by Serena Sickler
It is not uncommon for someone to remark before a special song, "The Bible just says to make a joyful noise!" The idea is that God cares about the heart and message of the musician and not their skill or performance level. It raises the question, "should Christians be satisfied with any music that is sincere, or should we promote excellence as well?"
Some embrace the phrase "excellence in music," accepting it as simply meaning that we should do our absolute best for God. Others dislike the use of the word "excellence," fearing that its application to music will cultivate pride and a wrong spirit in the one ministering. Whether you use the word "excellence" or not, the Bible does give us some insight into what God desires from our music. If you were wondering—yes, it does include playing with skill; and no, it does not leave any room for a spirit of pride.
Singing and Playing Skillfully
An important part of God's plan for church or worship music is using our musical gifts to the best of our ability. The psalmist David wrote, "O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory" (Psalm 108:1). David's "glory" was his gift of performing music beautifully. Though he had this gift, he did not use it for his self-aggrandizement. Instead, he employed it in the praise of God. We as musicians can echo David's prayer, not using our gifts to bring glory to ourselves but to bring glory to God.
While the Bible encourages us to use our gifts, it also tells us how to do that. Psalm 33:3 says, "Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise." We are to play skillfully! Too often we give God our second best because of a lack of diligence and/or indifference. Psalm 66:2 urges us, "Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious." If God has gifted you in the area of music, cultivate that talent and use it for Him!
Praising With the Whole Heart
Another imperative part of God's plan for worship music is praising with our whole heart. It takes more than skilled hands or a skilled voice to worship God in music; it requires a surrendered heart.
The writer of Psalm 9:1 says, "I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works." Praising God should leave no part of our hearts focused on anything else. When we praise God with our whole hearts, God knows and honors it. We are reminded in 1 Samuel 16:7 that "the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." The music we use to praise God is only as beautiful as our hearts.
A Right Spirit
A final part of God's plan for worship music is cultivating a right spirit. John 4:24 reminds us, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Our spirit must be right with God to worship Him. The psalmist David realized this when he wrote, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." He goes on to ask God to open his lips that he could praise God again.
When those leading in music have a right spirit, it enables God to work through them. 2 Chronicles 29:30 is an example of how music done in the right spirit creates an atmosphere of worship: "Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped." These musicians had genuine joy in praising God and at the same time a holy reverence for God.
Bringing the Three Together
Cultivating skill, committing your whole heart, and maintaining a right spirit are all important parts of praising God with music; however, these three components must be combined to result in music that truly glorifies God.
Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us, "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." We are not to love God only with our heart, only with our soul, or only with our might; but with all three. In the same way, we should praise God not only with our heart, only with our spirit, or only with our strength; but with all three.
"Psalms 108 Commentary - Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete)." Bible Study Tools. Accessed November 29, 2017.