Prophesying by Harps – The importance of good Music in the modern church
I was reading the Bible one day and found a very interesting phrase, “prophesying by harps,” and it really struck a chord with me. All my life I have loved music and I have also loved preaching the Gospel. During much of my training in the Bible College mentality, there was a distinct attitude that the “preaching” was far more important than the music. Yet when one takes their hymnal they will sing songs that have been written in other generations and we all know them, sing them, and they speak to our hearts and souls. I then think about a song and wonder who was preaching during this era. Do we know what the sermon was on the first day this song was performed? Do we know how many people were saved or whether there was a revival?
I know that I usually took part in the music department of every college I attended except one and that was mainly because I worked my way through college in construction, building apartments and Wendy’s Restaurants. However, I was always sub-consciously aware that musicians were a sort of sub-important part of the service and the preaching was premier to all else. I actually agree with that but comments were made that if a person practiced their music (especially a man) that he needed to spend as much time playing football or some sport so he would not be considered a “sissy” next to the real “men” on campus that were the PREACHER BOYS.
I can say that I was always a sports fanatic. I played football in High School as well as baseball. I ran track, the mile, and participated in a 1.5 mile obstacle course in my high school days where the first time I ran it I broke the school record and then broke my own record several times after that. I loved to run and I loved to sing and play the violin. I suppose that I did not fit the mold that some “Preacher Boys” portray for a musician. It was because of my music that I got a scholarship to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for studying music where I played in the symphony and studied Bible at another Bible college in the same town.
In high school, while I was participating in all the sports I could find time to do, I played in the local professional symphony, I was concert master of the high school orchestra, I played 2nd chair in the National Music Educators Convention orchestra, I played in the city youth symphony, I played in a college orchestra while still in High School and I was in a music group called the “Singing Teens” in church that traveled and sang in various functions and churches. I even wrote some of the violin parts for that as well. I am saying, I love the violin, singing, writing music, but I feel I was far from a “sissy.”
While I was in college at the University, I was asked to play the violin for John R. Rice, the famous evangelist and his family on all the songs he wrote. The album is called “Songs from the Heart.” We went through the song one time, I figured out what I would play by ear, then the next time through we were recording. They had a professional “union” musician sitting in the lobby to make it legal for their rules.
Even with all this work in music and Bible in my younger days, I still always felt that a musician was somehow sub-par next to the preacher. For years I have sought to preach and I must say that I love to preach. None-the-less I have written over 20 gospel songs over the years which will be on a new website soon after they have been copyrighted. With all my history in music, it is only in the last several years that I have decided to really do something about it. This site was the suggestion of my wife Jeanie who has heard me play and sing for our 42 years of marriage. She said that people need to hear me play so we made this site and it has been a thrill to do. Soon I will be in a recording studio making all these songs into professional recordings that people can order and have in their home or radio stations can play for their listeners.
As I was saying, I was reading in the Bible and found something very interesting in I Chronicles 25:1-7 and other places in the Bible. I WAS SHOCKED! It said that those that played instruments were just as important as the PRIESTS (PREACHER BOYS IN OUR GENERATION) and even that they were paid the same as the priests. Listed here are some teachings I found in commentaries on my e-Sword system which everyone needs to read and take to heart:
Matthew Henry’s Commentary
1 Chronicles 25:1-7
I. Singing the praises of God is here called prophesying (1Ch_25:1-3), not that all those who were employed in this service were honoured with the visions of God, or could foretel things to come. Heman indeed is said to be the king’s seer in the words of God (1Ch_25:5); but the psalms they sang were composed by the prophets, and many of them were prophetical; and the edification of the church was intended in it, as well as the glory of God. In Samuel’s time singing the praises of God went by the name of prophesying (1Sa_10:5; 1Sa_19:20), and perhaps that is intended in what St. Paul calls prophesying, 1Co_11:4; 1Co_14:24.
II. This is here called a service, and the persons employed in it workmen, 1Ch_25:1. Not but that it is the greatest liberty and pleasure to be employed in praising God: what is heaven but that? But it intimates that it is our duty to make a business of it, and stir up all that is within us to it; and that, in our present state of corruption and infirmity, it will not be done as it should be done without labour and struggle. We must take pains with our hearts to bring them, and keep them, to this work, and to engage all that is within us.
