For centuries, Christians have been blessed by songs set in music, oftentimes accompanied by musical instruments. Still, it is this same long-standing subject of music that has been the cause of no small debate. We have both sides of the pendulum – not a single musical instrument is heard, while on the other, the resounding of a whole complement of orchestra instruments.
One cannot discount the reality that there are individual preferences, including the different genres of music. Whether this is due to what one is used to, background and training, the fact remains that there is a differentiation of terminologies used – traditional or contemporary. I guess we cannot get away from what is obvious – we are all products of our culture, including the kind of musical environment we live in. Hence, what we are comfortable with is generally affected by what we are used to in our environment. When it comes to good music, perhaps it is correct to say that your opinion is as good as mine.
But setting aside individual preferences, what has the Bible got to say about music and musical instruments? A cursory glance of the Bible will surface scores of times where music and its associations are mentioned.
Here’s one example – Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem is well-detailed in Scripture. At its completion in dedication of it to the Lord, we read in Neh. 12:27, ‘And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.’
Here’s another – The Book of Psalms is replete with emotional expressions, from the very low deep-valley cries to that of the very high mountain-top exhilarations. It goes without saying that throughout all the Psalms the mention of music and musical instruments are mentioned. It is significant that each of the last five psalms (Psalm 146-150), begins with the words, ‘Praise the Lord’. How do we praise the Lord? The last 3 verses of the last Psalm gives us the answer – Psalm 150:3-6,
‘3 Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! 4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! 5 Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!’
It should be noted that queries have been raised as to why the New Testament seems to be silent on the use of musical instruments (except in the heavenly scenes in the book of Revelation). My personal take is that nowhere does it prohibit the use of musical instruments. More so, for me, the call for expressions in worship through psalms, hymns, spiritual songs (Col. 3:16) and singing (Rom. 15:9), assumes the accompaniment of musical instruments as and when appropriate.
In Bethesda Chapel, we worship through music with the aid of musical instruments. Let us be reminded that in our worship services, the music is not for entertainment purposes. They are meant to enhance our worship of God, whether with just the piano (in our 1st Worship Service), or a complement of musical instruments (in our 2nd Worship Service).
Elder Richard Lai