Music, Worship, The Spiritual Life
2 Samuel 6:9–12; 2 Chronicles 15:1–6
Samuel Lesson #128
April 17, 2018
“Father, it’s a great joy we have to walk with You and to be part of the Body of Christ. It’s phenomenal the blessings we have in Christ, all that You have provided for us. And Father we’re thankful that we can walk with You, enjoy our relationship with You, and we know that when we sin, we receive complete and total forgiveness; we’re welcomed back into fellowship as depicted in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
“Father, we’re thankful that we are the beneficiaries of Your grace. And Father we’re thankful for the opportunity to study Your Word, to probe it and think it through and come to an understanding of the implications and applications of Your Word to our thinking. We pray tonight that as we go through a passage which is not taught very much, that we might come to understand its significance at that time and for us. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to 1 Chronicles 15. What we’re continuing to study is the movement of the ark as David has attempted to move it to its resting place in Jerusalem. There’s a failure because of the ark not being brought in according to the standards of the Law.
This shows that God is not arbitrary, God is not mean, but these rules are laid down for the ritual because they are specifically designed to teach things about God, about His distinctiveness, His uniqueness, His righteousness, His holiness, and that those standards have to be maintained. Standards are not something that are sort of a good idea, that they are just something you can strive for on occasion, but they are to be properly followed because they relate to God’s character, and Who He is.
Thus, when Uzzah reaches out to stabilize the ark; it doesn’t just say he reached out and touched it. It said that there’s a blasphemy taking place, a perversion of God. So, he’s doing more than simply touching it; he’s treating it with a lack of respect. That’s why he is immediately executed the same way that Ananias and Sapphira are in the New Testament.
At the beginning of these certain periods of time, not just dispensations, but there’s a transition here that’s going on in God’s plan under the dispensation of the Law where you’re shifting to a period where God’s presence will be among His people. He’ll be enthroned as the King of Israel between the cherubs on the ark of the covenant on the temple mount. He is emphasizing a lesson that He must be treated with respect, and His regulations of the Law must be followed precisely.
So, as we go through this section in 1 Chronicles 15 and 16, we see a lot of details that are not given in 2 Samuel. Remember, 2 Samuel was written not long after David was king. This means it is written in the early 10th century around 995–990 BC, after David’s reign is over. 2 Chronicles is written after the exile, so it’s written after 586 BC. It very well could have been written that first period from 586 to 450, somewhere in that vicinity.
The purpose is to remind people of God’s divine plan for Israel as well as God’s specific plan for the House of David. So, 1 Chronicles 17 is going to refocus the post-exilic generation on the significance of the Davidic Covenant. What’s interesting here is a couple of things. You have a lot of attention given to the ark, and after the defeat, the conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC, the ark is never heard from again.
There are a lot of theories, and there are a lot of people searching for the ark of the covenant, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and all of these other things, and nobody knows if it survived. One theory is that the Babylonians took it along with all the other furniture in the temple and melted it down for the gold, the jewels and all of the other things that comprised the furniture.
Others believe that the ark was hidden deep below the temple mount, and it was never brought out again. There’s no knowledge that we’re aware of, that it was known about in the second temple period. There’s no evidence of that; if it’s there, it was kept secret throughout the second temple period.
Every now and then you have things that happen in Israel where there are people who have attempted, for instance, a couple of different groups over the last 30 years have attempted, to go under the long tunnel—that long tunnel we go through. When I take a group to Israel, we always go underneath the Western Wall, and we see the subterranean areas. There’s that one area there that’s very close to where the Holy of Holies was. It’s still probably about 50 to 75 yards from where the ark would have been, but that’s the closest point.
There’ve been a couple of groups who have attempted to go through that wall and try to discover something. But nobody’s ever discovered anything. So, it’s either lost to the ages, or it’s hidden. But during this period that 1 and 2 Chronicles are written, nobody knows anything about the ark.
Furthermore, there’s no descendant of David on the throne in Israel, so you don’t have a Davidic kingdom. Zerubbabel is of Davidic descent, but he’s not the king. So, it’s interesting how this is written. So much attention is paid to this. And the reason is, they believe that there is a future and that Messiah will come, and the kingdom will be established.
So, there’s a lot of attention given to what happened in the establishment of the ritual and the worship in the temple during the first temple period as a means of giving a pattern to what should take place when they build the second temple and reestablish the second temple’s worship. They’re not going to reinvent worship and music and singing and the psalms.