III. Here were, in compliance with the temper of that dispensation, a great variety of musical instruments used, harps, psalteries, cymbals (1Ch_25:1, 1Ch_25:6), and here was one that lifted up the horn (1Ch_25:5), that is, used wind-music. The bringing of such concerts of music into the worship of God now is what none pretend to. But those who use such concerts for their own entertainment should feel themselves obliged to preserve them always free from any thing that savours of immorality or profaneness, by this
consideration, that time was when they were sacred; and then those were justly condemned who brought them into common use, Amo_6:5. They invented to themselves instruments of music like David.
IV. The glory and honour of God were principally intended in all this temple-music, whether vocal or instrumental. It was to give thanks, and praise the Lord, that the singers were employed, 1Ch_25:3. It was in the songs of the Lord that they were instructed (1Ch_25:7),
that is, for songs in the house of the Lord, 1Ch_25:6. This agrees with the intention of the perpetuating of psalmody in the gospel-church, which is to make melody with the heart, in conjunction with the voice, unto the Lord, Eph_5:19.
V. The order of the king is likewise taken notice of, 1Ch_25:2 and again 1Ch_25:6. In those matters indeed David acted as a prophet; but his taking care for the due and regular observance of divine institutions, both ancient and modern, is an example to all in authority to use their power for the promoting of religion, and the enforcing of the laws of Christ. Let them thus be ministers of God for good.
VI. The fathers presided in this service, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun (1Ch_25:1), and the children were under the hands of their father, 1Ch_25:2, 1Ch_25:3, 1Ch_25:6. This gives a good example to parents to train up their children, and indeed to all seniors to instruct their juniors in the service of God, and particularly in praising him, than which there is no part of our work more necessary or more worthy to be transmitted to the succeeding generations. It gives also an example to the younger to submit themselves to the elder (whose experience and observation fit them for direction), and, as far as may be, to do what they do under their hand. It is probable that Heman, Asaph, and Jeduthun, were bred up under Samuel, and had their education in the schools of the prophets which he was the founder and president of; then they were pupils, now they came to be masters. Those that would be eminent must begin early, and take time to prepare themselves. This good work of singing God’s praises Samuel revived, and set on foot, but lived not to see it brought to the perfection it appears in here. Solomon perfects what David began, so David perfects what Samuel began. Let all, in their day, do what they can for God and his church, though they cannot carry it so far as they would; when they are gone God can out of stones raise up others who shall build upon their foundation and bring forth the top-stone.
VII. There were others also, besides the sons of these three great men, who are called their brethren (probably because they had been wont to join with them in their private concerts), who were instructed in the songs of the Lord, and were cunning or well skilled therein, 1Ch_25:7. They were all Levites and were in number 288. Now, 1. These were a good number, and a competent number to keep up the service in the house of God; for they were all skilful in the work to which they were called. When David the king was so much addicted to divine poesy and music many others, all that had a genius for it, applied their studies and endeavours that way. Those do religion a great deal of good service that bring the exercises of devotion into reputation. 2. Yet these were but a small number in comparison with the 4000 whom David appointed thus to praise the Lord, 1Ch_23:5. Where were all the rest when only 288, and those but by twelve in a course, were separated to this service? It is probable that all the rest were divided into as many courses, and were to follow as these led. Or, perhaps, these were for songs in the house of the Lord (1Ch_25:6), with whom any that worshipped in the courts of that house might join; and the rest were disposed of, all the kingdom over, to preside in the country congregations, in this good work: for, though the sacrifices instituted by the hand of Moses might be offered but at one place, the psalms penned by David might be sung every where, 1Ti_2:8.
David Guzik’s Enduring Word Commentary
1 Chronicles 25:1-31
MUSICIANS FOR THE TEMPLE
A. The musicians for the temple.
1. (1Ch_25:1) Musicians separated for service.
Moreover David and the captains of the army separated for the service some of the sons of Asaph, of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals. And the number of the skilled men performing their service was:
- David and the captains of the army separated for the service: Interestingly, the captains of the army took part in the selection and organization of the musicians or “worship leaders” for Israel. David sensed a connection between the security of the kingdom and the worship and honoring of God.
- “Chapter 25 concerns David’s organization of the four thousand Levitical musicians (1Ch_23:5) into courses of service that correspond to those of the priests and temple Levites (chapter 24).” (Payne)
- “David did give high regard to the counsel of his military commanders (1Ch_11:10; 1Ch_12:32; 1Ch_28:1), even in liturgical affairs (cf. 1Ch_13:1; 1Ch_15:25).” (Payne)
- Who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals: Their service was connected with the dynamic of prophesy in the sense that it was inspired by God. Their ministry in music was not merely the product of good musicianship; it was a gift of the Holy Spirit being exercised through them.
