Expanding the Throne-Room Culture

From the booklet How God Values Music
By Ryan Malone

Your ability to be inspired by a symphony, to be enriched by a sculpture, or to be uplifted by a sunset is a miracle. That ability is possible because of the God-like mind that God created in you.

God “endowed man with the power of mind,” Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in The Incredible Human Potential. “It seems obvious that human minds were made to function in the same manner as the Creator’s, although in an inferior way. But how do we humans use our minds? We are endowed with something akin to creative powers.”

This ability makes the human being a unique creation. No animal has this ability. God gave it only to man because of our unique and special purpose. A feature of the unique, God-like mind that humans possess is the ability to appreciate creative, artistic endeavors.

The Cultured Mind of God

God—creator and possessor of this mind power—is the most cultured, brilliant and sophisticated Being. He appreciates the finest things. He is a God of quality.

God gave us mind power so He could create His character in us. And His character is that of a perfectionist, of creating the highest quality and appreciating the finest things. “[T]he Bible teaching upholds prosperity, culture, education and right knowledge, acquisition of good quality merchandise, and proper attire,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in his March 1978 Plain Truth personal, “Is It Wrong to Be a Cultured Individual?”

“The Bible reveals human nature as being lazy, slovenly, yet full of vanity and greed,” he continued. “When people brag about being poor, uneducated and uncultured, that is merely vanity. It is usually to excuse shiftlessness, neglect, lack of effort.”

God, by contrast, is surrounded by brilliance and sophistication.

In his vision of God’s throne room, the Apostle John records, “And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. … And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever” (Revelation 4:3-4, 8-9).

In Revelation 5, we read that these 24 elders sing a new song before the throne (verse 9).

What a visually rich environment: pure gold, precious stones, a sea of fiery crystal. And what an aurally rich setting: harps, singing and constant music. Verses 11-13 reference an angelic chorus of 100 million voices!

All this, you could say, is God’s throne-room culture.

We read more about it in Psalm 45:8: “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.” This is in a section of the psalm where a bride (a type of the Church) is praising her husband (a type of Jesus Christ). The word whereby is a mistranslation in the King James Version. The Hebrew word means stringed instruments (as it is translated in Psalm 150:4). The verse should read thus: “out of the ivory palaces, stringed instruments gladden you.”

Think of our God’s majestic surroundings! Think of the mansions and offices He is preparing for His people! (John 14:2). Such inspiring music comes from His residence—His throne room!

What is most inspiring about these environs is the fact that God intends to export this throne-room culture!

The Culture of Lucifer

God, being the giver that He is, wants to propagate and expand His joyous surroundings so others can benefit. His plan to do so began with the greatest creation in the angelic realm: the archangel Lucifer. Ezekiel 28:13 says this angelic masterpiece was endowed with the finest jewels of the spirit dimension and superior musical skills.

Lucifer dwelled “upon the holy mountain of God” and “walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire” (verse 14). He had spent considerable time in that throne-room culture until he was sent to “Eden the garden of God” to take that culture there. Eden, in fact, was to be God’s “throne room” on Earth. When God designed this garden, He gave it the same basic design as His abode in what the Bible terms “the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2).

When Lucifer was stationed there, the garden was merely a testing ground: God intended for him to eventually spread the “throne-room culture” to the universe. “Lucifer was a universe being, created to fill the universe with beautiful music!” Gerald Flurry wrote. “God made him to think as He thinks, and to love and produce music that He loves. Lucifer did so for a while, but then he rebelled, and God changed his name to Satan” (The Former Prophets).

God had created a being specifically to export His artistic tastes and sensibilities throughout the universe! Because Lucifer failed, that job still needs to be done. It is among the responsibilities that God subsequently transferred to human beings when He created us.

God created man out of the dust of the ground, with God-like mental capabilities, and placed him in this garden that represented the throne room in heaven. It was a place of quality, of godly education and responsibility. It represented the way of life that God wanted spread over the whole Earth. The spread of the throne-room culture was to start at Eden with mankind and expand from there.

In the Garden of Eden, mankind chose not to export God’s throne-room culture. Man chose instead to live under Satan’s sway.

Think of the world we have lived in ever since! As Mr. Armstrong explained in Mystery of the Ages: “God sits on a throne surrounded by brilliant splendor, quality and beauty and character. … God intended man to work this Earth, improve it, beautify it, give it glorious character—and in so doing to build into his own life the ‘beauty of holiness’ …. God never intended humans to live in poverty, filth and squalor or ugliness. Man should have beautified the Earth, and developed man’s character in so doing. His civilization should have been a ‘heaven on Earth.’”

