In my lifetime, there has been much ado about worship music. To be fair, there have been controversies about music in the Church from pretty early on. And the debaters still rage. Instruments or no instruments. Psalms only or music newly composed. Music sung by choir vs congregation or both. Professional musicians vs whomever is willing and somewhat able. On and on and on.
As a musician myself – having traveled with a quartet for 8.5 years, singing and playing in churches throughout the northeast and some beyond. And serving instrumentally and vocally on various “worship teams” – this remains an area of perennial interest to me.
Truth be told, varying views on music in Church and worship have been so strident that Churches have even split over styles, volume and presentation. Sinfully for sure. And in some places, the music has taken such a prominent place, that the music portion of the public gathering is labeled “worship” while the rest of the service, prayer, and the preaching of the Word, etc., somehow isn’t considered worship. One is hard pressed to find that paradigm in Scripture, but nevertheless is does prevail in our day.
While many have analyzed, written and expounded on worship music over time, one of the things which emerges often (above mere discussions of style and volume) is lyrical content. And rightly so. What we are singing to whom, should occupy a place of prominence. Is it clear who the object of our worship is? And are we using appropriate expressions – fitting for the person of the God we are approaching? These are serious questions. Questions not to be tossed off lightly in favor of our mere subjective preferences.
All of which brings me to something I was reminded of in reading through the Revelation recently. And that is the 12 hymns recoded in it. My Psalms only friends may find it difficult to say it is improper to sing these since they aren’t in the Psalms. But they are in the Scripture. And my more contemporary friends may be put off by how little they focus upon our feelings and more sentimental expressions. But they are representative of the worship which prevails in the very presence of God. Surly what He deems acceptable. And that ought to give us much insight into what characteristics worship music – in the very best of environments – ought to contain.
So, for your consideration, and that especially of my musician friends, I bid you take a fresh look at the 12 hymns given to us in the Book of Revelation, and see if there are some elements, themes and focus that ought to inform our own music today. Certainly, far more than I’ve witnessed. Keep an eye on how they fix on the glories, worthiness and greatness of God and Christ. And how they say so little about the singer’s faith, love, feelings etc. They are worship. Worship of Him.
Here they are for your consideration:
1. Rev. 4:8 / The hymn of the four living creatures:
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
– God is thrice holy, holy in all He has been, is and will be.
– He is Lord, reigning over all in His holiness.
– He is almighty, and His power does not corrupt Him.
This is denominated as giving Him “glory”, “honor” and “thanks” Recognizing, Responding, Rejoicing.
2. Rev. 4:11 / The hymn of the 24 elders:
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
– He is worthy because He has created all.
– He is worthy because all things exist out of His will rather than out of any necessity other than His will.
– He is worthy then to have His glory recognized, His honor recognized, and His power recognized.
3. Rev. 5:9-10 / The “New Song” of the elders and the living creatures:
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
– He is worthy to possess the scroll
– He is worthy to open its seals
– He is worthy because He was slain
– He is worthy because by His blood He ransomed people for God from every tribe, language, people & nation
– He is worthy because He has made the ransomed a kingdom and priests who will reign on earth.
4. Rev. 5:12 / The hymn of the Living Creatures, the elders and countless angels:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
– He is worthy Who was slain
– He is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory and blessing.
5. Rev. 5:13 in two movements/ The chant of every creature in all creation:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
– To God the Father AND to the Lamb be the same
– forever and ever
6. Rev. 5:14 / The response of the 4 living creatures and the elders:
– The 4 living creatures say: “AMEN!”
– The elders fall down and worship
7. Rev. 7:10 / The proclamation of the Great Multitude in two movements:
“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Rev. 7:12 / The response of the elders, angels and four living creatures
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
8. Rev. 14:1-5 / The Hymn of the 144,000. Unrecorded, for only they could sing it.
9. Rev. 15:3-5 / Those who conquered the Beast sang the Song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.
“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
4 Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
10. Rev. 19:1-3 / The Hymn of The Great Multitude in Heaven in two movements.
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2 for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
11. Rev. 19:4 / The response of the 24 Elders and the Four Living Creatures:
12. Rev. 19:6-8 / The hymn of The Great Multitude at the marriage supper of the Lamb:
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—