Do Any Religions Forbid Music? (Y1.T1.D11)
Updated: Sep 11
In 2000 I worked for IT in Corporate America, and I shared a cubicle wall with a contractor from Pakistan. I kept a Bible on my desk so he knew I was a Christian. One day he noticed me bopping my head as I coded and later kindly asked me what I had listened to with my headset.
“Christian music,” I responded.
He was incredibly surprised and told me his religion forbade music. “Our teachers warn us against the influence music has.”
My heart broke. I liked this man. He was always kind, and I was saddened that leaders he trusted denied him that freedom. “Does this include all music?” I asked.
“We can listen to prayers from the mosque or cries of war.”
“But what about songs of encouragement, praise, or love?”
“No, not allowed.”
Radical Islam isn’t alone in restricting music. Various Christian denominations have been known to ban organs, trumpets, guitars, and drums. That makes me very sad. Music is said to “soothe the savage beast”, and sometimes the world can feel beastly.
The Bible is full of people bursting out in song and dance. In our verses today, we’ll read the Magnificat (Mary’s song of praise), as well as the Benedictus (Zechariah’s song). These odes reveal the impact God’s miracles have on the human soul.
Can you imagine a world without melody? Personally, I’m grateful God understands our heart’s need to express our emotions with the power of music. He not only allows it, he encourages us to “Sing him a new song” (Isaiah 42:10).
1 Sing to Yahweh a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
2 Yahweh has made known his salvation.
He has openly shown his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his loving kindness and his faithfulness toward the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to Yahweh, all the earth!
Burst out and sing for joy, yes, sing praises!
5 Sing praises to Yahweh with the harp,
with the harp and the voice of melody.
6 With trumpets and sound of the ram’s horn,
make a joyful noise before the King, Yahweh.
7 Let the sea roar with its fullness;
the world, and those who dwell therein.
8 Let the rivers clap their hands.
Let the mountains sing for joy together.
9 Let them sing before Yahweh,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity. (Psalm 98:1–9)
39 Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah, 40 and entered into the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 She called out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came into my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy! 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of the things which have been spoken to her from the Lord!”
46 Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord.
47 My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked at the humble state of his servant.
For behold, from now on, all generations will call me blessed.
49 For he who is mighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for generations and generations on those who fear him.
51 He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He has put down princes from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things.
He has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has given help to Israel, his servant, that he might remember mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and his offspring[a] forever.”
56 Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her house.
57 Now the time that Elizabeth should give birth was fulfilled, and she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had magnified his mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 On the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. 60 His mother answered, “Not so; but he will be called John.”
61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” 62 They made signs to his father, what he would have him called.
63 He asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.”
They all marveled. 64 His mouth was opened immediately and his tongue freed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 Fear came on all who lived around them, and all these sayings were talked about throughout all the hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them laid them up in their heart, saying, “What then will this child be?” The hand of the Lord was with him.
67 His father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying,
68 “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people;
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David
70 (as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets who have been from of old),
71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show mercy toward our fathers,
to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath which he swore to Abraham our father,
74 to grant to us that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies,
should serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.
76 And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the remission of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the dawn from on high will visit us,
79 to shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death;
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:39–79)
Thank You for the music and the access I have to it. Help me find time in each day to worship You with a joyful song (Psalm 100:2). Minster to my soul with strings or brass (Psalm 150:3-5). Thank You for the freedom to clap my hands or shout for joy (Psalm 47:1). As an emotional creation, it’s wonderful to express my love to You with music.
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