130 - Holy, Holy, Holy [c]
Is there a standard that determines what is beauty and value in music or is it just dependent on differing tastes that people have? Listen to this lesson to learn that music was present in eternity past before the creation of the world. Find out that Satan was the master musician and that there is an angelic choir. Hear three questions we need to ask ourselves that will help us realize the importance of worshiping the God of the universe. When we come to Sunday morning church services, we need to accept that we are in the presence of this majestic God and that we are to reflect on what He has done for us as we prepare to spend eternity with Him.
During this class Dr. Dean referenced a book by Allen Ross, Recalling the Hope of Glory.
Holy, Holy, Holy
1 Chronicles 15:1–16; Isaiah 6:1–4
Samuel Lesson #130
May 1, 2018
“Father, what a joy it is that we can come together, and we can focus upon You. We can think about You and that You will guide and direct our thinking and that God the Holy Spirit will open up the eyes of our soul further to understand Your Word. We’re thankful that as Paul says in Ephesians that at salvation the eyes of our soul had been opened and because of that we can understand truth through the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit.
“Father, we pray for us as a congregation that we may be strong in the truth, and Father, we pray that You would give us a real desire to serve You and to worship You with our lives. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
If you want to open your Bibles now, you can open them to Job 38. We won’t be there for a few minutes, but we’ll get started there. We’re studying in 2 Samuel, and we’ve gone to the episode where David is bringing the ark [to Jerusalem], which is God’s throne room. This is as the psalm says, God is enthroned between the cherubim, that is the two cherubs that are on top of the mercy seat. This is the throne of God on the earth that resides in the holy of holies, and David is bringing the ark in.
We’ve looked at the first problem, the first episode where he didn’t do it according to God’s standards. As a result, there was divine discipline on Uzzah because he reached out, and he treated the ark with disrespect, and as a result of that, God instantly took his life. According to 1 Chronicles 15, David stepped back. He re-examined the Scripture, which is what we should always do. He has been rebuked and corrected by God. Now he is going to be instructed in righteousness as 2 Timothy 3:16–17 says, and as a result, he is redesigning the whole framework.
He’s going to bring the ark in according to the standards of the Torah. It is going to be carried on the shoulders of the Levites and taken to where it will be reunited eventually with the tabernacle, ultimately the temple. He is going to construct the tent for it there in Jerusalem. The remains of the tabernacle are up in Gibeon, which is about six miles away.
We develop from that by going into 1 Chronicles 15 and looking at what David did to structure the Levitical worship during this time. I want you to understand that in the Old Testament, God progressively reveals a number of doctrines. We start off, if you think about it in terms of salvation, with Genesis 3:15 in the curse upon the serpent. He says that the Seed of the woman will stomp his head, but he will bite the heel of the Seed of the woman. This is the called the protoevangelium; that is the first hint of the gospel that through the Seed of the woman, God will provide the defeat and destruction of Satan in his opposition to God’s plan, and it is through the Seed of the woman that salvation will come.
As we’ve studied many, many times, there is a progress. Immediately God is going to solve the problem of their lack of clothing; He’s going to provide them with leather clothing. In the process of teaching them how to make leather and how to sew it to make clothes, He’s going to sacrifice an animal. In doing that, He will teach them about sacrifice, He will teach them about the anatomy of an animal and all the things that are involved in that.
The next scene that we see in Genesis is where Cain and Abel are bringing their sacrifices. Abel brings an animal sacrifice according to God’s revelation, but Cain does not, and God rejects Cain’s sacrifice. Cain gets angry and kills Abel, and so we see sin intensifying, but we are learning things about salvation. Skip forward to Genesis 15:6, and we learn that Abraham is made righteous, is declared righteous because of faith, so we learn something more about what is entailed in salvation.
We go forward into Exodus, and we look at the Exodus event itself—the Passover and the Passover lamb and the application of the blood on the door posts and the lintel of the house and that God passed over those houses and did not take the life of the firstborn. This foreshadows what Christ will do in redeeming us from sin as that lamb redeemed them from death at the time of the Passover.
There is this progress of revelation through the Old Testament. We don’t know exactly how much any of those writers or prophets early on knew, but we know they knew a whole lot more than was recorded because of hints that are given in later revelation in the Book of Hebrews and other New Testament books.
There’s a progress of revelation. You have additional Messianic prophecy in the Psalms. You have Messianic prophecy, for example, in Isaiah 6:7 that talks about the virgin birth. Isaiah 7:14 talks about the fact that this One who is born is going to be called “Immanuel, God with us,” and in Isaiah 9:6, He is also referred to as “mighty God and Father of eternity,” emphasizing His eternality. We then go to Isaiah 56, and we get a more refined picture and a better-defined picture—doctrines developed through the Old Testament. God progressively reveals here and there these doctrines.
