You, Lord, are my lamp;
the Lord turns my darkness into light.
II Samuel 22:29
Are you a music lover? I have always loved music. In one of my earliest memories, I am sitting in our neighbor’s flower bed singing “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” I must have been singing loudly enough for Mrs. Miller to hear me, because she told my mom about it. When I was seven years old, I inherited a clarinet from my brother and I joined my elementary school band. It was a wooden clarinet, not like the cheaper plastic models that are often sold today, and I loved that thing. Even though Benny Goodman’s glory days were drawing to a close back in 1976, I harbored a hope that the instrument would be considered “cool” again someday. That day never came. Chicks just don’t dig clarinet players. Or maybe, I was just a geek. But, at any rate, when I entered middle school, I made the switch from clarinet to guitar and I haven’t looked back.
I have an appreciation for a wide range of musical genres. I like classical, especially pieces from the baroque era, big-band, jazz, country, rock, polka, etc. And it’s not just me – my whole family loves music! I’ll bet yours does, too. It’s common to all cultures. Isn’t it interesting how music seems to permeate the planet?
Our oldest daughter played violin for a while and hopes to get back to it when her life offers her some more leisure time. Our youngest girl can memorize the lyrics to any song after a single hearing. At least it seems she can. She also plays the guitar. Our son plays the piano and is a huge, and I mean huge, movie soundtrack fan. I can always tell when he has hijacked my Pandora account because John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Hans Zimmer stations will pop up in my music feed.
Even Elizabeth, although she is the family member with the least musical talent (love you, hon) is still deeply musical. Whenever we are in public, say at a nice restaurant, and there is music playing, her shoulders will begin moving in a little pattern. As she looks over the menu, her left shoulder will go down as her right goes up. Then, the right one dips and the left one rises. Soon, they are see-sawing back and forth to the beat, and her head begins to bobble about.
“Elizabeth, dear” I’ll say, “we are in public!“
That only stops the dancing for a few seconds. Especially if they are playing pop tunes from the eighties. I guess you can’t put a tight enough lid on that kind of joy. It will find a way out.
And that’s the point. Music brings joy.
Especially music offered to God in praise.
We have been able to attend a couple of old-fashioned “hymn sings” over the last year at a small country church near our home. There is a music leader, a pianist, and a bunch of folks shouting out what number they’d like to sing next from the hymnal. If you’ve never been to one of these hymn sings and you get the opportunity to go, you should. It’s a beautiful, joyful time of worship.
I also love to see my family worship God during our more modern-styled church services. My son, a typical teenager not quite yet at ease in his own skin, will often launch into a sort of “air-drumming for Jesus” when the music starts. I have tried to gently caution him on not drawing too much attention to himself, but it’s that hard-to-contain joy at work again. He can hardly help it. As for Elizabeth – why she puts on mascara before church, I’ll never know. She regularly sheds tears of joy during worship and ends up looking like a raccoon. Sweet girl. Actually, I’m not much better. I don’t wear mascara, but I do well up with tears at times. Easter worship had me bawling. I was overflowing with joy. Literally.
Some thinkers have wondered why God demands praise. I have read that C.S. Lewis, before his conversion, used to wonder about that. As if God was insecure and needed to be constantly affirmed by His creation. I think Lewis later realized that God demands praise because He is the Summum Bonum – the Highest Good. The Creator, as the Highest Good, must call his creation to worship Him. It’s not much different than a parent telling his child to follow after, to love, to value, to worship that which is true and noble and just and holy. It’s just that in this case, those terms all describe God Himself. What else could He tell us to worship but Himself? It isn’t as if love or loyalty is hiding out in space behind Jupiter. No. All of the truly good things that exist have their existence in God Himself. He, as the Highest Good, has the right to lovingly direct our thoughts back toward Himself. It’s simply proper–and it’s powerful. When you combine the power of this proper worship of man for the Highest Good with the power of music, things can get seriously intense.
I have no doubt that this intense worship blesses the Lord. Surely, He is blessed with our praises. But God is a sufficient being. He does not need our praises to fill up some lack in Himself. God could exist just as blissfully as He has from eternity past without the feeble praises of lowly humans like me. After all, each of us is a broken instrument, like this old violin. But maybe He knows what those offerings of praise will do to us when we lift them up. I’m not suggesting that we praise God because of what we will get out of it, but there is an undeniable benefit to us when we worship Him. There is just something about worship that aligns us with what is holy, and we need that alignment again and again.
Look at these scripture references to songs of praise, and while you do, consider what I said about His sufficiency. God may love these songs, but He does not need them. I am suggesting that we love these songs and we need them.
Psalm 33:3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.
Psalm 40:3 And he has put a new song in my mouth, even praise to our God: many …
Psalm 96:1 O sing to the LORD a new song: sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Psalm 98:1 O sing to the LORD a new song; for he has done marvelous things: …
Psalm 144:9 I will sing a new song to you, O God: on a psaltery and an instrument …
Psalm 149:1 Praise you the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, and his praise …
Isaiah 42:10 Sing to the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, …
Revelation 5:9 And they sung a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book, …
God chose to make us in such a way that we learn through our senses, reasoning, and even emotions. Music, especially singing, involves all of these, and worshipping through music strikes a deep place in the human heart. God gives us a new song to sing back to Him so that we can understand our proper place and His ultimate goodness. Worship allows us to partake in that overflowing joy that can’t, and shouldn’t, be contained.
Can God be whole without that receiving that praise?
Can you be whole without offering it?
5/21/2014 Eddie Nicholson