The Worship of God with Music

By John Thiel

Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

When the heart is totally yielded to God it is possible to understand his ways. We need to discover another element of being in tune with God so that we can be submissive by understanding and knowledge.

The Worship of Today

Every time I worship God and when I’m asked to lead out in worship, one question that keeps me on the alert is – is my worship acceptable to God? There are many people that worship but while they imagine that they are worshiping God they are in all reality worshipping self. They create an atmosphere in their worship time that is pleasing and entertaining to themselves. This is the reason why the churches today say – look, times have changed and the way we worship God today is different to the way people worshipped in the past. People that worship God from their own ideas will believe worship has changed but all who worship God in spirit and in truth do not ask whether we worship God in the way we enjoy it but the way in which it is pleasing to God. We need to adjust our hearts as to what is a pleasure to God.

In Spirit and In Truth

The way of worshiping God in a manner that we think is worshiping him correctly but is not is addressed by Jesus. Here is a dialogue that Jesus had with the woman at the well. She recognised he was a prophet and she came directly to the point of the problem amongst the worshipers who claimed to be worshippers of God.

John 4:20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

4:21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.

You worship you know not what. Have you ever thought about those words? How many people worship and they are creating an atmosphere of worship but they are not in tune with the one they are worshipping but their own imagination. Jesus said to the Samaritan;

John 4:22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.

God had raised Judah and the others went wrong but they continued to worship but they know not what. Jesus also said, the same thing is going to happen for the Jews.

John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

4:24 God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.

The woman at the well came with a completely confused appreciation but when Jesus spoke to her she was enlightened and she responded to the call. The father seeketh such to worship him. Worship needs to be of the kind relevant to the one we seek to honour. Do you want to honour him? That is what it means to worship him. God is seeking such to worship him in spirit and truth.

Vain Worship

Observe an inspirational revelation that there are many people who worship him in vain. Jesus is talking to the very people who claim to worship him.

Matthew 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with [their] lips; but their heart is far from me.

15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.

Jesus is addressing a vain worship that is engendered from human beings, not from the Holy Spirit. That is both by way of doctrine and of any other form of worship. They worship him in vain as they worship him from a motivated action of humanity instead of spirituality. Our time in which we live and the church that lives as Gods church is addressed in reference to this very thing because they are talked about in Revelation 3. It refers to us, the Advent people of these last days, the people who are the church that claims to be like the Jews as Jesus identified that salvation is of the Jews and indeed it is.

Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

We ask the question to him, what do you mean Lord? What does it mean if you spew us out of your mouth? Here is what it means to be spued out of his mouth.

The figure of spewing out of His mouth means that He cannot offer up your prayers or your expressions of love to God. He cannot endorse your teaching of His word or your spiritual work in anywise. He cannot present your religious exercises with the request that grace be given you. {6T 408.2}

In short, what is he saying? You are worshipping me in vain. How realistic this subject is to us today. Therefore you can appreciate the anxiety that is always upon me as I come to worship to God, as I choose a place where worship is to be made and as I lead out, that I am answerable to ensure that our worship is acceptable before God.

The True Jesus

I want to lay this at your feet, the sacrifices we come to bring to God in worship are identified as being required to be acceptable to him. People don’t understand the true Jesus anymore as they are always stumbling over him. The way he appears to humanity is not attractive.

1 Peter 2:4 To whom coming, [as unto] a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, [and] precious,

2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

Many people read that and say God will accept us by Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter how I come to worship him, Jesus will make it acceptable. But God says I know thy works and I know you are coming to me by your own lukewarm manner and I can’t place this before my father. You are not worshipping him the way it is through me.  It is a mistaken view that God will make our worship acceptable before when our worship is not pleasurable to God. It has to be made pleasurable through Jesus Christ to him. We had a study on the worship of God in regards to the beauty of holiness. We learnt there is a beauty which God enjoys but beauty is only in the eyes of the beholder. We learnt we had to have a complete change of view of what beauty is in Gods eyes. We learnt God dresses his people for beauty and holiness. God is particular and he has a preference in how we dress.  Today we want to worship the Lord with music. The entire chapter of Psalms 150 incites us to worship God not only with our words, not only with the doctrine of the truth but with the use of instruments and music;

Psalm 150:1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.

150:2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.

150:3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

150:4 Praise him with the timbrel and (PIPE – see margin): praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

150:5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

150:6 Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.

How do we praise him? With the use of instruments, with music.  Here is a terminology of bringing to him an acceptable sacrifice. God wants us to worship him with music and singing.

Music should have beauty, pathos, and power. Let the voices be lifted in songs of praise and devotion. Call to your aid, if practicable, instrumental music, and let the glorious harmony ascend to God, an acceptable offering. {Ev 505.1}

Good Music?

