Music is a powerful influence in both the life of an individual and of a society, and the music of a culture or subculture is a deep and profound reflection of that culture, its values, its underpinnings, and its perspectives on life. The music one listens to demonstrates to some degree who that person is. It is an expression of the soul. Further, the kind of music one listens to ultimately shapes what that person is becoming; it has a definite effect on people. We are constantly surrounded by music when we are in public places. On a recent vacation, we went to play miniature golf at a course near our hotel, and a group of workers were performing maintenance on a small restaurant building near the course. They were listening, perhaps on a local radio station, to music that was blaring, not quite deafening as we played the holes nearest to them. I am not sure of the genre, perhaps rap and hip-hop, and it was loud, certainly featuring no pleasing melody or harmony, the lyrics generally indiscernible and when occasionally understandable the words were unsavory at best. I silently wondered why one would listen to such, and what effect it might have on a person.
Often in stores, restaurants, and places of business, sometimes in public conveyances, certainly in current movies or entertainment, we are confronted by the music of the society and various subcultures. If one is fortunate, perhaps it is merely “elevator music,” perhaps banal and benign country, or “soft” rock. Less fortunately, one might be subjected to excessive volume, a driving beat and percussion, noise, and lyrics that are raunchy. Hollywood, rock, hip-hop, rap, shock radio, and a host of other pop culture obsessions, helped by mainstream media and the general secular academy, have indoctrinated recent generations to encourage depravity and distract from that which is important, worthwhile, and virtuous. Everywhere it seems we are surrounded by the music that is one of the manifestations of the self-destructive nature of morally deviant pop culture.
When we returned home from the vacation, we went to church on the next Sunday. As a believer, it was a joy to be assembled with other believers, singing words expressing Christian doctrine, singing the gospel, singing biblical themes with joy and reverence, with music featuring pleasing sounds of melody and harmony. Singing that proclaimed the gospel, that expressed corporate worship to the Lord, that spoke “to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Not the music of movie themes, not of a contemporary subculture, but of a profoundly different culture – the body of Christ.
During the early days of the Covid panic, we were of course unable to gather on Sunday with other Christians in church. Our church was able to go online with the Sunday services from a nearly empty auditorium, but it was not close to the same. A big part of what was lacking was the experience of reverent, orderly, joyful congregational singing. The Bible says much about the subject of music, and there are perhaps five hundred references to music in the Bible. The Creator knows that music has an effect on people’s lives. He is worshipped when the assembled church sings of who He is and what He has done for us in Christ with mindful, joyful reverence.
In Revelation 5:9, the Bible depicts a scene in heaven for us and tells us, “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation . . .“ This is not a “new” song merely in chronology; it is “new” in kind and substance, recognizably different in nature from something else of a similar type. Different than the old songs of the earth. Just as in heaven, so it can and should be in this life. The psalmist speaks of a “new song” in, for instance, Psalm 40:3, 96:1, and 98:1, a song that reflects the direction of our heart, a song that reminds us of Who God Is and, now in this age after the cross, what He has done for us in Christ.
“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:18-21)”
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:16-17)”