Music—God’s Gift to the Heart
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN SPAIN
MUSIC has power. It can calm us, stir us, and lift our spirits. It can express both our joys and our sorrows. Common to virtually all cultures—past and present—music is a language of both the mind and the heart. Yes, music truly is a gift from God.—Genesis 4:21.
From the time we were born, we likely heard some form of music. Perhaps our mother sang lullabies to help us fall asleep. During our teenage years, we may have developed a fondness for music that stirred our heart. Even as adults, many of us enjoy relaxing music while driving or at home at the end of a busy day.
The lyrics of a song may embody certain aspects of a country’s culture or history. The ancient Israelites commemorated a number of special occasions with song. (Exodus 15:1-21; Judges 5:1-31) The prophet Moses prepared a song that included history and heartfelt admonition for the people. (Deuteronomy 32:1-43) No doubt such songs were good memory aids.
You Can Make Music!
Perhaps you are thinking, ‘I’m not musically inclined.’ Well, reflect for a moment on your voice. Thanks to the versatility of this built-in instrument, nearly everyone can make music to some extent, with or without other instruments. All you have to do is open your mouth and sing. And when you do, never mind if your voice will not win you any cheers or prizes. Practice, and you should improve.
“The voice is directly in contact with the seat from which our deepest emotions spring, and it is the most efficient instrument for expressing them,” says the Spanish magazine Psychologies. “[Singing] is exciting,” says soprano Ainhoa Arteta. “I would recommend that anyone who feels like expressing himself in song do so freely and spontaneously.”
Because music can have a powerful influence on the heart, we should be selective. Beautiful melodies, for instance, may sugarcoat ugly lyrics that make light of or even promote hatred, immorality, or violence—themes that no person of principle would find entertaining. (Ephesians 4:17-19; 5:3, 4) “More than all else that is to be guarded,” says God’s Word, “safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) Yes, your choice of music is no minor matter. *
Good Music Can Be Good Medicine
“Among the reasons for the existence of music in virtually every culture [is] its ability to elicit and maintain human health and well-being,” says the book Principles and Practice of Stress Management. When we are singing, notes another reference, our entire body resounds and vibrates. In turn, gentle vibrations help tissues relax and dilate, which may help to reduce pain.
Accordingly, some therapists encourage patients suffering from stress to listen to soothing music, which can also improve one’s mood. Some hospitals even pipe music into intensive care units. Premature babies as well as surgery patients often respond well to pleasant music. According to Principles and Practice of Stress Management, studies suggest that listening to relaxing music “produces significant reductions in stress hormone levels during surgery.”
Music may also reduce anxiety in pregnant women by promoting relaxation during labor and delivery. Dentists sometimes play soothing music to create a more relaxed atmosphere for tense patients. But music and song can do much more. They can help us in a spiritual way.
‘With Song I Shall Laud God’
Did you know that about a tenth of the Bible is written in the form of songs? The foremost examples are the Psalms, the Song of Solomon, and Lamentations. Understandably, the majority of the approximately three hundred references to song relate to the worship of God. “Jehovah is my strength . . . , and with my song I shall laud him,” wrote Israelite King David, a gifted musician and composer.—Psalm 28:7.
In fact, David organized 4,000 men who belonged to the tribe of Levi to serve as musicians and singers in Jerusalem. Of these, 288 were “trained in song to Jehovah, all experts.” (1 Chronicles 23:4, 5; 25:7) No doubt these singers practiced assiduously. Indeed, music was so important to the worship of God that singers were relieved of other temple duties in order to concentrate on their profession.—1 Chronicles 9:33.
The night before Jesus died, he and his apostles sang praises to God, likely Psalms 113 to 118. By Jesus’ time, these psalms—termed “Hallel Psalms”—were sung during the Passover celebration. (Matthew 26:26-30) The designation “Hallel Psalms” refers to their repeated use of the exclamation “Hallelujah!” which means “Praise Jah!” “Jah” is a shortened, poetic form of Jehovah, the name of the Most High God.—Psalm 83:18.
Singing also became a part of Christian worship. The book The History of Music states: “Singing in public and private worship was a matter of course for the early Christians. For Jewish converts this was a continuance of synagogue customs . . . In addition to the Hebrew Psalms . . . , the new faith tended constantly to produce new hymns.” Today, too, Christian Witnesses of Jehovah delight in praising him in song, both privately and at their Christian meetings.
Because music enables us to express virtually every emotion and because it can have such a powerful influence on heart, mind, and body, we should accord this “perfect present . . . from above” the deepest respect. (James 1:17) Yes, may we use it both generously and wisely.
^ par. 9 Besides rejecting songs that exalt hatred, immorality, or violence, lovers of God and of their fellow man also refuse to listen to music that promotes idolatry, nationalism, or religious falsehoods.—Isaiah 2:4; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 1 John 5:21.