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The Sabbath and Worship Music


Holiness in Time as Holiness in Church Music. As holiness in time, the Sabbath effectively challenges believers to respect the distinction between the sacred and the secula , not only in time, but also in such areas as church music and worship. After all, music and worship constitute an important aspect of the observance of the Sabbath.

The fundamental meaning of the holiness [Hebrew qadosh] of the Sab- bath, which is frequently affirmed in the Scriptures (Gen 2:3; Ex 20:11; Ex 16:22; 31:14; Is 58:13), is the “setting aside” of the twenty-four hours of the seventh day to culvitate the awareness of God’s presence in our lives. It is the manifestation of God’s presence that makes time or space holy.

The holiness of the Sabbath is to be found, not in the structure of the day which is the same as the rest of the weekdays, but in God’s commitment to manifest in a special way His holy presence through the Sabbath day in the life of His people. Isaiah, for example, pictures God as refusing to be present at the Sabbath assembly of His people, because of their “iniquity” (Is 1:13-14). God’s absence makes their worship experience not an adoration but an “abomination” or a “trampling of my courts” (Is 1:12-13).

As the symbol of God’s free choice of His special time to manifest His holy presence, the Sabbath can constantly and effectively remind believers of their special divine election and mission in this world. Holy Day calls for a holy people. As the Sabbath stands as the Holy Day among the weekly days, so the believer who keeps it is constantly invited to stand as God’s chosen holy person among a secularly minded and perverse generation. In other words, as the Bible puts it, Sabbathkeeping serves as “a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you” (Ex 31:13; cf. Ezek 20:12).

The Mixing of the Sacred with the Secular. The distinction between the sacred and the secula , which is embedded in the Sabbath commandment, is foreign to those Christians who view their Lord’s Day as a holiday rather than a Holy Day. In Western Europe, less than ten percent of Catholics and Protestants go to church on Sunday. The vast majority of Christians choose to spend their Lord’s Day seeking personal pleasure and profit. Even inAmerica, where church attendance runs close to fifty percent, the same Christians who on Sunday morn- ing go to church, in the afternoon will most likely go to the shopping mall, ball games, restaurants, or other places of entertainment.

The mixing of sacred with secular activities, on what many Christians view as their Lord’s Day, facilitates the mixing of sacred with secular music in church worship itself. The common contributory factor is the loss of the sense of the sacred—a loss which affects many aspects of the Christian life today.

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