MUSIC TO MY EARS
by Matthew Coover
Throughout the inspired word of Yahweh we are commanded to make music in our hearts to Elohim. Just what is the Scripture speaking of when it uses this word, and just how far have we wandered from it's true meaning? Could there possibly be a chance that we have wandered too far?
That we can get a better perception of what the word 'music' really means, turn with me to page 702 in the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. In the second column, close to the top, we find a list of how many times the word "music" (spelled 'musick') is found in the Authorized version of the Scriptures. The list totals exactly 15 times. If we take notice to the numbers besides the verses, the 15 appearances of the word 'musick' stem from four words in the Hebrew and Chaldee (for the old testament occurrences) and one in the Greek (for the new testament occurrence). If you will take the time to turn to the back of your concordance to the Hebrew/Chaldee Dictionary you will find the number of the occurrence in I Chron. 15:16. This original Hebrew word, shiyrah, pronounced shee- raw', means "a song; abstr, singing: --musical (-ick), X sing (-er, -ing), song. The occurrence in Lam 3:63 (# 4485), (mangiynah, pronounced "man-ghee-naw") means a satire: - music. The next (# 2170) comes from the word "zemar'', pronounced 'zem-awr', meaning instrumental musick (music). As we travel on down through the list we come to the only new testament occurrence of"musick", located in Luke 15:25. The number for the original Greek word is 4858 (sumphonia, pronounced 'soom-fo-nee'-ah') , and when looked up in the Greek dictionary in the back of the concordance, means "Unison of sound ("symphony") , i.e. a concert of instruments (harmonious note): - music." If we unite the various meanings above for the word "music" as it appears is the KJV of the Scriptures, we come up with the following: The music (-ick) of which the inspired word of Yahweh speaks of is a song; singing-musical, to sing, or instrumental music, meaning music made by instruments alone without lyrics, unison of sound. and that which has a harmonious note. Ever wondered what the word meant before? There you've got it, spelled out plain and precise as Yahweh meant it to be. Now for the next question.
If you notice, one of the above listed meanings is 'a song'. Who and/or What does Yahweh command that our song be dedicated to? Is it fun? Is it entertainment or the flesh? Is our song to be simply dedicated to whatever we feel like at the time? The word surely doesn't command that it is for any of the above according to what I have read. Am I not correct in stating that our song is to be dedicated to the same that our lives are to be dedicated to; Yahshua, the one who has redeemed us from all the above? Turn with me now to Psalms 33:3. We read, Sing unto HIM a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise. Now to Psalms 119:54. Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. In the scripture the Psalmist tells us that Yahweh's statutes have been his songs. What blessed words for a song; are they not. Should it not be our hope and prayer that the same statutes may be our song as well? Isaiah 42:10. Sing unto Yahweh a new song, and HIS praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. Verse 11. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, and the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Verse 12a. Let them give esteem unto Yahweh, and declare HIS praise ....... Brothers and sisters in the Messiah, who is the almighty, powerful, supreme being we have been commanded to give our praises to in this inspiring passage of scripture? Is it not the one who fills our spirits with a sense of awe; The Creator, Our Father, I AM, YAHWEH, the way, the truth and the light? Are we giving ALL the esteem and praise to the infinite ruler of the universe or is it possible that many of us could be falling short of the ultimate goal? It is a fearful thought, but could some of that esteem be going to humankind? When we take a realistic look at the whole panorama, I believe we will find that too much of the esteem is going to mortal man.
It was prophesied thousands of years ago that the times would wax worse as the returning of the Messiah drew near. Is not this what we see in the world all around us today? Are not human beings, the ones created in the image of the creator, ever so quickly forgetting their maker and judge? Are not worldly and evil influences slowly creeping into it seems almost every aspect of life; music included? It brings sorrow to my heart to see what is happening today, but l am afraid it cannot be ignored. This hidden trap must be brought to light. It must be utterly exposed to the eyes of true followers of Yahweh. It MUST be boldly addressed.
