Thursday, June 19, 2008

On Music

Every morning I go swimming in the text of the Bible for several hours. Why I don’t do this at home I can’t quite figure out. Maybe this time I will take home some better patterns. When I get up here (usually 6:00 am, I immediately dress and walk into the village bread store for a baguette and two croissants). It’s a 20 minute round trip, and by the time I’m back, I’m fully awake and ready to read. Martha stays up late reading, so she sleeps in. Coffee gets turned on and I dive into the text (finished Ezra this morning). I read with a notepad to mark trends, themes and curious words and phrases. Here is what I’m “rediscovering” while reading through the Bible.
It really is all about worship. God’s encountering humanity is always a call for a worshiping relationship with him. Start with Adam and Eve and work ahead. God desires an intimate relationship with us on his terms. That is worship. The Exodus story is entirely about worship; God desiring to get his people alone to himself. It can’t happen in Egypt, with all the distractions and diversions. The first four commandments are about worship. Just about everything that happens in Exodus, for good and ill, relates to proper and improper worship.
Music and singing play a huge role in the story. Moses sings, Miriam sings. The tribe of Levi sings. When they go to battle they sing. Moses teaches Israel by singing a song. Losers sing and winners sing. Clearly David sings. And the first priestly song to be sung in worship is:
“For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever towards Israel.” II Chronicles 5:13, 7:3 Ezra 3:11 (and maybe other places as well as this phrase is also used in a number of Psalms)
Music and the sacred role of the musicians is more critical than I previously realized. When Israel offers sacrifices, song and music are to accompany them. What is it about song that is so critical and vital? Is it that song brings unity to diverse people, compelling one truth from many mouths? Is there something about instruments that heighten the power of words to new levels? Can genuine praise ever be accomplished without the accompaniment of music?
It seems that biblical song teaches and leads, convicts and rebukes. It is not there to satisfy a generational demand. It’s not there to be seeker sensitive. Song is in obedience to God, for God, about God, to God. Music and song are not separate from the word and worship, but integral and vital to full worship. In terms of the Old Testament perspective, singers and musicians are more important than preachers/teachers (ooops, that’s my job


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