Music—Jehovah’s Joyous Gift to Us
WHEN our first father, Adam, became conscious as a living soul, a veritable concert poured into his ears. There, in that beautiful garden of Eden, was a resident orchestra of colorful birds whose tuneful warblings and cheerful chirpings filled the air. What music Jehovah God had composed for man’s listening pleasure!
Of course, those feathered musicians were singing due to instinct rather than with an intelligent, acquired knowledge of melody, harmony and rhythm. The notes making up their songs were composed and implanted in their DNA by God on the “day” he created “every winged flying creature according to its kind.” (Genesis 1:21, 23) What a stupendous musical feat!
The songs God composed for each kind of bird served his purpose well. By means of these melodious chirpings territorial claims were announced and mates were attracted. Even more wonderful is the fact that Jehovah God in his infinite wisdom and prudent economy also designed this practical function to bring joy to humans.
But why does man sing? Why does music motivate and thrill humans?
The Mystery Behind Music
Science is unable to explain why humans can compose music, invent and play musical instruments, or even why we enjoy music and song. It is all a baffling mystery!
Dr. Lewis Thomas, who is affiliated with the Scientists’ Institute for Public Information, has observed:
“If you are looking about for really profound mysteries, essential aspects of our existence for which neither the sciences nor the humanities can provide any sort of explanation, I suggest starting with music. The professional musicologists, for whom I have the greatest respect, haven’t the ghost of an idea about what music is, or why we make it and cannot be human without it, or even—and this is the telling point—how the human mind makes music on its own, before it is written down and played. The biologists are no help here, nor the psychologists, nor the physicists, nor the philosophers, wherever they are these days. Nobody can explain it. It is a mystery. . . . The Brandenburgs [concertos by J. S. Bach] and the Late Quartets [by Beethoven] . . . carry the news that there are deep centers in our minds that we know nothing about except that they are there.”—Discover, July 1981, page 47.
Music is a sublime art emanating from a higher intelligence. Jehovah created man with a sensitive, aesthetic nature that would respond emotionally and intelligently to the unique songs of birds. Not only would such God-given music delight man’s heart and mind but it would also refresh him, thereby contributing to his physical and spiritual well-being. Surely, then, music is from that same loving Creator.
Yes, music is from the One who ‘planted the ear’ and “appointed a mouth for man.” (Psalm 94:9; Exodus 4:11) It is from Jehovah that we have received this gift of music, this ability to compose it and enjoy it. What a wonderful present from our Father!—James 1:17.
The Heavenly Origin of Music
Music is, indeed, a creation of God. It is his art. Why, long before he created our earth, all its winged singers and humankind, God himself was enjoying the sweet pleasures of music! He had created millions of angels with the ability to sing most gloriously. From their ranks he heard exquisite musical harmonies expressing to him their adoration, praise and thanksgiving.
Those angelic “sons of God” sang out joyfully at seeing their Father create our earth. (Job 38:4-7, New World Translation; An American Translation) What a wondrous sight! Here was a comparatively tiny globe, like a colorful gem shrouded in thick clouds, revolving in the light of the sun against the velvety black backdrop of the universe. Only a choral outburst could express how deeply the heavenly hosts then felt!
Right into our 20th century, music has resounded in the heavenly realms. (Revelation 5:9, 10; 14:1-3) The coronation of Jesus Christ in 1914 may well have been celebrated by the happiest singing ever heard till then among those residing in the heavens. Likely, choral praises rang out as Jesus gained access to Jehovah, “the Ancient of Days.” With “ten thousand times ten thousand” assembled, he was brought before Jehovah’s resplendent throne and “given rulership and dignity and kingdom.” Glorious vision! Glorious music!—Daniel 7:9-14; compare 2 Samuel 6:15; Psalm 27:6.
Naturally, all this singing was done in ‘the tongues of angels.’ (1 Corinthians 13:1) Since these creatures are so mighty and are spirits, their music must be of such harmonic and melodic magnitude that it is far beyond our limited hearing and comprehension. Yet, when we consider the heavenly origin of music and the grandeur of this gift from our Creator, how are we affected personally? What bearing should all of this have on our choice of music?
Our Obligation to the Giver of Music
Jehovah’s gift of music carries with it the same obligation as does any gift we receive. It is that we use music for its intended purpose. What sensible person would use the gift of a new garment to mop up spilled food or oily liquids? To do so would show no appreciation for the gift and its purpose, as well as utter disrespect for the giver. It would hurt him deeply.
