From the moment I settle into my chair in the morning with a hot cup of coffee, my Bible and an improving book – to the time I call it a day, music is part of my life. I like silence too – and of course I don’t have my iPod on every minute of the day. But I love good tunes. Music is such a wonderful gift God has given us. He loves it. He created it. In fact, music was a very important part of the first community of God-worshippers (Israel). Do a simple word search in your Bible and you will see what I mean. Type in the word “sing” or “singers” or “music” or “instrument(s)” – and you can read for hours. Did you know, for example, there were full-time musicians who created music for God’s people as soon as they were called out of Egypt and formed into a community of worshippers? As soon as God delivered his people from bondage the first thing they did was write a song, grab a tambourine, and dance joyfully to God in praise of him.
Music is all over the pages of scripture. In fact, at the beginning of the Second Temple Period (the period of the rebuilding of the place of worship) there were over two hundred musicians employed to write, sing and play for the people of God (see Ezra 2:65 and cf. Nehemiah 7:67). Music was constantly emanating from the Temple, it was prominent at special ceremonies (like the crowing of a king), present at feasts and banquets, played at special God Fests (or festivals if you like), and enjoyed at parties and celebrations in the life of the community. And what kind of music does God like? God likes NEW songs (Psalm 33:3, passim), he likes a variety of songs (Ephesians 5:19), he likes it when his people get emotional (Psalm 149 “dancing” – see also Jonathan Edwards defense of this in “Religious Affections”), and he enjoys all kinds of musical instruments (Psalm 150, passim). Some of the most interesting references to music are in the titles to the Psalms where certain instruments were to be played with the Psalm below in order to evoke a emotional response to correspond with the Psalm - sad, celebrative, reflective, etc. (These titles are in Hebrew but may be editorial additions - though scholars still wrangle over this.)
My exposition this week includes a command to “sing.” Not only at church, but we are also to be singing during the week “making music in our hearts to the Lord.” And then we are to come together on the day of celebration to “speak to each other in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19). In many ways, Sunday is the dénouement of our worship – the high point of a week spent with God in song and prayer. We are to be singing everyday – worshipping God with lips and lives – and then coming together on Sunday to “sing to each other” and the God who has created us.
What do I have on my iPod? Well, I do have quite a variety – and it’s not all worship stuff. For secular music (if that is a category - a great debate by the way), I like David Gray (an Irish-pub crooner), the Beatles, John Mayer, 3 Doors Down, Dave Matthews, Norah Jones, Jack Johnson, Five for Fighting and a few others. I listen to quite a bit of classical as well – I love Baroque (even though I’m Protestant), and I even like a little opera when I’m studying. I realize for you young hipsters I’m dating myself – but what can I say? For those of you who aren’t au fait with the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) scene, I thought I would list some of my favorite Christian/worship artists – and include a list of albums recently recommended to me by our Director of Worship. As I’m not a CCM maven – I want to thank Joe Wittmer and Kurt Felsman for introducing me to some great artists over the years. (Not all the ones listed below came from them – I’ve mixed a few of my own in!) You guys are hip – and your recommendations keep me singing all week long.
A few artists who lead me in singing through the week include Chris Tomlin, Mat Kearney, Matt Redman (Beautiful News is my fave), Fernando Ortega, Selah, The Fray, Jesus Culture, Kari Job, Meredith Andrews, Tenth Avenue North, Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp, David Crowder, Kim Walker, and Brooke Fraser. I could mention others too. Of course, I’m a Red Umbrella and Sevenglory fan – especially since I've been able to get to know some of those guys and their families in our church community. If you are new to the CCM scene – Kurt (our worship guy) gave me a list of the five albums he would recommend to get you started. So here they are:
Faith+Hope+Love by Hillsong Live
Beautiful Exchange by Hillsong Live
We Shall Not Be Shaken by Matt Redman
The I Heart Revolution by Hillsong United
Awakening by Passion
If you aren’t able to buy tunes as much as you would like (probably like most of us), drop the name of one of these artists in your Pandora channel (or whatever you listen to on-line) and see what makes you sing. But sing. And sing all week long. God delights in it when we sing to Him (Psalm 149). Hope this helps you glorify AND enjoy God more…