As I practice my electric guitar... usually worship songs, I think about how music fits into the the Kingdom of God. I have been playing for 30+ years and I still play at church from time to time. I have to say I am shocked by denominations that think music is sinful and shouldn't be allowed in church. Don't get me wrong, I think there are lots of secular songs and a few hymns that don't belong anywhere near church, but real worship songs? How did we get there?
FYI - There are 34 verses in the NIV Bible that directly reference the word music. There are 47 references song, 153 referencing worship, and I am betting that a good number of those include music. There are 30 for the harp and 5 for the tambourine. And you can look up any other ancient instrument and probably find a few verses for those too.
Getting past my shock, I have been a part of all kinds of church music from playing three story cathedral pipe organs, choirs to plain chant and even rap that brought hundreds to the alter for salvation. Having participated in folk masses and near rock concerts I can't imagine church without music.
There was the time that a I heard a 50 piece orchestra and 100 voice choir sing "Oh Come Let Us Adore Him" and I weep just thinking about all those hands outstretched towards a plastic Jesus in a manger. Wow! There was the time the I first heard "Our God Is An Awesome God" and the fear of God was in the room; my knees were shaking. There were other times too, when I heard contemporary worship, like "Let It Rain" played by the Mike Smith Band in Norway while the heavens opened. There are lots of other encounters while I was just listening to a CD, or picking my way thought a chord sheet where God touched me. I think it is called anointing. Why does God use the vehicle for His presence? As a hack musician I don't think that God only speaks to me because I like music. No, I think it is part of the Christian culture.
Wherever you are with music, whether you can carry a tune in a bucket or not, if you have been in a church, you have probably experienced music. This leads me to my next thoughts... what is a new song as described in scripture? There are 9 references to it; 6 in Psalms, 1 in Isaiah and 2 in Revelation. 5 of the Psalms passages say "sing to Him a new song." 1 says "He put a new song in our mouth." The Revelation verses, although in the future (unless I missed that rapture), are in the past tense in the presence of the throne of God.
So here is my analysis or exegesis of this concept. Music is staple of praise and worship to, and of Jesus. When we praise God we give Him "worth-ship" which is really where we get the word worship. It is because He has done great things, and because He is good. It because we have tasted His glory and also because we love Him. But what is the reason for a new song, it is because the old one is boring?
If music is praise, how does it fit into that which God wants us to experience? Paul said that we should praise without ceasing and also pray without ceasing. One can do both at once, or can we? I am believer that the spirit of God in us can do a lot that our natural body cannot. As the gifts of the Holy Spirit operate through us, a vessel, so does the communion of God; spirit to Spirit. It is here that the new song is birthed by His spirit in us. He can give us utterance as He sees fit. Here is an example. Someone that I am very close to was baptized in the Holy Spirit at a retreat. The most common responses to this "event" are speaking tongues, prophesying and in some cases falling out. This time, however; the person began to sing in wonderful and glorious "musical" syllables. This was not just a new song that He put in her mouth, but a spontaneous one.
The new song is much more then just another song. It comes with anointing, worship and praise mingled together to produce something that is edifying to our spirit and pleasing to our God. In some cases a gifted "psalmist" will actually bring heaven to us where we participate in adoration around the throne. But the new song, is birthed in our spirit. It isn't always something that we haven't heard before. In fact, it just might be the way that we sing it "this" time. The new song is a connection to God. As we worship, we are connected to the kingdom of heaven.