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Treasured Tunes – What Does The Bible Say About Music?

By Steph Nickel

What does the Bible have to say about music? Steph encourages us to sing out those treasured tunes that we have stored up in our hearts, while understanding what constitutes good Christian music.

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What Does the Bible Say About Music In the Old Testament

There are many references to music in the Bible, several of them in the Book of Psalms.

Psalm 95:1 says, “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” (ESV)

Psalm 71:23 says, “My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed” (ESV).

However, references to music are not exclusively found in what we refer to as the Old Testament.

References in the New Testament

Ephesians 5:18-21 says, “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

As I write this, I’m listening to a Jonny Diaz playlist on YouTube. I first came across this Christian artist when I heard his popular song “Breathe,” which, not surprisingly, encourages listeners to take a step back from their busy life and just breathe in the peace and goodness of God.

Christian Music While Working

I work in the front office at my church. When working on my own, I often select a contemporary Christian playlist on YouTube and play it as I do my work.

Music is such a blessing. It is a gift from our great God.

Words of truth set to a memorable tune help us focus on the Lord even as countless situations and individuals vie for our attention.

But, like many gifts, music creates division and dissension among believers—sometimes more so than the pastor’s sermon.donate

What is Good Christian Music?

So what constitutes “good” music? Christian music?

I have eclectic tastes in many areas—including the types of music I like to listen to. But if we’re talking about songs that turn our thoughts to the truths of Scripture, there are some criteria we can apply.

Does the tune match the lyrics? An upbeat tune paired with sombre, reflective words doesn’t really work. I find the opposite to be true as well. When the lyrics are joyful and overflow with the blessings of God, it seems counterintuitive to set these words to a quiet meditative tune. I’m convinced we can bubble over with joy and still revere and honour God.

musicSecond, the lyrics must be understandable. There is a place for instrumental music, but if there are words, it’s important that listeners can comprehend what’s being sung. Granted, some of us find it hard to catch the words the first time we hear a new song. Sometimes we must listen to it several times. But the lyrics should be so difficult to distinguish that we never actually figure out what’s being sung. As I mentioned, I have eclectic taste in music. It’s true that some of you might find some of the songs I listen to incomprehensible. I most certainly wouldn’t recommend that they be used during a Sunday service.

It’s only when we understand the lyrics that can we determine if they do, indeed, line up with biblical truth. But that’s actually the second half of the equation. First, we must diligently study the Scriptures. It’s only when we know what God’s Word says that we will be able to test the words of a song, a book, or the pastor’s message.

Examining the Bible Berean Style

In Acts 17 we read about the Bereans. They examined the Scriptures daily to make sure that the gospel Paul and Silas were teaching them was true and trustworthy. We ought to do the same when it comes to the music we listen to.

While I believe there is far more room for artistic license in a song than in a sermon, the core message ought to line up with what God reveals in His Word. Remember I’m talking specifically about Christian music.

And my last point for today … we must honestly evaluate whether the music we listen to simply makes us feel good or whether it turns our thoughts toward the Lord and the lessons He is teaching us.

Psalm 150

To close, let’s consider Psalm 150 from the ESV.

Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Steph Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance writer and editor. She is the coauthor of Paralympian Deb Willows’ award-winning memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances, published by Castle Quay Books.

Steph is a member of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship and The Word Guild. She and her husband of over 30 years live in Southwestern Ontario, Canada.

Steph’s goal is to nurture and inspire. She blogs at Steph Nickel’s Eclectic Interests. She also guest posts regularly on the topics of Christian living, writing, and fitness. You can visit her website, stephbethnickel.com, to learn more about her.

Read and hear more from Steph Nickel on the contributor’s page or at Steph Nickel’s Eclectic Interests.

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Images Courtesy Of:

Musician – RyanMcGuire

Girl Guitarist – StockSnap

Earbuds – matuska

Drum Set – socalbrass

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