Now there’s a point there, because one of things we’re going to do in this study over the next couple of weeks is go back and revisit what is going on in terms of church music today. As most of you know, if you go to most churches today, they don’t sing what are often referred to as traditional hymns. They play different musical instruments.Iit’s often very loud. It’s influenced not just by personal preference. “Oh, that’s just your generation versus our generation.”
Well let me tell you, that idea would not have flown with those who were in the post-exilic generation. The priests were saying, “Generations doesn’t have anything to do with it.” There are certain absolutes that must be carried through because when you’re talking about worshiping the Creator God of the universe, and His holiness, and His majesty, and His righteousness, certain things must be followed. Certain principles must be adhered to in the writing and performing of music, and how people conduct themselves in the public, corporate worship. This is significant.
We live in a generation today that has the narcissistic arrogance to claim that they’re going to create a new music and ignore all previous church music. They are completely unaware, in some cases, and willingly ignorant in most cases, that the music and the words that they sing as worship are influenced by post-modern ideas, pagan ideas of what worship is. And, they are influenced by the emotionalism that comes along with a post-modern culture that has rejected external absolutes. So, it’s built on something that is totally subjective.
This is a real battle. It’s been a battle throughout the whole time I’ve been a pastor. I’ve had many people who have left because I’ve had one person who left say, “If you don’t go with contemporary music, you will never attract young people.” There’s an assumption there, isn’t there, that what is most important first of all is attracting young people. Is that a mandate in the Scripture? Is that a criterion for successfully carrying out the teaching of God’s Word? Not necessarily.
You had times in Israel’s history when the love for the Lord was not passed on generationally—that there were changes in those generations from one to another—both from a spiritually focused generation to one that was spiritually negative, and from one that was spiritually negative, to one that was spiritually positive.
Who is the worst king, the most evil king in the history of the Southern Kingdom (Judah)? It was Manasseh. Manasseh was involved in child sacrifice into the arms of Molech, the fiery infanticide that took part in that idol worship. He was responsible for the execution and killing of many prophets of the Lord and many who were following the Lord.
What happens half way through his reign? He reigned for over 40 years, one of the longest reigns in the Old Testament. Half way through his reign, he truly biblically repents, turns back to the Lord, but the discipline that will come from his disobedience is still set. And during the last seven or eight years of his reign, he is co-regent with one of the godliest kings. How does it work when you have two kings and one’s the worst, most evil king, and one is one of the godliest kings of the Old Testament?
So, what you see though, is not this idea that somehow because generations change, a new generation gets to rewrite the standards. It never has happened, and yet that’s what goes on today. You have this idea that you have to go along with the changing tastes and standards of the next generation in order to be popular and to be accepted.
Sometimes that might be true if you’re not violating biblical standards and protocol. Sometimes, you have to understand that this is an extremely complex cultural issue that really started with the Church Growth Movement and ideas of cultural relativism that began to influence the modern Missions Movement, coming out of the 1960s.
A lot of it can be traced back to key thinkers and those who were influential coming out of Fuller Seminary in Southern California in the early 1960s. Those who were in their missions department were bringing back a lot of relativistic ideas having worked in these different cultures. This gave birth to not only a lot of wrong ideas in missions, but this also gave birth to what became known as the modern Church Growth Movement. The granddaddies of the modern Church Growth Movement came out of Fuller Seminary.
Fuller Seminary’s other major claim to infamy was that though it was founded and named for a well-known conservative evangelist of the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s, and it started with a doctrinal statement that held to inerrancy and infallibility. By 1960 it was already violating that. It had faculty members that were no longer holding to inerrancy or infallibility. So, it’s like a row of dominoes being knocked down. Once you get away from biblical authority and infallibility of Scripture, then you no longer have an absolute, ultimate reference point no matter how much lip service you give to it.
As time goes by, it starts “dominoing” through many different areas of what they are teaching. By the time you get into the mid-1970s, they’re getting into some really bizarre stuff in their classrooms. You had people like Peter Wagner and John Wimber who are doing experiments with demonism in the classroom and miracles. They taught a course on miracles—how you too can learn to perform miracles. That gave birth to what is known as the Vineyard or the Wimber or the Power Evangelism Movement, the Third Wave of the Holy Spirit in terms of understanding the Pentecostal first wave. Second wave was the Charismatic. The Third Wave was the Power Evangelism, Wimber, or Vineyard. So, all of this happens.
