ChurchETHOS

Meditation, Music, and the Psalms

Posted in theology by Nathan Creitz on March 27, 2008

What kind of songs do you want to sing to God?

There are a wide variety of songs being sung in today’s churches and I hope to provide some comments on the kind of songs I believe are not only culturally appealing but most importantly are God honoring.
To begin with, there are the “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs that have sappy, emotional, and disturbingly gender specific kinds of lyrics. Just read these lyrics:

Let me know the kisses of your mouth
Let me feel your embrace
Let me smell the fragrance of your touch
Let me see your lovely face

My favorite was the one that people used to sing that said “Your love is extravagant. Your friendship, mmm, intimate.” I always hated that “mmm” part. Like I’m supposed to smack my lips and rub my tummy or something. To me, these kinds of songs are disturbing because any time one gender enjoys singing a song and the other gender deplores it, you are putting to much emphasis on sex and not on spirit. God never said He was a male or a female, He said He is spirit and those of us who want to worship Him should do so in spirit and in truth.
The next kind of music employs words such as Thee, Thy, Thine, Thou, and Ebenezer. Most of these songs have great theological meaning if you know the Hebrew meaning for El Shaddai or happen to be a King James Only kind of person. Again, most of these songs have great meaning and can often be brought back in to circulation to tie in the ancient church with the modern church or to spend a couple of minutes teaching on the beauty of music. However, these songs, though they had their day in the sun, are generally low on cultural understanding and relevance though they may be high on celebrating and teaching about God.  These songs can still be used, but I hope they are used sparingly and only when you’ve got some time to explain what it’s even talking about.
Finally, there are the Psalms. Oh, I’m sure there are dozens of other categories: punk rock worship, cowboy music, and even death metal, but I believe the Psalms are still our best model for music in the church. There are Psalms of lament, there are Psalms of gratitude, there are Psalms of despair. But all of them are human. They celebrate that God is God and we are not and that we need Him, we love Him, we worship Him. Not that we have to sing songs that don’t rhyme because we are just taking the words straight from a Psalm and putting it to music (though there are some really good ones out there). Instead, the intent of the Psalms is what I want to see more of (or sing more of) when I am at church. I want the song to speak FOR me and that’s what happens when I read a Psalm. 
The intent of the Psalms (in my mind) is meditation. When we have music in the church it should really be musical meditation. There is celebratory meditation and even soulful declarations of our need for a Savior. The words shouldn’t make me embarassed that I’m talking about entering some bed chamber of some king but that I love God and am loved by Him. We need some manly music, some “satisfy my soul and destroy my enemies” kind of meditation like David would have written.
I really like a lot of different music but when it comes to worshiping corporately with my church family I want the music to speak for me. I want to be able to ponder reflectively on the words and rejoice that God hears my cry. 
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