Christopher W. Mathews on the Necessity of Song in Worship
When I read "The Pharmakon Athanasias" by S. M. Hutchens in the May/June 2013 Touchstone, I was impressed with the wise and eloquent case it presented for the integrity of the content and structure of Christian worship, as opposed to popular trends that erroneously market the truth of the gospel. My frequent "amens" were interrupted, however, by a statement that I think reflects a common but inaccurate perception concerning one element of corporate worship: "Music, which has, in a kind of madness, come in many places to be the definition of 'worship,' is not required." The claim I have italicized is neither biblical nor historic and may very well be at the core of many ills of the congregation of the saints, potentially shackling the spiritual formation of believers and even the growth of the Kingdom.
Both the Old and New Testaments contain resplendent examples of music-making in the context of worship, as well as commands for the people of God to sing and make music. Moses led the Israelites to sing on the other side of the Red Sea; with tambourine, Miriam inclined the women to do the same. David's establishment of musicians and their leaders for pre-Temple worship serves as a model for the formation of music ministries even today. In fact, music so marked the worship of the Israelites that the Babylonians, who had taken them into captivity, taunted them about it: "For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion!'" (Ps. 137:3). After the exile, Nehemiah records that he searched out musicians for the dedication of the wall, so that once again there could be music for worship, just as David had prescribed.
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