And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away. -1 Samuel 16:23
There are several things to note about this passage.
The spirit from the lord was a tormenting one
Much ink has been spilled about this passage with regards to the nature of this spirit. It is called in various translations a tormenting spirit, an evil spirit, and a harmful spirit. Based on the context I’m more inclined to view this spirit as something God sent to convict Saul of his evil ways. However, regardless of how we interpret the spirit that was sent, it is important to note that the spirit was from God and was sent to make Saul uncomfortable.
The music of David’s harp counteracted the effect this spirit had
Whether the soothing was achieved through distraction or through Saul’s enjoyment of the music David played, a combination of the two, or some other factor, the fact remains that the music David played was able to produce a spiritual effect.
Implications for us
If music is able to sooth Saul’s torment which was caused by God. It is not unreasonable to think that music is able to induce a spiritual condition not caused by God. This means that people can certainly be led to the alter to confess their sins and repent wholly apart from the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit.
In Scripture we have an example of a communications medium, music, having a conscious and spiritual effect.
We should be careful, then, what do with communication mediums like music. If we are using them to sooth us, we should ask ourselves whether or not we ought to be soothed. If we are using it to rile ourselves up, we should ask whether or not we ought to be riled up.
To give an example, I have recently taught myself to appreciate classical music on my relatively short commute to and from the office. I did this primarily to help transition between two “worlds”, work and home. Music, in this case, helps create a space.
Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak. –William Congreve
Update: A recent paper indicates that music has intoxicating effects. I wonder if the SBC will pass a resolution against music now.