When it comes to worship, it’s not any different. The first time we see the term “worship” has to do with Abraham’s servant, but we see Abraham worshiping before that in terms of sacrifices. It goes all the way back to the sacrifices of righteous Abel who is bringing sacrifice before God. That is part of worship. The worship was patriarchal, it was familial, it centered around a sacrifice until the Mosaic Law.
We can infer, I think—by the fact that Miriam, who is Moses’ sister, writes a hymn of praise following their deliverance at the Exodus—that the writing of hymns of praise is not unknown. It may not be revealed what they have written up to that point, but the fact that she does this indicates that there is some background for it, that has developed already—the idea of using music to praise God. Where did that idea of using music to praise God come from? What is the standard for that? That’s something we’re going to come to and talk about a little bit this evening.
What we’re talking about is worship, how it developed. I think that before we start thinking about evaluating what is going on in churches today, we need to understand the biblical pattern, the biblical standard, because once we come to grips with what the Scripture teaches, then I think it becomes easy for us to think through and evaluate anything that we are doing as worship. We need to try to elevate what we are doing to see if it fits a biblical standard, constantly being humble enough to recognize that just because what we do is what we’ve always done, and what we do is comfortable, that maybe we can push the boundaries of the envelope a little more and improve that which we are doing. We have to understand this from a divine viewpoint framework and not from a human viewpoint framework.
I mentioned last time I’m reading a book by Allen Ross called Recalling the Hope of Glory. Allen was one of my professors at Dallas, an Old Testament professor. Even back in the early 1970s, he was thinking quite a bit about just what is biblical worship, and he’s thought profoundly. I don’t always agree with where he goes with some of his conclusions, that so, in case anybody buys his book and tries to work their way through this—it’s a tome—that they won’t think that because he says it, I’m endorsing it. But his biblical study is insightful.
In the opening of his introduction on page 35, he makes the following comment I thought was worthy of reciting and reading to you all. He says, “The words of worship”—think about what he is saying; this is somewhat challenging for everyone. I wish every pastor, every congregation, and individual would think about what he is expressing here. “The words of worship flow so easily from our lips that we seldom stop to think about them. We casually”—now that word casual is a really critical term to think about in terms of what’s going on in worship today. It is a not a good word—
“We casually talk about knowing the Lord; we say we talk to God in one way, and in one way or another hear from God. We attend churches on Sundays to have, as we say, fellowship with God and each other. There we celebrate the belief that He is our God with songs and hymns, but even these have become so familiar to us that our minds drift to other more immediate concerns. And when we approach the Lord’s Table to eat with God, as it were, we often do not have enough time to appreciate what it means. In short, our worship services have become time-bound and routine. We have been so successful in fitting God into our important schedules, that worship is often just another activity, but it should be anything but routine and ordinary.”
He then writes a little later on,
“Our attention to the Lord must not be an ordinary part of life, our worship of Him should be the most momentous, urgent, and glorious activity in our lives.”
I want you to pay attention to what he is saying there. When he says our attention to the Lord must not be an ordinary part of life, what he’s pointing out is that too often what we find in churches and what happens on Sunday morning is not that different in many ways from what people go through day in and day out. The culture of Sunday morning in many people’s lives, in church even, is not any different from the culture of the rest of the week and the rest of the world around them.
Whereas in Scripture, what we see is there is something uber ordinary, super ordinary about God, and therefore, anything that we do that comes under the category of worship is not going to be like anything else that we are doing in our lives. It is something that is totally different because of the unique focus of worship. If we really understand what it is that we are doing and Who it is that we are worshiping, then we must understand that what happens during that time that we call worship should not be something that is not dissimilar from the world around us.
Since having Al as a professor and because a lot of things were happening—books published, things thought, things changed, morning worship services transformed in the 1970s— I’ve done a lot of thinking about this over the past 30–40 years. The one thing that I have tried to emphasize when I talk about worship is that the focus of our worship is God as the unique, incomparable and incomprehensible Creator of all the heavens, the earth, the seas, and all that is in them. Think about that a minute. Let that sort of sink in.
We are here to worship someone who is totally unlike anything in our frame of reference. He is the Creator God, and what we’ll see—I want you to pay attention when we look at some of the passages that talk about worship—how central His role as Creator is and what they’re worshiping.
In fact, what we will see is from the time that He laid the foundation of the earth mentioned in Job 38:7, “and the sons of God sang for joy”—which was at least 6,000 years ago—from that point even into the future at the time of the end of the Church Age, the beginning of the Tribulation period, the angels have continuously come together to praise God, to sing “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” Why? “Because You have created all things.”
