Tune Our Hearts, part 4

Read other articles in this series: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 5

Tune my heart to sing Thy graceWorship is not just meant for God. In fact, Paul told the Greek (geek?) philosophers at the Areopagus that God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything.” (Acts 17:25). We could certainly say that God wants and enjoys our worship, but not that He needs it. But, we do–for several reasons.

We need worship for the encouragement. There are few things more uplifting than to worship with other Christians, whether in prayer or song. In a difficult time, it is nearly miraculous how impacting a circle of brothers and sisters praying around you can be.

We need worship for the correction and teaching. We need to be reminded, as the lyrics to our songs often say, that God is “Holy, Holy, Holy.” We need to be reminded that “This Is My Father’s World.” You and I need help to honestly and sincerely tell God, “Be Thou My Vision.”

We need worship to adequately express ourselves. This is one of the primary things music (and the Holy Spirit, Romans 8:26), does for us, and the one I want to dwell on for a little while.

You see, music is emotional. That is the primary function it serves, whether in a secular or religious setting.

You see, music is emotional. That is the primary function it serves, whether in a secular or religious setting. Just recently I had a brief conversation with friends, one that I have had many times before, about how silly it feels to sing the words, “Troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear, freedom we all hold dear now is at stake,” and later in the song, “many will meet their doom.” If you are familiar with the song, then you know the music is rather upbeat and lively (and for good reason, since it is ultimately about Jesus’ return). But, it just feels a little wrong to sing about doom to a happy tune. That’s because the emotion represented by the music (joy) doesn’t accurately reflect the emotion of the lyrics (trouble, fear, doom).

This concept of expressing emotion in music is reflected in the Psalms. David writes,

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Now that David’s “head shall be lifted up,” he can express that emotion through shouts of joy, singing, and making melody.

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres.

This Psalm is a stark contrast with Psalm 137, where the writer expresses sorrow over the Judean captivity in Babylon:

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

Though the writer is certainly singing (it’s a Psalm, after all), he says that he can’t sing “one of the songs of Zion” while in such a sorrowful position. The “songs of Zion” are about victory (see Psalm 9), and glory (see Psalm 48), and security (see Psalm 110). Judah, however, was defeated, miserable, and in slavery. So they hung up their harps, their instruments of celebration, because the music didn’t fit their emotions.

James, of course, doesn’t mean that you can’t sing while suffering or pray while cheerful. What he means is that we should tell God how much we hurt and sing to God how joyful we are.

This thought is even reflected in the New Testament, and especially well. Read James 5:13 with those Psalms in mind:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

James, of course, doesn’t mean that you can’t sing while suffering or pray while cheerful. What he means is that we should tell God how much we hurt and sing to God how joyful we are.

The assumption behind all these passages, of course, is that music is a useful and effective way to express emotion. Music expresses what other forms of communication often fail to get across. That’s why our world is immersed in it. That’s why it is in our cars, homes, offices, commercials, grocery stores, and sporting events. Have you ever seen a movie clip without the background music? All things being equal, a clip with the right music is much more powerful than one with the wrong music, or none at all.

And you know God has to know all that. He invented music. He’s got to know, when He tells us to sing and make melody, that we will express our emotions through the music, and that the music will bring out emotion. In fact, that has got to be one of His primary purposes for telling us to make music, because that’s one of the primary things that music does: influence and express emotion.

But, many of our “worship services” are so reserved and stoic that you wouldn’t know that there is any emotion at all (except, perhaps, boredom). But, music is meant to be emotional. Musical worship is meant to be emotional.

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2 thoughts on “Tune Our Hearts, part 4

  1. Amen.
    In regard to “Jesus is coming soon”, David was obviously a better lyricist than our modern day authors. That really comes home to me when singing the praise songs that say the same words over & over, & over, & over, & over, & over, (my fingers got tired).

    Write some more songs for us!!!

    LM

    • I had a friend in high school who went to a different church but came to ours sometimes b/c he was dating one of the girls in the youth group. He commented several times on the ridiculously repetitive “new” songs we sometimes sang…especially for youth functions. I never realized before he pointed it out how repetitive some of them really are…..and how theologically shallow. I know God is so good….how many times do I have to sing it?

      And that’s one reason I started writing songs….the younger generations are wanting new songs, and many of the new songs are just not that great (some are excellent, though)…..not that my songs are incredible, but I’ve got to start somewhere and work on it.

      Why don’t you write us some songs?

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