March 31, 2017

Not "Just" Poetry (Psalms part 2)

Many people already know that the book of Psalms is often called the great hymnal of the Bible, or the Bible's songbook. And yet, if you look in any modern Bible, you only see the words: no musical notation.

Why is that?

Many answers to that simple question have been suggested. Let's investigate ONE of those arguments here...

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Perhaps the Psalms were only poems, without music?

The Bible itself proves this argument to be false over and over again. 1 Chronicles 16:9 says, "Sing to Him, sing Psalms to Him..." If you're singing, that's music! A great number of the Psalms contain a line which says, "to the Chief Musician," or perhaps in more modern translations, "to the choir director." Clearly, those psalms in particular were not intended to be presented without music. Ephesians 5:12 mentions, "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart" (Colossians 3:16 contains a very similar reference).  James 5:13 says, "Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms." It seems that Psalms and singing go hand-in-hand.

Furthermore, many of the Psalms contain the words, "a Psalm of David." In Hebrew, the word translated as "psalm" here is mizmor, which literally means, "a melody." In fact, this very same word is used in exactly this way 57 times in the book of Psalms. It seems clear that the psalms were intentionally created to be presented musically.

In no way am I denying the power of poetry presented without music. In fact, the Psalms of the Bible are literary masterpieces, and their words alone convey so much: wisdom, love, joy, heartache, sorrow, even anger.

And yet...

There is a very special power in music. Without using any words at all, music can express the full range of human emotions. Yet music is more: music can actually influence the emotions that you are feeling. Think about that. Music by itself has the power to shape your emotional state! As a musician, if I am skilled enough, I can make you feel happy. I can make you feel sad. Or angry. Or whatever. Without saying a single word. Music transcends words: you may not speak another person's tongue, but music speaks to all of us. No other art form can touch our hearts in quite the same way as music.

Now, if you bring poetry together with music, you have something truly extraordinary. You have what we commonly refer to as a song. But there is nothing common at all about even the simplest of songs; poetry + music = epic power. Our goal with this study is to gain a better understanding of this power, but more importantly, how to use it wisely in our everyday lives.

Let me end this with a question... If a song in the hands of a lowly human being can have such an enormous impact on us, just imagine what God can do through a song! If God spoke the universe into existence, what happens if He sings?

"The Lord your God ... will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
~Zephaniah 3:17

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