So it is with music. Jehovah has given it to us for our enjoyment and happiness. Above all, music is another means by which we can praise our loving heavenly Father and draw closer to him. It is designed to contribute to our spiritual health.—Psalm 149:1-3; 150:1-6.
How God-dishonoring the myth that credits the creation of music to the goat-footed god Pan during his immoral sexual adventures! Today, however, immorality is promoted in many songs. We find that there has been rapid increase in ungodly music during this world’s “time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4) Indeed, the climactic year 1914 ushered in an era of moral decadence, violence and depravity without parallel in human history. Accordingly, much present-day music reflects the sexual permissiveness, confusion and madness of “the last days” of this wicked system of things.—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
How vital that “lovers of Jehovah” reject ungodly music and cling to what is good in God’s sight! (Psalm 97:10) Periodically, therefore, this journal and its companion, Awake!, have contained articles warning against music that ‘violates what is holy.’ (Compare 2 Timothy 2:16.) These discussions have exposed the dangers of music’s subtle passion-arousing influences and its incitement to rebellion.*
A desire to please Jehovah God and a candid appraisal of much modern music could well cause a person to ask: What music is left? Is there some we can safely enjoy without peril to us spiritually?
Good Music Abounds!
In the vast body of music that has been composed since the mid-1600’s, only a small amount is Scripturally objectionable. These questionable works in the classical field are mainly among the operas and ballets, many of which are based on immoral, tragic themes or pagan mythology. But even if we avoided all this music, what would be left is so voluminous that we could never hear all of it in an average lifetime.
Just to familiarize ourselves with the unobjectionable works of Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann, Handel, Haydn and Mozart would take years. And, mind you, this does not include works by their contemporaries. Moreover, we have not even mentioned good instrumental and folk music from many lands. We merely need to glance at European and American printed music catalogs to realize that good music abounds!
Yes, every form of music imaginable is on discs and cassette tapes. So much music is available in the classical field alone that a person can be very selective and still find more than enough.
How Will You Use This Gift?
“Lovers of Jehovah” desire to please him in all things. This, then, is their wish in choosing music. The decisions made are personal responsibilities. (Galatians 6:5) But what will help in making a choice?
Generally, nonreligious music composed in the 1700’s and early 1800’s presents no problems for the conscientious Christian. Moreover, this music is quite easy to learn to enjoy. Listen a few times and you will become familiar with its sparkling melodies and buoyant rhythms.
Of course, in choosing music, consideration of the title alone is not enough. The composer has written infectious melodies and developed them in harmonically pleasing ways. Program music has a title attached to it so as to describe some story or incident or to convey a certain mood. But not all that meets the eye is fact. A number of entitled pieces were not so named by their composers.
To illustrate: Beethoven never inscribed “Moonlight” on his Piano Sonata No. 27 in C# minor. Nor did he entitle his fifth piano concerto “Emperor.” The names attached to some of the Chopin pieces did not come from his hand. They were based on what others thought they heard in these works or were added by a music publisher with an eye to increased profits.
A practical step in making a choice is to read the jacket notes on any record you consider buying, just as you would read labels on packaged foods. If the music is described as being cacophonic, dissonant, 12-toned, dodecaphonic, serial or percussive, you can be sure that it is strident, with no easily identifiable tunes, and that its beat is very propulsive. This can prove to be mentally exasperating and fatiguing. Obviously, music with a mythological program promoting a lie or that is suggestively immoral is no candidate for purchase by a true Christian.
It is noteworthy that Jehovah’s Witnesses have faith-inspiring music with words that honor and praise God in harmony with his revealed truths. No claim is made that these songs are great masterpieces. They are simple melodies composed by dedicated musicians whose hearts and minds moved them to express their love for Jehovah and his purposes, and for all their fellow believers. Many relaxing hours can be enjoyed listening to records or cassettes of these tunes. Singing these Scripturally based songs in congregational assembly or in our homes will remind us of the need to praise Jehovah constantly.
Jehovah God did not have to give us this joyous gift of music. He could have kept it locked up in the heavens for his own enjoyment with his angelic family. However, because he is so unselfish and music so delights him, he wanted us to enjoy its pleasures. Does not this expression of Jehovah’s loving-kindness move us to love him even more?
Moved by our love for God, then, may we use all of Jehovah’s gifts to his praise. Indeed, ‘whether we are eating, drinking or doing anything else’—and that includes singing and listening to or performing music—let us “do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) As his faithful witnesses, may we thus show true appreciation for music, one of Jehovah’s joyous gifts to us.
[Picture on page 22]
Jehovah’s Witnesses regularly praise God in song