When God Doesn’t Like Hymns
My friend and counterpart from the Kansas-Nebraska Convention,David Manner, pens a great article helping us look at worship that is pleasing to God.
Music that pleases God is not contingent on what we sing. It is, instead, pleasing to God because of the character and attitude of those who sing it.
The psalmist points out that God takes pleasure in the praise of His people through music…”Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp. For the Lord takes delight in his people” (Psalm 149:3-4). Zephaniah wrote, “the Lord our God is with us and rejoices over us with singing” (Zeph 3:17).
If the Father takes pleasure in our praise and also sings over us, then are there certain musical genres He takes more pleasure in or likes to sing over us more than others? Can we assume God can’t stand modern worship songs or hymns just because we can’t stand them? Even though we may not actually verbally affirm those assumptions, our worship actions and attitudes often convey that egoism.
Scripture speaks to the issue of worship that is or isn’t pleasing to God on several occasions. The prophet Micah condemned Israel’s dishonest, corrupt, and meaningless worship by pointing out what God considers good worship and what he really requires, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Amos criticized music that is ego driven when he wrote, “I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang tome? Do you know what I want? I want justice – oceans of it. I want fairness – rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want” (Amos 5:21-23 The Message).
The book of Isaiah indicates which songs God doesn’t prefer when the author writes, “The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13).
We will never worship in spirit and truth when we only see worship with linear eyes through the lens of our favorite music; when we claim to know what God likes because he likes what we know; when we assume my favorite worship music is also God’s favorite worship music; or when we believe relevant worship began and will end with the music of my generation.
May the words of Paul be our prayer as we sing our hymns and modern worship songs together, “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ – the Message – have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God” (Colossians 3:15-16 The Message)!
Check out David’s blog for more great articles.
I love worshipping God, but only recently have I found out that my whole life should be a pleasing fragrance to God – that I can worship him with every thought and word and action I take (which is hard, but God is full of mercy with me).
Whenever I do worship in singing, however, I find that I cannot concentrate on God if I sing loudly. As soon as I voice the songs soundlessly – basically singing them with my heart instead of my vocal chords – I am almost instantly touched by the Holy Spirit.
I will have a few opportunities for engaging in worship (on the stage) of my church. Non-professional, of course.
I have been thinking a great deal about how to make my participation there pleasing to God – mostly because I know my heart, and how easily proud I become (the last time I sang on stage was a couple years ago when I was in my late teens. Back then, I wasn’t focused on God at all. So now, I want it to be different.)
I want to do everything to focus only on God – not exterior things – while I am on stage worshipping him. One way I thought I could please him is by dressing very unobtrusively. This might sound weird and maybe I am the big, sinful exception out there, but I know how weak and tempted I get. So I want to avoid having my attention deflected from God as much as possible – especially on the stage in worship. (I think if I dressed too fancy, it might also distract other people and draw atttention to me instead of to God. But those are very recent thoughts.)
My question: whenever I sing using my vocal chords, I immediately enter this place of concentrating on my voice and reaching the pitch and putting enough “vibe” into it (unfortunately, they sing the songs in very high keys, which sometimes makes it difficult for me, because I can’t spontaneously switch to second voice [I’ve never learnt this]; and although I am able to sing very high, some songs are just TOO high. So I really have to concentrate in order to reach the notes perfectly – and not falter. But then, when I remember that I wanted to focus on God, and I start concentrating on God, my voice dies down and I basically whisper, because whenever I actually SING, it distracts me from him.
Any help/ideas/advice? I would be really grateful. I have been blessed with – let’s say a pretty – voice, but I am getting the feeling that maybe I should not engage in real worship if it prohibits me from encountering God. It makes me very sad, because I love singing and I would love to bless God’s name while singing – but this is basically impossible because I am only able to do that in my “whisper voice”, that’s when I really enter the “His presence”, so to speak.
Well, I hope I was making enough sense. I would be very, very grateful for an answer. (And sorry if I might sound confusing, I live in Germany.)
Thanks a lot,