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DEVOTION// Luther on the blessings of music

DEVOTION// Luther on the blessings of music

"Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! ...Great is our LORD and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. ...Sing to the LORD with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp.... The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Extol the LORD, Jerusalem; praise your God, Zion" (Psalm 147:1,5,7,11,12).

When we consider the LORD’s grace for us in Jesus, it’s easy to break out in song. And when we sing about the LORD, it’s easy to rejoice in his grace. Martin Luther wrote the following in praise of music.

Luther on music

I would certainly like to praise music with all my heart as the excellent gift of God which it is and to commend it to everyone....

Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. She is a mistress and governess of those human emotions—to pass over the animals—which as masters govern men or more often overwhelm them. No greater commendation than this can be found—at least not by us. 

Whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate—and who could number all these masters of the human heart, namely, the emotions, inclinations, and affections that impel men to evil or good?—what more effective means than music could you find? 

The Holy Ghost himself honors her as an instrument for his proper work when in his Holy Scriptures he asserts that through her his gifts were instilled in the prophets, namely, the inclination to all virtues, as can be seen in Elisha [2 Kings 3:15]. On the other hand, she serves to cast out Satan, the instigator of all sins, as is shown in Saul, the king of Israel [1 Samuel 16:23].

Thus it was not without reason that the fathers and prophets wanted nothing else to be associated as closely with the Word of God as music. Therefore, we have so many hymns and Psalms where message and music join to move the listener’s soul, while in other living beings and [sounding] bodies music remains a language without words. 

After all, the gift of language combined with the gift of song was only given to humans to let them know that they should praise God with both word and music, namely, by proclaiming [the Word of God] through music and by providing sweet melodies with words.  

Let the music flow

So hum those hymns. Sing those psalms. Praise God that in Jesus our sins are forgiven. “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-20).