Theology is a seamless garment, and once you start tearing it apart, it starts causing problems in all kinds of related areas. A lot of the modern, contemporary church music thing has its roots in this nonbiblical philosophy of church, nonbiblical philosophy of evangelism, and nonbiblical philosophy of culture. It’s not shaped by divine viewpoint at all. But you won’t find very many pastors who will talk about this at all.
There are some outstanding books that are available some well-known people. We had one man, Scott Aniol, who was here, who is a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Scott has written on this area extensively. He would be in complete agreement with the kinds of things that I’m teaching. You can go back to 2013; he was a speaker at the 2013 Chafer Conference, and those messages of Scott’s are up on the website.
But what’s distressed me as a pastor for 38 years is that there are very few people who sit in a pew that want to ask and answer the question, “Is there a biblical basis for what I like to sing at church?”
They want to sing what makes them feel good. They want to sing what they like. What we see in Scripture, our likes and dislikes and our views of many things are shaped by our sin nature. And when we are saved, we have to let the Word of God change those values and understand those things.
So, we have to go back every now and then and revisit this because I’m sure there are people who think that we would have a few more numbers if we would just change the way we do music.
I get this; I know there are some other pastors in town who have teaching ministries. They get it as well, and we’re just considered old dinosaurs. In fact, one of the trends (and all of this stuff is just trendy stuff), is obviously dressing down a lot. You’re not going to get people to go to your church now unless you look like a slob in the pulpit.
You see these pastors, just watch them on TV, they’ve got on a pair of sandals and look like they’re going to the beach. They don’t look like they are going into the presence of the King of the universe, the Creator of the universe. They wouldn’t dress like that at the White House if they had an audience with the President or with the Queen of England, or some other high official of state. Even Zuckerberg, when he went to Congress, put on a coat and tie.
So, there is that sense of respect that is communicated, but I have learned recently that a lot of these big church growth movement, sort of generic, evangelical churches that don’t teach a whole lot, that they got really upset with Joel Osteen because he wears a coat and tie. They just want to bring everybody down to their level. Frankly, it’s a level in the gutter. Unfortunately, it attracts a lot of people because we don’t live in a culture where people want to constantly better themselves and improve themselves. They just want to wallow in their emotions, and they want to wallow in what they like and not let the Word of God say, “well maybe what you like might not be what God likes.” There are standards. We’ll get into that over the next two or three weeks.
So, we’re going to be looking at music, worship, and the spiritual life. We’ll begin to get into that in this lesson. What we’ve seen in terms of our structure of 2 Samuel, still in the first section, how God blessed David and He unites and expands the kingdom. That’s part of what’s going on is David brings the ark of the covenant, which is the throne of God, into Jerusalem in order to create a central sanctuary.
The ark was taken from Shiloh where the tabernacle had been. The tabernacle had probably been moved to down around the area of Gibeon somewhere. The ark was not with the tabernacle. Everything was a mess ever since the early part of the Book of Judges.
So, we see how this third part is where we are, 2 Samuel 6. God is enthroned in Jerusalem.
So we’ve been following the ark of the covenant.
We’re going to look at this in 1 Chronicles 15. The first three verses [1 Chronicles 15:1–3] we looked at last time, which focus on David going back to the Scripture to correct what he was doing. That’s always our standard. We have to make sure we properly understand the Scripture. That means we have to search the Scripture. We have to study the Scripture. We have to do all those different things that are involved in analyzing the Scripture from word studies, grammar studies, and theology, all of those things, and understand the background and the culture of the time.
So, David goes back, and he realizes as he studies the Torah, that he’s violated the standards God gave for how the ark should be transported. There are these rods that go through there [the ark] that are not supposed to be taken out of the rings. The Levites are supposed to carry the ark of the covenant. It’s not supposed to be put on a cart pulled by oxen. David recognizes that it has to be done God’s way. That’s God’s right as the Creator, because He’s designed the universe a certain way, and we have to understand that.
The second thing we’re going to see in 1 Chronicles 15:4–10, is David organizes the Levites for the movement of the ark. It’s well organized. It works like clockwork. He spends time because it is of value. It is not something that is impromptu. He did that already, and it cost a man his life. He has to do everything right.
