[This post is part of the Worship Series.]
Worship isn’t music. But often, discussions about worship get most heated when talking about music. So let’s go there first.
Sometimes churches make statements along the lines of, “It doesn’t matter what people like or dislike when it comes to worship music, the real question should be,‘What kind of music does God like?’”
I have to admit, I really love questions like this. And I really love hearing how people determine the answer to questions like this…
Ultimately, the answer to that kind of question would have to come from Scripture, wouldn’t it? So for the purposes of this post, the Bible will be our source material.
One thing we know for sure is that Scripture teaches that God loves music and songs that are directed to Him and that are about Him. But there are also a few other thoughts from Scripture that describe some of the types of music that God digs [or at least approves of…] Let’s look at a few of them:
[This list is kind of long because I’m posting the whole verses instead of linking to them. It was a toss up, but I figured you’d rather just read them instead of clicking back and forth to see them. ]
* Music using many instruments
1 Chronicles 15:16
Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. (NASB)
With the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music upon the lyre. (NASB)
2 Chronicles 29:27
Then Hezekiah gave the order to offer the burnt offering on the altar. When the burnt offering began, the song to the LORD also began with the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David, king of Israel. (NASB)
* New Music
So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the sons of Israel. (NASB)
Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. (NASB)
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;Many will see and fearAnd will trust in the LORD. (NASB)
Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth. (NASB)
O sing to the LORD a new song,For He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him. (NASB)
I will sing a new song to You, O God; Upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You, (NASB)
Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song,And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones. (NASB)
9″Behold, the former things have come to pass, Now I declare new things; Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” 10Sing to the LORD a new song, Sing His praise from the end of the earth! You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it. You islands, and those who dwell on them.
* Music that is played skillfully
Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.
For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with a skillful psalm.
* Loud Music
2 Chronicles 20:19
The Levites, from the sons of the Kohathites and of the sons of the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel, with a very loud voice.
2 Chronicles 30:21
The sons of Israel present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day after day with loud instruments to the LORD.
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth;
Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.
Revelation 7:9-11 9
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (NASB)
* Music that benefits the people singing and hearing
Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; (NASB)
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (NASB)
* Repetitive and Simple Music
3And one called out to another and said,
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.” (NASB)
8And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.” (NASB)
* Music that is Testimony to a lost world
2 Samuel 22:50
” Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the nations, And I will sing praises to Your name. (NASB)
You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. (NASB)
I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;I will sing praises to You among the nations. (NASB)
I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the peoples, And I will sing praises to You among the nations. (NASB)
and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written,” THEREFORE I WILL GIVE PRAISE TO YOU AMONG THE GENTILES,AND I WILL SING TO YOUR NAME.” (NASB)
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD. (NASB)
There are many more. But again, if your worship service involves any of these, you’re probably on safe ground, musically and Biblically:
- Music using many instruments
- New Music
- Music that is played skillfully
- Loud Music
- Music that benefits the people singing and hearing
- Repetitive and Simple Music
- Music that is Testimony to a lost world
God also likes music that uses no instruments at all. And He likes music that is grandiose. He likes music that is simple. He even likes music that is both grandiose and simple [like the Hallelujah Chorus]. He likes music that reflects thanksgiving and praise to Him. We could go on and on…
You’ll notice that this list really doesn’t include a musical style of any kind; it just shows some of the stuff that God seems OK with. I guess if we’re not OK with them it should probably give us reason to pause.
This list is not a mandate for ANY particular style. The truth is, there is not a “Biblical appendix” that contains sheet music and instrument lists for what is appropriate for worship songs.
I don’t follow the thinking that says that it doesn’t matter what kind of music people like in worship, because God loves people and He is the creator of music. He is the one who makes music possible and He likes it all. I’ll talk more about this in a future post.
I do need to mention here that we do know what kind of music God does not like, however, and it has nothing to do with guitars and drums or pianos and organs.
God hates it when worship is offered by those who have hypocritical hearts that are far from Him, and who keep lists of rules that are based on their own traditions as the criteria for what is best for worship….
13 The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men. (NIV)
God is far more concerned with the heart of the singer than the style of the song.
“What kind of music does God like?” is kind of an obnoxious question, but if you have to ask it, at least stick to Scripture for your answers.
[Friendly reminder: I will be monitoring any comments very carefully, so remember to be nice if you want to add your 2 cents. And if you add much more than 2 cents, you really need to get your own blog… 🙂 ]