Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs
God’s people have always been a singing people. Many of the Psalms of David were the Israelites songs of triumph and victory. What they believed they expressed in song.
The Book of Psalms is the largest and perhaps most widely used book in the Bible. It explores the full range of human experience in a very personal and practical way. Its 150 “songs” run from the Creation through the patriarchal, theocratic, monarchical, exilic, and postexilic periods. The tremendous breadth of this subject matter in the Psalms includes diverse topics, such as jubilation, war, peace, worship, judgment, messianic prophecy, praise, and lament. The Psalms were set to the accompaniment of stringed instruments and served as the temple hymnbook and devotional guide for the Jewish people.
There were five books of Psalms; Book One (Psalms 1-41), Book Two (Psalms 42-72), Book Three (Psalms 73-89), Book Four (Psalms 90-106), and Book Five (Psalms 107-150).
The Ministry of Music
The Bible speaks of many gifts, and different administrations of the gifts. Some people have a greater or lesser ability than others, some people cannot sing at all, but thank God they can make a melody in their hearts to the Lord. King David was a great song leader and musicians, and many of his songs abide with us today. They are called the book of Psalms.
Psalms, (The Oldest Hebrew Hymnbook) was originally constituted of Psalms three through seventy two. There were morning and evening hymns, as well as hymn designed specifically for Temple worship. The music of the Old Testament worshippers was in many ways more expressive than ours. Every movement of the hymn was full of message. If the song had two parts, one for voices also, and then full orchestration, the change from voice to music had significance to it. There was an added meaning if the music was rising or falling. If composers today could in some manner recapture the mood of the Psalms what music would be produced? How does one sing the notes of repentance?
There were rhythm songs to express excited movement or feeling. There were Prophetic songs that reached far beyond the knowledge of the composer. Songs that would prove the New Testament to be true. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” Luke 24:27, 44, 45.
There were songs for each day of the week. Sunday: Psalm 24, Monday: Psalm 48, Tuesday: Psalm 82, Wednesday: Psalm 94, Thursday: Psalm 81, Friday; Psalm 93, the Sabbath: Psalm 92.
A Singer could stand in any one of three positions; as Poet: in worship, hymns, and prayers; as People: in actual life circumstances; as Prophet: looking toward what God would do in the future. Yet, there was also times when the singer became quiet because the voice of God took control of the tongue and heart and spoke through the Psalmist. For all situations, problems, and victories there was a song. There was even a song that sang itself to rest: Psalm 13. Like a baby crying itself to sleep and relaxing in its mother’s arms in complete trust and confidence, the song resigned oneself into the arms of God.
The Music of the Temple
It appears in the Old Testament that worship styles followed the worship leaders direction at any give time. It is David that gives form to devotional music and worship. He appointed one chief director, four or five associate directors, and it seems that there were four thousand Levite singers broken into twenty- four classes. He raised the number of silver trumpets to one hundred & twenty and developed a wind organ with one hundred different notes of tones that sounded like thunder and could be heard as far as the Mount of Olives. Eight church tones for chanting were taught: Shalsheleth, Legarme, Psik, Zinnor, Rebia, Silluk, Mercha, and Tarcha; since changed to our do, re, and mi scale. King David created the musical scale we have today.
David added great variety to the music of Israel, featuring styles and voice arrangement of presentation. Some of the features were group arrangements, some responsive: first men, then women: at other times, the division of the singers into two great groups placed at some distance of each other so that their voices sounded and resounded as though the heavens were full of exclamation and praise to the Lord.
The Morning Time Church
God’s people have always had a song in their heart, God church has always been a singing church. Christ and His disciples worshipped in this way as recorded in Mark 12:26, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives”. The Church sang after Pentecost, even when they were in dire circumstances: “And in prison at Midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praise unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25). In addition Paul encouraged the church to praise God in Eph 5:19 and Col. 3:16. While instructing the Corinthian Church about the proper way to worship, he told them to “sing with the spirit” and “with understanding also”. 1 Corinthian 14:15. So from the Beginning, the New Testament Church was a worshipping church, but much of this worship and musical praise was done in secret in the first days of the church because of persecution. Later, from 313 A.D. on, because of Edict of Milan, public worship, praise, and singing was officially tolerated. Out of the need to express praise and thanksgiving to God, hymn writing began. Hymns and music plays a greater role in the church than most people realize.
