Below are a couple of very brief thoughts from two William Edgar lectures. Follow the link for the lectures in full… What Does The Bible Say About Music?
Where is Music in the bible?
When you think of music in a Christian context you probably think of worship music. What we find when we look at the bible however is something quite different. Yes, music is used in worship again and again but it’s also used in all these different situations:
- Work songs Num 21:17, Is 16:10, Is 27:2
- War Num 21:27, Psalm 68, 2 Ch 20:21, Ex 15:20
- Instruction, prophecy, mutual edification 1Kings 4:32, 2 Kings 3:15, Col 3:16
- Love songs and seduction Psalm 45, Song of Sol 2:12,
Ezek 33:32, Gen31:27, Jer 25:10
- Entertainment Job 21:12, Is 24:9, Dan 6:18, Luke 15:25
- With dance Ex 15:20, Psalm 68:25, Mat 11:17
- Derision Job 30:9, Lam 3:14
- Mourning 2 Sam 1:18-27, 1 Kings 13:30, Mat 11:17
These verses are just a drop in the ocean of where music is talked about in scripture and affirmed as being a good part of humanity. Perhaps the greatest affirmation of the goodness of music is seen in the life of David who God calls, “a man after his own heart” (1Sam 13:14). We all know that David wrote many of the Psalms that we still sing in the church today but did you know David played the lyre every day with no mention of a singing accompaniment (1Sam:18:10)? God didn’t see it as a waste of time for David to make music even though he had a host of other, what some would see as more useful, gifts. In fact it was David’s gift of making music that really made him stand out in the world (1 Sam 16:17-18). So if you are a Christian and you are good at music, keep it up.
What Does Music Do?
There is a word of warning for when we engage in music. It seems to have the effect of heightening human emotion and moving our affections. This can be good and it can be bad. The great theologian Jonathon Edwards comments about worship,
‘[T]he duty of singing praises to God, seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned, why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than in prose, and do it with music, but only, that such is our nature and frame, that these things have a tendency to move our affections.’
Music can lead us in good directions and help us enjoy God and his creation but it can just as easily lead us in bad directions. Another great theologian, Augustine, took the emotional effect of music very seriously,
'Yet when it happens to me that the music moves me more than the subject of the song, I confess myself to commit a sin deserving of punishment, and then I would prefer not to have heard the singer.' Confessions, X, xxxiii
You might not agree with Augustine but the point is we have to be careful about what we listen to and when we listen to it. Music does affect our emotions and our emotions affect what we do. It is a rich gift from God but like all his gifts their ultimate purpose is to help us delight in him.