Morality: Music has a spiritual component
And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him. (I Samuel 16:23)
In the previous posts in this series, we have seen how music conveys emotion, how it is a form of expression, and how it has order, and how each of these truths points to the fact that music has intrinsic morality. Today, I would like to look at the final reason in this series: Music has a spiritual component.
John Wesley, who wrote famous hymns, gave the following "Directions for Singing"1, which I find interesting:
. . .
- 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.
- Sing Lustily [vigorously] – 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. [emphasis added]
Wesley understood that singing hymns was a spiritual matter. I would like to show why I believe music has an intrinsic spiritual component by looking at the following simple argument:
- God is musical
- Satan is musical
- Thus, music can be either godly or satanic
First, God is musical
Throughout the Bible, we see that God is very musical. He created music, and He has used it in the Old and New Testaments. First, it can cause evil spirits to depart, as it did with David and Saul. I believe the opposite is true as well: evil music can attract evil spirits; and this is a very scary thought.
Music was used to worship God. The tabernacle and temple employed music. Perhaps the most direct link between music and worship is written about the prophet Elisha, who said (II Kings 3:15): "But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him." The commentator McGee said of musicians who tried to draw attention to themselves: "I have had the experience of hearing a solo sung immediately before the message that absolutely ruined the message before I even stood to my feet. I have felt like getting up, pronouncing the benediction, and going home."2 On the other hand, godly music can foster a sweet spirit in preparation for the preaching.
The entire book of Palms is like an Old Testament hymnal with each song full of deep spiritual significance. Many psalms start out in the mood of the writer--often depressed, angry, or downcast--and yet end in praise to God and peaceful reassurance of God's control. This is what godly music should do for our souls. Perhaps you have been in a church service and have felt its powerful effect, either for good or for bad. Godly music can do this; it can focus us on God; and bad music can do the opposite, taking the focus away from God and onto the performers, ourselves, or sin.
After the Last Supper that Jesus had with His disciples, we read in Matthew 26:30 that "when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives." Jesus decided to end this sweet supper immediately preceding the darkest hours in history with a hymn. I think this is a good pattern for churches--to sing a hymn before going out into the dark world. It is a sort of "rallying cry," in a sense, as we encourage one another.
We read of music in Revelation. In chapter 14 we read: "And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps..."
Finally, Jesus Christ will call the church home in the rapture with a trumpet:
I Thessalonians 4:16 - For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first ...
Even Jesus' voice sounds like a trumpet:
Revelation 4:1 - After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
God is indeed musical! And I believe we have seen how the Bible specifically shows that music can affect the spiritual atmosphere of a place.
Second, Satan is musical
Just about everything God has created here on earth, Satan has twisted or counterfeited. I believe music is no exception; in fact, I believe with music, this is especially true. Interestingly, Satan was actually very musical before he fell, as I believe Ezekiel 28 is talking about Satan and says that "the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created." I dare say that Satan is likely a better musician than any human, considering both that he was a high-ranking angel before he fell, and that music is specifically mentioned as a gift of his.
Isn't it interesting how so many heavy rock groups are so satanic? Why is that? I know you can find satanic people in most trades, but it doesn't seem the same. The highest ranking carpenters, masons, engineers, chefs, and people of most other occupations don't seem to have nearly the level of satanism that popular hard rock groups have. Even in pop culture, other music styles just don't seem to have the level of darkness and devilish practices commonly found among heavy rock groups.
I believe the reason is that music is one of Satan's gifts. Satan feels comfortable with evil music, and it may be one of his bases of operation, or one of his headquarters or "seats" in a sense (Revelation 2:13). In summary, we see that Satan is musical, which should cause us to be concerned that some music will be satanic.
Thus, music can be godly or satanic
If God is musical, and if Satan is musical, then some music must be godly, and other music satanic. It's really that simple. The realm of music is an "aural battleground" where good and evil both exist and fight. Seeing that Satan has found a way to twist or pervert just about everything else created by God--truth, the Bible, marriage, emotion, the mind, movies, language, etc.--then it makes sense that he has found a way to pervert music, especially since music is one of his specifically mentioned gifts.
I firmly believe that music is moral. It is emotional. It is a form of expression. It is full of math and order. And it has a spiritual component. Some music is absolutely good, and other music is evil. In the future, I would like to get more specific about which musical styles I feel are good and evil, and why I feel that way. As the famous Baroque composer J. S. Bach said, "All music should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the soul's refreshment; where this is not remembered there is no real music but only a devilish hub-bub."3
I really love music. I am thankful for the piano lessons my parents provided for me starting when I was a young child. I have felt firsthand the satisfaction that godly music provides to a heart, and so it makes me sad to see so many people today, even in churches, miss out on a portion of the "hidden manna" God has for them in this area. So many today are turning to empty or outright evil music, often even scoffing at godly music, but bad music does not satisfy the heart. It may provide its listeners with a temporary emotional "high," but like a sort of drug, it leaves the heart more scarred than it was before.
I would love to see a revival of musical purity in our churches and among our fellow Christians. Listening to wholesome music will help you to turn your heart toward God and better enjoy the blessings He has for you in this area, and it will be one way that you can keep your heart with all diligence.
https://exploringchurchhistory.com/john-wesley-hymns-directions-singing/, accessed September 2018 ↩
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee; Volume V, I Corinthians--Revelation; Thru the Bible Radio, Pasadena, California 91109, c1983; p. 58, I Corinthians 12:7 ↩
http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/m/music.htm, accessed 2018 March ↩