You’d think they would get bored; we do pretty easily. One of the motivations behind the rise of contemporary Christian music and contemporary Christian worship is “Why should we do things the way we’ve done them for so many centuries?” We’re bored.
Well, look at the angels; they have for the last 6,000 years and maybe for another 500 or a million years and maybe on into eternity future have sung praise to God and worship God because He is the Creator of all things. Now, they worship Him and pray for other things, but that is central. They don’t get bored with it. It is an important theme and it ought to tell us that maybe we just haven’t probed the significance of God’s creatorship, His creation of the universe, the heavens, the earth, and all that is into the depth that we should. If the angels are praising God for His act of creation for 6,000 years and have not become bored, then maybe we should rethink our understanding of Creation a little bit.
As I said, we focus on God. He’s unique, He’s in comprehensible, He’s incomparable as the Creator. As such, He is—the Scripture tells us again and again—not like any other god. He is not like anything else. He is not like anyone else. He is totally distinct and totally other.
Let me suggest that if the God that we are worshipping is unlike anything else in our frame of reference, then perhaps what we do during that time when we worship God should be different. It shouldn’t be like everything else. Maybe the things that we do in that time of worship are different from anything else that we do.
Maybe the songs that we sing should not be reflective of the music we like, the pop culture around us, the country western music, the rap, the 1950s music, the choruses that we sing.
Maybe they should not reflect what is normative in our culture because what we are doing on Sunday morning is totally different, and we are worshipping a unique and distinct God. What we are doing on Sunday morning is something that should be emphasizing and highlighting the seriousness, the grandeur, the excellence, and the sublime glory of God.
Back in the 1970s, I remember that some of the origins of what we now refer to as contemporary Christian music and contemporary Christian culture had their roots in what became known as the Jesus revival coming out of the late 1960s and early 1970s in California. It reflected a lot of the hippie culture, the baby-boomer culture, and baby-boomer type of music. One of the things that was going on at that same time in church culture and in seminaries was the rise of something called the church growth movement. You can’t really separate the two. A lot of the key thinkers and influential people in one were influential in the other. They had a good motive, and the motive was “We need to reach people with the gospel. We need to communicate truth to them, and we need to make our churches attractive to them.”
When you get to that last line, maybe we ought to stop and think about that because when you start saying things like “We need to make it attractive to unbelievers” that seems to open up a can of worms. By definition, the value system, the likes and dislikes of an unsaved pagan are going to be quite different from the likes and the dislikes and the value system of someone who has been regenerated and someone who is growing spiritually and understanding the structures of the Word of God.
Out of the church growth movement, you had some major churches develop that came on peoples’ horizons nationally, such as Willow Creek Community Church, which is in a suburb of Chicago. The pastor was and is Bill Hybels, and they were at the cutting edge of this. Sort of the grandfather of all of this was Calvary Chapel coming out of Southern California where Chuck Smith was the pastor, and there were good things and bad things that came out of the Calvary Chapel movement.
Part of the “bad things” was they are really the source the root of contemporary Christian music. They developed a whole style of music, they had singers called the Maranatha Singers, they developed their own label called Maranatha Music, and a lot of what later became known as Christian choruses had their roots there. A lot of baby boomers liked it because unlike singing traditional hymns, you could clap along with the music and your toes would tap and you’d kind of sway. You just had a really good time.
The underlying philosophy was this: On Sunday morning, churches are so different from everything else in the frame of reference of an unbeliever that they don’t feel comfortable in church, and their conclusion was that was a bad thing. My conclusion is if the culture at church reflects divine viewpoint and the Word of God and the culture outside the church reflects the worldly philosophy of the culture at large, then there should be a difference that when an unbeliever comes into church, he should recognize “This is different. I don’t feel comfortable here. I don’t understand this music. I don’t know why they’re doing the things that they are doing. I have nothing in my frame of reference to understand this.”
For the church-growth person, for someone to not feel comfortable because the music they heard wasn’t like the music that they heard on the [radio.] I can’t tell you how any times I’ve heard people say that the music we sing in church needs to be similar to the music you hear on the radio because the unbelievers need to feel comfortable. I disagree with that. I think unbelievers need to be made not intentionally uncomfortable, but when they are exposed to divine viewpoint truth, it will make them uncomfortable. They will become aware that they are a sinner; that is not a comforting thought.
Somebody once told me that I should always feel happy and uplifted and joyful when I leave church. I don’t think, as we’ve studied in Matthew, that if you listen to Jesus’ messages, you felt happy and warm and fuzzy when you finished, or if you read some of Paul’s epistles and understood what they were saying, that’s not a warm, fuzzy feeling. The purpose is not to create a warm, fuzzy feeling or to make people feel bad. The issue is to teach the truth, and God the Holy Spirit is going to apply it, and sometimes, as we all know, that’s not a happy time. We have to recognize that we are to change. Now we live in a time with millennials where they want a safe space, and anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, they have a real problem with. This presents another challenge.
