Monday, March 11, 2013

A Biblical View of Music

I’ve been thinking a lot about music lately, and as I was exploring what the Bible has to say about it, I came across this passage:

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to Him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. -- Psalm 33:1-3 (NIV)

I think we can learn just about every basic guideline for Christian music from this passage. It gives us at least eight principles to apply to our music:

1. Sing joyfully

Joy should fill our music, as we rejoice in the Lord, remembering His salvation and blessings. Music can also be used to portray other emotions. Sad songs of lamentation, love songs, war music, and many other types of music are recorded in the Bible.

2. To the Lord

Our goal in music, as in all of life, should be to glorify God. Whether this is with beautiful instrumental pieces, or songs that tell the truths of the Bible, we should always remember the One who gave us music and use it to serve Him.

3. You righteous

We, the saints, are to make music to the Lord. This can be done by composing it, performing it professionally, singing in a church, or many other ways. We can even make music to Him when we are alone with Him.

4. It is fitting for the upright to praise Him

Music that praises God is not just acceptable, but very good for us to make, and something we should not neglect. Few things are more beautiful than churches and lives of saints that are filled with heartfelt songs which exalt our Lord and King.

5. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to Him on the ten-stringed lyre

We can use a variety of instruments to make music, which is elaborated on further in Psalm 150, where it lists all common types of instruments. From harps to electric guitars, from pianos to drums, we have a wide selection of ways to perform music.

6. Sing to Him a new song

In addition to the Psalms and songs in the Bible, we can write our own music, and we can be innovative in how we write it. Traditional and contemporary musical styles are equally capable of being used to write songs of praise, and neither type should be overlooked.

7. Play skillfully

We should seek to be skillful in our musical performances and compositions. From complex symphonic pieces to simple pop songs, from a masterful guitarist to a mom singing her child to sleep, we can never be perfect, but we can strive to do well.

8. And shout for joy

The Bible endorses lively music, the kind that leads to certain kinds of shouting and dancing, the same as it endorses more somber pieces that lead to contemplation. One kind of music is not more spiritual than the other. Each is good in its own way.

Music is one of the most wonderful gifts that God has given us, and it means a lot to me. If music means a lot to you, I hope that these guidelines are helpful to you as you explore the diversity of musical instruments and styles and use them to glorify God.

Do you agree with these guidelines? Can you find any other musical principles in the verses I quoted?


  1. I give this post the Bush seal of approval. I heartily agree with all of these guidelines. :D Awesome post, Jonathan! I've been waiting for it a long time. B-)

  2. /Great/ post, Jonathan! :D I agree with the guidelines that you brought up. ^_^ Lots of good points.

  3. I agree with Bushy and Ophelia. Awesome post. :D I love how you unpacked those verses.

    1. Thank you, Jeremiah! Unpacked is a good way of putting it, though I'm sure there are people who could unpack quite a lot more than me from the same verses.

  4. Very good thoughts, Jonathan. :) It's amazing how much one can get out of just one verse. :)

  5. This is so good, Jonathan! I agree with all the principles you laid out here, and as Grace mentioned, it's amazing how many there are just from one verse.

    I enjoyed this article, especially in light of the discussions we've been having. I think it provides some more overarching principles about music, which are important to remember, but easy to overlook when looking at music in such a detailed way, as we've been doing. Thank you :)

    1. Thank you, Amy! It is indeed amazing.

      I hoped it would give a good general overview of music principles. :)

  6. Jonathan, this is an excellent line upon line exegesis of this passage. Well done.

  7. Very neat! I'm now officially in love with that verse. :)

    Some time soon, I need to do a musical study of the entire book of Psalms. In addition to all the references to music, the Psalms potentially have a lot to say about musical content and purpose, being music itself.

    1. Thank you, Jacob! It's a wonderful verse.

      That's a good idea for a study. Will you be writing your thoughts down?

    2. I don't have specific plans at the moment, and if I did write them down, I don't know what I would do with them.

      However, I do have plans to create a YouTube channel dedicated to the biblical study of our world. When I have a broader understanding of music as God wants us to create, absorb, and view it, I plan on dedicating one or more videos to it.

    3. A blog is good for posting that sort of thing, though a YouTube channel of that sort might be even better. I'm interested in following/subscribing either way.

  8. Well thanks for the encouragement! I'll be sure to let you know when I get that up and running.

  9. This is an articulate examination of the verses. Thanks for sharing.

    I would piggyback on your ideas as I enjoy reading the text in multiple versions, and so uncover additional nuances.

    Your 3rd point speaks of saints and the righteous from the NIV. The New Century version speaks of "Honest people."

    "Honest" adds a nuance of authenticity, genuineness and accuracy. Thus, when we are authentic, genuine and accurate, we bring greater praise to God in our music.

    My mother was a fabulous musician. Listening to her playing hymns was a favorite past time. Her fingers skimmed the keys, and the sound touched my soul. Her playing was authentic, genuine and accurate. Her music resonated with everyone who heard it. She's now playing the God Room in heaven. :D

    1. Thank you! Reading verses in multiple versions is good to do.

      I like the nuances that "honest" adds.

      Heaven will be filled with wonderful music, including the music of talented saints. :)