We have seen how important music is—its physical and spiritual benefits and rewards, its vitality to our lives and our relationship with God. In God’s view, music is not a frivolous hobby for the specialized few, or unnecessary entertainment for the unskilled masses. More inspiring scriptural examples will confirm this truth.
First, though, consider this contrasting perspective: “It’s better that our dear youth spend their valuable time in learning science and essential and useful skills.” So said Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in August 2010 when he denounced all forms of music as “not compatible with the highest values of the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic.”
It is not unusual for dictators to forbid worthwhile endeavors that they find threatening to their authority. But did the ayatollah have a point? Are science and other skills more “useful” to our children than music? Many people apparently think so, judging by the impoverished music programs of the average public school.
Centuries ago, however, such questions would have sounded absurd. Music and science were not considered at odds with each other.
“It is a recent notion that music is a divertissement to be enjoyed in comfortable surroundings at the end of the day, far removed from the hurly-burly of life’s business,” writes Jamie James in The Music of the Spheres. “[T]hroughout most of the history of our culture, music was itself an essential part of life’s business. … [I]t was taken for granted throughout the whole history of the West that music was a defining human activity, and therefore every educated person was trained in the rudiments of music.”
James points out that music “remained an important constituent of mathematics in European education until the 19th century.” The idea that music existed merely to give pleasure would have been considered as ludicrous as believing that sex is merely for pleasure. Before the 19th century, music was thought to have a pure and enlightening purpose, linking mankind with the eternal and the spiritual.
“Musical training was considered one of the high marks of refinement in the Middle Ages,” write Patricia Shehan Campbell and Carol Scott-Kassner in Music in Childhood. By the time of the Enlightenment, “[m]usic instruction was more than ‘window dressing’ in European schools. It was viewed as ‘basic’ to the education of all children.”
As we’ve shown, men of science have long believed that music was not only sound that emanated from a minstrel’s lyre, but the way both the heavenly bodies and even the human body were ordered—and that by understanding music, we could better understand the universe. They believed our bodies and minds are a musical instrument. We find certain harmonies pleasing, in fact, because they agree with our own internal rhythms. Our bodies are soothed or stirred by music because they vibrate sympathetically to sounds produced around them.
Considering the healing properties of music and new discoveries on how the brain reacts to music, we know they were on to something.
The Brain Loves Music
New brain-scanning technology reveals some remarkable things about the impact of music on health and brain function. People who cannot talk have sung. People who cannot walk have danced! Medicine is further acknowledging something it should have known all along: the health-influencing properties of music.
Significantly, the brain has no single music “center.” Listening to or performing music engages “every area of the brain that we have so far identified, and involve[s] nearly every neural subsystem” (Levitin, op cit). You could call it the best mental workout around. Physical education experts laud swimming for using all the body’s major muscle groups. Music, you could say, is the swimming of mental activities.
No wonder the corpus callosum (the area connecting the brain’s two hemispheres) is enlarged in professional musicians. No wonder studies have found that musicians distinguish and remember sound better than nonmusicians.
But music’s impact on the brain is true for musicians and nonmusicians alike. Brain imaging has shown that the brain “gives a little start of surprise when a passage of music takes an unexpected turn,” even in someone without musical training (U.S. News and World Report, Aug. 5, 2001). It is a mistake, in fact, as Music in Childhood points out, to buy into the “myth that few children are musically endowed”—a myth that “threatens the right of all to a musical education, and may even endanger a musical culture.”
Music benefits our mental, physical and emotional health. It aids our thinking and our moods. It also aids our children from their earliest development—even while still in the womb.
Study after study is emerging showing that when our children have musical training, they tend to excel in their development and may even enjoy a boost in iq. The studies cite the neurological benefits, though we can’t discount the behavioral habits that regular disciplined practicing instills.
Research also suggests that the brain is prewired for music from infancy and can learn music as quickly as it can learn speech. Because of parents’ tendencies to speak to babies in singsong, Sandra Trehub of the University of Toronto speculates that “we are born with a musical brain because music provides a special communication channel between parent and child” (U.S. News, op cit).
Music in Childhood states, “Children are stimulated intellectually, physically, and even spiritually in their recognition of music for its own sake as well as its integration with their knowledge of the humanities, the sciences, and the social studies.”
“Music is part of being human,” Dr. Sacks wrote, “and there is no human culture in which it is not highly developed and esteemed. Its very ubiquity may cause it to be trivialized in daily life: We switch on a radio, switch it off, hum a tune, tap our feet, find the words of an old song going through our minds, and think nothing of it.”
May we never let familiarity with music breed such contempt that we forget its impact on our existence, and how vital it is to the instruction, development and maturation of our children.
The Future Temple Stresses Its Importance
The biblical record shows how God values music and singing as both a pastime and a career, as an activity for both amateurs and professionals. Music is important to humanity’s enrichment, and the Bible reveals that it is also essential to our spiritual development. Here is something else worth considering regarding the essential nature of music as found in the Scriptures.
The last nine chapters of Ezekiel describe a unique temple. As Gerald Flurry’s book Ezekiel: The End-Time Prophet points out, no temple has ever been made with these measurements; this temple has yet to be constructed. This prophesied temple is the one from which the Messiah will rule at His coming. Ezekiel devotes a great deal of space describing all the structures on the temple grounds. (We have a model of this temple in the administration building on our campus, as researched and constructed by an artist and Philadelphia Church of God minister, the late Gary Rethford.) The tallest building in the Ezekiel temple is, as expected, the sanctuary: Its portico stands over 24 stories tall. But the structure that takes up the most square footage is the “chambers of the singers” (Ezekiel 40:44).