Back in the 1970s, one of the primary rationales for going into contemporary Christian music and contemporary Christian worship was so that the unsaved searcher would feel comfortable in church. They were singing a new kind of music that would make an unbeliever feel comfortable coming into church. To put it bluntly, their argument was that the music of the church, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, that organism which has been set apart and sanctified by the death of Jesus and brought into a unique harmony and fellowship with Him, that the music of that body of believers that was to worship the Lord God who created all things and provided redemption for all mankind should be a reflection of and comfortable for those who are immersed in a non-Christian culture.
Think about that. What they were saying is the kind of music that characterizes the church, the body of Christ should be the kind of music that made an unsafe pagan feel comfortable with being in church. This of course is a total contradiction. The impact has been catastrophic for the health of the church in the last 40 years.
Let me suggest that if you look at the average evangelical “conservative congregation” today—what passes for a conservative, evangelical congregation—and compare that to a conservative evangelical congregation of the 1960s, their biblical knowledge is far less today than it was 50 years ago; their understanding of the things of God is far less; their family life is far worse than it was; the state of the marriages in our congregations today is far less; the spiritual life is much more impotent than it was 50 years ago. If this kind of approach to God is as important and significant as people think it is, then why is the church today so ignorant? 99.9% of evangelicals today are biblically and theologically illiterate. Why is it that we have dumbed everything down so much that in most churches, the governing philosophy is verse-by-verse Bible teaching is not good? We’re going to have 20-minute sermons because, after all, people in our culture cannot handle more than 20 minutes due to television. We have to always cater to them and reduce everything to the lowest common denominator.
Five things have happened as a result of the impact of contemporary worship and music on the evangelical church.
First of all, it has made worship more anthropocentric instead of theocentric and Christocentric. Let’s break that down a minute.
It’s made it more anthropocentric. If we listen to the words of the choruses, they focus more about me and my experience with God than on the objective things that God has done in history and in redemption. You look at the songs that are traditional hymns, and they are reflections, they are meditations. Before they are set to music, they are poetry—good poetry—and they express high thoughts about Who God is, Who Christ is and what He has done.
The worship today is man-centered. It is about me. There’s a claim that they’re talking about God and talking about Jesus, but it is a superficial focus on God and Jesus. Singing about Jesus in repetitive phrases over and over again is not Christocentric. It is Christocentric when you think about a hymn like, “And can it be that I should gain an interest in my Savior’s blood.” Now that is probing deep thoughts about the Savior’s death and the work of Christ on the Cross. This is what I mean by becoming theocentric and Christocentric.
The second thing is it’s made our concept of God and worship anemic, diluted, and insipid. Those are strong words. It’s minimized our understanding of God. It’s a true observation that when the church historically has developed a higher view of God, it has a lower view of man. In other words, the more we comprehend the holiness, the righteousness, and the justice of God, the more we realize how unworthy man is of salvation and how wonderful the love of God and His grace in providing salvation is. When we have a lower view of God and a higher view of man—in other words, he’s not that sinful. Isn’t it wonderful God saved us; we really deserved it—then why worship a God Who is that great and grand? When our concept of God is anemic, then our worship and our response to Him is not so robust because after all, it’s important that He saved us—“I deserved it. After all, it’s all about me.” It is our self-centered, narcissistic culture.
Third, the result of that is that we have worship. What do I mean by worship? I don’t mean singing. Worship involves prayers, the songs we sing, our giving, communion, baptism, the ministry of the Word of God. All of that has been corrupted because of the low view of God. It’s all been dumbed down and made more superficial and simple.
This last week we went to the Museum of the Bible, took a large group there. We had about 75 people. One comment I heard from a number of people is that the sections that dealt with the Bible—the New Testament, the world of Jesus, and the Old Testament—when you look at those, it was basically pretty simple survey kind of stuff. It was a walk through the Old Testament, a walk through the New Testament, hit the high points, and give people a basic frame of reference. Several people commented that obviously this is not for people who have really studied the Word.
The reason they have done that is because 99% of the Christians that will walk through the doors of the Museum of the Bible have never read their Bible all the way through. They’ve probably never read a book of the Bible all the way through, and they don’t understand the framework of the Bible. They are addressing that vacuum of biblical knowledge that exists in the Christian culture to try to encourage people and give them a framework so that they will have a desire to go read their Bibles.
