Music that pleases God is not contingent on what we sing. It is, instead, pleasing to God because of the character and attitude of those who sing it.
The psalmist points out that God takes pleasure in the praise of His people through music…”Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp. For the Lord takes delight in his people” (Psalm 149:3-4). Zephaniah wrote, “the Lord our God is with us and rejoices over us with singing” (Zeph 3:17).
If the Father takes pleasure in our praise and also sings over us, then are there certain musical genres He takes more pleasure in or likes to sing over us more than others? Can we assume God can’t stand modern worship songs or hymns just because we can’t stand them? Even though we may not actually verbally affirm those assumptions, our worship actions and attitudes often convey that egoism.
Scripture speaks to the issue of worship that is or isn’t pleasing to God on several occasions. The prophet Micah condemned Israel’s dishonest, corrupt, and meaningless worship by pointing out what God considers good worship and what he really requires, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Amos criticized music that is ego driven when he wrote, “I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice – oceans of it. I want fairness – rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want” (Amos 5:21-23 The Message).
The book of Isaiah indicates which songs God doesn’t prefer when the author writes, “The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13).
We will never worship in spirit and truth when we only see worship with linear eyes through the lens of our favorite music; when we claim to know what God likes because he likes what we know; when we assume my favorite worship music is also God’s favorite worship music; or when we believe relevant worship began and will end with the music of my generation.
May the words of Paul be our prayer as we sing our hymns and modern worship songs together, “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ – the Message – have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God” (Colossians 3:15-16 The Message)!