What Should Our Approach Be Concerning Music Today?


The Bible talks about music quite a bit, showing its importance, as well as a couple of famous musicians who used music to praise God. Music can refer to lyrics, as well as instruments – the same types of instruments we use today, such as stringed instruments, harps, trumpets, horns, cymbals and percussion.  These instruments have been modified over time but the principle still applies.

Music goes all the way back to the Old Testament of the Bible. In Exodus 15:1-18, Moses and the children of Israel sang out to the Eternal, praising God during the crossing of the Red Sea and being led out of Egypt.  The prophetess Miriam, Aaron’s sister, “took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances” (verse 20).

David, a man after God’s own heart, was a musician.  When he was very young, his musical skill on the harp was admired by Saul who was at times troubled by a distressing spirit.  David played the harp, and the evil spirit left Saul.  We read in 1 Samuel 16:16, 23: “Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well… And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.”  This musical “performance” was very calm and soothing, as we can imagine.

David also played, sang and danced with joy to praise the Eternal.  One particular example is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 15:16, 28 when the Ark of God was brought to Jerusalem: “Then David spoke to the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers accompanied by instruments of music, stringed instruments, harps, and cymbals, by raising the voice with resounding joy… Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn, with trumpets and with cymbals, making music with stringed instruments and harps.”  The music was loud and full of rejoicing and it pleased the Eternal.  Here, in 1 Samuel 16 and in 1 Chronicles 15, we see two different types of music – one of which was calm and soothing and the other as being loud and full of rejoicing, and in both cases, it pleased the Eternal.

David wrote many songs throughout his life and many of these psalms are attributed to his authorship, which we read about in the Book of Psalms.  These songs were accompanied by instruments, mostly stringed, that David himself played.   All these songs are praising the Eternal.  He was able to use his musical skills for himself and for others as many of the psalms he wrote we sing in hymns in worship services today, thereby also praising the Eternal and thanking Him.

Solomon followed in his father’s footsteps as a song-writer musician.  The Song of Solomon is one long song—a love song with metaphors and imagery.  This book is arranged like scenes in a drama with 3 main speakers.  According to some interpretations, we have the Shulamite, the bride who might also picture the Church; the king who would be Solomon; and the chorus, the daughters of Jerusalem.  There are other interpretations regarding the identity of the speakers and actors, but all agree that it is a love song. At the beginning, there is a summary that explains the meaning behind this song.

David loved music, and he expressed his appreciation to the Eternal with music, dance and instruments – all kinds of instruments, as it says in Psalms 150:1-6: “Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!” Also in Psalms 98:4-6: “Shout joyfully to the LORD , all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. Sing to the LORD with the harp, With the harp and the sound of a psalm, With trumpets and the sound of a horn; Shout joyfully before the LORD, the King.”

What about music today?  Since there are so many different genres of music, and since everyone has a particular taste, how can one determine between what is “good” and “bad” music?  Some like Rock music, some like classical music, some like operas, operettas and musicals, and there are others who like pop music, country, jazz, hip hop, techno, metal, and so on.  What about Christian music?  Are there any guidelines a Christian can follow or are there certain liberties that allow Christians to listen to what they like?  Is it wrong for a Christian to listen to different varieties of music?

First of all, we need to be mindful of what we are listening to, or what kind of music we might be performing.  Music with bad language and profanity or using God’s name in vain would not be acceptable; nor, when it comes to certain “worship” music with lyrics referring to things which are not correct from a biblical standpoint.  One should not attend a concert with religious music if the performance would be similar to, for example, a “Pentecostal worship service.”   We need to be careful. In the end, it is also about one’s personal conscience.  If we have doubts about the music we are listening to or which we might perform and feel it is inappropriate or offensive, then we should not listen to or perform it.  This also applies to parents who need to be aware of what their children are listening to or playing.  Again, we must be cautious that we don’t become too strict and pharisaical or liberal, but we must have a “balanced” approach.

When it comes to the type of music we might be listening to on the Sabbath, we need to focus on the godly principles when deciding what’s appropriate.  Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide what kind of music helps him or her to keep the Sabbath in the right frame of mind, focusing on God, His beautiful creation and the restful nature of His holy Sabbath day. Some might disagree as to what type of music is appropriate for the Sabbath, but it is important that we don’t become too liberal or too strict, and we must not judge and condemn someone for the type of music which he or she may be listening to on the Sabbath, even though we would prefer listening to something else.

We need to be careful that we don’t become too judgmental on what others listen to or play, but at the same time, we need to be cognizant not to offend others with “our” music.  If someone prefers a certain type of music which is not necessarily “approved” by us, we should not try to impose our beliefs and our personal preference on them, and vice versa. As mentioned, the same principle applies to “Sabbath music” as well. Paul says, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” (Romans 14:10, 12-13).

For example, if we are traveling in the car with someone whose taste in music is not necessarily our taste, we shouldn’t play “our” music as it would be considered offensive to him or her.  We would make it a stumbling block to them, which would be sin.  If they are disturbed over the music we listen to, we should not play it in their presence. If we perform music in a band, and we know that some don’t like the type of music we play, then we should not invite them to one of our concerts. “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Romans 14:19) and don’t “do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak”  (Romans 14:21).

When it comes to being too judgmental, if we look at the example where Paul had to deal with the Church at Corinth, we see that members were too quick to judge others, and they were not resolving things between themselves or bringing the matter to the Church ministry, but they were suing one another in court, getting into arguments over things which should have never been brought to a worldly judge. Paul was not happy about this and said in 1 Corinthians 6:1-6, “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?  And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels?  How much more, things that pertain to this life?  If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?  I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!”

At the same time, Paul was also very unhappy about the far too “liberal” approach in the Church at Corinth, and especially the local ministry, which allowed flagrant sins to go on without taking preventive action.

If a certain type of music causes someone to sin by violating one’s conscience, then it would be best not to listen to or perform it in that person’s presence.  And again, music with profanity or taking God’s name in vain should be avoided, and this also includes music with sexually explicit content or words inciting violence or glorifying war, which could even cause one to inflict spiritual or physical harm.

It is important to keep a right perspective and balance, and we must be careful not to offend others.  Everyone has particular tastes.  Music is fine with a balanced approach.

Lead writer: Michael Link

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