Music is also to be acceptable before God in worship. Music and beauty. Two very relative words. Things that are very dependent upon your background. Beauty is only in the eyes of the beholder.  Good music is only in the way you have learnt as associated music as good. Who is to judge anything as good music?  If you go to Africa you will hear music different to Australia. If you go to Germany you hear music that is different. If you go to the Islamic world and its different again. What music is acceptable to God?  One man’s music style is an unpleasant noise to another. I can’t stand rock music, it’s a horrible noise to me but I see young people enjoying themselves in it. I wonder how they can see something beautiful in that.

What has gone wrong? Sometimes we are tempted to judge the young people for their enjoyment of that kind of music. If you are a capable musician, a good singer, if you are part of an orchestra and you travel the world to play music of different nationalities and wanted to play to the Mayor of Vienna, wouldn’t it be the classical music that Vienna is known for to please them? If you were to travel to Hollywood, to please them, would you play that to them?  We are seeking to honour the monarch of the universe. If we were to come with the waltzes of Vienna, or country and western, or Broadway, how would God feel? Would you be honouring him? Does he have anything to do with the lifestyle of those kinds of people?  Would you be honouring him to play that kind of music? If you were to take that music and put it to Christian words, how would God feel? Insulted.  We are seeking to honour the monarch of the universe. Would that be pleasing to him to play that kind of music? God regards it just how I regard rock music.

Entertaining Self

Maybe God would look upon it this way if we play music on instruments seeking to honour and worship him;

Amos 5:23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.

5:24 But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.

5:25 Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?

5:26 But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your God, which ye made to yourselves.

What do you understand from this? The music that you make to yourselves, that is what you are worshipping. You want to entertain yourself with music that you have created to make you feel happy. But as for me, says the Lord, take away that noise. I don’t want the harmony of your viols. It’s annoying to me. Music is a sequence of vibrations that come to your ear drums and it sends vibrations through and the Cochlea goes around and it picks up a nervous reaction and sends it to the brain. What does the brain do with those vibrations? It has to interpret.

“To make the impulses reaching it meaningful the brain relies upon the stored memories within its millions of cell networks. Not just sound memories but visual memories. Memories of taste, smell and touch. By comparing and contrasting and rejecting information the brain forms an integrated mental picture.” Time Atlas of the Body page 87

When you look at physiology it takes away the spark of life sometimes. You are just a machine that is getting vibrations and it’s just recording these vibrations and its putting together a picture that is meaningful by the way it sorts it out. We examine the above statement and we get some sense out of it. I was brought up in Germany and music was played that was happy and joyful. I heard these sounds and I saw the adults enjoying it. We make choices about the meaning of life but we discover God is entirely different. Jesus teaches us what is acceptable with God. What does Jesus teach us? You must be born again and when you are all the pleasurable enjoyment of the past is gone as you have come to Jesus. The flesh will say I enjoy that but the mind says it’s not right. That is the battle of the flesh and spirit. Jesus says I will teach you what is pleasurable to God. The Holy Spirit will do its work.

Young person’s assemble to sing, and, although professed Christians, frequently dishonor God and their faith by their frivolous conversation and their choice of music. Sacred music is not congenial to their taste. I was directed to the plain teachings of God’s word, which have been passed by unnoticed. In the judgment all these words of inspiration will condemn those who have not heeded them. {1T 505.2}

The young people come together and play the music they are familiar with. Their choice of music is not God’s sacred music because they have been brought up a certain way.

Plain Teachings

The above statement said – I was directed to the plain teachings of God’s word. There must be some plain teachings in God’s word that people bypass and ignore. That is what we have to understand. What are the plain teachings of God in regards to music? The visions of Sr White help us as people have lost their sense of the sacredness of heaven. I thank God for the writings of Sr White as we can get a clear indication through her visions of how heaven regards the music that we are familiar with.

Frivolous songs and the popular sheet music of the day seem congenial to their taste.  {1T 497.1}

Angels are hovering around yonder dwelling. The young are there assembled; there is the sound of vocal and instrumental music. Christians are gathered there, but what is that you hear? It is a song, a frivolous ditty, fit for the dance hall. “Testimonies for the Church,” Vol. 1, p. 506.

When did she write that? Around 1850. What was the frivolous dance music of that day? Country and western folk music. Bear in mind when she is talking, remember time and place. Here they are singing this music of that time. Now mark the angel;

Behold, the pure angels gather their light closer around them, and darkness envelops those in that dwelling. The angels are moving from the scene. Sadness is upon their countenances. Behold, they are weeping. This I saw repeated a number of times all through the ranks of Sabbath keepers, and especially in _____. Music has occupied the hours which should have been devoted to prayer. Music is the idol which many professed Sabbath-keeping Christians worship. “Testimonies for the Church,” Vol. 1, p. 506.