The result of this impact of dumbing God down and dumbing the Scripture down is that our relationship with God is often framed as something that is casual and informal. Worship has become more casual. You go to many churches and the pastor dresses pretty close to how the homeless guy on the corner dresses. He’s so afraid to dress up. Yet if we were to go for an audience with the President of the United States or with the CEO of Exxon or some other major company, or if we were to meet with the Queen of England or the Pope in Rome, we would not dress as if we were going shopping at HEB on the weekend. We would dress appropriately. Even a couple of weeks ago when Zuckerberg went to testify at the Senate, he wore a coat and tie. He didn’t dress like he was going out with his buddies.
Although in some ways Jesus is our friend, and that’s fine to sing hymns, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” because the emphasis there is He is our peer Who died for us, and He has given His life for us, and it says no better friend has anyone than someone who lays down his life. Jesus said that, so that is true, but it is awfully hard to be a buddy with a consuming fire.
When we are worshipping the God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, we are worshipping the God Who appeared before Isaiah in Isaiah 6, and Isaiah did not say, “Oh there’s my buddy; God’s my friend.” He said, Isaiah 6:5, “Woe is me… Because I am a man of unclean lips,” and he fell on his face before God. Whenever we have these episodes in the Scripture of someone who has a theophany and sees God, their response isn’t to run up and give God a big hug like He’s your buddy, but to fall on their face before a holy God. By dumbing down our worship, what we have done is we have eviscerated the very core of what is biblical worship.
The fourth thing that has happened is that we have lost sight of the majesty of God. He is the sovereign Lord of the universe, the Creator God of the heavens and the earth, and the Redeemer of all mankind. He has incomprehensible power, incomparable holiness. His righteousness is rigorous and His love is immense. We have to comprehend those attributes of God.
What do we do? To restore our vision of God, we should remember a few things about Him when we come to worship: That this is the infinite, eternal, majestic, sovereign Creator of everything in the universe. He not only made us of the dust of the ground, the chemicals of the soil, but He created the dust of the ground and the chemicals of the soil. He took the dust of the ground, and He formed it and He shaped it to make our bodies. Then He breathed life into us—a life that was distinct from all other biological life, a life that was in His image and likeness. We were made to reflect Him. We were made to mirror in a finite way the grandeur and the glory of this God.
He leans down as it were and, like Jesus does when He is writing in the sand, He just plays with a little dirt, puts it together and then He creates this marvelous creature. But we’re just a little creature. We’re in His image and likeness, and we’ve been given a fantastic mission. Though our beginnings might have appeared insignificant with relation to the angels—Scripture says were created a little lower than the angels—it was His plan after sin to incarnate Himself into this finite creature. That He, this immense, eternal, infinite God of Creation, would make Himself finite, would limit Himself, would reduce Himself to enter into human history as a baby in order to die a wretched and humiliating death that would pay for the sins of this creature and would pay for our rebellion and hostility to Him so that we could become the companions of His Son and live in harmony with Him for all eternity—that is barely approaching a high view of God.
That is what we do on Sunday morning. That is what we are supposed to do. We are coming to worship Him. It’s nice to see our friends and spend time with those we’ve known for a long time, but we’re here primarily to focus on that infinite, eternal God of the universe. We are here to reflect upon His work of Creation, His redemption of all sinners, His sanctification, His provision for this, the work that He’s doing in this Church Age by indwelling us with His Holy Spirit and providing us with a complete revelation so that we can be prepared to spend eternity glorified and serving Him.
This is a focal point. We are to consider how our lives must point others to Him and that we are here to serve Him. We have been bought with a price, Paul says (1 Corinthians 6:20), therefore we are not our own. We are not to live for our desires; we are not to live for our hopes and our dreams. We have a higher mission, and that mission is to serve Him. That’s a form of worship that we have mentioned in Romans 12:1–2, “… And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …” Why? So that we can worship Him, so that we can serve Him. That is our mission. We are to focus on that. As a result of looking at the Scriptures, we should think in terms of what we do in worship.
Allen Ross asked these three questions in his book, which I think are significant. “How then can we talk casually of this Lord?”—in light of what the Scripture says about God. Think about how most Christians think or talk about God and talk about the Lord. How can they do that in light of what the Scripture reveals about this immense, incomprehensible, incomparable, holy God?
Second, “How can we merely slot Him into our fully scheduled lives?” This is what I do on Sunday morning from 10:30 to 12—worship God. Then I go to lunch and then I do whatever else I have planned during the afternoon and that’s God’s slot. Maybe on Tuesday night or Thursday night, that’s God’s slot. But if we understand Who the God of the Bible is, then every living breath is supposed to worship Him and focus on Him in all that we do. That’s why in the Scriptures, it talks about those who are servants are to obey their masters because they are serving the Lord, not their master. When you go to work, you’re working at your job to serve the Lord, not whoever it is you work for. We are to be transformed by that idea.