Everything we see in this chapter is that which is thoughtful, it’s well-planned, it’s prepared, it’s rehearsed, it’s organized. There’s not one thing in this chapter that leads us to think that any of it is just impromptu or done on the spur of the moment. So, he organizes the Levites, then he prepares them spiritually. They have to be sanctified before they move the ark, and then they will organize the musical worship.
So, we went through the next three verses, how David goes back to Scripture for correction.
As we get into this, I went through four introductory principles of corporate worship:
1. God is the One who defines worship. Worship is treating God with honor and respect and therefore, He is the One who has the right to define it. It is not something we define on the basis of how we feel or what we think is good, but on the basis of what God says. This is what Uzzah came to realize. He tried to deal with God on his terms, and as a result, he lost his life.
2. Worship is not determined by how we feel, but by our conformity to God’s righteousness and His revelation. We must be properly adjusted to God’s righteousness. That happens first of all when we trust in Christ, and we receive the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. So that makes us acceptable to God. And we have to then operate on the basis of His revelation. In the Old Testament it was one way, and in the New Testament, as Jesus told the woman at the well, a time would come when we would worship by means of spirit and by the means of truth [John 4:25].
3. The word “worship” we saw means “to bow down to God.” Originally, it has this idea of kissing, doing homage to a ruler. Bowing down became part of that, and so this is the idea that indicates submission to God as the ruler. So, we’re submitting to God’s will.
4. Worship has order and structure. It is not something that is just spontaneous. Although at times, there is spontaneity to it, it still fits the order and structure of Scripture.
1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “God is not the author of confusion but of peace.” So, you just don’t worship anyway you want.
I looked at the English words for worship which means to acknowledge the worth or value of something. You’re expressing honor toward God. It’s not really a feeling as the Concise Oxford English Dictionary says. It is an expression of reverence and adoration. We’ll take some time to talk about the role emotion plays. The archaic meaning is really the meaning we have in Scripture, and that is the idea of honor or respect given in recognition of merit. We value God because He is the Creator and the Redeemer.
Both the Old Testament Word hawa indicates to prostrate oneself, to worship, meaning to bow down, and it’s a way of expressing your submission to God.
The Greek Word PROSKYNEŌ has the same idea. We see this applied to the magi [Matthew 2:11] as they worship the infant Jesus, that they, “brought gifts, fell down and worshiped Him.” It’s the idea of falling down and worshiping Him.
The passage I just quoted in John 4:23–24, that after the time of Christ we would worship not in a central sanctuary, but by means of the Spirit and by means of truth.
In 1 Chronicles 15:4–10 we get into the organization of the Levites. This is one of those passages where I’m not going to embarrass anybody, but when you’re reading through your Bible, I would bet that most of us would hit verse 4 and skip down to about verse 12 because those names just don’t mean anything to us. The same thing at the beginning of Chronicles, we start reading all of these lists and all of these genealogies, and we don’t know who anybody is. Let me suggest that what you should do as you read through it, circle the names that you recognize. Look for something that’s familiar because you’ll recognize a few.
One of the reasons you have these names here—think about this—Israel’s been out of the land for 75 years. We’ve currently got another time period when Israel’s been out of the land but this time for over 1,900 years. Now [in Chronicles], they’re coming back, so it was a compressed time, a much shorter time with that first diaspora during the Babylonian captivity.
When they are coming back, they have to rebuild the temple. They have to restore temple worship, re-identify who the priests are. So, you have to go back into the records and look at the genealogies and trace those genealogies because if you’re not a priest, a descendent of Aaron, then you’re going to get in trouble if you try to function as a priest. So, that’s why you have all of these names.
Furthermore, you have all of these names because the writers of Chronicles say, when we rebuild the temple, we have to bring back the glory of David and Solomon, and there need to be choirs, there need to be orchestras, we need to sing the psalms, and this is what they did to organize the psalms, how they established these guilds of musicians and singers. If we know anything, we can extrapolate that the musical instruments would had to have been constructed by Levitical craftsmen. Every instrument that was used had be sanctified and set apart to the Lord. All of these things would have to be done correctly. So that’s where you have these names that come in.
So when we read them, and you read 1 Chronicles 15:4–8, I just want to point out that we have four primary names in this list of the children of Aaron: the sons of Kohath in 1 Chronicles 15:5, the sons of Merari in 1 Chronicles 15:6, the sons of Gershom in 1 Chronicles 15:7, and the sons of Elizaphan in 1 Chronicles 15:8.
