[While] recuperating from surgery, I lay bedfast, half-hearing the radio. Suddenly, I realized that the instrumental number being played was the very old and beautiful hymn "Near to the Heart of God", and that I was brought into a worshipful attitude as I listened. The shocking aspect of this (to a non-instrumentalist like me) was the realization that pure instrumental music could have such power upon my subconscious mind.
Then, I became aware that I was repeating - to myself - the words of that fine song: "There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God". It was the words of the song that conveyed the message - that brought me such peace. I knew them well, and they flowed without effort at each beat of the familiar music.
As I mused on these things, the first song was finished, and - with proper transitional chords - the orchestra moved into their second number. It was equally beautiful, well-balanced, and appropriately-played. I thrilled at the artistry of the music and its execution; but the warmth of my worshipful attitude chilled and vanished. The reason was obvious: I clid not know the words of this song - it was sterile ... unproductive.
"Speaking to yourselves" (Teaching and admonishing one another) ... "in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" [Ephesians 5: 19] and "sing with the understanding" (i.e., so as to eclify; understandable) [1 Corinthians 14:15]. This is the kind of music by which Christians worship God. Worshipful music makes melody in the heart - and this plucking or twanging has to do with intelligible giving and receiving of meaningful messages (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14: 5-15-f).
The music continued, but it contributed nothing to God-directed worship. This is not to say [that] I clid not feel and appreciate its power. It spoke (?) to me aesthetically. As the musicians interpreted each composition (none of which called words to my mind), I reveled in this rare beauty. I was pleased, my spirit [was] entertained, but God was not glorified. In the luxury of the experience, I relaxed, my whirling thoughts quietened.
And then, it was there again. Deep inside me, I was praying, "I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord. No tender Voice like Thine can peace afford". No, it wasn't the mechanical excellence of the orchestra that had again awakened my thoughts to God and things spiritual. This music was no more worshipful than previous numbers in the program. But - once again - familiar strains recalled words to my mind. The worship was not in the melody, but in my heart. The worship was not introduced by the music, per se, but by words - an intelligible message, which the melody served to recall. I carefully considered these things, and I challenge your consideration.
Even singing may degenerate into a musical exercise -pleasing men, but far removed from being worshipful. Authority to sing when saints assemble embraces far more than man-ward, man-pleasing music making. We must choose words and melody in keeping with a God-ward, God-serving attitude to have worshipful music.
---Robert F. Turner, Plain Talk (Burnet, TX) Vol.6, #5, July 1969, p. 4 www.wordsfitlyspoken.org