October 8, 202
I recently had the opportunity to volunteer at a music festival. A number of bands played and then were critiqued by the adjudicators. The two men who did the adjudication were skilled musicians and university music professors. It was interesting to hear them explain to the various bands how they could improve as a group and even to hear improvement in the few minutes they worked with each group. One thing they repeatedly told each band was something I had never heard before. They told them to hum or sing the notes and compare their playing to their singing. I wondered why for the first few times until one of the adjudicators explained. “The goal of any musician is to sound like the human voice”. He pointed out that the greatest complement a musician can receive is to be told their playing sounded vocal. I couldn’t help but take note.
No wonder then when God revealed how his new covenant people should worship it was using the only instrument created by Him, which every other instrument tries to be, the human voice. As God’s people leave behind the imperfect and embrace the perfect it only makes sense. We leave the imperfect and ineffective animal sacrifice for the perfect effective sacrifice of Christ Heb 10:1-12. We leave behind the imperfect music of mechanical instruments for the perfect fruit of men’s lips Heb 13:15.
In this light it’s no wonder that Charles Spurgieon puts it as he does; “Praise the Lord with the harp. Israel was at school, and used childish things to help her to learn; but in these days when Jesus gives us spiritual food, one can make melody without strings and pipes. We do not need them. They would hinder rather than help our praise. Sing unto him. This is the sweetest and best music. No instrument like the human voice.” (Commentary on Psalms 42:4) “David appears to have had a peculiarly tender remembrance of the singing of the pilgrims, and assuredly it is the most delightful part of worship and that which comes nearest to the adoration of heaven. What a degradation to supplant the intelligent song of the whole congregation by the theatrical prettiness of a quartet, bellows, and pipes! We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it.” (Spurgeon preached to 20,000 people every Sunday for 20 years in the Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle and never were mechanical instruments of music used in his services. When asked why, he quoted 1st Corinthians 14:15. “I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” He then declared: “I would as soon pray to God with machinery as to sing to God with machinery.” (Charles H. Spurgeon,)
Thank God that he has blessed us with the ability to express our love and devotion with the beauty and simplicity of voices raised to heaven.
~ Kevin Cleary