You have four orders here, and for some reason, Elizaphan has made a separate clan, even though he’s a descendent of Kohath. Trust me, this genealogy gets quite a bit larger. I just tried to pull out the main names, so we could simplify it. These three are the sons of Levi, and they establish the three basic clans of the Levitical priests.
Kohath is your primary one; notice he has four sons: Amram, who is the father of Aaron and Moses. You have Izhar who is the father of Korah and many others. Remember, Korah is the one who leads a rebellion during the period of the wilderness wanderings in Numbers 16. You have Hebron and Uzziel. Uzziel is the father of Elizaphan, and so he becomes head of the clan.
Moses’ father Amram has got a brother, Izhar; so Korah, who leads this revolt against Moses, is his cousin. You can miss out on these family connections if you don’t pay attention to these genealogical charts.
Also, Nadab and Abihu—remember, these are the two that brought the wrong kind of incense into the tabernacle, and God took their lives just like he did Uzzah [Leviticus 10]. They are Moses’ nephews, so this is all part of a close family.
Now in 1 Chronicles 15:11, we read, “And David called for Zadok.” We have a Zadok’s Jewelers here in Houston. That’s a Jewish family; you probably know that. The owner of the jewelry store has a brother who’s a rabbi.
If you are in Jerusalem, and you have been to Jerusalem and you know where the YMCA is, it’s not like any YMCA you ever saw. It is a very old building built in the 1920s. The architect was the same architect as the Empire State Building. It is an absolutely beautiful building, and they have a great restaurant there. Usually when I’m over there, one of the nights we’ll go there. It’s right across the street from the King David Hotel, and just about a block from that, that’s where the owner of Zadok Jewelry’s brother, the rabbi, has a place there. He has a ministry for Jewish children, and they have a lot of stuff there. So that’s a priestly family. He’s a descendent, they are descendants of this Zadok.
Then there’s Abiathar the priest; what do we know about them? We know they were both high priests during the time of David and that Abiathar was the high priest who was at Nob when Saul sent his soldiers there under Doeg the Edomite and they slaughtered all the priests. But, Abiathar was able to escape. He’s the last high priest in the line of Eli. His father was Phineas, and he escaped the massacre there and went to David and brought him the ephod when he was at Keilah.
We studied that, so this is significant. He [Abiathar] becomes the high priest, and he’s loyal to David until the time that David is about to die. And when David is about to die, it is Abiathar who decides to support Adonijah as David’s successor instead of Solomon. When Solomon becomes king, Abiathar is retired and put out to pasture, and Zadok is made the high priest. So that’s the significance of those two men.
Then in 1 Chronicles 15:11, you have these other Levites mentioned, Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab. Amminadab is the house where the ark was kept. These were all Levites, five different Levites. We don’t know much more about them other than they were Levites, who were appointed by David to move the ark to Jerusalem at this particular time. That’s about all you can find about them. So those are the key men who were moving the ark.
Then it mentions the sons of Hebron, who is one of the descendants of Levi. He’s another brother to Amram. And then there’s a mention of Eliel [1 Chronicles 15:9–10] “of the sons of Hebron, Eliel [is] the chief, and eighty of his brethren; of the sons of Uzziel, Amminadab the chief, and one hundred and twelve of his brethren.”
So, when you go through this material and read all of these lists that talk about how many brethren they had and how many in each family or sub-clan, it comes to a total of 862 Levites that are mentioned here. When the ark is being brought in, that’s a high number of Levites that are named that are part of this central ceremony moving the ark into the city.
This is a huge operation, and when you’ve got that many people involved in something, everything has to be thought out and orchestrated, or everyone’s going to be falling all over themselves. There has to be structure and planning and rehearsal before you actually do it.
Now here’s the same chart I had up a minute ago. Hebron and Uzziel are two of the other sons of Kohath. And these are the ones that are mentioned here in 1 Chronicles 15:9. You have Hebron and Uzziel, so they are mentioned there. So, they are sub-clans of the tribe of Levi. The clan would be Kohath, and these would be the sub-clans.
That brings us to the third section of the chapter in 1 Chronicles 15:11–15. Before we go there, if you just turn back two or three pages, and you can see a parallel chapter in chapter six. This is one of those that you skip (I know you), you say, “I’ve got to read five chapters a day, and I’m three weeks behind; thank heavens I’ve made it to 1 Chronicles; I can skip the first ten chapters and almost catch up.” I know how you think.
