Summary: This sermon explores the various roles music plays in worship.
This weekend the Forestburg community celebrated the role music has played in our community. I imagine that most of that heritage is of country music. However, church music has a strong place in our community as well. For decades, God’s music has penetrated the hearts and lives of people in this area. This morning, as we continue thinking about our musical heritage, let’s consider the important role music plays in worship.
Since the time of David, the primary means of congregational participation in worship has been music. When God centralized worship in Jerusalem, music became a prominent feature. Through David, God organized an impressive music ministry. This first music ministry had 288 directors and 3,712 singers (1 Chronicles 23:3,5)! Much of what these 4000 Levites sang were psalms. A “psalm” was a sacred poem in praise of God intended to be sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments. In fact, in the ancient world, all poetry was sung. Music was central.
In New Testament times music was just as important, though not quite as grandiose. The Levitical choirs in the time of Jesus were much smaller, and with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, worship there ended. But music remained a vital part of worship for both Judaism and the early Church.
From early on, God has used music in several different roles for the purpose of worship.
First, Music Inspires Worship
All music is inspiring – in one way or another. Some music inspires work, some sleep, some depression, some a headache, and some worship.
In 2 Chronicles 5:13 we have an account of powerfully inspired worship. The huge Levite choir assembled. They took up their cymbals, their harps, and their lyres. Then 120 priests gathered and placed 120 trumpets to their lips. And when the down beat came, hundreds of cymbals, harps, and lyres were played, 120 trumpets blared, and the huge choir sang out, “God is good; His love endures forever.” I’m sure it was loud – some grumpy people probably put their fingers in their ears! But that music inspired worship in those who had come with the purpose of worship in mind. The ultimate result was something amazing, 2 Chronicles 5 says, “The temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.” Music inspired worship, and as the people worshiped, God showed up in a big way.
Inspiring music reveals God and points us to Him. As we make music for the Lord, the Holy Spirit inspires us through that music to encounter our Lord.
Sometimes He does it as we sing songs and hymns that we know. We sing, “I heard an old, old story,” and the Spirit says, “But is it your story?” And we can respond, “He plunged me to victory.”
Sometimes the Spirit inspires us to encounter the Lord as we learn new songs and hymns. As Gerre and the choir introduce a new song, the Spirit says, “Pay attention to these words. Let your spirit ride on the notes as the melody soaks into your being.” As that occurs, you can try speaking those words yourself, singing the phrases you’ve caught, listening to the phrases you haven’t. And all the time you can thank God that His work is ever new, and that every day He inspires contemporary Davids to sit down and to set new words to music.
Music inspires worship.
Second, Music Facilitates Worship
In 1 Chronicles 13:8, music facilitates the worship of Israel. The Word of God says, “David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets.” Those who could play instruments were playing, those who could sing were singing. Everyone was worshiping with all their might through music.
My dad is not a very good singer, and he knows it. But he lets her rip in worship! And, you know what, I’m glad. I grew up seeing a real man worship. When it comes to worship, Dad puts his whole heart into it. Now, I’ve never seen Dad raise his hands or even close his eyes while singing (that’s just not him). However, during the two and a half years I led worship at my parent’s church, I saw Dad worship every Sunday. Whether it was a gospel song like “Victory in Jesus,” a hymn like “Holy, Holy Holy,” or even one of those new fangled choruses, I saw Dad with his eyes bright singing with the gusto of the hound dogs – and sometimes it wasn’t just the gusto Dad was mimicking! But as a worship leader, I was proud. Now, I didn’t want dad in the choir, but I needed Dad in that congregation worshiping with all His might!