Category Archives: Music

Four Probing Questions on the Matter of Praising the LORD (Psalm 150)

Scripture reading – Psalm 150

Psalm 150 completes our journey through the book of the Psalms for 2021.  We will return to this divinely inspired collection of worship songs in March 2022. Psalm 150 reminds us to not only praise the LORD, but reveals the central role music has had in the worship down through the centuries. Twelve times the psalmist calls on God’s people to “Praise the Lord!”

For our study, I suggest four questions to consider in the believer’s obligation to give praise to the LORD.

Where should believers praise the LORD? (150:1)

Psalm 150:11Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary [holy place]: Praise him in the firmament [breadth of the heavens] of his power.

The LORD is to be praised “in His sanctuary” (150:1a). What was His sanctuary? It was the Temple, and specifically the inner sanctum, the holy of holies. Though the heavens and the earth could not contain Him, He chose to bless the sanctuary in the midst of Israel with His presence.

Not only should the LORD be praised “in His sanctuary,” His power is displayed in the “firmament” of heaven, and gives all who look upon it cause to shout Hallelujah! “Praise ye the LORD” (150:1).

Why should believers praise the LORD? (150:2)

Psalm 150:22Praise him for his mighty acts [strength and mighty deeds]: Praise him according to his excellent[abundant] greatness [majesty].

God is worthy of our praise because of His mighty deeds, and the heavens and all creation reflect His majesty (150:2).

How (and with what) should believers praise the LORD? (150:3-5)

Psalm 150:3-53Praise him with the sound [blast] of the trumpet [horn; shofar or ram’s horn]: Praise him with the psaltery [lute or string instrument] and harp.
4Praise him with the timbrel [a hand drum or tambourine] and dance [a whirling around, circular dance]: Praise him with stringed instruments [played by plucking strings] and organs [wind instruments; flute or reed instrument].
5Praise him upon the loud cymbals [percussion instruments]: Praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

Musical instruments have always been a part of congregational worship, and here the psalmist describes a virtual orchestra of instruments upon which musicians were to praise and worship the LORD. Horns, lute like string instruments, harps, percussion instruments consisting of tambourines, hand drums, cymbals, and wind instruments were all part of congregational worship. Accompanying the orchestra were those who praised the LORD in dance, with its whirling motions (150:4)

Who should praise the LORD? (150:6)

Psalm 150:66Let every thing [all living creatures, including man] that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.

Summing up the whole matter of worship and praising the LORD is the universal call to every creature, to praise the LORD. Let every man and woman, beast and birds of the air, and even the fish of the waters give praise to their Creator! “Praise ye the LORD” (150:6).

Closing thoughts – Believer, we live in a noisy world that overwhelms and drowns out the sweet sounds from the Lord. If we listen, we will find Him in the quiet and solitude of His creation and the gratifying meditation of His Word. Do you seek a daily time of quiet to read the Scriptures, and meditate on the LORD?

When you join other believers in public worship, do you consciously block out the noise and busyness of life, and focus on the LORD to praise Him? If you are a musician, think of the blessing you have to not only lift your voice to the LORD, but use your talent to worship, and encourage others to worship the LORD!

No matter our station in life, may we all follow the advice of the psalmist, and “Praise the LORD!”

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Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Praise the LORD, and Go to Bed Rejoicing! (Psalm 148; Psalm 149)

Scripture reading – Psalm 148; Psalm 149

Today’s Scripture reading consists of two psalms, and the theme of each may be summed up in three words: “Praise the LORD!” The call to praise and worship continues to be the subject of our study as we near the conclusion of our devotionals in the book of Psalms.  Both of our songs of praise resume the format we have noticed in earlier psalms: A call to worship, followed by the cause or reason for praising the LORD.

Psalm 148 is divided into two sections.

The first (148:1-6) begins with a call for the heavens to praise the LORD (148:1). The angels and the hosts of heaven are to offer praise to the LORD (148:2). The heavenly bodies are to praise to the LORD (sun, moon, stars), and the clouds in the heavens above are all to praise their Creator (148:3-5). The LORD is not only the Creator, but He has set in order His creation, and not a word of His decrees will fail (148:6).

The second portion (148:7-14) is a call for all that inhabit the earth to praise the LORD. The great creatures of the sea (i.e., “ye dragons”), the wonders of nature (fire, hail, snow, vapor, storms and wind, all reflect the glory of the Creator (148:8-9). The vegetation of the earth, the beasts of the fields, the birds of the air, and every creeping thing on the earth are to praise the LORD (148:10). All men and women have cause to praise the LORD (148:11-12).

Indeed, let all that have breath, praise the LORD, for His name alone is worthy of praise (148:13-14).

