Over the years, as I have read the psalms and historic books of the old testament, I have seen some wonderful things about music and what it is for. I hope you will take my musings with a grain of salt, as these ideas are not born through a systematic theological set of eyeglasses. I do not desire to debate the fine splittings of the Hebrew vocabulary, and my opinion is built on partly teaching and experience. I hope perhaps these experiences resonate with you, but you must test them for yourself. My intent is to develop a picture that will help you understand more about what music can be for, as it touches worship of our Father that is in heaven.
King David seems to come into many stories as we search through the scriptures about music. This guy kind of typifies what all of us would like to be. He starts out as a nobody, the youngest of many strapping and competitive brothers.
He finds himself liking to be alone, tending his fathers flocks, rather than to tussle with his older brothers. Somehow, this young boy looked up into the night sky and talked with the God of his fathers. His heart drew such attention in the heavenly realm that a messenger was sent to Samuel the prophet. God had seen the heart of this young shepherd boy, and was moved. The messenger told Samuel to take a horn of oil, and anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next King of Israel. David was quite clueless when his brothers came out to fetch him from the fields, but within him lay the calling of great leadership. He was this way mainly because of his burning desire to worship his Sovereign Lord.
I can almost imagine what it was like for David, sitting next to a small fire with his sheep safely gathered in their fold. There he would play on a small stringed instrument called the lyre, and make up spontaneous melodies. He would direct his words of thanksgiving to God, because no one else was around. There in the expanse of a starry sky, David would pour out his heart and include God as his chief audience. Somehow David could tell that God was there. His presence would bring him joy and satisfaction. David was beginning to learn of a new way to worship that was uniquely born from the reality of his life experience. I can imagine that it was there that David learned to get away from the craziness of life’s pressure, unwind and find the peace that evades understanding.
The heart that David exhibited was in deed what God desires for all of us. All that David did was want God, like a thirsty deer panting after a water brook. David said that God’s presence was more important to him than eating. The incredible fact is that king David is really no different from you and me. He had no special advantage. He just desired God with an earnest passion. We can be the same way, if we want to. God is looking all over to find anyone who wants to seek Him with a whole heart. That means you and me.
David had a long journey before him which culminated in his being made king. He struggled with rejection from the sitting king, Saul. Saul chased him for years because of his insecurity and jealousy. David didn’t want to defend himself against Saul, and shied away from opportunities to take Saul’s life. Saul’s son, Jonathan, loved David. Jonathan could see the great anointing of God on David, but was caught between him and a Father who bordered on the verge of insanity against David. After many long years of hiding and being chased like an animal, David finally saw the words of Samuel the prophet come true. He was crowned king of Judah first, and then later, king of a united Israel.
At that time, the system in place for worship was carried out in the pattern that God showed to Moses on Mt Sinai. There was a tent, which was crafted with many details showing the manner that God would meet with His people, the children of Israel. A tribe of Israelites, the Levites, were called to serve in this tent, and they had specific instructions from God in every function of its purpose. The chief function of this tent of meeting was to show a way for atonement to the nation of Israel, where God could reveal His will to His people, and they could express worship to Him. The main method for worship was by the sacrificial giving of the worshiper. Certain animals and grain were brought to express this worship. The picture shown was that innocent blood was required to be shed in order for God to meet with His people, because sin has separated us. Sin came into the world through Adam’s disobedience, and is perpetuated by our own selfish orientation. God is perfect and will not tolerate sin. The tent of meeting was set up to show the way for broken mankind to be reconciled to God.
Now when David was crowned king of Israel, the first thing on his mind was to get the tent of meeting set up again. It had lost its main piece, the ark of God’s presence, to the Philistines back in the days of Saul. The ark was miraculously returned to Israel beforehand, but it was stored in the barn of a farmer. David wanted to bring back the ark, and establish a meeting place for God and His people again, because it was the most important thing on David’s mind.
The very cool part of this story is that David had a twist on how the tent was to be set up. The tent of Moses, which was set up in Gibeon, had two rooms in it. The outer room was called the Holy place, and it had special furniture in it for the Levites to serve in, and the inner room was called the Holiest place, where the ark of God’s presence was set. The Holiest place was separated from the Holy place by a thick woven curtain. No one was allowed to go into the Holiest place but once a year, to make a special offering on the day of atonement.
David was in love with the presence of God, and the ark of God’s presence stood for that very thing. It was here that David kind of broke the rules. He set up another tent, which is called the tabernacle of David. David had to have the ark close by, he just couldn’t help himself. He was also king, and the people knew that he loved God, so his plan came about like this… In Gibeon, David had the tent of Moses set up with all of the Levitical functions in place to offer sacrifices just as it was instructed to Moses. On Mt Zion, David set up another tent which featured the ark of God’s presence in the center of one room. The ark was in plain view. Then, as David had experienced God through all of his life, he set up a musical extravaganza that the world had never seen. David commissioned gifted musicians, and choral singers to compose melodic stories and ballads to be offered in this tent to God. David even changed the concept of offering and sacrifice from slaughtering animals to songs of praise, lifting up of surrendered hands as an evening sacrifice. As time went on, great collections of compositions were recorded into what we know as the psalms. David wrote many himself. At some point there were 24 teams of priest-musicians that brought a musical offering to God around the clock. One of those psalms say “I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise will be continually in my mouth”.
David was being true to what he had known all of his life. When he praised God, he knew that the Lord was pleased. If that was true for David, he wanted the whole nation to experience this to be true as well. Through David’s boldness to change the rules, with God’s permission, we now have a new way to show God our heart of thanksgiving , praise, love and adoration. It is so effective to show God love through music and song, that God called David a “man after My own heart”. At the moment that we bring praise to the Lord with an undivided attitude of worship, God says that our offering is accepted. Our heart is transformed to be perfect, like David’s. David was able to look forward and see that God Himself would provide the perfect lamb for our atonement. We can look back and see that Jesus has done this very thing for us. Like David, we can bow down and thank God with a broken heart, a broken heart that is made perfect by the blood of the lamb. Only perfection can stand in God’s presence.
Seeing this as how music became incorporated into God’s acceptable form of worship, our view of what music is for takes on new meaning. Music of course fills our very life from morning to night. From romantic ballads to catchy sales jingles, scores are written to amplify the message of it’s author. Along with what we are entertained with, should we also know that music’s highest form and purpose is to show adoration and praise to our heavenly Father?
This is indeed what I have found to be true. It is for this purpose that our instruments are intended. It would be a great blessing for us to know the heavenly sound of love toward God could come through your songs of praise while playing one of our guitars.