Our Music Tells on Us!

Last week I picked up an old dilapidated songbook for 25 cents. It is “The Brethren's Hymnal” published in 1876. The title page reads: “The Brethren's Tune and Hymn Book being a compilation of sacred music adapted to all the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.”


Part of the preface reads: “The selection of tunes, we think, embrace all the best church music in use, both old and new, some entirely new, never having been used. While we have labored to procure some good new music, we have been especially careful in not omitting any of the good old tunes that have gladdened the hearts of our venerable forefathers. We now offer the revised Tune and Hymn Book to the church with the hope that, by its use, life and spirit may be infused into that very important part of our worship, the service of song. Good singing adds greatly to the interest and life of worship, and without it much of the spiritual edification seems to be lost, no matter how good the preaching may have been.” The first 4 pages are instruction in what they call the “rudiments” of music, including notes, clefs, measures, tones, etc. They evidently valued good singing in their services! Maybe they didn't have the benefit of musical instruments.

The very first song reads like this: 1. Is there a God? Yon rising sun in answer meet replies, Writes it in flame upon the earth, proclaims it round the skies. 2. Is there a God? Hark! From on high His thunder shakes the poles; I hear His voice in every wind, in every wave that rolls. 3. Is there a God? With sacred fear I upward turn my eyes; “There is,” each glitt'ring lamp of light - “There is,” my soul replies. 3. If such convictions to my mind His works aloud impart, O, let the wisdom of His word inscribe them on my heart.

Then my thoughts went to the televised worship service of a large church that I watched last week. As the worship team came to the platform the pastor remarked that the old songs seem to be making a comeback, and he appreciated that their musicians write much of their own music using the psalms. He left the platform, and the leader started singing, “Be thou exalted, O Lord.” After he had sung it about 5 or 6 times, the rest of the team joined him. I watched as the lead guitarist started moving back and forth, the keyboardist started swaying and by the time they had sung those same words 12 to 15 times they were all...including the congregation...really praising God. That was the entire song!

Now I do not question the intention, but I wondered what God they were praising. Was he a she? Some believe God is female. Was it a non-judgmental God that would save you based on your good works? Some think that is right. Is he a God that will heal you and prosper you if you have faith? Many think so. As I said in my last blog, in order to appeal to the culture, we have made God irrelevant and reduced Him to a “concept.” He has become like a chameleon...whatever you want him to look like is what he is to you. Religion is always about man making God in his own image; music just reflects it.

It is disingenuous to say we are just singing the psalms David wrote. David's songs never praised God without also telling us why he was praising Him. He wrote in Psalm 100: “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”

Consider all this psalm tells us about God and our relationship to Him. He is the Creator, He is good, He is merciful, His truth survives from generation to generation.We are to serve Him joyfully, be thankful to Him, worship Him with songs that instruct us about His glorious character, and which in turn produces joy because we are His people! (Vain repetitions produce excitement not joy.)