If someone wants to lead God’s people effectively in corporate worship, they have to know why God wants us to use music, especially singing. Here’s the first reason I suggested yesterday: We sing to remember God’s Word. It would be natural to assume that we sing because music affects our emotions. But in congregational worship, music is a servant to words.
From the time Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, God’s Word has always been central to the worship of God. God’s Ten Words were placed in the center of Israel’s worship. (1 Kings 8:9) The longest book in the Bible is a collection of words set to music. Revivals in Israel’s history revival broke out when God’s Word was remembered and obeyed. In the New Covenant, the living Word of God is both our means of access to God and the object of our worship. Paul instructs us in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” The stunning hymns of worship in Revelation continue to highlight the importance of words in worshipping God. Singing is meant to be a tool that helps us remember those words – God’s deeds, attributes, promises, and warnings. In Deuteronomy 31, as Israel is about to enter the promised land, God tells Moses to teach Israel a song, so that “when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring).”
We remember what we sing. And there’s nothing more important to remember than God’s Word. The feelings that music produces will fade, but the living and active Word of God will continue to work in our hearts, renew our minds, and strengthen our faith. Gordon Fee has said, “Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.” If music is going to help us remember what we sing, we want to be careful that we’re singing biblically faithful lyrics. Al Mohler is in the middle of a series on authentic worship. In his entry for today, he said this:
“Roger Scruton, a well-known British philosopher, has suggested that worship is the most important indicator of what persons or groups really believe about God. These are his words: ‘God is defined in the act of worship far more precisely than he is defined by any theology.’ What Scruton is saying is, in essence: ‘If you want to know what a people really believe about God, don’t spend time reading their theologians, watch them worship. Listen to what they sing. Listen to what they say. Listen to how they pray. Then you will know what they believe about this God whom they worship.’”
All this means that a wise worship leader will be more concerned about biblically faithful lyrics than a cool harmonic progression or a musically complex arrangement. Tomorrow, I’ll share a few more thoughts on combining music with biblical truth, as we continue to look at the role of the corporate worship leader. Thanks for reading.