Spiritual Disciplines: Worship Through Music (Musica Divina)

While music is important in our lives and provide a means of expression, relaxation, grieving, celebration and fun in our modern world, it is advantageous to know that it was equally important in the ancient days of Israel. We only have to look at the Psalms to realize that music was a significant part of Worship. According to Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary, music in the ancient world was important and influenced many parts of life.

MUSIC. *Biblical references to music are numerous because of the essential role it played in all aspects of the life of the people of the Bible. While the music of worship is a major focus, music concerned with matters of everyday life is also represented.
The origin of music, or at least instrumental music, is ascribed to Jubal (Gen. 4:21), whose kin are regarded as originators of various aspects of human culture (vv. 17, 20, 22). Singing is associated with Jubal’s father Lamech, to whom is ascribed a song of boasting revenge (vv. 23–24), and may have been as ancient as mankind itself (cf. 2:23). The shaping of human speech to melodies and rhythms, which is the beginning and basis of singing, is natural when the voice is used in expressing emotion, in prayer, or in ritual, and all biblical poems can be considered songs at least at this initial level. Recitation, such as the public recitation of the law before the postexilic community (Neh. 8:8–9) and private recitation of the law (e.g., Ps. 119:23; cf. 63:5–7 [MT 6–8]), was also performed in a chant or melodic pattern.1

Music was created and used to hear the “private recitation of the law”. Did you hear that? They heard God’s law through the avenue of music. The Israelites wanted God to speak and provide illumination of His plan for their lives. As Christians, we are drawn to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit draws our attention to God’s voice. In the Ancient World this could be through dreams, through the reading or chanting of the Law, or through circumstances within their lives. We only need to think about the Prophet, Samuel and how God called to him to service to illustrate this point. In I Samuel 3 we find:

A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

11 And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God,[a] and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”2

God spoke plainly to Samuel in a audible voice. Unfortunately, today we may not hear the audible voice of God, but we do hear when He speaks to us during times of meditation in His word, impressions in our thoughts or perhaps in our circumstances. Musica Divina is the combination of hearing God in the music we listen to; perhaps the lyrics of a song, or through the emotional tones that the music presents especially if it is instrumental in nature. Many times Musica Divina happens accidentally when we listen to a Christian Hymn or Contemporary Song in worship, hear it on the radio or play our favorite CD or MP3 and we feel an emotional connection to a hymn or song. God may give you assurance during a difficult crisis or a sense of praise during a time you felt close to His presence. He can speak through many different ways but one of the best, in my opinion, is through music. So, let’s intentionally create Musica Divina, you need only follow these steps:

  1. Find a hymn or song to use for your Musica Divina. Music apps such as Amazon, Apple, Pandora are good resources to find music to fit your spiritual status.
  2. Find a quiet place to listen to your music.
  3. Get some paper and a pencil to write down your thoughts.
  4. Sit down and take a moment to quiet your mind. Say a prayer and ask God to help you hear His voice through the music which you are a listening.
  5. Listen to your music.
  6. Record any thoughts that came to mind during that time.
  7. Listen to your music a second time.
  8. Ask yourself the following question and record your answer: What is God trying to tell me in this song? If the song has lyrics, write down the lyrics that spoke to you.
  9. Listen to your music a third time.
  10. Ask yourself: Is there a scripture reference that coincides with the previous thoughts or lyrics that I wrote? Is there a theme being presented by the Holy Spirit? If so, write it down.
  11. Review the notes you wrote down and ponder their meaning. What is God telling you? Is there anything you need to do in response to His voice?
  12. Say a prayer of thanksgiving to God.

This Spiritual Discipline is one of the most enlightening because we are connecting with other members of our faith through music and thoughts they have created and shared with us on their own spiritual pathways. Perhaps Musica Divina will inspire you to write your own lyrics or compose your own music and share your path with others. I pray Musica Divina will uplift and connect your spirit with God’s Spirit as He leads you in your own spiritual pathway.

1Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 736.

2The Holy Bible, New Living Translation (I Samuel 3: 8-14)

Hymns and Songs I have used…

  • “Praise You in this Storm” – Casting Crowns
  • “Glorious Day” – Casting Crowns
  • “Goodness of God” – Jenn Johnson
  • “The Sea of Forgetfulness” – Helen Baylor
  • “How Great Thou Art” – Sandi Patty
  • “I Can See” – Steve Green
  • “God Is In Control” – Avalon”Amazing Grace” (My chains are gone) – Chris Tomlin

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