The Purpose for Music in Worship
truth for the head . . . fire for the heart
Music and songs have long been an important part of worship among God's people. When God brought the Israelites safely across the Red Sea, Moses wrote a song, recorded in Exodus 15. Standing safely on the banks of the watery grave which contained the strongest of Egypt's warriors, the people of Israel no doubt sang this song with passion and joy and awe.
“Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying:
I will sing to the LORD,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider he has thrown into the sea!
The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
This is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father's God, and I will extol Him.”
There was music and great joy when David returned the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 16. With delight and gratitude the people sang:
Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
He is also to be feared above all gods.
1 Chron 16:24,25
And there was singing when Solomon dedicated his great temple in 2 Chronicles 7 . . . and after the destruction of Solomon's temple, when the foundation was laid for a new temple, again the people sang (Ezra 3:10,11). In the middle of the night, with their backs still bleeding from the beating they had received and their feet in stocks, Paul and Silas were found to be "singing hymns of praise to God" (Acts 16:24,25). And in heaven, forever and ever, God’s people will sing:
Great and marvelous are Thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty;
Righteous and true are Thy ways, Thou King of the nations.
The singing of hymns and songs in worship services is an important element. Music has a way of opening our emotions and, in the best songs, our minds to the truths of God. The tune works its way into our hearts and the lyrics find their way into our thinking and in this way our attention (our heads) and our affections (our hearts) become fixed on the Almighty. Adoringly and humbly we come to Him, ready to listen to His Word, and to submit ourselves to its authority.
Though singing precedes the sermon and helps us come to the Scriptures more prepared to hear God's Word, it is not simply a mere preliminary. It is, in itself, worship of our great God. On Sundays, therefore, let us sing with honesty, thoughtfulness, passion, and joy. Let us ask God to help us in worship, so that it may be genuine.
Isaac Watts (1674 - 1748), one of the church's greatest hymn writers, wrote the following as an attempt to draw Christians into the fires of fervent worship. It is an honest prayer.
Come, Holy Spirit, Heav'nly Dove,
With all Thy quick'ning pow'rs;
Kindle a flame of sacred love
In these cold hearts of ours.
In vain we tune our formal songs,
In vain we strive to rise;
Hosannas languish on our tongues,
And our devotion dies.
Father, and shall we ever live
At this poor dying rate,
Our love so faint, so cold to Thee,
And Thine to us so great?
Come Holy Spirit, Heav'nly Dove,
With all Thy quick'ning pow'rs;
Come, shed abroad a Savior's love,
And that shall kindle ours.