Since the beginning of time music has been a part of the life of man. It has eased the soul, brought peace to the mind, brought humankind closer to the Creator, and many other things. Nowadays there is a counterfeit, as there is with so many other things of Yahweh, our Elohim. This counterfeit is the music of the world, and this counterfeit is quickly finding it's way into the believer's homes, church, school, and way of life. What we need to realize is what this counterfeit really is, and what we need to do about it. The Psalmist states in Psalms 40:3, "And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our Elohim: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in Yahweh. Amongst all the noise now under the title of music, the need for a "new song" is apparent. As we see, this new song is to be part of our witness for our Almighty Elohim! What then is the problem? Are folks afraid to draw others to Yahweh? Are they afraid to stand up for what is different? If this is what they are really afraid of, what is the problem? Are we not called to be a "peculiar people; a set apart generation"? To be this peculiar people, our tastes, likes & dislikes, language, music, and way of life in general must be 'peculiar' as well. We cannot; be a true follower of the Messiah and simultaneously fall back into the lusts and desires of the flesh. ALL of the old man must be renounced. When one has a mattress full of bedbugs, will one not be bitten while he sleeps by only pretending the bugs aren't there? Likewise, if a garment is infested with fleas, what is the effective way to rid ourselves of the fleas? Must we only shake a small portion of the fleas onto the floor for the time being? Certainly not, for the flea's will simply crawl up our legs and re-attack us. In order to be rid of the vermin, the filthy rag must be burned.
The question is why are so many of Yahshua's followers falling for the trap of worldly music? I see those claiming to be followers of Yahshua listening to 'Christian Rock' as they call it, when YAHSHUA is the only rock. But here again is another counterfeit. I see claiming believers listening to 'rap' as they call it. That is not where it ends either. I see "Christian" musical artists entertaining their audiences with this trash, and all under the name of the Messiah, but with the motive of drawing a crowd. The word tells us to "make a joyful noise!"
While I'm on this subject let me share a little story with you. A number of years back when we lived in Fayetteville, we were situated right where the pavement turned to gravel road. It was a beautiful setting, but due to the fact that the gravel road was going through state forest, lots of folks took advantage of the opportunity and would come flying back through there to do who knows what in the woods. Lots of them had on some pretty trashy 'music' too. One day this car was driving past our place sounding like it contained a whole pack of dogs. Not realizing what it was, I said to Mom and Dad, "They sure do have enough dogs in there! I can't see them though. Where are they? In the trunk?
They explained to me that they were listening to trash music called 'rap'. I mis-heard them and thought they said 'rat-music'! For the longest time I couldn't figure out why someone would downgrade their own junk so much, but one thing for sure, I knew that 'rat-music' fit it well! Anyway, the real name's just as downgrading. Praise Yahweh!
Now there's some folks who are into the 'good' stuff: Country! "Good?" I ask. To the contrary I am very much inclined to ask what believers think they are doing listening to country music. It has been said, 'If you play country backward, you get your pick-up truck, your wife, and your hound dog all back again!" It really sounds spiritual, doesn't it? Thank Yahweh that it isn't, or there would be nothing left to live for. If you still feel that country is acceptable, explain why so many rock artists started out with country. The basis for a belief against the world's music stands out oh so clear, but that doesn't matter to today's majority. They are gonna listen to it no matter what. Will you be included in their number?
I'm sure you have noticed how much modern music includes drums in it's make-up. You'd have to be from the moon to not have noticed. (Too bad!) Artists seem to think that in order to be music, it has to have those drums. What really sickens me is when they bring the drums into the house of worship, Several years ago we noticed a sign for a barn meeting along the highway. Curious, we decided to go one night to see what it was about. Well it was about something alright; something of the Pentecostal sort as we soon found out. They had drums that they were banging on as hard as they could and the preacher was shouting so hard I'm sure you could hear Him ten miles away. Anyway, I have no idea why we stayed as long as we did, but I sure left there with a headache I'll never forget! Worship in the name of Yahshua? I hardly think!