Israel’s Impact

Under Satan’s influence, however, man has generally not partaken of the finer things. Looking through the millennia of human history, culture has been a privilege for only a small minority.

One exception to this was the physical nation of Israel. God intended for the Israelites to live His type of culture. The greatness and renown of their culture was possible because they were given God’s laws and systems (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).

It is a biblical principle, in fact, that the people associated with God—His mind, way of thinking, His laws, His culture—tend to be more advanced culturally, and they positively impact those around them. Their music becomes a cherished commodity.

This was the case with ancient Israel. In the Anchor Bible, Hebrew poetry expert Mitchell Dahood discusses the “highly sophisticated” nature of the psalms and concludes, “The poets’ consistency of metaphor and subtlety of wordplay bespeak a literary skill surprising in a people recently arrived from the desert and supposedly possessing only a rudimentary culture” (emphasis added). That is because Israel’s was not a “rudimentary culture”!

Their advanced culture was also evident in the throne of David—a dynasty God promised would never die (Jeremiah 33:17). Knowing where that throne continued after Judah’s Babylonian captivity, and where the modern descendants of Israel are today (as proved in our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy), makes plain why the music of Western civilization still has such profound impact. Musicians from cultures all over the world aspire to perform the West European repertoire. One study showed how “all infants prefer Western music to other musics, regardless of their culture or race” (Daniel J. Levitin, This Is Your Brain on Music). This is less surprising when you consider its godly roots!

Israel’s progenitor, Abraham (“Abram the Hebrew” in Genesis 14:13), was not only wealthy (Genesis 13:2), he was also an extremely well-educated, well-traveled, refined man. In Ur of the Chaldees, Sir Leonard Woolley wrote that “his earlier years were spent in such sophisticated surroundings; he was the citizen of a great city and inherited the traditions of an ancient and highly organized civilization. … We found copies of the hymns which were used in the service of the temples, and with them mathematical tables ranging from plain sums in addition to formulae for the extraction of square and cube roots, and other texts in which the writers had copied out the old building inscriptions extant in the city and had compiled in this way an abbreviated history of the principal temples.”

In Antiquities of the Jews, Flavius Josephus wrote that when Abraham came into Egypt, “[h]e communicated to them arithmetic, and delivered to them the science of astronomy; for, before Abram came into Egypt, they were unacquainted with those parts of learning; for that science came from the Chaldeans into Egypt, and from thence to the Greeks also.” John William Edward Conybeare suggested that universities had their origins in Egypt “‘where Abraham was the first to teach the Quadrivium’ (the higher fourfold course of: 1) arithmetic, 2) geometry, 3) harmony and 4) astronomy) ….” (Alfred in the Chroniclers).

There is evidence in the Austrian Chronicle of the 95 Rulers that it was the patriarch Abraham who established Austria as the cultural center of Europe. This is even likelier when you consider that it still is that cultural center today—over 4,000 years later! Evidence of Abraham’s influence is found mostly in Austria’s 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 and in greater Austria.

The Bible reveals that Job and Joseph were prosperous, capable, intelligent men. The book of Job uses many musical expressions (see Job 29:13; 30:9, 31; 35:10; 38:7). Both these men spent significant time and had considerable influence within Egypt. God ensured that Moses was trained not only in shepherding but in the royal Egyptian court. How much of the finer aspects of Egypt’s culture came from Abraham’s, Job’s and Joseph’s influence?

Within Israel, the Levites embodied God’s culture perhaps more than any of the other tribes. The priests, selected out of that tribe, were arrayed in the finest attire and had the finest education and highest income, thus equipping them to serve the nation culturally.

The idea that human beings would replace Lucifer in cultural abilities was visually represented on the breastplate of the high priest’s attire: It was studded with the same gems with which God had endowed Lucifer! (Exodus 28:15-21; 39:8-14; Ezekiel 28:13).

Ancient Israel’s cultural prowess reached its zenith during the reigns of Kings David and Solomon. Both kings inspired a highly refined national culture. The Bible reveals that the nation’s musical output was well known in neighboring lands—a remarkable and rare feat in those days without radios, cds or digital streaming.

King David established a musical culture surrounding the ark of the covenant that depicted the kind of musical activities in the heavenly throne room itself! 1 Chronicles 16:37-42 say that Asaph made music around the ark; Heman and Jeduthun stayed with Zadok and made music around the sacrifices “as every day’s work required.” It was required work! 1 Chronicles 9:33 confirms that these musical endeavors occurred “day and night,” just as Revelation 4:8 describes the worship around God’s throne in heaven!

