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Sing and Make Melody with Your Heart

In all things, a Christian must seek to understand what God desires before he can present to God that which pleases Him (2Cor. 5:9; Eph. 5:10; Col. 1:9-10).   This concept is simple, but many neglect it by doing what they think will please God or doing what pleases men rather than doing what God has revealed as His will.

We know what God wants of us only because He has told us in His word.  This is true in everything, including worship.  So what does God want in worship?  Consider John 4:20-24.  In verse 20, the Samaritan woman prompted Jesus to comment on the topic of worship.  She pointed out the conflict between what the Samaritans taught and what the Jews taught about the correct physical location for worship.  Jesus answered her first by declaring that the place of worship would soon be irrelevant (v. 21).  Then, He gave this explanation in verses 23 and 24: “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  Jesus indicated that a change was happening.  God’s desires for His worshippers were changing.  No longer would the place of worship be significant, for God seeks worshippers who worship in spirit and truth.

What is this worship “in spirit and truth” that God wants?  It is evident that worshipping God “in spirit” must be different from worshipping Him in flesh.  Jesus said, “God is spirit,” meaning that His nature is spiritual rather than physical.  By comparison, the worship He desires is also to be spiritual rather than physical.  Thus, we can understand that the place of worship, whether on a mountain in Samaria or in a temple in Jerusalem, has no bearing on true spiritual worship.  Worshipping in spirit is a contrast to the fleshly worship done in Jesus’ day.  Consider Hebrews 9:1-10 and notice the elements of this style of worship according to the Law of Moses.  There was a physical temple, a fleshly priesthood, and physical sacrifices.  Suitable to this type of worship was mechanical instruments of music.  Now, God’s worship is spiritual.  There is a spiritual temple (1Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:19-22), a spiritual High Priest (Heb. 4:14-15; 9:11), a spiritual priesthood (1Pet. 2:5,9), and spiritual sacrifices (Rom. 12:1; Heb. 13:15).  Suitable for this type of worship is spiritual music, not the music of mechanical instruments.

Thus, we have the commandment, “…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).  This is what God desires from His worshippers in regards to musical worship.  Singing is spiritual worship, and spiritual worship is true worship, i.e., worship “in spirit and truth.”  Those who seek to justify the use of musical instruments in worship by citing Old Testament law are advocating a return to an inferior, fleshly type of worship.

The phrase “making melody with your heart to the Lord” indicates that the harp, the lyre, and the tambourine of the Old Testament worship have been replaced with the strings of the heart.  The word “melody” is translated from the Greek word psallo, which means “to twitch, twang; to play a stringed instrument with the fingers.”  The instrument of our melody is clearly designated as the heart.  This would have been a logical place for the Holy Spirit to endorse instrumental music, but He did not.

The phrase “making melody with your heart to the Lord” also indicates a depth of worship that has meaning.  Christians are not commanded to sing simply because it is enjoyable, beautiful, or pleasing to the ear.  These reasons are often used to justify the use of musical instruments in worship, but these neglect the true purposes of music in the worship.  There are a variety of purposes for Christians to sing: to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18); to speak to one another (Eph. 5:19); to have the word of Christ dwell in us; to teach and admonish one another; to express thanksgiving to God (Col. 3:16); to express praise to God (Acts 16:25; Jas. 5:13).  These purposes are achieved by communicating through words.  It is the words of the songs that give the depth of meaning.  It is the message conveyed in the words that makes worship in music spiritual (consider John 6:63).

Singing in the worship is not about excellence in music.  For singing to be done properly, the mind must be fully engaged upon the words that are sung.  Therefore, the best singers are not necessarily those who have the best voices or the best musical understanding.  The best singers are those who sing every word from the heart with understanding.  This meaningful worship cannot be achieved with a musical instrument.

If the meaningful part of singing is in the words, then why do we not simply speak the words to one another and to God?  Actually, we do speak these words when we teach, preach, and pray, but there is power in music and singing that gives an added benefit.  The music makes an impact and enables us to remember.  Music employs the emotions and gives expression beyond simple speech.  In this we see the vast wisdom of God who knows us better than we know ourselves.

Therefore, let us sing and make melody with our hearts unto God.  By doing so, we worship God in spirit and truth, thus glorifying Him and edifying ourselves.  Surely nothing could be more uplifting than joining the chorus of heaven in worship and praise to God (Rev. 5:8-14).

Stacey E. Durham




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