As previously mentioned in these posts, contemporary Christian worship is almost always synonymous with music. With music so prevalently associated with worship, you would think that this connection would be prevalent in Scripture as well. So, out of the 188 verses that contain the words worship, worshipper, worshipped, and/or worshipping guess how many also mention music? Just guess.... 100? 150? 80????
Really, only seven? And yet in modern church a worship service translates into 30-45 minutes of loud music, singing, and "worshipping". The Bible does talk about both worship and music extensively... but it seems that it doesn't talk about them much together.
Before I continue, I want to clarify some things. I believe music can be worshipful. I'm not against using music in a worship setting in church. However, I hope that in the last few posts you've seen that worship is MUCH more than music. In fact, with only seven verses in the Scripture mentioning music and worship together, it seems that the modern church has gotten things a little out of balance. Worship does NOT equal music.
Let me say that again in case you missed it.
Worship DOES NOT equal music... and it never has and never will.
Music can be "worshipful" in style; i.e. reverent, but music is not worship and worship is not music. I've tried not to use the dictionary definition of worship when doing these posts, because I was seeking to define worship from the Scripture. I know what the dictionary definition is, but I've purposely not included it. However, I think looking at the dictionary might be useful in seeing why worship is NOT music.
Here's how the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines worship. reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power;also : an act of expressing such reverence.
Worship means reverence, and it does include the act expressing reverence. So, with that in mind let's ask the question. Is music an act that expresses reverence? I think it can be, but I think the vast majority of music used in churches today does not express reverence. In fact, I can even think of many traditional hymns that don't necessarily express reverence. They may express other good things like praise, thanksgiving, and adoration, but they don't always express reverence. Again, I don't have a problem with using Christian music in church, but let's be honest about what we call it. If it isn't worshipful, then we shouldn't be calling it worship.
Here's one of the verses that mentions music and worship. II Chronicles 29:30 Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the LORD with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped. This is a verse that properly calls the music what it is. It's praise. The act of reverence (bowing their heads) is properly called worship. We need to realize that there's a difference between praise and worship. They are not the same thing.
There is a type of music that is worshipful. Psalm 66:4 All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah. In light of what many other verses teach us about worship, we can certainly conclude that this was reverent, humble, singing. It was directed towards God and focused on Him, since worship is never focused on self.
Let's go back to II Chronicles 29 for a second and look at that passage in a bit more context. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel. And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshipped (II Chr. 29:26-29). Here again we see a major component of worship is sacrifice. In fact, this entire chapter details the sacrifices in the temple. The music is only a small part of the entire picture. Notice that it's the congregation that worships, but designated people played the trumpets and sang. At the end of the offering we have the king and the people bowing themselves and worshipping. What a beautiful scene this must have been. It says that the Levites played the "song of the LORD." I really don't think we even have any idea of what the song sounded like. I can imagine it was one of the most beautiful melodies ever written, played with the most beautiful harmony on beautiful sounding instruments. I can imagine that it was pure, good, lovely, and altogether melodious music. Why? Because God loves beautiful things. Because if it's the Lord's song, it would be the best that could be offered. Because God deserves no less than our best, but even that pales in comparison to His beauty and greatness.
With that in mind, let me ask this. What is beautiful about the modern praise band? What about that music is lovely? What about it is melodious? Oh, you say you like it. It's your style. It's got a good beat. It's got a catchy tune. It makes you want to move. I'm a classical musician, so of course I wouldn't like a drum set and bass guitar. Those are "inferior" instruments. I don't like it because I'm old fashioned. It's just about personal taste. Is it really? Is what is "supposed" to be my worship of God about MY personal taste? Is it about what I like? Why is this "supposed worship music" now about me? Isn't it supposed to be about God?
Again, I'm not against good Christian music. I'm a musician! I LIKE music! I even like Christian music. BUT, I do have a problem with people calling music worship when it's not. So, let's just be honest. Aren't Christians supposed to be honest? Let's call our music what it is, and stop misleading people into thinking worship music is about a feel-good emotional response to a style of music that WE like. That's not worship, that's just being selfish, and the Bible says we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ (Matt. 16:24). Biblical worship is never about self, never about what we like, and never about what pleases us. Biblical worship is 100% about God.
Music may be a part of worship, but true worship goes way beyond singing a few praise choruses on a Sunday morning or listening to the Christian radio station. True worship is much deeper. In studying worship and writing these articles, I've realized how limited my own understanding is of worship. I really don't think I have much of a grasp on the biblical concept of worship. After reading Genesis 22 and realizing that Abraham was prepared to worship by killing his son as a sacrifice to God, I was humbled. I haven't even come close to worshipping God the way Abraham did!
I've learned by doing this study that worship is a result of being close to God. The more I develop my relationship with Him, the more I will worship Him. The closer I am the God, the more biblical my worship will be. I see many Christians who have devalued the idea of worship into something flippant and so far removed from the worship found in Scripture. Worship has been reduced in many cases to mere entertainment, emotional highs, and even jam sessions. Worship is so much more than that! Instead of "rocking out for Jesus", we should be bowing before our Almighty Creator and giving Him the glory, praise, and reverence that is due to Him.
I Chronicles 16:29
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God.