Make a Joyful Noise!

 

image by Abbie Paulhus on pixabay

Music is an integral part of worship. Whether you like traditional hymns, spirituals, gospel, or those new-fangled praise songs, a worship service without music, in my humble opinion, is spirit-less. Does the Bible have anything to say about music in worship? Well, maybe just a little.

There are over 1500 verses in Scripture that reference both vocal and instrumental music, beginning in Genesis, all the way through Revelation. The first mention of music occurs just after the story of Adam and Eve. Their son Cain was the great-great-great-great-great grandfather of Jubal. In Genesis 4:21, Jubal is described as “the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.”

The final mention of making music is in chapter 15 of the Book of Revelation. John’s vision of Heaven includes an image of those who were victorious over the beast, holding harps that they received from God, and singing “the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb.”

If you Google “Bible verses about music,” here are a few of the top hits:

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.” (Psalm 100:1-2)

“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.” (Psalm 95:1)

“…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:18-19)

“Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” (Psalm 105:2)

“And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders.” (Revelation 14:3)

I’ve only met one person in my life who said that he did not like music. Bless his heart. But I’ve heard many people say that they can’t sing or they don’t like to sing.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, added his two cents about singing with his “Directions for Singing,” which are still printed in the front of most Methodist hymnals [my own comments are in bracketed text]:

1. Learn these tunes before you learn any others, afterwards learn as many as you please. [In 1761, Wesley published “Select hymns with tunes annext: designed chiefly for the use of the people called Methodists.”]

2. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or
mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise,
unlearn it as soon as you can. [Apparently, Wesley did not approve of vocal theatrics. I tend to agree with him.]

3. Sing all – see that you join the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up and you will find a blessing. [Assuming that you are able, you can at least mouth the words.]

4. Sing lustily – and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half-dead or half-asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sang the songs of Satan. [I take issue with this rule. I know that we’re instructed to “make a joyful noise.” But if you’ve ever sat within earshot of Mrs.@@@@@, her joyful noises distract me from worship. Bless her heart.]

5. Sing modestly – do not bawl so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation that you may not destroy the harmony, but strive to unite your voices together so as to make one melodious sound. [I heartily agree.]

6. Sing in time – whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before and do not stay behind it; but attend closely to the leading voices and move therewith as exactly as you can and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first. [Please do this.]

7. Sing spiritually – have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven. [Preach, Brother John!]

I’d like to add an 8th rule about singing in church. Please, please, please, if possible, try to wear a pleasant expression on your face. One of the reasons that I sing in the choir is because I enjoy seeing the faces of congregation! Having said that, many of you folks are wearing what I call the “resting bullfrog face.” You know what I mean.

photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash

 

You look like you’d rather be anywhere but here. You look like you lost your cell phone and you can’t find the keys to your car. You look like you’ve fallen and can’t get up. All I’m suggesting is that we all try a little harder to look like we’re worshipping the Lord of the universe!

Allow me to step back down from my soapbox and get back to the topic of music in worship. Worship is the way that we show reverence, respect, and love for our God.

For me, worship (at church) involves hearing a message, connecting with others, praying, taking Holy Communion–and music. Whether I’m making music or listening to music, it’s an integral part of my worship experience. Even when I sit next to Mrs.@@@@@.

Psalm 98:4-9

Shout to the Lord, all the earth;
    break out in praise and sing for joy!
Sing your praise to the Lord with the harp,
    with the harp and melodious song,
with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn.
    Make a joyful symphony before the Lord, the King!

Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!
Let the earth and all living things join in.
Let the rivers clap their hands in glee!
Let the hills sing out their songs of joy
before the Lord,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with justice,
and the nations with fairness.

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