The Back Page – Music

The Back Page


“‘…now bring me a harpist.’ While the harpist was playing, the hand of Yahweh came on Elisha” (2
Ki 3:15). On this occasion, music preceded and prompted the prophet’s hearing from God.
Good music has never been peripheral in God’s program. When the Almighty laid the earth’s
foundation “the morning stars sang together” (Job 38:7). In Revelation we hear a new song: “You are
worthy…!” (Rev 5:9). Music at the beginning and the end.
Music in between as well. When Yahweh rescued Israel from Pharaoh, Moses and Israel sang the
song of Exodus 15. Jesus and the Eleven sang a hymn after the Last Supper (Matt 26:30). God’s
deliverance of David put a new song in his mouth (Ps 40:3).
It is no wonder then that Christians are urged to make music—“Speak to each other with psalms,
hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts” (Eph 5:19). A psalm is a
song sung to harp accompaniment. The Bible’s longest book contains 150. A hymn, in classical Greek
literature, was a festive ode in praise of gods or heroes. Spiritual songs, obviously enough, celebrate God,
and counsel proper human response to him. What is important is not trying to draw fine distinctions
among these three types of music. The point is to see in them something of the variety with which we
believers may pour out our souls. We sing with both our spirits and our minds (1 Cor 14:15). We sing
both to the Lord (in worship) and to each other (in encouragement).
Reasons why the 1517 Reformation was not snuffed out, as were earlier ones, include wide
distribution of both Luther’s vernacular German Bible and his tracts. But historians also credit Luther’s
hymns. His congregation could learn them at church on Sundays, then sing them throughout the week at
work and at home. As they sang, they were reminding themselves of the “new” truths he was teaching,
and reinforcing them in their hearts. Among Luther’s hymns is “A Mighty Fortress,” one we still sing.
What songs fill your heart and spill from your lips?

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