- “This work of praise is thrice described by a somewhat singular, and, in this connection, arresting word, ‘prophecy.’ The use of this word here is a revelation of the true value of the service of music in the sanctuary of God.” (Morgan)
- “Either they supplied messages direct from God in the manner of the classical prophets, for which the Levite Jahaziel (2Ch_20:14-17) provides an obvious analogy, or their praise was itself seen as ‘prophecy’ in that it proclaimed God’s word with God’s authority.”(Selman)
2. (1Ch_25:2-6) The sons of Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman. Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah; the sons of Asaph were under the direction of Asaph, who prophesied according to the order of the king. Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp to give thanks and to praise the LORD. Of Heman, the sons of Heman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel, Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, Romamti-Ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth. All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer in the words of God, to exalt his horn. For God gave Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. All these were under the direction of their father for the music in the house of the LORD, with cymbals, stringed instruments, and harps, for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the authority of the king.
a. Asaph, who prophesied according to the order of the king: 12 Psalms are attributed to Asaph (Psalms 50 and Psalms 73 through 83).
b. Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp to give thanks and to praise the LORD: Jeduthun’s music ministry was so inspired by the Spirit of God that it could be said that he prophesied with a harp.
c. Heman the king’s seer: “He is called the king’s seer, either because the king took special delight in him, or because he frequently attended upon the king in his palace, executing his sacred office there, while the rest were constantly employed in the tabernacle.” (Poole)
d. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the authority of the king: These enormously talented and Spirit-anointed men knew how to submit themselves under the leadership of David, under the authority of the king.
i. We note the prominent place of the sons of Heman, and that all these were under the direction of their father for the music in the house of the LORD. “How one would like to have seen Heman coming into the Temple with his children! It was largely owing to him and their mother that they were what they were.” (Meyer)
ii. Under the direction of their father: “Heman’s children were ‘under the hands of their father.’ Young people must not get the upper hand.” (Meyer)
iii. Yet we also see that Heman was among those under the authority of the king. “But if you would rule well, you must obey. Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, were under the king. The man who is himself under authority, can say, Go, come, do this or that, with the calm assurance of being obeyed.” (Meyer)
B. The result of the casting of lots for their duty.
The number of skillful musicians. So the number of them, with their brethren who were instructed in the songs of the LORD, all who were skillful, was two hundred and eighty-eight. And they cast lots for their duty, the small as well as the great, the teacher with the student.
a. They cast lots for their duty, the small as well as the great, the teacher with the student: David didn’t give the choice worship assignments only to the most talented and greatest. He let God do the choosing and it was both a prevention of pride for the great and the teacher, and a learning opportunity for the small and the student.
2. (1Ch_25:9-31) The divisions of the musicians. Now the first lot for Asaph came out for Joseph; the second for Gedaliah, him with his brethren and sons, twelve; the third for Zaccur, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the fourth for Jizri, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the fifth for Nethaniah, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the sixth for Bukkiah, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the seventh for Jesharelah, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the eighth for Jeshaiah, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the ninth for Mattaniah, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the tenth for Shimei, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the eleventh for Azarel, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the twelfth for Hashabiah, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the thirteenth for Shubael, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the fourteenth for Mattithiah, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the fifteenth for Jeremoth, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the sixteenth for Hananiah, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the seventeenth for Joshbekashah, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the eighteenth for Hanani, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the nineteenth for Mallothi, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the twentieth for Eliathah, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the twenty-first for Hothir, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the twenty-second for Giddalti, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the twenty-third for Mahazioth, his sons and his brethren, twelve; the twenty-fourth for Romamti-Ezer, his sons and his brethren, twelve.
After reading this I think that we need to take a hard look at the importance of musicians in the church. The first assistant a pastor should hire is a good music man. In fact, it would be good to hire other musicians as well. I have a pastor friend that I graduated from college with that has had a small church for 20 years, they have very weak music and I know of some that play tapes or CD’s because the pastor knows no music and has no one that can lead in that department. In the Temple, the musicians were as important as the priests that did other things like offering sacrifices and took care of the Temple Instruments. As one of the commentaries above notes, in heaven the music will be a big thing, singing praises to the God of Heaven. Perhaps a second look should prompt us all to learn what it is to prophesy with the heart.
(Note: Please visit this page to learn what true Christian music is all about and why the modern CCM with heavy Rock n’ Roll cannot be considered Christian Music. The music leader in the church should have the discernment to know the different in good and bad music. Since many pastors have no clue, many of them have allowed their music to become worldly simply because they don’t see the intrinsic value of the right kind of music and also of the office of a good music coordinator.)