Pop Music in the Bible?

Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on February 1, 2010

Speaking of pop music not being worthy of association with the scriptures: you may be surprised to know that some of the scriptures themselves were probably originally set to pop music. When you see the term, “To the Chief Musician,” in the Psalms, it’s often followed by an instruction from the lyricist, explaining how he wants the Psalm set to music.

The Amplified Bible tells us that the chief musician was instructed to set Psalms 45 and 69 “to the tune of ‘Lilies’ (probably a popular air).”The New Living Translation calls ‘Lilies’ “a love song.” Asaph used the same tune for Psalm 80.

Apparently one of the top hits of the day was a song called “Do Not Destroy.” David specified its tune for Psalms 57, 58 and 59, and Asaph used it for Psalm 75. David chose three other popular tunes, for Psalms 22, 56 and 60. (See the Amplified Bible.)

King David’s Psalm 8, (O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!) was, according to the Amplified Bible, to be “set to a Phi•listine lute, or (possibly) to a particular Hittite tune.”The same instructions were given by Asaph for Psalm 81 and by the sons of Korah for Psalm 84. Whichever it may be, this was not a “religious” style. The Philistines were arch-enemies of the Israelites, and the Hittites were a heathen people only partially subjugated by Israel! God had warned Israel against worshipping their gods but apparently had no problem with co-opting their musical styles. So what’s this about pop music not being worthy of association with the Holy Scriptures?

Different Strokes

Let’s digress for a moment to consider a principle. In the vast diversity of religious expression, some people prefer to keep their religious lives separate from their everyday experience. Their lives are compartmentalized into religious and secular sections. The religious compartment contains a special “religioso” music, perhaps precious to them, that has little to do with the way they live and think in their everyday experience, and they feel uncomfortable in letting the compartments mix. They find a haven of rest and peace in this religious compartment, and it’s very meaningful to them.  Others, however, don’t keep their spiritual expression in an isolated compartment; the music of their daily lives is the music of their spiritual lives. The Apostle Paul, in  Romans 14:5, says that some think one day is more holy than another, while others think every day is alike. In the same manner, one person may maintain a compartmentalized existence while another lets all of life run together before the Lord—all of it is sacred. One way is not necessarily better than the other, and both believers may love God equally. For many in the latter category, happy blues-style music has become an integral part of their lives and so fits naturally into their religious expression.

Even so, be careful. Always use discretion in the way the message and the music work together. These are not songs about the Throne but about walking with the Lord or fighting His battles on earth. It’s very easy to get so caught up in the fun of the music that the “praise service” becomes a fleshly emotional binge, but if the music team is under mature spiritual leadership, it can be a refreshing experience.


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