“Put a new song in my mouth, praise to our God; many shall see her and be afraid, and trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3). “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).
Music is very important to those of us who are Christians. Our churches may vary in styles and forms of music, from large churches with pipe organs to churches with a praise band or smaller churches with just a song leader and pianist. But the purpose is the same: to bring praise to the Lord for His goodness to us.
The theme of Christian music varies throughout the year. Christmas is a season of singing with Christmas programs featuring lots of music, but also with carols in our communities, all in honor of the birth of Christ. My wife and I begin the Christmas season each year by attending the Frederick Area Christmas Concert presented by the National Christian Choir. This past Christmas season we also attended the Bill Gaither Homecoming Christmas Concert in Hershey, PA.
During the Easter season, Christians focus their music on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. We proclaim that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The good news of the gospel is “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Music can and does affect our emotions and moods. It can motivate us, challenge us and calm our nerves. Famous preachers and evangelists have traveled the world bringing the message of salvation in Christ, usually accompanied by skilled musicians. John Wesley traveled with his brother Charles Wesley. DL Moody had Ira Sankey with him and George Beverly Shea sang on the Billy Graham Crusades. Some of these soloists were so well known that people came to hear them sing, then heard the gospel message preached by the evangelist. The Bible Conference movement had great hymn writers like Philip Bliss and Fanny Crosby.
It is useful to know the history of many of the old traditional hymns. One Christmas Eve our church dedicated the entire service to singing carols and then telling the story of each carol.
Many of our hymns are written by people who have gone through great hardships in their lives. The lyrics to “It Is Well With My Soul” were written by Horatio G. Spafford, a prominent Christian attorney in Chicago. Two years after the great Chicago fire of 1871, Pafford sent his wife and children to England. But on the way their ship collided with another ship and sank. His wife survived, but their four daughters perished. After receiving this tragic news, he sat down and wrote the words to this famous hymn.
Many of us know the story of John Newton, a former slave trader who was later converted to Christ and wrote the words of “Amazing Grace.” I believe we are often too careless about the songs we sing.
The Bible is full of invitations to sing to the Lord. The book of Psalms itself is actually a book of hymns of praise. Many musical instruments were used to play the Lord’s music. Psalm 150 lists some of these: trumpet, lute, harp, timpani, stringed instruments, organs, and cymbals.
Let us accept the challenge to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips that glorify His name” (Hebrews 13:15).
Reverend L. Samuel Martz has been in the pastoral ministry since 1962. He is still involved in supplying pulpits to various churches. He and his wife, Jackie, live in Thurmont and have two children, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.