If you look half way down through chapter 6 to verse 31, you read in 1 Chronicles 6:31–32, “Now these are the men David appointed over the service of song in the house of the Lord after the ark came to rest.” So, he divides them into musicians, and into singers, and goes on in verse 32, “and they were ministering with music before the dwelling place of the tabernacle and of meeting until Solomon built the house of the Lord.” And there’s a list of all these different Levitical priests and groups. I want you to look down to 1 Chronicles 6:39, and you have mention of Heman the singer in verse 33 and then in verse 39, Asaph.
Asaph is the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, the son of Israel. And Asaph is important because he authored twelve of the psalms. He authored Psalms 50 and 73–83. So, Asaph is very influential, and he sets up a school of music. This trains musicians.
So, this is something where you get together and you go out together into the barn or the shed, and you get a bunch of your neighborhood guys together with their instruments and start figuring out how to make music. These guys are starting the Julliard School of Music for the temple worship.
The point I’m making is that this should influence how we think about music, and the kind of music, and the aesthetics of music that often are overlooked in what passes for music today.
We read in 1 Chronicles 15:12, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites; sanctify yourselves.” See, they have to prepare spiritually. He’s organized them and now they have to be prepared spiritually. This is the Word qadash from the verb that means to set apart, or to consecrate. It’s related to the verb to be holy, to be set apart, and here it’s in the hitpael stem, which in Hebrew means it’s reflexive: they would cause themselves to be sanctified. They have to sanctify themselves, they have to go through the ritual cleansing and washing.
This is all a picture of what we do with confession of sin. We are sanctifying ourselves in order to be able to worship God. That cleansing comes because we have been positionally cleansed by Christ at salvation, but experientially we still sin, so we have to confess sin. That’s what’s portrayed here. 1 Chronicles 15:12, “that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel to the place I have prepared for it.”
The implication here is, Uzzah wasn’t sanctified, and they didn’t go through this process when they initially tried to bring the ark into Jerusalem, and they suffered divine discipline for it. It’s the counterpart to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:30, when he’s talking about the Lord’s Table and says, “many among you are weak” which means spiritually weak, and “some sleep,” which is a euphemism for death. They’ve gone through the sin unto death because you have not observed the Lord’s Table correctly. You have to examine yourselves, which is the same as looking to see if there’s sin in your life, and you need to confess it.
In 1 Chronicles 15:14–15 we read, “So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles.” That isn’t what they did the first time. See, this is what the Word of God does; it teaches us, it rebukes us, it corrects us, and sets us on the path of righteousness. That’s exactly what 2 Timothy 3:16–17 is talking about. “The Word of God is God breathed and is profitable for doctrine,” that is teaching or instruction, “for reproof.” You did it wrong!
You see, we live in such a weenie snowflake generation today that nobody ever wants to be told that they do something wrong. Everybody has to be a winner; nobody can do it wrong, and if they do it wrong, then they’re just going to run off and have a pity party somewhere and blame it on you because you weren’t sensitive to them. They’d have a hard time with God. People like that do have a hard time with God because they want everything to orient around their own feelings.
David’s been rebuked, and he’s been corrected by his study of Scripture. So now they are being instructed in the path of righteousness, so they carry the ark in according to the Word of the Lord.
After they do that, in 1 Chronicles 15:16, “Then David spoke to the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers accompanied by instruments of music, stringed instruments, harps, and cymbals.” The word there for cymbals, we think of big cymbals, but they could be small cymbals; it could be like castanets. But they’re percussion instruments used to keep time just as drums and cymbals and castanets do today in orchestra [1 Chronicles 15:16] “by raising the voice with resounding joy.” And so that recognizes that part of singing has to do with the celebration of God’s grace and His goodness to us.
1 Chronicles 15:16–26 talks about David organizing the musical worship of the Lord. This is something that is focused on. I’m not saying that when you go to a lot of these churches they don’t ever rehearse or they don’t go through things. It’s the type of music; it’s preparation beforehand in their life and it’s the kind of music. That’s one thing that impressed me with Scott Aniol.
There are three intellectual disciplines that are necessary to think accurately about the kind of music and worship in the church.