The third question, Ross asked is “How can we think there might be more important things for us to do in life than to worship God?” That’s why we’re here. When you think about the angels, they are worshiping God continuously and serving Him continuously from the time He laid the foundations of the Earth until as far as we can see into the distant future in the eschatology of Revelation.
What I want to do as we continue our study here is to think about what we see in some of these passages in Scripture that talk about worship and the angels in worship and the glimpses we get into Heaven.
The first passage I want us to look at is in Job 38:4–7. Now these are key passages. I taught this—in reference to the angels, the sons of God and the angels that disobeyed God when we were in 1 Peter around lesson 110. We talked about angels in Jude and in other passages. We’ve looked at these passages in terms of what it says about suffering, because that’s the framework of Job, we’ve looked at these passages in terms of what it says to us about the angels in angelology, but what we’re looking at in these verses now is, what does it say about worship? What do we learn there about worship?
Let’s pick up the context a little bit; the context here is that for 37 chapters Job has been wrestling with trying to understand his suffering, why this has happened, and when it comes right down to it, he really doesn’t have an answer. He wants to have a face-to-face with God. So God in His grace for a pedagogical purpose—that is, in order to teach us—He is going to answer Job. His answer is recorded in Job 38, 39 and all the way up into and through 41. He’s going to ask a series of rhetorical questions, and the point of these questions is to make Job recognize that even if God were able to explain to Job all of the reasons why he is going through the suffering, they are so complex that at the end Job would still not understand.
The point that is being made is that we need to just trust God when we face these challenges in life because He, as the omniscient One, knows all the details. We can’t even fathom a nanoparticle of the data. We can’t understand it. It’s like the whole DNA chain that they’ve come up with, the genome. If you were to multiply that by 10 billion, you’re still not comprehending all the data that goes into what God is planning and overseeing and all of the affairs of man.
We have the promise in Romans 8:28 that we know that all things work together for good; God causes them to work together for good. It doesn’t mean all things are good, but He causes them to work together for good, but it doesn’t mean we can understand it.
As He is addressing these questions to Job, He focuses on Creation. He says in Job 38:4–5, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding, Who determined the measurements?” Who did the engineering work? Who laid out all of the details? Who is it that had the original environmental impact statement on sin? God’s the One who put all of this together, and He’s playing with Job. He said, “You know, you’re asking Me these questions; surely you know the answer to all these things.”
In Job 38:6, “To what were its foundations fastened?” How do you explain the earth and its ability to hang in empty space and always go around the sun at the same speed, the same rate—all the rotations of the earth are the same? How do you explain all that? How does it happen?
When He talks about laying the foundations and laying its cornerstone, He said in Job 38:7, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” What this tells us is when God laid the first part, began to lay that which would give stability to the earth, when He did the very first parts of the Creation to establish the earth, there was singing in Heaven. The morning stars—that’s a term for angels—[Job 38:7] “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” “All the sons of God” means that all of the angels were united and there is a heavenly chorus that is made up of myriads upon myriads of angels, and they are singing in this heavenly choir that goes beyond anything that we could ever imagine.
For our purposes, what I want you to recognize is that before the creation of the world, before the fall of Satan, before the division that occurred among the angelic hosts, there was music. Music is a language. Music is not a language quite like English or German or Russian or Hebrew, but it is a distinct language that communicates in and of itself. I’m not talking about the words that they sang; I’m talking about the music as music, the melody, the music is language. If you want to hear some more about that, back in 2013, we had Scott Aniol here at the Chafer Theological Seminary Bible Conference. He gave three talks, and part of it was on music as language. Music communicates.
Now you may have a question about that, and to answer that, I’ll take you to Psalm 19. Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” That word “declare” is a word that is often used of verbal speech, but here it is talking about a non-verbal speech. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” There is something communicated by looking at Creation of itself, and the firmament shows or demonstrates God’s handiwork—His omnipotence, His ability to design, and to sustain everything in the universe down to subatomic particles all the way up to the great cosmos, the universe, and all the solar systems and all the galaxies that exist in the universe.
Then in Psalm 19:2 it says, “Day unto day utters speech.” It’s not talking in English or German or French or Swahili or Japanese, but it is definitely, the Scripture says, using this metaphor, communicating content. Psalm 19:2, “And night unto night reveals knowledge.” There’s information that is given. Psalm 19:3, “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.”
You may be saying what does that have to do with music? It’s a comparison, and the comparison is just that as God’s Creation communicates knowledge and information, so too music, in and of itself, communicates something, and we have to understand that.
