The Measure of Music
Many studies have shown that music benefits our mental, physical and emotional health. Experts say it aids our thinking, helps vanquish bad moods, and even contributes to eliminating depression.
However, wrong music has the reverse effect, so we must be careful.
Ryan Malone, our music director for Herbert W. Armstrong College and Imperial Academy here in Edmond, Oklahoma, has written a superb new booklet called How God Values Music. It is one of the most dynamic, unique booklets you will ever read. In The Institution of Praise, which he wrote as a textbook for our music program, he says:
Listening to certain types of music facilitates obedience to physical laws that God has set in motion.
To illustrate this idea, we must first understand the Nobel Prize-winning discovery made in 1998 about how cells in our bodies create nitric oxide in waves, a gas that they release into the body tissue around them—a process called puffing. This “puffing” can boost cell vitality and vascular flow, aid in resistance of stress, strengthen the immune system, diminish depression, improve digestion, and impart higher levels of energy, stamina and mental clarity.
In his booklet, Mr. Malone cites musician and neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, who quoted music therapist Gretta Schulthorp as saying, “There are disturbed people who become calm” because of music. At the end of his book Musicophilia, Dr. Sacks wrote, “[T]o those who are lost in dementia, [music is] a necessity, and can have a power beyond anything else to restore them to themselves, and to others, at least for a while.”
Think about all the wonderful blessings that come from great music!
At Imperial Academy, we teach all of our elementary and high school students the importance of music and how to develop musical skills. The book Music in Childhood points out the “myth that few children are musically endowed,” which “threatens the right of all to a musical education, and may even endanger a musical culture.” We prove this myth wrong through action.
The Bible is full of scriptural examples about music, showing that the right kind of music is made possible by the best elements of the human spirit—the best that God can inspire in us.
King David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). He did God’s will. He also was “cunning” in his playing of a stringed instrument, meaning that he was skillful and able to teach.
Notice David’s amazing example: “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him” (1 Samuel 16:23). Clearly, music can be great therapy for spiritual, mental and emotional ailments.
David “played with his hand,” which is better translated “played with his hand day by day.” He was really into music!
Here’s what David wrote while hiding in a cave from King Saul, who wanted to kill him: “Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations” (Psalm 57:8-9). David was on the run, desperately trying to preserve his life, yet he chose to write about music! It seems like he understood that his music would be taught around the world. Today, the Philadelphia Church of God does just that. These psalms are beautiful poetry worth singing.
“1 Chronicles 23 shows that 4,000 priests played instruments that David made. He composed much music: 75 psalms have his name directly in the inscription” (The Institution of Praise). David probably also wrote quite a few more psalms without putting his name at the top.
Our Church’s Bible Hymnal is comprised almost entirely of songs adapted from the book of Psalms. These psalms are the most powerful music in the world!
Glorious music is a constant in God’s throne room (Revelation 4). Surrounding God’s throne is an angelic chorus of 100 million (Revelation 5:11-13). They never stop praising God through song. Do you think God loves music? Why would He emphasize it so much if it didn’t provide all kinds of benefits?
God wants the same majestic surroundings and luxuries for you. His throne-room culture is unlike anything we’ve ever seen—but you will see it in the World Tomorrow.
Good music makes us happy. “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad” (Psalm 45:8). A better translation renders this verse: “out of the ivory palaces, stringed instruments gladden you.”
“[T]he workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created” (Ezekiel 28:13). God created the great archangel Lucifer with limitless musical talent and intended for him and the angels to spread godly music throughout the universe. Because of their failure, human beings now have the potential to complete that job.
Lucifer rebelled and became Satan the devil, the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). He has perverted most of the world’s music. One exception is the concert series, recitals and musicals hosted at Armstrong Auditorium in Edmond. These events glorify God through music, singing and dancing.
God wanted the ancient Israelites to live by His culture (Deuteronomy 4:5-8). In an article on our Church website, www.pcog.org, titled “Throne-Room Culture,” Mr. Malone wrote:
The nation’s progenitor, Abraham, was an extremely well-educated, well-traveled, refined man. According to the Austrian Chronicle of the 95 Rulers, he established Austria as the cultural center of Europe. It still is today, over 4,000 years later! The evidence of Abraham’s influence in Austria is found mostly in its musical culture. Vienna remains the music capital of the world. Salzburg was the film location for much of The Sound of Music, and is world famous as the birthplace of Mozart, the great musical genius revered in that city, as well as in greater Austria.
Like Abraham, David understood his responsibility to preserve godly music throughout generations and nations. God revealed to him a vision of the World Tomorrow and beyond, when New Jerusalem will descend from heaven and be established on Earth.
“For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody” (Isaiah 51:3). In the World Tomorrow, godly music will be the cause and effect of rejoicing! What could be more wonderful than that kind of future?
Soon, all people will sing and dance in celebration of their freedom from captivity (Jeremiah 31:11-14). Terrible suffering is just ahead, but godly music, singing and dance will be an important part of the healing.
“The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). God builds joy through His music. Even the classical music of today is very beautiful and can have an amazing impact.
David was a “sweet psalmist” (2 Samuel 23:1). He institutionalized the act of praising God! “And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets” (1 Chronicles 13:8).
“And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy” (1 Chronicles 15:16). We need joyful singing in our culture. It’s definitely a part of God’s culture.
“Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself” (Psalm 80:17). Asaph, the chief musician of Israel, “could see God’s hand guiding His nation and chosen leader just as a conductor would” (The Institution of Praise).
Allow God to orchestrate His plan in your life. He will bless you with great joy. Sing about all He does for you (1 Chronicles 16:8-9, 23-24). Learn all you can about godly music.