There seems to be an awfully large emphasis on music in our church services. I find some of the music almost manipulative. Is there a scriptural basis for this?
Lifted by the power of the music, King George the 2nd stood to his feet as the orchestra and the choir sang the now famous “Hallelujah Chorus!” It was the music of heaven, it seemed. Handel’s “Messiah” put vast portions of scripture to music; the result was dynamic revelation! G. F. Handel himself was so moved by the music he composed, that he felt he had seen God. Even to this day, the beauty and majesty of Handel’s Messiah brings entire audiences to its feet to sing, “Hallelujah!” But, Handel was only doing what the Psalmists had done!
Zamar Praise: To make music, sing praise, to pluck or strike the strings and sing, to play a musical instrument.
Zamar praise uses musical instruments, especially stringed instruments for praising God (Ps. 33:2). Zamar means to strike or pluck the strings – the harp, the lyre (along with with adaptations of these instruments today – the piano, the guitar). Zamar praise is singing along with the music of praise.
Music is a vehicle for many expressions of praise. Music has the power to lift mere words to powerful heights. Music affects emotion and stirs the thoughts and intents of the heart. Scripture tells us to “make God’s praise glorious” (Ps. 66:2). The music of praise is a vital part of that.
Way before Handel’s time, the worship leaders of the Old Testament composed volumes of songs, poems set to music, and hymns of praise. These songs were to be accompanied by certain musical instruments in many cases. The songs were also meant to set specific emotional atmospheres, or to be expressed in distinctive musical ways.
Psalm 8 was written for a particular harp (the Gittith). Psalm 46 was written specifically for a choir (Alamoth). The prayer of Habakkuk (Hab. 3) was written for aggressive, even frenzied, musical expression (Shigionoth).
Furthermore, there are moments of musical “suspension” written right into many of the Psalms. The Selah is musical pause designed specifically to allow music to lift mere words into higher realms of praise. Selah moments use music to increase the depth of expression in praise by stirring emotion, carrying divine revelation, and instigating response.
Zamar praise uses appropriate musical expressions to lift a congregation into a place of praise, just like Handel’s Messiah still does today. Zamar praise allows music to set atmosphere, build and release tension, and communicate pauses in lyric and melody. Zamar praise positively manipulates us into greater depths of worship.
Music becomes deceptively manipulative when it is used to inspire the worship of people or things other than God. Music is appropriately manipulative when it resounds the nature of God and inspires people to worship him, “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!”