Music in the New Testament Church

1. Introduction

The gift of music

(Job 38:4,7 KJV) Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. (7) When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

We are assured that there was the sound of music when the Creator laid the foundations of the earth. All creation welcomes the Lords work with song. “The music of the spheres” is an apt expression to express the grandeur of Gods gift of music to His creation.

Singing and making music is one of our greatest joys and allows our innermost to cry out from deep within. The children of Israel were exhorted to sing by their captors in Babylon but they had no song to sing in a strange land. But when liberty and freedom came they took their harps and sang a new song to the Lord. They were filled with joy.

(Psa 126:2 KJV) Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.

Old Testament music

Jubal is first to be mentioned in regard to musical instruments Traditionally he came to be looked upon as the inventor of musical instruments but this is largely folk-law rather than fact.

(Gen 4:21 NIV) His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute.

The Hebrews were much given to the cultivation of music. Their whole history and literature afford abundant evidence of this. After the Deluge, the first mention of music is in the account of Laban’s interview with Jacob

(Gen 31:27 NIV) Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and harps?

Initially music amid the Israelites appears to have arisen from secular celebrations and was associated with dance and rejoicing, times of mourning, festivals and social occasions. As with the secular so also there developed the religious music.

After their triumphal passage of the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel sang their song of deliverance

(Exo 15:1 NIV) Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: “I will sing to the LORD,

The golden age of Hebrew music

The period of Samuel, David, and Solomon was the golden age of Hebrew music, as it was of Hebrew poetry. (In this regard see studies of The Tabernacle of David, the birthplace of our present form of worship.) Music was for the first time systematically cultivated.

Music was an essential accompaniment in the schools of the prophets.

(1 Sam 10:5 NIV) “After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying.
(2 Ki 3:15 NIV) But now bring me a harpist.” While the harpist was playing, the hand of the LORD came upon Elisha

About this time there arose a class of professional singers.

(2 Sam 19:35 NIV) I am now eighty years old. Can I tell the difference between what is good and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats and drinks? Can I still hear the voices of men and women singers?
(Eccl 2:8 NIV) I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers,

The temple was the great school of music. In the conducting of its services large bands of trained singers and players on instruments were constantly employed

(2 Sam 6:5 NIV) David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals.
(1 Chr 15:16 NIV) David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brothers as singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals.
(1 Chr 23:5 NIV) Four thousand are to be gatekeepers and four thousand are to praise the LORD with the musical instruments I have provided for that purpose.”
(1 Chr 25:1-6 NIV) David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals. Here is the list of the men who performed this service: [2] From the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah and Asarelah. The sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph, who prophesied under the king’s supervision. [3] As for Jeduthun, from his sons: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah and Mattithiah, six in all, under the supervision of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied, using the harp in thanking and praising the LORD. [4] As for Heman, from his sons: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shubael and Jerimoth; Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti and Romamti-Ezer; Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir and Mahazioth. [5] All these were sons of Heman the king’s seer. They were given him through the promises of God to exalt him. God gave Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. [6] All these men were under the supervision of their fathers for the music of the temple of the LORD, with cymbals, lyres and harps, for the ministry at the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman were under the supervision of the king.

Notice how the fathers were to supervise the musicians and that they were set apart for this ministry. Just being able to play a musical instrument is not enough. Being set apart is essential.

In private life also music seems to have held an important place among the Hebrews

(Eccl 2:8 NIV) I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well—the delights of the heart of man.
(Isa 24:8-9 NIV) The gaiety of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the revellers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent. [9] No longer do they drink wine with a song; the beer is bitter to its drinkers.

(Amos 6:4-6 NIV) You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. [5] You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. [6] You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.

(Isa 5:12 KJV) And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.

(Luke 15:25 NIV) “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.

When considering these Scriptures notice that the idea of entertainment is absent. Music, and particularly song is for worship, prophesy, teaching, admonition, giving thanks and rejoicing before the Lord. This has significance when considering the plan of the assembly of the saints. (Where people sit/stand in relation to each other.)