Songs of Deliverance
When in its proper place, music remains one of the best tools for the internalization and expression of spiritual things.
Repentance and Song
“The earth is the LORD’s” begins Psalm 24, and it’s a Scripture which neither I nor any of the young people who were in my car will ever forget. Was it a memory verse we all had growing up? Unlikely. Did each of us have it on our Bible covers or bookmarks? Probably not.
The truth is that the Sons of Korah group from Melbourne, Australia had put this Psalm to music, and we played it over and over, at much volume, as we traveled to and from the 2001 Toronto fraternal gathering as teenagers. The reason why we’ve never forgotten how this Psalm starts is that the musical arrangement had incredible power to awaken our minds with truth, open our hearts to God’s influence, and refresh our souls with the purest kind of joy in worship.
As science has proven, music has a significant effect on the human mind and in the spiritual life of a believer. It can be a real force for good. When in its proper place, music remains one of the best tools for the internalization and expression of spiritual things and is a God-prescribed channel for a genuine response when words alone will not suffice.
That Psalm 24 arrangement by the Sons of Korah is a great example. Of course, as technically “good” and enjoyable it can be, the wrong kind of music will have many negative effects on our spiritual life. It’s one thing to turn up the volume on our spiritual music while driving out of a Youth Conference or to the Toronto Gathering. It’s another to then turn back to secular content the next week on the way to work.
Everything can have its place at times, but we must acknowledge this duplicity can be inversely impactful. The oft-used clean and dirty water cups object lesson comes to mind, as well as Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:8 (ESV):
This article explores some practical ways we can integrate “clean water” into our everyday devotional lives and some short Bible exposition to inform our practices. Another psalm that I have found instructive in this regard is Psalm 32, from which I first took the name of The Seventh Day’s “Songs of Deliverance” album. What stood out to me was the progression of thought by David, after his sin with Bathsheba.
In Psalm 32:6 (ESV), we find David reflecting on forgiveness received and his desire to share that experience with others, as he proclaims,
Whether as a teenager or now as an adult, life can often feel like a flood of water completely engulfing us. David felt as if he was literally running from Saul, saying “the sorrows of hell compassed me about (H5437 sâbab): the snares of death prevented me” (Psa 18:5). In Psalm 32, David’s repentance led him back to the God of his life, who conversely surrounded him (that same word) with grace, expressed in the metaphor of song, a language which David especially could readily understand. David sings,
As David so obviously did, we can also use the tool of the song in our everyday walk when overwhelmed and surrounded by the pressures of life.
Surround Me—A Devotional Routine
When most people think about clear Biblical instruction concerning music, they go to Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians and Colossians where he writes
As it is in Psalm 32, one antidote for sinful behavior and ungodly thinking are “Spirit-filled” or “spiritual” activities as ways of communing with one another, just as they are ways of communing with our Lord. Songs are another devotional practice linking the head and the heart, just like prayer. “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Cor 14:15).
Spiritual songs can have a cleansing effect on our hearts and minds as shown in the parallel Psalm 51:1-2, 9-10, where there is a sense in which the spiritually invigorating songs of deliverance David was able to write would create in him a clean heart and renew a right spirit within him.
On a trip to Barbados in 2006, I was driving in the car of a local brother who had an audio Bible and Christadelphian music on alternating CDs. Remember CDs? When I asked about this and his daily routine, he reflected,
“This is how I warm up for my day to stay focused on God at work and how I close my day on the way home to be in the right mindset for my family.”
This had a big impact on me. As soon as I got home, I got hold of The Bible Experience MP3 set (replaced now with the Bible. com app) and put both it and as many Christadelphian and suitable Christian songs as possible on my digital device (an iPod then, but now my phone).
Today with the dawn of portability, I can employ that same devotional practice and surround myself with those songs of deliverance, intertwined with the Word, and listen at almost any moment in my day. Although I am by nature a musical person, filling my life with spiritual music is a choice I still have to make and a desire I must continually develop and retain. It becomes a habit and alters my taste for things of the Spirit. In another Scripture, Paul says,
The battle in our hearts is there constantly, and we need to feed our inner being a healthy diet and exercise our minds to strengthen that spiritual muscle and develop the stamina we all need. Like a physical fitness routine, I have outlined below some suggested opportunities for surrounding yourself with songs of deliverance. Personally, I have found these very helpful to jumpstart my day, topping up along the way, and putting me in the right mindset in the evening.
Wake Up Call!
No one really likes to wake up to “Beep! Beep! Beep!” These days, as many of us use our phones as an alarm, most have options to choose a song as the tone. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to have your first thoughts of the day be about God before your feet hit the floor. It can totally set the direction of your day and has helped me remember that I need to get the Word in me before I am off about my daily business.
For those who are still using a clock radio, you can usually find a Christian station in your area, and in this way, the first thing you will hear might remind you of God. Even if you cannot wake up to it, you can play spiritual music or an audio Bible while you are getting ready or having breakfast. It’s amazing how the morning rush turns into a morning devotional time of peace.