1. The first is biblical knowledge. You have to know what the Bible says; you have to understand not only what the Bible teaches, but the systematic theology.
2. The second thing you have to understand is the whole issue of worldview and philosophy.
3. The third thing you have to understand is the idea of musicology.
I’ve got a minor background in music. I grew up taking piano and I was in the band through junior high and high school and the orchestra and things like that. This gives me a basic understanding of music. But I have a master’s degree in philosophy, and I have multiple degrees in theology and Bible.
Scott Aniol has a master’s in musicology, he’s got a solid background in understanding the language and the thought of philosophy, from classical philosophy into its development in the Middle Ages, and he has a background in theology. So, he can speak to the areas of musicology with a lot more authority than I can, but I can check him in so many areas of theology and philosophy.
But what I find is that most musicians have no idea that the music they play reflects a worldview. Plato recognized this: change the music, change the worldview. This has been understood since ancient, classic times. If you never studied Plato, you don’t understand those things, you just think, “This is what’s popular today.”
Well, it’s popular today for a reason. The reason you didn’t have rock in the 1850s is because people thought differently, but there were generational changes in terms of a worldview shift. This shift occurred from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, from the middle 1900s to late 1900s; people looked at the world differently. The worldview shifted, and that affects everything. That affects all of your arts. It affects visual arts. Take a history of art course sometime.
Last year when I went to Italy, we went through the museums. You look at the classical sculptures, and you go through and look at the art from the Middle Ages where they believed in absolutes. There were absolute standards reflected in sculpture, absolute standards of beauty and perfection. If you’re going to have a statue that’s going to reflect the beauty of David, like the statue by Michelangelo, there are mathematic proportions to the way the face is constructed. A beautiful face has certain proportions.
The Greeks developed this back in the ancient world. They understood that for someone to be beautiful, there had to be a certain ratio in terms of the length from forehead to chin, and the width, and the nose and everything like that. It just wasn’t haphazard. Instinctively, we recognize that when we say that person is really handsome, or that woman is really beautiful. They fit a classically understood pattern. It’s not just because they appeal to my personal, subjective taste. But they fit an external standard.
So, all of this is being taught to this generation of musicians that are listed here in verses 17 and following. All of this is thought through.
We have their names listed, the musical instruments that are listed and ultimately, all of this is designed from an expression of verbal language to musical language. So those go together.
Now within the last week, we talked about Psalm 19:1–2 that, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.” There’s a non-verbal communication; there’s a non-verbal language. Language isn’t just human language with words and grammar and syntax. Language and thoughts can be expressed nonverbally by images, by what is in the Creation so that people can understand who God is from what He has made. But this is also true of music. I’m not talking about the words.
One of the things that comes up is, “We’re singing biblical words.” Yes, but you’re putting them to music that communicates a different language. Music itself communicates things about reality, and so you have to understand what that musical language is.
So, in these passages, you skip down to 1 Chronicles 15:25–26, “So David, the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-Edom with joy. And so it was, when God helped the Levites who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that they offered seven bulls and seven rams.”
So, there’s this sacrifice. They are cleansing the way of the Lord through these sacrifices. And then in 1 Chronicles 15:27, David is dancing before the Lord. This is very interesting to look at this because we can run into a couple of errors here as we think about David dancing before the Lord. He’s got a robe of fine linen [1 Chronicles 15:27] “as were all the Levites who bore the ark, the singers and Chenaniah the music master with the singers. David also wore a linen ephod.” This is the garment of a priest, so he is functioning as a king-priest just as the greater Son of David, Jesus Christ, will function as a king-priest.
And we read thus, in 1 Chronicles 15:28, “Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn, with trumpets and with cymbals, making music with stringed instruments and harps.” Now this isn’t just a disorganized sound; they are making melody. That implies that there is an absolute sense in which they are playing distinctive tunes. People are not just clapping and shouting randomly. Nothing that we’ve read to this point would indicate that this is something random or haphazard or spur of the moment. It’s all structured, and it’s well planned.
In 1 Chronicles 15:29, we see that they brought the ark into the city of David. Michal, David’s wife, “looked through a window and saw King David whirling and playing music, and she despised him in her heart.” Now what’s going on here? We’ll talk about this later when we get through the section on music. We’ll see that she has disdain for David already. This is not the cause for her disdain for David. The cause for her disdain is that David is seen as the cause for the failures of her father, Saul. She is still loyal to her father, so she already has this disdain, this disrespect for David. She’s never shown that since the early time of their marriage. So, this is just another excuse for her to reject David and to ridicule him. So that’s what’s going on in the background here.