As believers in the Messiah we must ask some important questions about the usage of drums in music. Will you turn with me to Leveticus 25:9? We read, 'Then thou shalt cause the ______ to be sounded on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement ye shall make the ______ sound throughout all your land.' Drums? Wait a second. I don't think that's what Leveticus reads. All throughout the Scriptures the lsraelites were commanded to 'sound the trumpet', not the drum. Take a look in your concordance if you have one, and look up the word trumpet. It is used 61 times in the King James Version of the Scriptures. In the last day, as well, the trump shall resound and Yahshua shall descend from on high. Now look up the word drum. In the D's you can find words anywhere from Dabareh to dying, and yet the word "drum" is listed how many times? Zero. Now don't get me wrong. I do not want you to base you beliefs against drums on the fact that they are not listed in the concordance, for according to that theory, we could keep Easter (If we read the KJV), but it is interesting to note that they are not. So you say that drums were not invented yet back in "Scriptures Times"? While this COULD be true, It is my feelings that Yahweh, with all the detailed instructions He gave for the tabernacle, could have easily designed a drum if He wanted them in use at that time. However, according to other ancient writings we find that drums WERE in use during "Scripture times". Chances are that you are not familiar with the Apocrypha. If you are however, you will find that the word "drums" is mentioned one time in the book of I Esdras chapter 5:2 (NRSV). However, it is just as interesting to note that the Israelites were not the ones playing the drums. It was King Darius' troops. If you are familiar with the New Revised Standard Version, you may have noticed that this translation uses the word "drums" four times in the book of Daniel. Once again however, whether this is a mis-translation or not, the 'drums' are being played in a worship ceremony to an idol. In the King James it appears that the word 'drums' was translated as 'sackbut'. According to the name, it seems as though they all would have been in the same family. Some of the questions I as myself are such as these.
1. When played alone, drums are not soothing to listen to. For that matter, in most cases, even when played with other instruments, the sound is still not a soothing one. They are only the loud noise mentioned in a previous scripture, not the joyful noise of which King David speaks. What about the command to make a joyful noise? Drums may sound OK in the background, but especially when they are played in specific ways, they simply sound like machine guns; NOT a joyful noise
2. It is known that drums were and still are a part of heathen worship rituals. Does not Yahweh commands us NOT to adopt the customs of the heathen?
3. If we choose to use drums, to what extent are we going to use them? Will they be the main focus point in our music? Will we use them for minor background rhythm, such as we use cymbals and the tambourine? (both of which the scriptures speak of). Will we graft in worldly styles such as a rock beat to our music or will we choose to avoid drums totally to shun all possible stumbling blocks such as these? In my experience, I have not yet seen a definite need to avoid drums totally, but I do stress the definite need to only use them in GREAT moderation if at all.
4. Most Importantly, will we have a scriptural basis to back up our beliefs or will they be formulated on our own ideas?
Allow me to warn you that without firm convictions, minor usage of drums could be the decision which opens the future door to major usage of drums. This in it's-self does not make drums something wrong, but it is certainly something to be cautious of when considering the idea. If you feel that even minor usage of this instrument will be a possible stumbling block to you, it may be better to choose not to use them altogether. It's always better to be fore-warned and fore-armed. Use your better judgment, with Yahweh as supreme judge over all your actions and decisions.
Some musical artists we have listened to started with no drums. Later releases showed slight changes with a few drums just here and there. On and on it went until a rock beat has begun, to be adopted. We can only hope that these artists will choose to go 'back to the basics' and improve their style, but will this really happen, or will it continue to progress as it has thus far? The rock beat may turn your stomach at first, but through gradual increase of this beat in the music which you listen to, it can easily "not seem so bad after all". Do NOT allow yourself to be thus deceived!
As well, please note that the musical styles I have discussed are only a very small sampling of the styles unfit for Yahshua's followers to listen to. There are many more besides, which I will not even begin to go into.