As in the earlier story, this is the most common time redeemed by believers and often most profitable. So much time can be wasted listening to pop music, the daily news, scrolling Facebook/ Instagram, or clicking through YouTube. Instead, in the quiet moments during the commute, you can put pure spiritual water into your heart which will help you have the proper attitude at work or school.
In fact, the commute is where we often develop early frustrations, if that time is not purposely intended for communing with God. Just think—when a person cuts you off on the road or squeezes you out of the train, how much harder is it to think or say bad things, or get impatient and negative when you have the things of God’s perspective ringing in your ears?
Your “Work” Day!—Many people can listen to music while they work to pass the time as long as it doesn’t affect their productivity. Some people suggest that music increases productivity. This is certainly true if the music reminds you of the LORD and you’re working “as unto” Him. Over the past 10 years, I have gotten emails from young mothers or older retired sisters saying that our music has “turned my mundane housework into a service of worship,” or “made stressful childminding a meditative experience on God’s Fatherhood.”
Break!—Often, at university, in between lectures when you need a mental break, or if you have a moment at your job, you may choose to take that time to do your daily readings or pray. But another good thing to do is listen to inspiring spiritual music if you’ve had a busy morning, or maybe some really uplifting music if things are dragging along, even head out for some physical activity with a good spiritual shot in the arm.
Commute Home!—As with your morning commute, it is a good time to just relax and consider God (providing you don’t fall asleep to a soothing meditation piece!). I have often found the more moving, energetic music is fitting for the end of my day. This reminds me to be thankful, regardless of what happened at school or work. Instead of thinking of the frustrations from that day, one may end up thinking of the blessing it was to have a job or the ability to go to school in the first place. Good music can lift our spirits and just put everything into perspective.
Preparing the Food!—In our house, whoever cooks or cleans often puts on some spiritual songs to lift the joy of it all, no matter how messy things may get. Some find that listening to a song before preparing the spiritual food (reading the Scriptures) stimulates all the parts of the brain, getting the heart, soul, and mind to be in tune with each other and prepared to receive the written Word with greater efficacy.
Lullaby Time!—As it is helpful for babies to be settled to sleep with nice sounds, God’s children are no different. It can be nice to finish off your night with a peaceful song to again condition your heart for evening meditation and prayer before you go to sleep. Some have shared that falling to sleep with spiritual music is a way to help you “commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still” (Psa 4:4).
Sowing and Reaping
In a world saturated with cheap junk food music and ungodly poisonous content, it’s more important than ever to apply the sound advice of God’s wisdom through Paul. In times past, before the digital age of constant media, believers often made music and sang together as a healthy pastime.
I have many memories of growing up at the Schooley’s Mountain Christadelphian Bible Camp in New Jersey, where on any given summer afternoon, you might be literally surrounded by brothers and sisters who had very little materially but had songs of deliverance on their lips, ringing out from their cabin porch or under the Bell Tree (an old tree with a circle of benches underneath, which was a common and beloved gathering place).
Later in the day, they would converge at the campfire for evenings filled with more spiritual songs. For them, it was a time to disconnect from the craziness of life and connect with each other in spiritual ways. This implanted in my heart an example for devotional time with God, using music as the vehicle for connection.
Today, thanks to that same digital age that so challenges us, we also have a huge resource for enjoying those songs anytime and anywhere, especially with the content created by our brothers and sisters. God created music to be used in both personal devotion and congregational worship. Like anything else, music has consequences, either good or bad. As Galatians 6:8 (ESV) states so clearly,
God created music, enjoys it Himself, and sings His song over us at our salvation (Zeph 3:17). Throughout time, believers have used music in both their personal lives and informal services. Experiences from so many believers will leave you convinced that non-spiritual music often is one of “every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb 12:1) and takes our eyes away from looking to Jesus.
I would challenge the reader to give spiritual music replacement an honest try. See how it changes your day. There is a multitude of spiritual music resources in the Christadelphian community that varies in compositional styles and lyrical subjects. Some of the resources are included in the footnotes below. Rather than floating on the river of life, take control of your inner life by filling your heart with spiritual things and surrounding yourself with songs of deliverance.
Canterbury Ecclesia, Melbourne, AU
- music.seekthelord.com/GuitarHymnBook – Bro. James DiLiberto’s 2002 Green Hymn Book with guitar chords/capo options for accompaniment with piano or solo
- theseventhday.com.au – The Seventh Day collective recordings and sheet music
- jehoshaphatmusic.com – Choirs and Studio recordings, North America
- christadelphianmusic.com – Bro. Levi Myers’ music
- soundcloud.com/christadelphianmusic – Compilation of Streaming Christadelphian Music
- Search Spotify for “Christadelphian” for many good sources like WCF Music including Hymns for Sunday and a compilation of All Christadelphian Songs organized by theseventhday.com