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The Sabbath and Worship Music


The final silencing of the musicians of Babylon suggests that their music plays an active role inpromotingfalse worship.Itis instructivetonotethecontrast between the music of Babylon, which is primarily instrumental, with minstrels (professional entertainers), and the music of the heavenly choirs, which is pri- marily vocal. The only instrument used to accompany the heavenly choirs is the harp ensemble. No flutes or trumpets accompany them. Why? As we shall see, the timbre of the harp blends harmoniously with the collective human voices. The use of other instruments would overshadow the singing.

The apocalyptic description of the music of Babylon reminds us of the instruments used by rock bands. Their music is so loud that the lyrics can hardly be heard. The reason, as we have seen in earlier chapters, is to stimulate people physically through the loud, incessant beat. This is the music that the Lord ulti- mately will silence at the overthrow of apocalyptic Babylon. By contrast, the triumphant music of eternity is driven, not by the hypnotic beat of percussion instruments, but by the marvelous revelation of God’s redemptive accomplish- ments, which inspires the redeemed to sing their hearts out. To this point we shall return shortly.

An Antidote Against False Worship. The mission of the church at this time, as portrayed effectively by the three apocalyptic angels, is to promote the true worship of “him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of water” (Rev 14:6). The Sabbath is a most effective means to promote the resto- ration of true worship, because it calls upon people to worship Him who “in six days made heaven and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Ex 20:11).

By focusing on God’s creative and redemptive accomplishments, the Sab- bath functions as an antidote against false worship. It challenges men and women to worship not their human achievements and pleasures, but their Creator and Redeemer.

The temptation to worship human realities such as money (Matt 6:24), power (Rev 13:8; Col 3:5), and pleasure (Rom 6:19; Titus 3:3), has been present in every age. Today the problem is particularly acute, because the triumph of modern science and the hedonistic bent of our culture have led many people to worship personal profit and pleasure rather than God’s power and presence.

The pleasure syndrome of our time can be seen in the church’s worship practice. People have become so attuned to amusement that they also expect church music to be entertaining, self-satisfying, and stimulating. The Sabbath can serve as an antidote against the search for pleasure in worship by reminding believers that God invites them on His Holy day to come into His sanctuary, not to seek for their “own pleasures” (Is 58:13), but to delight in the goodness of His creative and redemptive love.

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