[The Lord said to Moses…] “Now therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the sons of Israel; put it on their lips, in order that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel… Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants)” (Deutronomy 31:19, 21a)
Because yesterday’s entry about songs seems to touch off a nerve, I want to write another thing about songs that I’ve recently come across while studying Deuteronomy. It was interesting that the second-to-last thing that Moses did before he died was that he wrote a song for Israel. After all the commandments he gave Israel throughout the book of Deuteronomy, it wasn’t enough. God told Moses to condense the teaching in a song which will not be forgotten. Wouldn’t it be nice if God told you to write a song and told you the song wouldn’t be forgotten for generations?
The impact of songs on our lives and our thinking and our theology is more than you would think. That’s why someone coined the term “theomusicology,” which is the study of music and its impact on our theology. Let me tell you my favorite case study of theomusicology.
In the Western Solomon islands of Melanesia there used to be a bunch of tribals that were converted to Christians. But after World War II, 3,000 of them turned and followed a cult. Studies were done to find out what was going on, and to the researchers’ surprise, they found that the major reason for their leaving the faith was because of the inadequacy of the music and hymns used by the missionaries. The missionaries that first evangelized that place made three mistakes: (a) They sang only the missionaries’ favorite hymns; (b) Those hymns did not convey theology systematically, leaving huge gaps in the tribals’ theological understanding; (c) they never encouraged the local tribals to write their own hymns. On the other hand, the cultists wrote songs using the local culture and local ideology and local music style and contain systematic theology of their cult. (Source: “The Sound Of The Harvest” (1998) by J. Nathan Corbitt, pages 183-184)
This case study always helped remind me what a huge responsibility we have as worship leaders in church.