When we sing certain kinds of music, that music grows out of a philosophical framework and that music is communicating the values—keyword we’re going to focus on—communicating the values of that philosophical system. This has been recognized since the ancient Greeks: change the philosophy, and you will change the music. Plato wrote a lot about that, that music shapes a culture. Music therefore reflects and communicates values—we’re not talking about words at all.
When we talk about the angels, Psalm 89:5 says, “The heavens will praise Your wonders.” That could be the heavens in the sense that “the heavens declare the glory of God” of Psalm 19:1, or it could be talking about the inhabitants of the heavens. Often when it talks about “the heavens and the earth will praise God” or when Moses is swearing an oath, he will call upon the witnesses “all heavens and all earth witnessed this.”
What he is saying is the inhabitants, the sentient beings of the heavens, which are the angels, and the sentient beings on the earth, which are human beings, are called upon. Everything had to have two witnesses according to the Law, the Torah. So you have these two witnesses: you have the angels who inhabit the heavens, and you have man who inhabits the earth.
I take it this way, the heavens, that is the angels, because it is parallel to the holy ones at the end of the next line. Psalm 89:5, “The heavens will praise Your wonders, O Lord; your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.” Praise—and I believe in this context it would be like the singing of hymns and music—is something that predates Creation. It was part of angelic creation.
Psalm 89:6 goes on to say, “For who in the skies is comparable to the Lord?” That’s an important statement because praise is due to God because He is incomparable, because He is unique. In the Hebrew, the word for this is qadosh, which means holy. It says Psalm 89:6, “Who among the sons of the mighty—that is bene Elohim, the angels—is like the Lord.” No one is like God. God is unique. He is, Psalm 89:7, “greatly feared in the council of the holy ones,—that is all the angelic council—and awesome above all those who are all around Him?”—all those who surround Him.
He is distinct, is high and lifted up. What we see here is this reference again to music among the angels. Now let me ask you something: God is perfect, right? Can God create anything less than perfection? No. So when God creates the angels, they’re perfect. The music that they sing is perfect.
Now, the next question I want to ask is, did God create music or is music inherent within the Godhead? I’m not sure I know the answer to that, but either way, what we’re talking about is that music isn’t something that man came up with to glorify God. Therefore, the music that resounded before the fall of Lucifer is a music that is perfect.
That’s an interesting thought because what happens in the language, the discussions, the thinking in the contemporary Christian worship and in contemporary Christian music crowd is that music is neutral. It doesn’t matter what the tunes are; music is neutral.
The question that I ask is “So what you’re saying then is there’s some aspect of creation that has been uncorrupted by sin? Is that what we’re saying?” For music to be neutral means that it is the only aspect of God’s creation that was not corrupted by Adam’s original sin. Is that valid? If that idea undergirds all of contemporary Christian music and that idea is totally false, then that tells you that the structure that is built on that is like a house built on shifting sand. It is a house built on a false proposition. Music is not neutral. Music as music is influenced by ideas and values of a culture, and, therefore, it needs to be thought about very deeply and investigated.
We’ve looked at the Job passage. We’ve looked, as a corollary, to Psalm 19 establishing the principle that music is a language. It communicates something and that it originally was uncorrupted and perfect, and it became corrupt from sin.
Let’s go to Ezekiel 28. Ezekiel 28 is one of two passages that talks about the fall of Lucifer, the fall of Satan. Isaiah 14:12–14 and Ezekiel 28:12ff are the passages that talk about the fall of Satan. When we go to these passages, usually we’re talking about understanding Satan. We’re talking about Satanology, angelology sometimes we’re talking about Creation, the time of Satan’s fall, but that’s not how we’re looking at the passage at this particular moment.
We’re looking at this passage to see how it contributes to our understanding of worship. We see that in Ezekiel 28:1, “The word of the Lord came to me—Ezekiel—again, saying, ‘Son of man, say to the Prince of Tyre,’ ”—the Prince of Tyre is the human ruler of Tyre. In verse 12 there is a shift, the word of the Lord came to me saying, Ezekiel 28:12, “Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre.” This is the power behind the human throne. This is talking about that supernatural power, Satan, who is behind the power of the king of Tyre.
Tyre had the one of the most demonic, idolatrous religious systems in the ancient world, complete with infant sacrifice and human sacrifice and all kinds of horrible things went along with it. Ezekiel 28:12, “Son of Man—Ezekiel—, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “You were the seal of perfection—talking about his original creation. He was perfect. Then we have an appositional phrase—full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” ’ ” That is what the seal of perfection describes. It’s “full of wisdom”—that has to do with his intellectual capabilities. Second, is “perfect in beauty”—that has to do with his aesthetics.
