Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 30 December 2022:
1 Chronicles 25:1 — David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals.
The music ministry has always been a critical part of worship. 1 Chronicles 25 offers valuable guidance to today’s churches on music ministries:
Music should be a proclamation of the Gospel and reveal the truth of God clearly and accurately in lyrical form, and/or it should be a prayer in lyrical form. Worship music should offer thanksgiving, praise and exaltations to God. A good acronym to remember the essential elements of Christian music is the same one many have used for prayer — ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.
Lyrics with accompanying music should be powerful, worshipful, instructive, and fit for the KING. Many of the Psalms were hymns to be sung by the congregation and are great examples for today’s music ministries. Historically, worship music has been used to help people remember great spiritual truths and to encourage them. Prisoners of war have recounted that singing hymns from church helped get them through years of captivity.
“My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.” (Psalm 119:172) God also uses worship music and hymns to hold His people accountable, to teach them to obey, and to give them hope in His grace through their failures. A great example can be found in Deuteronomy 31 and 32 where God gives Moses a song to teach the people to sing for generations “that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel.” (1 Chronicles 25:1-5; Deuteronomy 31:19) Church leaders should be guided by the Holy Spirit in the selection of songs that are fitting for what God is doing within the local body of believers at the time. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)
1 Chronicles 25:6, 7 — The number of them along with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the Lord, all who were skillful, was 288. And they cast lots for their duties, small and great, teacher and pupil alike.
Those chosen for the music ministry should demonstrate significant skill and talent, but also humility and discipline. Granted, most churches rely on the ministry efforts of volunteers who are not professional musicians. However, those selected for the ministry should strive for excellence through diligent practice and rehearsal. It has been said that good preachers, on average, spend an hour preparing for every minute they intend to preach – 45 hours for a 45-minute sermon. There should be a similar commitment by those who intend to lead congregational music. Professional musicians practice for many hours each day. Chopin told one of his students that he would shut himself up in his room for two weeks before a concert. Another famous pianist said, “If I don’t practice for one day, I know it; if I don’t practice for two days, my friends know it. If I don’t practice for three days, EVERYBODY knows it.”
Also, notice in today’s readings that music ministry positions, including those chosen to be teachers and students, were chosen by lot, protecting the ministry from favoritism or egotism. Those involved with worship music must be careful not to let the musicians become the focus rather than God – the music is not intended to be entertaining but rather edifying.
Additionally, worship music is more about the intent and content rather than the style. Particularly in a multicultural society such as ours, some who come to worship might not prefer the style of music being offered (you can’t please everyone), but hopefully they won’t let superficiality get in the way of their participation in worship music that is pleasing to God. Many people like coffee, and many people have a favorite type of mug or glass from which to drink their coffee, but if their favorite mug is not available and they really want coffee, they won’t pass up the opportunity to drink from another cup – it’s not the vessel that matters but what is inside it that counts. Likewise, it is not the instruments, rhythms, and style that really matters in the music but rather the intent, heart and message of the song being offered. If you find yourself focused on the style rather than the content, you might want to check your heart. And remember, worship songs are sung together, in unison, intended to unite the body of believers in their praise to God. Don’t be divisive and lacking in grace and love while the body worships the Lord in song. Celebrate joyfully with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. “Break forth together into singing.” (Isaiah 52:9)
Hopefully your church’s music ministry is not focused on showmanship and entertainment but rather on genuine worship, discipleship, and edification of the body. Hopefully the gift brought before the LORD is suitable for the KING. And hopefully, you come to worship with a heart that is compelled to make a joyful noise unto the Lord, fully united with the body – “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” (Psalm 98:4)
- Psalm 84:4 — Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!
- Nehemiah 12:27 – …celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.
- Psalm 33:3 — Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
- Psalm 100:2 — Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
- Zephaniah 3:17 — The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
- Zechariah 2:10 — Sing and rejoice… for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord.
- Ephesians 5:18-20 — Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
- Hebrews 2:12 — I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.
- James 5:13 — Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.
Finally, while you are going about your daily activities, choose worship music over other forms of music. Replace entertainment with edification throughout the day and see if it doesn’t improve your spirit. According to Nielsen ratings, the average American listens to music 4.5 hours a day. For most vehicle operators, the second thing they turn on after they start the vehicle’s engine is the sound system. Unfortunately, most of what comes across the airways and networks, whether it be music or news, is ungodly and negative. Replace it today! “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
- Psalm 47:6 — Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
- Psalm 57:7 — My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody!
- Psalm 104:33 — I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
- Psalm 105:2 — Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!
- Psalm 108:1 — My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being!
- Psalm 147:1 — Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
- Isaiah 12:5 — Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.
- Acts 16:25 — About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them…
- Romans 15:9 — …and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”
- 1 Corinthians 14:15 — What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.
Revelation 22:1-4 — Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Revelation 22:17 — The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
Today, Revelation describes the living waters which flow from the throne of Jesus, also described in Zechariah, Daniel, and Ezekiel. This is the “water of life,” spiritual life, eternal life. Living water is the Holy Spirit received by grace through faith in Jesus – “Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”‘ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39)
Though our readings from Revelation also describe the Lord’s second coming and subsequent reign on earth, we must appreciate that the living water is available now to anyone who is thirsty – “And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17) What did Jesus say to the woman at the well? “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
- John 17:3, 13, 15-17 — And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent…. and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves…. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
God’s will for us is we experience eternal life and the fullness of joy now, drink from the living waters of the Holy Spirit now, and go into the world and share the Gospel now so other may experience eternal life in Christ and drink from the living waters. As we go into the world to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) we must be very careful not to be deceived by the lies of the world and start drinking dirty, lifeless water –
- Jeremiah 2:13 — …for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
- Ezekiel 34:18-19 — Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
- Proverbs 25:26 — Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
Jesus said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) Jesus doesn’t just satisfy your need for the moment but rather your eternal need. If you seek to find spiritual fulfilment in anything other than Him, you will continue to thirst and never be satisfied. However, if you receive His gift of Living Water, you will be fully satisfied for eternity and have something finally worth sharing with others. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us seek the only living water and its only Provider—Jesus Christ our Lord.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 30 December 2022: Today, be refreshed by the living water of the Holy Spirit, and help the thirsty around you find living water by sharing the Gospel. Throughout the day, worship the Lord joyfully in song however and whenever you can. Fill your day with worship music and sing along as you can. Search for some of those old classic hymns online; read the lyrics, study the background history of the hymns, and pick a few favorites to listen to regularly. Finally, if you have a song on your play list which wouldn’t be fitting to sing to Jesus, delete it. Unhealthy food destroys the body; unhealthy music destroys the spirit.