Thus-far we have only discussed the instrumental make-up of music. If this is all the farther we go, we have not completely succeeded in creating a music that is pleasing to Yahweh. In fact, we have only went half way, and if you stop at the half mark, it is worse than if you had never started! The issue that has not been mentioned is the lyrics or the words of the song. This is of equal or possibly more importance than the style of music. In reality, the words play a major role in the style of the music. The instruments can be used in an acceptable way while the words ruin the whole song.
A certain "believing" singer we are familiar with sings a number of songs written by a friend of his. One talks about a mother who has lost her daughter to the world, and another about a woman who's brother died. His most next to most recent release contains two which are of the same style; one of which portrays a homeless woman. The problem with these songs is that they offer no hope in the way which they are written. They simply present these individual people and for example, the one says that "Nobody knows which way she will go or if she'll ever come around, Maybe someday she'll find the pieces that have come apart, and there'll be no more breaking either heart'. Another ends ".... Bitter man." Yet another states, "The world spins without meaning now that you're gone"! These songs do not tell the wonderful forgiveness of Yahweh. They do not tell of life eternal which waits at the end of the believer's life, or of the peace that comes with the knowledge that one has passed on into the 'better land'. The individuals therein are simply wandering around without a solution to their problems; wandering around in a shroud of darkness and uncertianty. In reality', the words do NOT glorify Yahweh.
The danger with such songs is that it is SO very easy to just say, "Oh, what a nice song" without considering the picture and witness the song presents·? In the past we have made that same mistake. It is obvious that the words do not have to be obnoxious to be meaningless to Yahweh. The real reason behind music, being Yahweh Himself, is all that need be absent·? Some of these songs (including one of the above mentioned) may include a word of two about heaven or saying a prayer. However', just as a cross between two canines will not produce a purebreed, but rather a mutt, carnality with a word or two about Yahweh does NOT produce pure and undefiled religion.
The last point I intend to discuss is humor in music. I notice that humor is especially prevalent in what they term as Children's music. A good number of years ago we frequently listened to this cassette by Steve Green full of Scripture verses put to music. The majority were very good. The music was acceptable, (at least at the time... it's been so long since I heard it I could not say for sure now.) and it was a good way to learn Scripture verses, but one in particular always kind of turned me off. The song started off: There is a friend; a friend who sticks -- closer than a brother..... There was then an interruption with a Child's voice asking, "A friend who stinks? No!.... Sticks!.... You mean like peanutbutter and jelly? Yea... sorta". The music whines, and the song progresses. "Like Messiah?" I must ask. I'm afraid that the 'question' is what stinks, and all in the name of humor. There are several other instances which I can think of which demonstrate the same thing, but I will not go into them as one may have been too many.
What I ask is this: Why was that phrase inserted into the song? What was the purpose and hidden motive? I'm sure Steve would say it was to bring a laugh or something, but I still wonder. What is it that makes folks think children, or 'kids' as they call them, have to have something to lure them to Yahshua? Are we not supposed to come to Yahshua because of a genuine need for forgiveness? Isn't it quite a perversion to have the kids coming for fun and have a good laugh? The problem lies in the fact that when children's music has such inserts, it does not really bring ANYONE to Messiah. As soon as the kids figure out that there's more to it than fun, most of them are ready to call it quits.
Consequently, we need to be aware that such humor in music is unnecessary, and to say the least, quite damaging; a thing that Yahshua would not approve of. Such humor is quite dry and doesn't easily coincide with the statement in Psalms 23, ".....my cup runneth over".
In Ephesians 5:18b and 19 Paul says, "...but be filled with the spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart unto Yahweh." KJV This is the area in which I feel so many are missing the mark. Their intentions may be good, but the music which they take in and put out is not true music for Yahweh, but rather, music designed by the devil to gratify the flesh. Of the styles available today, only one is music to my ears, and I sincerely hope that you feel likewise. After all, when it comes right down to it there are only two kinds in this world. The only kind that is worth paying heed to at all is the kind of which Scripture speaks; the kind which is music to the ears of Yahweh.
Farewell and may Elohim lead you in this seemingly simple yet important area of your life.