“It can’t be about the music”.
You are right! It isn’t about the music. It is about the music and a whole lot more.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about music and the role it plays in my personal walk with God. I told y’all about a book I have been reading called Sacred Pathways. One of the pathways is a Sensate and one of the ways a sensate connects with God is thru worship. Now, not everyone has that pathway to their personal connection to God, but many do. I do.
I didn’t realize just how important that connection was to me until I experienced true freedom in worship to Him. I never realized how important it was until I saw others lost in worship to Him in a corporate setting where they were surrounded by others yet alone with Him. In this environment it wasn’t about the song leader or the song. It was about the One being worshipped and you couldn’t help but be moved.
If this isn’t your pathway you may not fully understand. If you have never experienced it for yourself you may not fully understand. There are pathways others have that draw them into His presence in ways that I will never be able to fully understand but it doesn’t make either pathway right or wrong or better. It doesn’t make one more or less important. It doesn’t mean there isn’t something of value to be gained from both. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be exposed to other pathways because I may find that I am drawn to another level with Him and that is all good.
I’ve heard the debate all my life. The debate over instrumental vs. non-instrumental. I’ve been given “scriptural” reasons why one group chooses not to use instruments in their corporate worship time. I’ve read that scripture and a lot of other scripture and I’ve looked around and observed worshipers in both settings and I’m pretty sure “sing and make music in your heart” happens and doesn’t happen in both settings. It clearly isn’t a case of right or wrong to me. It isn’t right or wrong to worship Him with or without instruments. It is a preference. And it appears to me it’s more about what makes us tick as individuals than a place for theological debate.
As I’ve been thinking about this topic, I can’t help but think of places in scripture where instruments or worship were a huge piece of the story. Check out this story about Saul and David. He could have had David recite poetry or a nice sermon, but that is not what was used to cause the evil spirit on Saul to depart.
14 Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him. 15 Saul’s servants then said to him, “Behold now, an evil spirit from God is terrorizing you. 16 Let our lord now command your servants who are before you. Let them seek a man who is a skillful player on the harp; and it shall come about when the evil spirit from God is on you, that he shall play the harp with his hand, and you will be well.” 17 So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me now a man who can play well and bring him to me.” 18 Then one of the young men said, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is a skillful musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech, and a handsome man; and the Lord is with him.” 19 So Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David who is with the flock.” 20 Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread and a jug of wine and a young goat, and sent them to Saul by David his son. 21 Then David came to Saul and [e] attended him; and [f]Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor bearer. 22 Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David now stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.” 23 So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him. – 1 Samuel 16:14-23
Or what about the walls of Jericho? God didn’t have to instruct them to blow the trumpets…but He did.
6 Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in. 2 The Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors. 3 You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. 4 Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down [a]flat, and the people will go up every man [b]straight ahead.” – Joshua 6:1-5
And look how important praise and worship was in this story…
20 They rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa; and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the Lord your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.” 21 When he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the Lord and those who praised Him in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said, “ Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” 22 When they began singing and praising, the Lord set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were [e]routed. 23 For the sons of Ammon and Moab rose up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir destroying them completely; and when they had finished with the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another. – 2 Chronicles 20:10-23
So, why should it matter to me then? Why can’t I just be content to worship Him in instrumental silence? Actually, there is much more involved than the instrument for me. It is why I’ve been ruined for Christian concerts even though I’d go out of my way to find a Night of Worship. One is just listening and the other is actively engaging and participating in worshipping Him. Sure, the songs may even be some of the same. But one is designed for entertainment and one is designed for intimate worship. One is designed for the audience, the other is designed for Him. It doesn’t make the one for entertainment wrong. It just has a different purpose.
I know there are plenty of people who would tell me they feel lost in His presence while singing without instruments. I’m sure they would tell me they are distracted by the instruments. That is fine. I accept that. I honor their feelings and their needs in that area of their walk. I just don’t share it. It’s not how I am wired. Yes, there are times I have been lost in His Presence that had nothing to do with music. Just go sit on the side of a mountain alone with Him after He has been speaking to your heart for several days. You will feel His Presence there.
But, I think there is something that is missing in this whole discussion. I think we have to recognize what is behind the worship that makes it so powerful. I think we have to recognize why one setting may be more powerful than another. I think we have to recognize why one setting with instrumental music may call us into a deeper place with Him and another may not. I think we have to recognize why one person can be lost in worship to Him with the music and another one equally lost in worship without it.
There must be more at work than the music itself. There must be Something else calling a person into His presence on a deeper heart level. There is! It is Him. It is His Presence. It is His Spirit. Yes, as Christians, we have His Spirit living inside us 24/7. He is always with us. We are always in His Presence. I really don’t know why it is, but there are places I can feel Him stronger than others. There are settings where He is more active than He is in others. If you have never experienced that for yourself, well, I pray you will. Maybe it has nothing to do with the setting, maybe it has everything to do with it. Maybe it has nothing to do with the worship experience, maybe it has everything to do with it. I just know that when I have been in places where the worship time is powerful and intimate, I have felt His Presence. I have had burdens lifted in that moment. And when you find that, when you experience it, you want to go to that place as often as possible. You want to live in that moment. You never want to settle for anything less.
I’m still on my journey and it has taken more than one turn in my lifetime. I don’t know how many more turns it will take. I don’t know how many more pathways will be uncovered for me that lead me into His heart and Presence. I just know the one that has taken me into His heart and Presence in the most meaningful way over the past several years has involved music, so for me, it is about the music because that is what He has used to usher me deeper into His heart and I NEVER want to be anywhere else.