What were they worshipping? God? When we sing are we looking for the entertainment of music or are we looking for the pleasure of God in music?

Satan has no objection to music, if he can make that a channel through which to gain access to the minds of the youth. Anything will suit his purpose that will divert the mind from God, and engage the time which should be devoted to His service.–“Testimonies for the Church,” Vol. 1, p. 506.

This is how the angels feel about the sheet music of the 1850’s. Have you sung some religious songs recently that came from that kind of music and we sing them in church and to worship God and the angels weep and withdrawal their light. People are singing thinking they are having a grand and wonderful time and they are spirit filled with the music. What sort of spirit is that? The very spirit Sr White saw when Satan breathed on them and there was much light, power and glory but not much love, the love of God, the real one as there is the love of music that eclipses the love of God that has been trained into us outside of God’s realm. Here we observe vividly the understanding of how we should worship God with music.

An Angel of Light

If we are going to sing something that causes heaven to cringe, where does that music come from? Music created by a musician. We have to learn something. There was a musician in heaven that was in one of the heavenly host. You can read about him in Ezekiel 28. What was the characteristic of this angel?

Ezekiel 28:13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone [was] thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.

28:14 Thou [art] the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee [so]: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

He was covered in glory and glamour. Here is this wonderful cherub. What has he got inside of himself? Music. Pipes plural. Have you ever head one person sing in a quartet? That is what he could do. There was beautiful harmony that came from four different related notes. If you are musician, if you know and feel music inside of yourself, doesn’t it flow more from your person and you have a sense of music that you can put across the congregation or concert hall? Indeed. Lucifer had that.

Satan had led the heavenly choir. He had raised the first note; then all the angelic host had united with him, and glorious strains of music had resounded through heaven in honor of God and His dear Son. {SR 25.1}

God said – I have put the workmanship of the tabrets in you. I have created the music in you. When Lucifer sang to the glory of God, it was what God had placed in him. When Lucifer fell, he was the father of sin. When he fell, the music in him did what? The perversion of this man with his goods included the perversion of music. Sr White makes a strong indication of this. We read something of the terrible fall of music in Lucifer. What is written in Ezekiel is amplified in the spirit of prophecy. Sr White is talking of the condition of Lucifer and great men with God given talents.

The Lord bestowed upon these men whom the world admires, priceless intellectual gifts; He endowed them with master minds; but they did not use their powers to the glory of God. They separated themselves from Him, as did Satan; but while they separated themselves from Him, they still retained many of the precious gems of thought which He had given them. These they have placed in a framework of error, to give luster to their own human sentiments, to make attractive the utterances inspired by the prince of evil. {CT 26.1}

Can you see the horrifying subtlety of what God has put inside a person that can be turned for evil?

It is true that in the writings of pagans and infidels there are found thoughts of an elevated character, which are attractive to the mind. But there is a reason for this. Was not Satan the light bearer, the sharer of God’s glory in heaven, and next to Jesus in power and majesty? {CT 26.2}

The greatness and power with which the Creator endowed Lucifer, he has perverted; yet when it suits his purpose, he can impart to men sentiments that are enchanting. {CT 27.1}

Can Satan not come as an angel of light in music and just put a lilt in music to suit the enchantments to his deception? It has to be the tiniest lilt and it has an impact on you. It affects your emotional life as music accepts your emotions. Satan knows exactly what to do. He knows how to touch and seduce a Christian by music. He plays the beautiful heavenly music and put s a lilt and you give him a finger and hand and he takes you down.

Old Fashioned Music

I saw it as a youth. When the HMS Richards men were singing, they sang good old fashioned songs. Then came the Heritage singers and they too sung good old fashioned songs and then they began to put a lilt in. I saw the Heritage singers when I was a youth and I thought there was something wrong here and I was perplexed and when I talked about it I was told I was old fashioned. We know how old fashioned beautiful sacred music is, it’s the ancient of day’s music. Do you want to be in harmony with the ancient of days? I do. I am happy to have old fashioned music and I will preach old fashioned sermons as the people of today have lost touch with that.

Lucifer comes and turns the hearts of the people by his subtle means. It comes as a seducing spirit. How capable is he to make music enchanting for us so that it will be a cause for a cringing for the angels of heaven. He is very capable. He knows what we enjoy and how to torment the angels of heaven.  Therefore, what are we to consider very carefully? Satan has the whole world in his control in the fallen churches right through to the ten tribes of Israel today. What are we to do with what we have been brought up with? It says come out of her my people. What are we to do?

Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

What must happen to us? Don’t be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Get those different vibrations and associated pleasure areas into the right chain, into the music and mediation that heaven enjoys so you can enjoy it. As we come to him in song, in the preaching of his word and learning of his character, let us lay aside what we have learnt in Babylon. It must be entirely dismissed, entirely. We are to learn to weed out every enchanting strain that repulses heaven. This is our work we are to build again like Nehemiah did. To rebuild what has been torn down. When we sing to worship the Lord, how should we relate?

Music forms a part of God’s worship in the courts above, and we should endeavor, in our songs of praise, to approach as nearly as possible to the harmony of the heavenly choirs. The proper training of the voice is an important feature in education, and should not be neglected.–“Patriarchs and Prophets,” p. 594. {MYP 293.2}

We need to educate our vocal and instrumental chords so that we will come what? As near as possible to the harmony of the heavenly choir and then we will offer sacrifices acceptable to God.

I have been shown the order, the perfect order, of heaven, and have been enraptured as I listened to the perfect music there. After coming out of vision, the singing here has sounded very harsh and discordant. I have seen companies of angels, who stood in a hollow square, every one having a harp of gold. . . . There is one angel who always leads, who first touches the harp and strikes the note, then all join in the rich, perfect music of heaven. It cannot be described. It is melody, heavenly, divine, while from every countenance beams the image of Jesus, shining with glory unspeakable.– Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 146. (1857) {Ev 505.3}

Sr White had her childlike brain reorganised and so we need that. In heaven there is a perfect order of those who are chosen by God who are to be leaders in Gods way and music.

But it is sometimes more difficult to discipline the singers and keep them in working order, than to improve the habits of praying and exhorting. Many want to do things after their own style; they object to consultation, and are impatient under leadership. {Ev 505.2}

Do you know what that feels like? You have a style you like to do in a certain way and those who are builders on the wall of Zion say no and you gripe. Is that not a characteristic sometimes? Because we may think our way is right.  If you will submit to the leadership that God wants us to build upon, you will do what the angels in heaven do, submit to the leadership. I have sought and prayed for God’s answer on this subject. We want to worship God in spirit and in truth and in the beauty of holiness.  When God enjoys the music what happens? I want to be able to please God like this so the same thing will happen to us.

2 Chronicles 5:13 It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers [were] as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up [their] voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, [saying], For [he is] good; for his mercy [endureth] for ever: that [then] the house was filled with a cloud, [even] the house of the LORD;

5:14 So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.

This was the dedication of Solomon’s temple. When did the glory of God fill the temple? When the music was in perfect and beautiful harmony with his own sense of his music. Then the glory of the Lord shone in. Do we desire to experience the glory of the Lord? I do. We long for a display of Gods glory in our hearts which is the temple of God and in the church which is the temple of God. We need to unite together even in the subject of music. When God has us together in one untied spiritual unison, he will come and reveal himself in glory. If we have learnt this situation here on earth, what we will enjoy in heaven?

I saw a very great number of angels bring from the city glorious crowns–a crown for every saint, with his name written thereon. As Jesus called for the crowns, angels presented them to Him, and with His own right hand the lovely Jesus placed the crowns on the heads of the saints. In the same manner the angels brought the harps, and Jesus presented them also to the saints. The commanding angels first struck the note, and then every voice was raised in grateful, happy praise; and every hand skillfully swept over the strings of the harp, sending forth melodious music in rich and perfect strains. {AH 537.2}

Who is going to be there? As the harp is placed into your hands and you are going to play music, are you going to play the music you learnt here on earth? If you have learnt the wrongs type, you won’t be there. But if you are have re-learnt you will be accustomed to that music.

I want to praise Him; I want to honor Him that sitteth on the throne. I want my voice to echo and re-echo through the courts of heaven. Will you be there? . . . God help us, and fill us with all fullness and power, and then we can taste of the joys of the world to come. {HP 368.5}

Do you want to be there? Then you must learn it here on earth. Then you can sing and learn the song of Moses and the lamb. As we worship God week by week and continue to build the walls of Zion, let us join together and make right what will be acceptable in heaven.


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Posted on 06/12/2009, in Divine Service Sermons, Music and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I would like to hear music that has John Thiel’s approval.

  2. Excellent sermon John. I listened to most of your ‘The Sound of Music’ sermon too, but the end was missing so I didn’t hear the conclusion. I’ll have to read it on Ari’s blog perhaps.

    From your studies, have you concluded that we (as Christians) are now incapable of writing and then singing / playing true Christian music nowadays? Where is the cut-off point in your mind? I find this a very grey area, but since we’ve been actively searching for an answer since about April this year, I’m praying that we’ll come to a full understanding of what God wants us to sing very soon.

    God bless & thank you,

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