Aesthetics is that branch of human thought which deals with what makes something beautiful, what makes it appreciated, what makes it rise to a standard so that we look at some works of art, and we’re just dumbfounded. I’ll talk about David in a minute, but when you talk about Michelangelo’s David, the statue of David—you’ve seen pictures; they don’t do anything for it in terms of justice—and you go and you stand in front of that statue of David in Florence, and you can stand there and look at it for hours. People do that; they just sit on a bench and look at it. It is amazing.
For many of us, we think that beauty is in some sense in the eye of the beholder. You have one man and he looks at one woman, and he thinks she’s beautiful, and the next man says, not so much. You look at one woman, and she says, “That guy’s a sexy hunk,” and the next woman says, “Well, not so much.”
There’s some sense in which there is a subjective aspect to evaluating beauty, but the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” was originated and attributed to Gen. Lew Wallace. You’ve heard that name before; you may not know who he was. He was a Union general in the American War between the States. Later he was appointed the territorial governor of New Mexico to end the Lincoln County cattle wars. If you want an education about that and a fun movie, go watch John Wayne’s movie “Chishum.” They brought Lew Wallace in.
Lew Wallace, at the end of the war, was searching for God, and he did a study to try to disprove Christianity. Guess what? He came to faith in Christ, and he wrote a novel. The subtitle of the novel is A Tale of the Christ. The title is one you are familiar with—Ben-Hur. They’ve made a movie of it three times now. I think Charlton Heston did the best job, but that’s me. That’s a subjective evaluation, but when we look at something, we say that’s beautiful or that’s not beautiful. We are presupposing some standard of beauty.
Lew Wallace made that comment in the 1880s or 1890s. He is 100 years after a European philosopher by the name of Immanuel Kant. No artist before Kant would have ever said that. Kant said that all values are subjective, so the only way we can know something is in terms of our own subjectivity. There’s no objective standard that is true for all people at all times. If you go back to the Renaissance and you look at Michelangelo’s David, he had a clear understanding of what beauty was in all of his art, and he strove to achieve that objective standard. He wanted to push himself to be as close to that standard as was humanly possible.
You can trace that idea back to a Greek philosopher artist by the name of Phidias who was the most famous sculptor of ancient Greek. He had the same idea. Within his worldview, there was an external, objective standard for beauty and for visual arts, as well as musical arts. Therefore, for something to be beautiful, it had to meet the standards that were external and objective.
We’ve lost that in our culture; in our post-Kantian world, standards of beauty, standards of value are all subjective. That has laid the groundwork for postmodernism; everything becomes relative. Your beauty is not my beauty; my beauty is not your beauty. You like this music; I like that music. You say tomato [long a]; I say tomato [short a]. We all have our different standards, so let’s not judge. That is not God’s world; that is not the creation of God. If music existed in the heavenly temple, then it was perfect and there is a standard of perfection. We need to investigate it, and explore it and do our best to approach it.
There is good music, and there is bad music. Good and bad is not because you like one and someone likes something else. It’s not based on what our individual tastes are. That can enter in at some level, but it is because it fits a specific objective standard. I will tell you that those who are the thinkers and the movers and shakers of contemporary Christian worship do not agree at all with what I just said. They will fight to the death because they believe that beauty and value in music is neutral, and it’s determined by the individual and from culture to culture. It’s not affected by external objective truth of Scripture.
What we see in Ezekiel 28 is that there is an external absolute standard. Also, something else down in Ezekiel 28:13, that as this creature is later described as a cherub—we’ll get there next time—it says “The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes…” He’s the master musician. Satan understands music better than any human being will ever come close to understanding music, and this is before the Fall. He was a musician, and he was involved in the worship of God, which is indicated by all these stones that are part of his covering which are mostly the same stones that are found on the breastplate of the high priest of Israel. He had a priestly function that involved worship. Now that’s an idea worth exploring.
What I hope to have just laid the groundwork for in our thinking is to challenge us that music isn’t just that which we like on the radio. It communicates something. When it comes to approaching God and worshiping God, the musical forms that we use should not be the musical forms of everyday. Profane—that’s the word that Scripture always uses to contrast holy—it should not be the profane type of music that we have in our culture. It should be different because what we are doing is worshiping the unique, holy God, the incomparable God of the universe, and that which we do to worship Him should not be like other activities in life. Let’s close in prayer.
“Father, we thank You for the opportunity to probe our thinking, to reflect upon what Your Word says, to build a biblical understanding of what it means to worship You, what it means to sing praise to You, to understand these basic concepts that are so often confused and maybe never even thought about or talked about in our culture. We pray that You would use this to challenge each of us to think more precisely about our personal worship of You and our lives in the role of serving You as part of our worship. And we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”