The frequency of performances and rehearsals suggests that these musicians achieved a high quality of performance.

David’s son Solomon accumulated great wealth and commanded a vast naval power (Psalm 72:10; 2 Chronicles 9:21-28). He built a temple unmatched in architectural and aesthetic quality, attracting royalty the world over to visit the city and seek audience with Israel’s king.

Later, when King Hezekiah decided to pay tribute to Sennacherib to dissuade an invasion of Jerusalem, secular history shows that he offered some of his court musicians as part of the tribute. The account in 2 Kings 18:14-16 doesn’t state this explicitly, but says he gave “treasures of the king’s house.” Sennacherib’s reliefs amplify the biblical record, implying that the Bible considers the musicians treasures of the king’s house!

In Music in Ancient Israel, Alfred Sendrey wrote that the “artistry of these singers” must have been exquisite “if Sennacherib valued them higher than the pillage and plundering of the enemy’s conquered capital city.” The musicians of the Davidic throne were considered a valuable part of Israel’s culture!

A study of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah reveal a startling connection between the spiritual health of the nation and its musical output: Music is never mentioned during the reigns of any of the kings of Israel (and all of them were evil), nor during the reigns of evil kings of Judah. It is only mentioned during righteous Judaic reigns or the righteous portions of those reigns.

And when Judah fell to Babylon in the sixth century b.c., Psalm 137 shows that the captors wanted the Jews to sing Zion’s songs—what the people of God’s nation themselves called “the Lord’s song.” The nation was renowned for its musical achievements!

Music and Spiritual Health

When certain Jews returned to Jerusalem 70 years later, some of the “God culture” was recaptured amid the building of the second temple under Zerubbabel and later during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. But it was not long before even this nation lost much of the “God culture.”

The culture would be revived after God began working through a spiritual nation.

Psalm 22:3 states that God is enthroned in the “praises of Israel.” And though He calls them “the weak and the base,” God exposes His Church to the finest things! They learn all sorts of aspects of godly culture, including good grooming, dress, manners, grammar and, of course, the arts.

This booklet focuses on the performing art of music. This component of godly culture is an essential part of an individual’s personal enrichment and even his or her relationship with God.

What’s more, the Bible actually reveals the answers to foundational historical questions regarding music: Where did music come from? Which ancient civilization was most responsible for cultivating and developing it? How advanced were melody and harmony in the ancient world? Was it a steady evolution, with mankind stumbling along from one serendipitous discovery to the next until we finally reached the musical “advancement” of today?

The Holy Bible records the answers to all these questions. Yet musicologists rarely consider it a valid source and have never relied on it.

Essential Knowledge

The Bible is not a music textbook. But as educator Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, it “reveals what man cannot otherwise learn! Full truth comes from biblical revelation, plus acquired and discoverable knowledge approached through the concept revealed in the Bible” (The Missing Dimension in Sex).

The Bible “provides the right approach to acquirable, experimental and discoverable knowledge” (ibid).

We will base our study on this approach, building on the foundational truth that “[a]ll scripture is given by inspiration of God …” (2 Timothy 3:16) and that we must live by “every word … of God” (Matthew 4:4).

As Mr. Armstrong wrote, the Creator God didn’t record the sum total of all knowledge in His inspired Word. He intended for man to experiment and discover—using the Bible as the foundation and starting point. Yet because man rejected that source of knowledge back in the Garden of Eden, man has toiled and wasted years experimenting and trying to discover things God had already revealed. Far better to experiment after consulting the divine record for the right approach—to understand what the “givens” are in our study.

Though we may not understand some of the archaic physical details of the Bible’s musical record, we can fully trust that this source is true. As Christ said, “every word” has a deep purpose.

And the truth is, there are over 300 statements in the Bible about music! Piecing together the Bible’s various references to music—its prehistory, its journey through Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church, its modern manifestations, as well as its prophecy for times to come—we shall gain powerful insight into the value of this art for our relationship with our Creator! More than a fascinating view of the biblical history of music, this study is essential knowledge in the worship of the true God. Praising God through music is a commanded aspect of worship, as many verses tell us (e.g. Psalm 33:2; 66:2; 135:3; 147:1, 7; 149:1-3; Isaiah 42:10; Jeremiah 20:13; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

This booklet will convey what Scripture teaches about the music of biblical times. We will see how prominent a role musicians played in the ancient Work of God (some even “expressed by name” just for this reason—1 Chronicles 16:41). And we will see how essential music is in the worship of God.

Continue Reading: 1: Where Did Music Come From?