Thoughts from a Musician's Heart
IN JUBAL'S FOOTSTEPS by Steven Gross
There are a multitude of thoughts that come from this musician’s heart when looking back at a career of over 40 years. My heart has been filled with joy multiple times with the gifts and opportunities that God has given me. My heart has also been broken, and not just once.
What has remained constant in my life is the awareness that God created music and the arts as an integral expression of our being. We are created in His image, with intellect, emotion, will, personality, language, and yes – the ability to create beauty through music. In the opening chapter of Genesis, it is stated, Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.’ Then, as if it weren’t enough, the principle is repeated: And God made man in his own image, in the image of God he created him. Not long after the first humans, we read of the musician Jubal. David, an accomplished musician, appears at the highest levels of the state as king. And he enthusiastically engaged in liturgical dance.
God gave instructions for art in the Tabernacle and Temple. This includes cherubim as representational figures, candlesticks with cups, almond blossoms and flowers, and priests’ garments with pomegranates in artificial colors. There is gold overlay, paneled cypress, carved palm trees with chain work, precious stones “for beauty” (emphasis mine), and a linen veil of blue, purple, and crimson with woven cherubim. Not least are the free-standing pillars, with no structural purpose. The musical establishment included trained and paid professional musicians. In one example, they play instruments, accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets, plus singers.
In the New Testament, Jesus and His disciples sang a song at the end of the Last Supper. The epistles of James and Paul exhort us to sing and make music. In the end times there are the mighty concerts in the book of Revelation. We hear a “new song,” with harps, rendered by four “living creatures,” 24 elders, and 144,000 people. Later in the book, a multitude of people sing the song of Moses, also with accompaniment.
No other justification is needed for music and the arts.
As a Christian musician, I see my purpose, and that of each believing musician, is to render beauty to God to the best of one’s ability. While we seek to edify the audience, we aren’t subject to their approval, or of the naysayers in the musician ranks. This frees us from much of the apprehension in public performance, and a sense of personal failure when things don’t go according to plan. We emulate God in producing beauty.
In our relationships with other musicians, we employ the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The love of Christ, and a relationship with Him, become real when manifested, instead of the dynamics of power and manipulation often seen in musical workplaces.
Christians may be lonely in classical music. But we bring to it a spirit that makes our music- making and relationships of an entirely different order. May Christians in music and the arts be inspired to act boldly in integrity and love, with beauty in our playing and our relationships.