me to express pure feelings of majestic serenity can cause someone else to feel frustration, even a sense of mayhem. Although I am referring to secular songs, the same hold true for sacred songs. Music that makes one person feel sanctified can cause another to feel sinful.
Why do our opinions on music differ so vastly? How can this be when God created music for His praise? The Bible has plenty to say about music. Kenneth Osbeck writer of the book, The Ministry of Music, pinpoints the significance of music throughout Scripture. He says, “Altogether, the words music, musicians, musical instruments, song, singers, and singing appear 575 times in the complete Bible. References to music are found in forty-four of the sixty-six books in the Bible. One entire book, the Book of Psalms, containing 150 chapters is believe to have been in its original form a book of songs.”1 The Book of Psalms, the longest book in the Bible, is God’s hymnal. The lyrics are devoted to exalting God. So what message does the Book of Psalms send us about the majesty or the mayhem of music?
David says that God inhabits praise (Ps. 22:3). What God inhabits reflects His character. We know that one of God’s foremost characteristics is love (1 Jn. 4:8). The Ten Commandments (Ex. 20), which reveals God character, can be summarized as love to God and love to man (Mk.12: 29-31). Also God’s character is revealed through the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). The Psalm teaches us that lyrics that extol God can be accompanied by music that elicits emotions that reflect God. In other words, our song lyrics that enable us to think about God should produce heartfelt emotions that enable us to feel the Spirit of God.
Songs that accomplish this goal will create a joyful sound. These selections are not based on style but on the substance of the Scripture. When we give God praise our songs give Him pleasure. When we engage with God through the Holy Spirit, this communion enables us to experience a taste of heaven. How can we apply this Biblical principle about praise to our sacred music today? Stay tuned for next week’s E-newsletter!
1Cheryl Wilson-Bridges, Levite Praise: God’s Biblical Design for Praise and Worship, (Lake Mary: FL: Creation House Publishing, 2009), 95.