These large rooms flank the north, east and south borders of the inner court and face the sanctuary. The east inner court gate cuts right between them. And these chambers take up a massive 55,000 square feet—over a fifth larger than the square footage of Armstrong Auditorium. These “chambers of the singers” have a larger footprint than the sanctuary and large “west building” behind the sanctuary (where instruction will likely take place) combined! Considering how these temple grounds are a type of God’s heavenly throne room, the prominence of these singers’ quarters should not come as a surprise.
Yes, music and singing have been eternally important, and they will continue to be wherever God’s culture prevails.
A Heavenly Endeavor
Music is an important component of proper spiritual worship. The Old Testament sacrifices were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and many of the priesthood’s functions were fulfilled in His heavenly office (see Hebrews 7-13). However, praise—carried by the strains of music—remains a vital part of the spiritual nation.
Hebrews 13:15 states, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” God wants His people to sacrifice “praises” to Him continually—because “with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (verse 16). Psalm 50:14-15 read: “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” The Hebrew word for offer literally means to slaughter an animal—but here the word is used to describe offering thanksgiving and praise! God says these musical sacrifices are more important than sacrifices of animals (see Psalm 69:30-31).
God requires these sacrifices not just so He can hear from us how great He is. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me,” He says: “and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:23). He truly delights in it because it has eternal, spiritual effects for us. It is for our benefit, leading to our ultimate salvation and birth into the God Family!
Consider: If all the Old Testament sacrifices were replaced because they were only “types” of the spiritual, yet we still make music as part of our worship, then that means music—particularly praising God through it—is not merely a type of something spiritual: It is a spiritual act!
So many of the activities we can do as human beings are types that teach us about the eternal life and responsibilities awaiting us. Making music, however, is not a “type” of something. Music is happening in the spirit realm—in the third heaven. When we refine our abilities to wield these frequencies and rhythms, we are working with “material” that exists in another dimension!
The Culture of the Spirit-born God Family
These “sacrifices of praise” will be offered in the beautiful world to come (Jeremiah 33:11; 17:24-26)—as was the case before this world existed. This world is on the brink of a musical renaissance to surpass all musical renaissances! This will be possible largely because the world will be ruled by a spirit family of God beings.
In the Apostle John’s vision recorded in the book of Revelation, he saw 144,000 of those Family members singing a new song “before the throne” (Revelation 14:1-5); they are contributing to the throne-room culture. John saw people born into God’s Family—singing before the throne with harps (Revelation 15:2-4).
These spirit beings will have musical capabilities as God does and as the angels do. Mr. Armstrong implied this in his inspiring book The Incredible Human Potential. Speaking of the musical archangel Lucifer, he wrote: “Think of all the supreme talent, ability and potential in a being created with such capacities. And all perverted! … Yet, take courage. The awesome human potential, if we care enough about it to resist Satan’s wiles and evils and discouragements and to persevere in God’s way, is infinitely superior and higher than Lucifer’s—even as created, before he turned to rebellion and iniquity!”
He is saying that we can look at Lucifer before his rebellion, examine all his abilities and talents, and then we must realize that God intends for us to exceed those talents and abilities—in a manner “infinitely superior”! At the beginning of this volume, we discussed how God has such great musical ability to afford to Lucifer, and how Lucifer was the greatest musical genius in the universe next to the God Realm. But the Bible reveals that our potential is superior in brilliance and ability to Lucifer! God is making even more powerful and brilliant musical geniuses right now!
We also discussed how talented the men were whom God used to lead and educate His nation anciently, and how impressive God’s nation is to others once God educates His nation in His ways. Consider that in light of this quote from The Wonderful World Tomorrow: “Take outstanding, superior men, having undergone a human lifetime of this attitude, this training in the ways of success and perfection. But now change these men by a resurrection into the perfection of immortality. And consider that immortality will multiply their aptitudes, abilities and powers perhaps a million times above what they achieved as humans, by infusing into them the power and glory of God.”
God is about to multiply our aptitudes and bring forth musical geniuses in the birth of His spiritual nation!
The higher echelon of leaders in this Kingdom will be ruling from the Ezekiel temple, the square footage of which speaks of the importance of the musical culture in this ruling Family.
Zephaniah 3:17 shows the one ultimately behind this cultural revolution: “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.”
God will joy over people with singing! The Hebrew word for joy means to go in a circle, to leap or to dance. God will personally bring His tastes, His appreciations, His arts to the Earth, into the human culture.
Jeremiah 33:10-11 reveal that the voice of the Bridegroom and the Bride will be heard in Jerusalem, along with those who bring “the sacrifice of praise” into the house of the Eternal.
God gives us a foretaste of this kind of world today: every Sabbath, every Feast of Tabernacles, in the continual experiences He gives His Church. This is because He is preparing us to help bring His throne-room culture to Earth, and is using us to begin that process even today.
The spread of this culture does not stop on Earth though! Isaiah 51:16 states: “And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.” The Earth is the foundation for planting the heavens!
God wanted Lucifer to fill the universe with godly culture. Because of his failure, this has become the illustrious and inspiring job of humanity! And God is ensuring we have the abilities to perform it! We are about to fill this Earth—and this universe—with His throne-room culture!