What happened to Songs during the Apostasy
During the Apostasy the Songs of Zion had lost there enthusiasm, the saints were oppress, and their religious freedom again was taken away from them, this is prophesied by Psalm 137, “1By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down; yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. 2We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. 3For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song, and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" 4How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? 5If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cleverness. 6If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. 7Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem's fall, who said, "Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof!" 8O daughter of Babylon who art to be destroyed, happy shall he be, that rewarded thee as thou hast served us. 9Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
The Protestant Reformation
As hymn writing progressed some put their words to original music, some hymn tunes came from songs that were well known, some from classical music, some from secular folk’s songs, and some of the melodies came from songs that were sung in taverns, i.e. “O Danny Boy” melody is now sung by the lyrics “He Looked Beyond My Faults”. In the 1700’s the Wesley brothers contributed greatly to the tradition of hymn singing as part of the worship service. John Wesley wrote 27 hymns and Charles his brother wrote 6500 hymns. Their songs emphasized evangelism and Christian experience.
It was from this rich tradition and the holiness movement that the Church of God of the Evening Light was fashioned and as soon as our movement was born, we began singing our message of truth! Realizing the importance of gospel music as a conveyer of truth, our own D.S. Warner formed a company of singers to travel with him on evangelistic trips. John W. V. Smith writes, “One of the standard procedures was to drive into a town in a buggy or spring wagon, singing with all the strength the company could muster. They would drive up and down the streets of the town until a sufficient crowd had gathered to make an announcement about the meeting they were about to begin. In such a way they were able to attract many people who would not otherwise have attended. Many stories are told of them singing in hotel lobbies, railroad stations, and other public gathering places.” (from Truth Marches On).
It is said “Part singing was the hallmark of our congregational singing. New congregations, meeting in homes or storefronts, didn’t need pianos or organs. Pitch pipes were common to get things started and often we would go from one song to another singing all the verses by hear. One of the greatest things about most of our Reformation songs is that the early songwriters put our theology into their songs. The gospel in song often moves and melts hearts that preaching cannot touch.
I will list seven things that Hymns do as doctrine do
First, they combine theological concepts with the emotional power of music and poetry. Let’s consider the songs of the Evening Light Reformation.
Second, they are in memorable for; they are easy to memorize.
Third, these hymns compress deep doctrinal thoughts into a brief form making them easier to understand.
Fourth, the singing of these hymns calls for the wholehearted participation of the congregation, so it actively involves them in learning and worship.
Fifth, hymns can be repeated frequently without becoming tiresome and we learn from repetition.
Sixth, hymns often connect us to past experience we hold dear, helping us to renew our commitment to the Lord and deepen our understanding of the faith.
Seventh, it convicts sinners and bring many to the altar to repent and accept the saving grace of Christ Jesus our Lord.
We are only one generation away from losing our church of God musical heritage
? The songs we sing reflect where we are doctrinally.
? What we sing makes a far greater impression on us then what we hear from the pulpit although we have to have both. If we don’t get doctrine from the pulpit and if we don’t get it again in our music we’re going to lose it. The message that has made the Church of God is going to be totally forgotten and we will be just like any other group of people, wondering why we exist. The doctrines and songs define who we are.
? Today we are seeing a complete transformation of Christian music using popular tunes, rock, and praise choruses. The reason given for this upheaval is that we must make room for the newer generations and the kind of music they like. Some say if we don’t use the music they like then we won’t attract them.
? Fewer and fewer heritage songs are being learned or sung in many of our congregations and we must reverse the trend.