The Real Power in Worship Music
By Steve Soukup (a fellow worship leader and friend)
“Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” 1 Samuel 16:23
As a band leader and worship musician trainer I find that one issue I struggle with is an over emphasis on the music and the quality of its performance. Obviously every musician wants to play well and when we use our gifts with excellence it gives glory to God. Still, sometimes I feel like my obsession with technical quality or just the right sound leaves something “missing” in the music. Thinking about stuff like this always leads me to the Bible for answers. References to worship and music in the Bible are plentiful and scattered but not always obvious. Thank God that once you become a musician you look at musical things very differently.
Some of my favorite Bible references are to David’s musicianship. The above verse is from early in David’s fascinating life. This is before God allows the unknown shepherd boy to take out the giant warrior Goliath. So David’s fame is rising even as King Saul’s is sinking. The once humble and Godly King Saul begins a slow, tragic slide away from God who is constantly pursuing him through the prophet Samuel. I find myself asking, “What is it that got Saul to such a point?” That’s likely a complex answer and we really can’t read the guy’s heart, but the text does indicate that selfishness and resentment were powerful poisons that contributed to the death of Saul’s relationship with his loving heavenly Father. I don’t know if Saul was a musician, but these poisons are no strangers to emotional musicians even to this day. When we focus on how wonderful we sound rather than on how wonderful God is… well you can understand why God would not be in that kind of thinking, right? Take God out and the music loses its magic.
David’s music clearly has magic (supernatural power), because the results are astonishing and clear. Saul feels better and the evil spirit leaves. I find myself wondering if evil spirits leave when our bands play. And if so, what is it that scatters them? I doubt if it was the stunning quality of David’s singing and playing. He played a lyre after all, no amp, no reverb, no lighting, no backup harmony, and no monitors. I was curious about the lyre so I looked one up on youtube…
Neat instrument, but even if David was this good and even if he had an instrument that fine, both unlikely, it just doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that would send evil spirits running, at least musically. So what was it?
In 1 Kings 15:3 the writer is talking about a later king who was not nearly as successful as David and he makes this comment, “his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been.” David clearly had a very special relationship with God and this the Bible attributes for the powerful success of his life. Not that we will always flourish if we are tapped into God. David’s life was so full of turmoil that our lives look wimpy in comparison. On the run or in victory, confronted with adultery and murder or grieving a son’s betrayal, David sought the Lord with all his heart and it brought power to his life and music. May the Lord pull powerfully on your own hearts and may your music always send demons running.