Many Christians these days don't seem to have any problem listening to or playing secular music. Some listen to any kind of music they please, including heavy metal rock. Others may feel that certain types of secular music are permissible, such as easy listening, love songs, country music, the blues, or the oldies from the 1950's and 60's. Therefore, I would like to address that from the Word of God, in order to determine what the standard is in the sight of God.
In Psalm 137, we can find insight into this matter. The Israelites had been carried off into captivity in a foreign land -- the land of Babylon, because of their sin. They later penned this psalm describing the conditions:
"By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down and wept, When we remembered Zion. Upon the willows in the midst of it We hung our harps. For there our captors demanded of us songs, And our tormentors mirth, saying, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion.' How can we sing the LORD'S song In a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, May my right hand forget her skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth If I do not remember you, If I do not exalt Jerusalem Above my chief joy." (Psa 137:1-6)
In the World, Not of the World
This psalm describes the proper attitude that every true follower of Jesus Christ should have. This world is not our home. We are not from here. Our home is Zion in heaven. We may live in the world, but we are not of the world (Joh 17:16). We do not belong to this world any more than Jesus did.
The psalmist wrote, "By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down and wept, When we remembered Zion" (Ps 137:1). This describes their posture and attitude of mourning and longing for home while in a foreign land. When I was in the military as a young man, stationed overseas, I recall at times feeling home sick, wanting to be back home in the United States. The best way to deal with it was not to think about home, but sometimes it was hard to do so. And here the psalmist describes how the Israelites felt when they remembered Zion. They sat and wept.
This should also be the attitude of every true disciple. We should be looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Heb 11:10). We are just passing through as pilgrims and strangers here. As the apostle Peter wrote, "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul." (1Pe 2:11). Therefore, let's not be partakers in The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness.
Refusing to Play for the World
The psalmist said, "Upon the willows in the midst of it We hung our harps. For there our captors demanded of us songs, And our tormentors mirth, saying, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion.' (Psa 137:2-3). In their distress, as they sat and wept, they hung their musical instruments in the trees beside the rivers of Babylon. They were not playing them. There is a time for everything, a time to laugh and a time to weep. This was their time to weep, and it was appropriate. They were being punished by God for their sin and it was very difficult to endure.
But the psalmist gives us the reason why they hung up their harps. He says, "For there our captors demanded of us songs..." (v.3). The reason they hung their harps was that they refused to play Hebrew songs for the Babylonians, who were of this world and wanted to hear these songs for entertainment purposes. The Israelites knew that the joyful songs of Zion were for the Lord and his people, not for the entertainment of the world or the gratification of the flesh.
Yet the main reason why people play, sing and listen to secular music is for entertainment purposes and enjoyment. It's not to bring glory to God. On the other hand, the songs of Zion are for the Lord and our worship of Him, and should not be used to entertain the world.
This next verse describes their complete refusal to play the Lord's songs for the world. They said, "How can we sing the LORD'S song In a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, May my right hand forget her skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth If I do not remember you, If I do not exalt Jerusalem Above my chief joy." (Psa 137:4-6).
The psalmist actually pronounces a curse over himself if he should ever forget Jerusalem, which is the Holy City and represents heaven for us. He also preferred to have his tongue cling to the roof of his mouth rather than forget the city of God's temple. He would rather become mute and be unable to sing at all than to fail to remember Jerusalem and exalt that place above his highest joy. If we forget heaven, and we go back to the world, we will surely perish. Therefore, the psalmist would rather that his right hand forget its musical skill with the instrument than for him to forget the Holy City. How many Christians have that same attitude toward heaven, whereby they would rather they forget how to play their instrument or their music than forget heaven? Do we prefer to be mute and unable to sing at all, rather than fail to exalt heaven, the celestial city, above our highest joy?
You can choose to deny that this psalm has any application to us today with regard to secular music, but I believe it has a definite application for us. It not only shows us that we should refuse to play the Lord's songs for merely entertainment purposes, but it also has application to secular music. For if we refuse to play the Lord's songs for entertainment, then how much less should we play or sing secular music, which is merely for entertainment and enjoyment, rather than the worship of God?
No Friendship with the World
The psalmist tells us that the Israelites in captivity refused to be friends with the world. The Babylonians hated Jerusalem and tore it down, so the Israelites knew that when they asked them to play songs from Zion, they had impure motives for doing so. The psalmist wrote:
"Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. 'Tear it down,' they cried, 'tear it down to its foundations!' Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us. Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks. (Psa 137:7-9, NIV).
The Israelites in their captivity, as depicted in this psalm, were not interested in being buddies with the Babylonians. Yet when we use music for entertainment, we are essentially becoming friends with the world. The apostle James said, "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (Jas 4:4)
Music is Meant for Worship
Music was created by God for worship, and the devil has altered it to be used for worship of him, as I have written in my articles, The Origin of Sin, Satan, and Secular Music and The Rise and Fall of Lucifer the Musician. Secular music serves the devil's purposes well by redirecting praise from God to himself. It promotes his agenda of sin and rebellion against God, and takes our minds off the Lord and off of heaven. It provides something in this world to love and takes us away from God. Yet the apostle John said:
"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." (1Jn 2:15-17)
Scripture also teaches us to be filled with the Spirit, and the Spirit-filled life is one in which we are "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." (Eph 5:19-20). Notice that the Spirit-filled life is one of singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. It is not one in which we are singing and making melody in our hearts for the gratification of the flesh.
Putting it All Together
Although the Israelites were not being asked to play secular music, their response to the demands of their Babylonian captors to play songs of Zion gives us insight into the proper attitude for saints to have, and it provides us with lessons that we can apply to our own lives today as disciples of Christ. Although we are in the world, we are not of the world. We should refuse to play music for the world's entertainment. We should exalt heaven above our highest joy, and glorify God with our songs. If we do not make heaven our highest joy, then we should prefer rather not to play any songs at all.
As for secular music, it doesn't glorify God and it isn't holy. It gratifies the flesh and promotes sin, including idolatry and rebellion. It takes people away from God. It contains many idle words and nonsense, and the Lord said we would have to give an account for every idle word we have spoken (Mt 12:36).
If you still aren't sure about all this, then I suggest you read my articles, Rock, Rap, and Reggae Music -- Five Divine Revelations and Avoiding Worldly Worship. They will make it abundantly clear to you that God hates worldly worship, as well as worldly music. He does not approve of rock, rap, and reggae, not even for the purposes of worship or evangelism. The saints of God don't play these kinds of music in Zion up in heaven. We should be living here on earth the way they do in heaven.
I hope you will take this message to heart, pray about it and ask the Lord, if you are still not sure. The Lord is coming back right away, and He is calling us to repent and make the necessary changes so that we will not miss heaven. May the Lord show you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. May He help all those who are His to depart from iniquity and live in holiness, righteousness, and truth as He requires.
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other verses taken from The Holy Bible -- NIV. Photo of Yes concert, Indianapolis, August 30, 1977, by Rick Dikeman, courtesy Wikimedia.
Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness, Separation from the World, Rock, Rap, and Reggae Music -- Five Divine Revelations, Holy Living in a Perverted World, Avoiding Worldly Worship, The Origin of Sin, Satan, and Secular Music, The Rise and Fall of Lucifer the Musician, For the Glory of God Alone, The Straight and Narrow Path, Ask for the Ancient Paths, Remember Lot’s Wife, The Rise of Antichrists, and One Thing. I highly recommend reading, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies and Holy Fire Baptism. You may find the Main Directory for this blog at Home, and also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.