Yesterday, I said something that got me thinking:
“There is less and less sacred in the house of the LORD these days and that certainly concerns me.”
When someone mentions sacred music these days, I don’t know about you, but I typically think of 17th century music sung in ornate cathedrals, in such a way that one can’t understand the words anyway…Or I think of hymns in a particular style with no drums. However, the word Sacred, means “set apart for worship of a deity.” Webster’s defines it as,
“1. a : dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity
b : devoted exclusively to one service or use (as of a person or purpose) “
If the music meets those criteria, than it could be considered sacred. Trouble is, most of it doesn’t today, and didn’t in the 17th century either-most of the music composed than was composed for hire by, or under the dictation of, the kings.
Most composers nowadays wouldn’t describe their music as “sacred” per se either, because they are making music for a living, not strictly for the glory and honor of GOD. Christian music, which includes so-called sacred music, is a multi-billion dollar business, and most of the record labels are owned by the big music conglomerates like Sony records. For instance, Provident Group is a Sony Sub-label whose labels include, “Essential Records, Reunion Records, Essential Worship and Beach Street Records, is home to an artist roster which includes Casting Crowns (Thrive), Third Day (Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship), Steven Curtis Chapman (The Glorious Unfolding), Tenth Avenue North (Cathedrals), RED (of Beauty and Rage), and Brandon Heath (No Turning Back) among others. PMG also consists of Provident Films ( “War Room,” “Mom’s Night Out,” “Fireproof”), Provident Distribution, Essential Music Publishing and Essential Artist Services. “
Capitol Christian Music Group which is a subsidiary of Capitol Records, owned by Vivendi, which claims to be the largest music corporation in the world, owns just about every other “Christian” record label not controlled by Sony. The Christian music arm, Capitol Christian Music Group claims that “Capitol CMG Publishing has long been the market leader and represents more than 100,000 songs, hundreds of copyright catalogs including sixsteps and ThankYou Music, over 300 writers, including Chris Tomlin, Kirk Franklin, Matt Redman, Ben Glover, Marvin Sapp, Matt Maher, Chris Stevens, Aaron Lindsey, Leeland and David Garcia and also administers catalogs for other artist/writers such as TobyMac, Casting Crowns and Third Day.” They also hold “exclusive distribution agreements with more than 30 music labels, film studios and book publishers, including Gaither Music Group, Inpop, Maranatha! Music, Spring Hill Music Group, Universal Music Group, Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz, Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment, Jellyfish Labs, Wanderlust Productions, Worthy Publishing and Authentic Publishers, among many others. Since 1994, Capitol Christian Distribution has been named Billboard Magazine’s Top Christian Music Distributor 15 times in the last 18 years.”
These labels exists to make money. If they don’t, they’ll go away. That these artists write songs, and Sony and Capitol Records (which are about as far as you can get from anything that resembles sacred) produce them, is a testament that it is a business rather than a dedicated act of worship. This opens up another subject about the business of christian music which I hope to address at another time, but my point here is:
Most modern christian music, just because it is christian, is not necessarily sacred, because it is no longer solely for the worship of GOD.
When God called Moses out of a burning bush in the wilderness, His very presence made the immediate area holy ground, “And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)
That must’ve been both awesome and yet scary at the same time, Moses sees a bush, burning, but not being consumed, hears the voice of GOD, and what does he do? Moses recognized the voice of Jehovah saying, don’t come any closer, take off your shoes because you are on holy ground and Moses hid his face, “for he was afraid to look upon God.” He had a fear of the LORD while in the presence of the God of all the universe! Later, Moses had to be hid in a cleft of the rock and only see the backside of the LORD because no one can see God’s face and live. When the LORD showed Himself to Elijah, there was a wind so strong that it broke rocks, and there was a powerful earthquake, then a fire, then after that, the Still, Small Voice of the LORD, and Elijah wrapped his face in his mantle. King David, whose life revolved around worshiping the LORD said twice (Psalm 29:2 and Psalm 96:9)
“Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”
“O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.”
Since we have been redeemed and don’t belong to us anymore (1 Cor 6:19-20), there ought to be a difference from the rest of the world, in nearly everything we do, and He that redeemed us with His blood told us to be holy like He is. After all, we are His! We don’t typically use the term “Redeemed” anymore, but it means we have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, the Lamb without spot or blemish. If we have been bought, than who, or what owned us before? We seem to take the presence of God in our worship for granted today and church services have become productions of pre-rehearsed, palatable, people pleasing pompousness, and no one knows what is holy or sacred anymore. We ought to come into the presence of the Holy God on our knees, trembling, for He is our GOD (Psalm 95:6)! Let HIM tell us when we can get up! If we really experienced the presence of God in all His Holiness, we would hide our face and say with Isaiah, “Woe is me for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips!”
What is sacred in our lives?
Are we continuing under our former slave driver’s rule, continuing to live and talk, and be like the rest of the world?
What have we really been redeemed from?
Do we really believe we have been redeemed from the corruption of sin and from the death sentence that was on us by our former master?
If you were purchased, lock, stock and barrel from the the most diabolical dictator and slave master that ever existed, would you really want to have anything to do with him or the things he likes? I’m pretty sure that if I was held captive by a diabolically evil dictator and made to do his bidding, and someone came and freed me, I wouldn’t want to remember anything of my former life! And yet, we have been redeemed. The victory is ours! The LORD is on our side, He gave His precious life-there was no other who could- for my worthless one. Why do I not always give Him my very best?
Is a little sacrifice of praise when faced with insurmountable trial too much to give?
Being as the scripture tells us in Titus 2 that, the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, Is it too much to ask that we say no, to ungodliness, and worldly lusts, and to walk soberly, righteously and godly in this present world?
Am I peculiar and zealous of good works?
Do I really live soberly, righteously and godly in this world? I know I don’t always deny ungodliness and worldly lusts…
Am I being too hard, too narrow-minded?
Just some, as my friend Dave would say, “Ponderage”. I’m challenged by these thoughts in more than just the area of music. What about you?