But what happens when we look at this, and we see that it’s described as David [1 Chronicles 15:29] “whirling and playing music,” we make some fundamental mistakes. We look at this from the viewpoint of our contemporary frame of reference.
I think there are two mistakes that are made in interpreting this. That he’s just out there doing whatever he wants to do; he’s leaping and jumping around and doing gyrations and everything, and it has no order or structure. All of those same verbs could be applied to any classical ballet: leaping, jumping, whirling. What happens is, that we bring our presuppositions of a non-organized dance style. That’s he’s just doing whatever he wants to do; he’s expressing his emotions of the moment, and we read that into the text.
So, the two dangerous presuppositions are:
1. That we read this in terms of our own generation. That this is a self-centered, disorganized form of dance. But that’s not necessarily what those words mean. You can describe the movements of many in a ballet with those same terms, but it’s very well-organized structured and planned.
2. The second thing is, when I read the literature on this, especially in the last 50 or 60 years, almost every commentator uses the word that this is some kind of ecstatic dancing.
I read an article by an excellent, Baptist expositor of the Word named Leon Wood. He wrote an outstanding introduction to the Old Testament, and an outstanding commentary on Daniel, and an outstanding commentary on Judges. He probably died back in the 1970s or early 1980s. He was of an earlier generation, and he was a dispensationalist. He wrote an article in the Evangelical Theological Society Journal that I read when I was in seminary. There are some things you read and you just think, “this guy has nailed it.”
He’s swimming up stream so much on this, and his basic thesis was, “Ecstasy, emotion, getting your emotions all stirred up is the modus operandi of all the pagan priests.” That’s what they’re doing. They’re using drugs, sometimes they’re not; sometimes they’re using alcohol. But the whole thing is to get you all worked up into this emotional state, and that ecstatic state is defined as worship.
So, when you read the commentary, they do not draw a distinction between the modus operandi of the pagan priests. For many of them, it’s a presupposition that the paganism came first, then the Bible. That’s liberalism. And that the Bible is just sort of a scaled down improved, sophisticated version of what had gone on before in this sense of the evolution of religion.
So, Leon Wood came along and said, “all of this is just being read into the Bible; there is nothing in Scripture that indicates that ecstasy had anything to do with the worship of Yahweh. The worship of God came first, and it was perverted before Noah, and it’s perverted again after the Flood and the tower of Babel. And so, the second presupposition is that David is doing the same kind of thing that was seen and that we understand from pagan worship.
Once we get those two ideas out of our head, then what David is doing here is different. Nothing that David has done to this point is impromptu, none of it is spur of the moment, none of it is disorganized or unstructured. So, what makes us think that he gets to this point and lets it all go? That’s just not even logical, but we have to do that in our generation because we’ve made everything so narcissistic, self-absorbed, and irrational, that we have to interpret the Bible that way, and it’s not correct.
My point is that there isn’t anything that takes place in this chapter that is left unplanned, unrehearsed, or impromptu, extemporaneous, or spontaneous. And we need to understand that had great implications for worship. That doesn’t mean that certain things aren’t spontaneous or extemporaneous, but that’s all done within a very structured environment.
You know we think of the kind of prayers that come out of Pentecostal Charismatic Movement, and they say,
“Well, it’s my prayer language. God gave it to me, and He answers my prayers when I pray in my prayer language.” “Well do you understand what you pray for?”
“No.” “Well how do you know God answered it?”
You don’t, but that the claim they make because it makes them feel good. And, of course, if you tell them that, then it makes them feel bad and then they don’t like you. So next time, what I’ll do is I’ll come back, and we’ll begin looking at the introductory comments on music and worship and just work our way through, think our way through, what the implications of this are for music and worship in the church.
“Father, thank You for the opportunity to study these things, and to see these patterns that are laid out in Scripture, and the effort, the work, the thought that goes into worshipping You—that this is something that just isn’t some “oh yeah, we’re going to get up and go to church this morning,” but that there’s preparation, there’s thought.
“It is treating You with great respect and honor because of all that You have done.
“Father, as we study this, we pray that it would impact and elevate our own understanding of music and worship, what we sing and why we sing it, and that You would be glorified. And we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”