By Michael Brooks
“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).
The sheer variety of music is rather astonishing. Here in Bangladesh, I have relatively little in the way of entertainment. I do like to listen to music, however, and have accumulated a small selection of CD’s that I play regularly.
Though I have only a few dozen discs, I find that they are of a rather broad variety, including rock, country, bluegrass, popular, jazz, Gospel, and classical among American or European music.
In addition I have music from Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Thailand, all of which are of different styles and instrumentation.
I realize that some people enjoy only a narrow range of musical styles and types. Still, however, it seems that the breadth of music — the ability of a given style to transcend a culture or language — is one of its great strengths.
We even speak of the power of music to calm animals, who speak and understand no other human language.
It is not surprising that music is and has apparently always been a vital element and avenue of worship. Through it we praise God. Through it we also edify and encourage one another.
Perhaps Paul sought to emphasize its breadth and variety when he spoke of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”
Certainly worshipers use many different styles and types of songs to communicate their faith and awe.
Though in Christian worship, songs are vocal and use language, we can certainly recognize that music is by definition more than just language. It communicates from the heart as well as the mind. I am reminded of Paul’s description of our efforts to communicate with God.
“Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23). He then describes the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer.
“For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered?” (Romans 8:26).
We are limited in our ability to speak to God. Yet God has provided means of communication. One of these may well be our voices lifted up in song, as the melodies of our hearts are raised to God, even as the “fruit of our lips” becomes “the sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15).
Music is transcendent, speaking beyond our words, our thoughts and even our material world. It is offered to God himself. May we use and treasure this gift.
By Michael Brooks