July 6, 2020
The NIV Chronological Bible I have begun to use has an interesting informational passage on "prophets". It describes prophets as widely used in the ancient near east and notes that it was an occupation. The job was to be a mediator between a god and humans. Kings kept them on staff to be able to hear from the gods at will.
Of course, since "gods" cannot be summoned at will, it left a huge opportunity for prophets to communicate their own will, leading to frequent corruption.
They were also known as Seers, as they were able to "see" what was happening in the invisible realm.
David had a seer, Heman. As noted above, he became the head of the musical ministry.
It was important that the priests only be from the line of Aaron, which meant descendants of either Eleazar or Ithamar.
They would serve in the temple at their assigned times (drawn by lots) and would serve in their assigned cities the remainder of the time.
Wiersbe states that trumpets are the only instruments mentioned in Mosaic law; so David introduced this aspect of Jewish worship- mostly likely by inspiration of the Lord. He included choirs, new instruments and many communal songs (psalms).
Miriam led worship in the time of Moses, but I guess we don't have a clear description of all that was entailed. I would have to assume singing and maybe dancing?
David chose three military men, from how I read the text. But we know they were gifted by God for their roles. Wiersbe reminds us that Asaph wrote as least 12 Psalms. That an impressive contribution to our canon. Jeduthun was also associated with three Psalms.
Prophesy Plus Music
Oh! Wiersbe has a theory that combines everything I've been writing about for this chapter.
He is saying that there is a more nuanced use of the word "prophet". The Hebrew is naba'. It's primary meaning from Strong Outline is "to be under the influence of a spirit". But in this context chapter, repeatedly, the Strong's definition is more nuanced:
נָבָא nâbâʼ, naw-baw'; a primitive root; to prophesy, i.e. speak (or sing) by inspiration (in prediction or simple discourse):—prophesy(-ing), make self a prophet.Blue Letter Bible
Wiersbe goes on to use Miriam as an example...oddly enough as my mind went to her as well. But I had forgotten that, in addition to being the worship leader, she was also prophetess.
Wiersbe explains that some think the root of naba' means to "boil or bubble" up while other think it is the root of the Arabic word for "announce".
All of this to say two things. First, it sounds like our primary understanding of the word "prophet" is maybe too narrow. These musicians bubbled over with enthusiasm in praise for the Lord. They announced His message with joy that would have inspired the people and pointed them to God.
Think about a modern day concert. Think about how much energy and enthusiasm comes pouring off the artists and into the crowd. That's true for a believer, such as Jeremy Camp jumping up and down for a two hour concert; but also for non-believers at any secular concert.
And that leads me to my second point.
Music is spiritual.
I know this isn't a surprising conclusion on the surface; but it did surprise me to consider that the music itself, all music, is spiritual. In the first three verses of Chapter 25, the author uses the word prophesied three time. Look again at the langugae:
- Asaph, Heman, and Juduthun...were to prophesy with lyres, harps, and cymbals
- Asaph prophesied under the king
- Juduthun prophesied in giving thanks and praising the Lord
These were not soothsayers reading palms and predicting the future. These were men who were filled with God's Spirit and it flowed through them via the instruments given to them by God, including their voices.
We prophesy when we sing and play instruments. We are announcing and bubbling over. I would argue the same is true for when we listen to music, as we are to one to degree or another, singing along in our head (or in my case, at top volume in my car.)
There is another danger to consider. Because it is spiritual, it often taps into our emotions; but they are not the same. Getting "hooked" on the emotional rush can lead you astray as you're chancing the feeling and not the message. At least I know that to be something I have to look out for and I see it in others.
You can quickly see how incredibly important it is to guard what listen to and sing and play. We very well may be announcing the agenda of the Enemy when we sing cynical, angry, worldly songs and music. I'm not for censorship at all. But I am for being intention about who we are worshiping and praising. This makes me even more committed to focusing my God-given, spiritual, musical instrument toward Jesus, my Lord.
One final unrelated note: Three of the commentaries refer to this section as one disliked by many readers because it is just a long list of names but that it has value because even though the reader may not care, the people at the time cared immensely. I think there is a better reason to care about it.
I was surprised to find multiple references to the same idea. I don't remember that kind of comment with any of the many other long list of genealogies and such. The thing is...there is a lot of meat on the bone here. The prophesy and music thing deserves a really deep dive as music is a part of every culture and is a mulit-multi-billion dollar industry in this country alone. If I'd gone by the commentators, I might have skimmed this and moved on.
Amidst every one of these sections with long lists of names and such, are these little nuggets. Almost every time. If you're hungry for God's Word, every part of it has meaning or He wouldn't have left it in there. And this nugget is huge for me.