THE MUSIC OF PRAISE
Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
MUSIC MAY be defined as the art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous, unified and evocative composition, through melody, harmony, rhythm and timbre. Music has been called the language of the soul. Music may be expressed vocally, instrumentally and mechanically. Even the lower animals, especially certain birds, express beautiful musical sounds. Musical instrumentals may be divided into five major categories – stringed, wind, percussion, keyboard and electronic, but perhaps the most beautiful music is that produced by the human voice. Music may be used to express feelings and ideas, to entertain and to grant relaxation. Music has the power to influence and make change, similar to the power of speech.
Music in the Bible
Jubal is the first musician mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 4: 21). David was recognized as a musician without a peer (Amos 6: 5), and was the writer of most of the Psalms, which were put to music. Music was used on many occasions in the Bible: (1) when departing, as shown by Laban’s disappointment in not being able to send Jacob and his family off with a musical celebration (Genesis 31: 27); (2) following a military victory, such as the deliverance of Israel over the Red Sea (Exodus 15: 1-21); (3) during Israel’s festivals (Isaiah 5: 12); (4) as a love song (Isaiah 5: 1); (5) the Song of Solomon, which is a beautiful wedding song; (6) Lamentations, a sad song over the destruction of Jerusalem; and (7) for praise, as seen in the Psalms.
Praise may be defined as the expressing of a favorable and high opinion of someone or something. It can be expressed by body language or writing, but mostly by speaking or singing. It is proper to express praise for good qualities(s) or acts performed by another, although it should be withheld at times, especially if the one receiving praise could be injured by it.
Praise in the Bible
Praise, especially to God and Jesus should occupy a large place in the Christian’s heart and mind, and should be expressed on all suitable occasions. The Hebrew word halal, which is translated praise most frequently, means “to be clear, to shine.” The word Hallelujah, therefore, means “praise Jehovah.” In Scripture symbology, frankincense is the spice that represents praise to God – the proclaiming of His Plan, which reflects credit upon Him because it displays His marvelous attributes. We also praise God through the singing of hymns. Praise, one of the seven elements of prayer, should occupy a large portion of our prayers. Praise should be heartfelt and continuous:
Psalm 9: 1: “I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.”
Psalm 34: 1: “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
We praise God for all of His blessings:
Psalm 40: 2, 3: “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” [The “new song” refers to the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb, the message of restitution and the high calling respectively.]
Hezekiah’s prayer and praise to God:
Isaiah 38: 1-6, 17-20: “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for though shalt die, and not live. Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, and said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years. And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city. . . . Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth. The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.”
Other examples of praise to God and Jesus:
Isaiah 61: 3: “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”
Acts 16: 25: “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”
Ephesians 5: 19: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the LORD.”
Revelation 5: 12, 13: “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”
Kinds of Praise
Just as there are eight notes in a musical scale, from lowest to highest; so we might say that there are eight kinds of praise to God, from lowest to highest, based upon one’s motives, desire and spirit:
(1.) Indifferent – This is merely outward praise to be seen of men, as described in Matthew 15: 8: “This people draw nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” The kind of praise that God desires, on the other hand, is expressed in John 4: 24: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
(2.) Selfish – This praise is sincere, but merely material. It praises God for material things, such as good health, etc.
(3.) Appreciative – This praise is given to God for His past favors, it recognizes Him as the Giver of “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1: 17) and it appreciates all of His attributes.
(4.) Anticipatory – This praise is offered to God in anticipation of all His promised future blessings, not only for us in this life and beyond, but also His many promises to the world of mankind in the future.
(5.) Active – This praise is not only found in one’s thoughts, but in one’s words and deeds, so that others can recognize it.
(6.) Enduring – This praise is active not only amidst one’s toward, but also during one’s untoward experiences.
(7.) Perfect – This praise is called such because it is only reached when one has attained the mark of perfect love.
(8.) Eternal – This highest kind of praise will only be attained when one becomes perfect in body and crystallized in character, and it will endure forever.
Just as literal musicians need to study the theory of music and put it into practice, the same applies to the symbolic musicians of the Bible. We need to study God’s Word and study ourselves to make sure that our lives are in harmony with His Word – 2 Timothy 2: 15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
We also need to practice God’s Word, which corresponds to the spread and practice of His Word – 2 Timothy 4: 2: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season” and Galatians 6: 10: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
May we all become master symbolic musicians, so that we can be enabled to play beautiful symbolic music with our lives, as a praise offering to our dear Heavenly Father and our dear Lord Jesus.
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