Several years ago, 60’s music icon Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel fame released an album entitled The Rhythm of the Saints. On this recording, he utilized musicians and musical instruments from all over the world to create a compelling, “world music” experience. As I thought about this title (with it’s obvious spiritual overtones), and thought about the debate over music that has raged in the church for years (decades, centuries, etc.), it begged the question…
What should the real “Rhythm of the Saints” look and sound like? How should we as believers approach music and worship?
The instructions for true worship and praise are clearly defined in the scriptures.
- We should worship Christ continually.
Our lives, not just our church services, should be a reflection of praise.
“Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Let God be magnified.’” ~ Psalm 70:4
- We should worship Christ in the church.
“I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people.” ~ Psalm 35:18
- We should worship Christ with the lost present.
“He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.” ~ Psalm 40:3
- We should worship God so that praise can be heard.
“O bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise be heard.” ~ Psalm 66:8
These sounds of worship could include:
“… let Your saints shout for joy.” ~ Psalm 132:9
“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ Ephesians 5:18-20
“…then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing…” ~ Psalm 126:1-3
“…play skillfully with a loud noise…” ~ Psalm 47:1
“Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!” ~ Psalm 47:1
- We should worship God with our bodies.
How should we use our bodies in worship? We are commanded to “present your bodies a living sacrifice…” (Romans 12:1-2). We should not hesitate to follow the example of “the man after God’s own heart” — “… David danced before the LORD with all of his might…” (2 Samuel 6:14)
- We can lift up our hands.
“Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.” ~ Psalm 63:4
- We should worship God with our soul and spirit.
You are body-world conscious, and you are soul-self conscious:
“Bless the Lord O my soul…” ~ Psalm 103:1
In addition, you are spirit/God conscious. When you are saved your spirit comes alive in Jesus Christ. Praise is the exercise of the Spirit. Praise brings strength to your spirit.
“…which worship God in the Spirit…” ~ Philippians 3:3
Mary praised God by saying, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:47)
- We should worship according to the Word of God.
Everything David did in worship was from the Word of God…
“In God I will praise His word.” ~ Psalm 56:10-11
The Pitfalls of Preference
Worship is not about musical styles and personal preferences. It’s not about “warm fuzzies”, “nice feelings”, and staying in our comfort zones. Worship is about getting into God’s presence and seeking His face above all. What may sound to us like a joyful noise (emphasis on noise) may be wonderful praise from a pure heart to the ears of Almighty God. On the contrary, what may sound reverent, impressive, and inspiring to us may be a clanging noise to the One who knows “the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
The ark of God was the very throne and dwelling place of the presence of God on earth. When David and the children of Israel wanted to bring the ark of God up from Kiriath Jearim to the City of David, they had the best intentions at heart. It seemed like the right thing to do. There was much rejoicing and celebrating. They gathered all the people together, lots of music and dance, put the ark on a “new cart”, and headed out. However, God had already specified the manner in which the ark was to be carried, and a cart pulled by oxen was not in the instructions. The ark (His Presence) was always to be carried upon the shoulders of men, not on a cart pulled by a beast. So, when the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out to steady the ark, he paid for his irreverence with his life. God struck him dead on the spot, which angered the king. However, it wasn’t long until anger turned to fear in David’s heart. Instead of continuing with his ill-fated plan, David turned aside to the house of Obed-Edom, where the ark resided for the next three months (2 Samuel 6).
David had a good idea, but he did a good thing in a bad way. Worship is not about our opinion — it’s about His Presence. Following His design for how we approach Him is the key to finding His heart, and experiencing the joy, peace, awe, and wonder of His presence. When David returned three months later to move the ark to the City of David, he had a new perspective, a new attitude of worship, and approached the ark of God with sacrificial worship and praise.
One final thought…
The passage states that, “The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household” (2 Samuel 6:11). Obed-Edom didn’t just stop by occasionally and visit the ark. He made his home — his dwelling place — the habitation of the presence of Almighty God. Could it be that we are not experiencing more of His power and blessing because we are apathetic in our treatment of His presence in our lives? Could it be that if, instead of showing up at His house on Sundays and Wednesday nights, we make our own homes and our very lives habitations for His throne to reside 24/7?
Combine that attitude toward worship with the spirit of unity of believers in Jesus, and I believe that you find the unstoppable, unmistakable “Rhythm of the Saints” sounds surprisingly like the very heartbeat of God.