Psalm 149 continues the theme of praise, and is also divided into two sections.

The first section is a call to public or congregational worship (149:1-3), and we notice the praise and worship of spirit-filled believers is distinctive in both words and music. The psalmist writes:

Psalm 149:11Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, And his praise in the congregation of saints.

The words of the “new song” (renewed song) are focused upon the LORD, and refer to the songs that would have been sung by the priests in the Tabernacle and the Temple. King David, who was a poet and musician wrote: “[The LORD] hath put a new [fresh; renew] song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see [perceive; observe; discern] it, and fear [reverence], and shall trust in the LORD” (149:1).

The apostle John described the singing of the elders in heaven, writing, “9And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

Closing thoughts – Why should believers praise and worship the LORD? Not only because He is worthy of our praise, but because He takes pleasure in His people offering Him praises (149:5). When believers have an attitude of gratitude for the LORD, they go to bed happy, and “sing aloud upon their beds” (149:5).

Let all who have breath, sing and offer praises to the LORD!

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Dedication and a Celebration (1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 5)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 5

1 Kings 8 – Dedication of the Temple

We have followed the building of the Temple from its inception in the heart of King David, to its construction fulfilled during the reign of his son, Solomon. The Temple having been completed, and all the necessary implements and utensils readied, the day came for dedicating the house of the LORD.

After the furnishings were placed in the Temple, the Ark of the Covenant was carried up by the priests from David’s palace complex (8:1-4). With sacrifices so great they could not be numbered, the Ark was placed in the oracle, meaning the inner sanctuary of the Temple we have identified as the “Holy of Holies” (8:5-6).  The Ark rested beneath the wings of the great cherubim that resided in the holy place (8:7-8). However, with the passing of centuries, all that would remain in the Ark were the treasured tablets upon which God had inscribed His Commandments (8:9).

We read, the glory of God so “filled the house of the LORD” that the “priests could not stand to minister” (8:10-11).  We would ask, why were the priests unable to minister in the Temple after the LORD’S glory filled His house?

Because the God of Heaven is a Holy, glorious God with whom mortal man dare not trifle.  His glory is “like devouring fire” (Exodus 24:17). He is “a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). The LORD’S presence in His Temple was so powerful and convicting, the priests “could not stand to minister” (8:11a).

The dedication of the Temple continued with Solomon rehearsing how his father had longed to build the Temple, but was forbidden by God (2 Samuel 7:2, 12-13), and that privilege passed to Solomon, David’s son (8:12-21).  In the sight of all the people, Solomon prayed on his knees (8:54) and offered a prayer of thanksgiving, remembering God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises praying for the nation (8:22-30).

Knowing the justice of God, Solomon confessed the bent of man’s sinful heart was to depart from the Law and Commandments (8:31-32). The king prayed that when Israel sinned as a nation, the LORD would not forsake His people, but would hear their confession, and upon their repentance, would forgive their sin (8:33-36).

Knowing when the people disobeyed the LORD that troubles would befall the nation (famine, pestilence, and other afflictions arising from physical disasters and blights), Solomon petition the LORD to hear the prayers of every man (8:37-43).  Should the people go to war and fall captive, he prayed the LORD would hear the prayers of His people and restore them to their homeland (8:44-50).

Remembering the mercies of God in the past, Solomon concluded his prayer, reminding the LORD that He had chosen Israel, and had brought the people out of Egypt under Moses (8:51-53).

With the dedication of the Temple being ended, Solomon blessed the people, and led a celebration with sacrifices and offerings that continued fourteen days (8:54-66).

2 Chronicles 5 added an additional element to the celebration and dedication of the Temple, and that was the prominence of music in the worship of the LORD (5:12-13).

Closing thoughts – Though we will not see the visible presence of the LORD’S glory descending in a cloud upon today’s sanctuaries, we who love the LORD should revere and glorify Him in our private and public worship.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Worship Music and the Character of Worship Leaders (1 Chronicles 25)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 25

Twenty-four Orders of Levite Musicians

Continuing the census and organization of the men of the tribe of Levi that began in 1 Chronicles 23, “David and the captains of the host” arranged the musicians who would minister in the worship of the Temple. David was intimately involved in the music of the Tabernacle, and the organization of the music ministry in the Temple. As both a poet and musician, the king understood the important role music would have in worshipping the LORD.

Three primary Levitical families are identified (25:1): “the sons of Asaph (25:2), and of Heman (25:4-5), and of Jeduthun (25:3).” The sons of those families were described as “separated to the service…who should prophesy [i.e., inspire by song] with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals” (25:1).

David appointed the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun to serve in the ministry of music (25:1). Heman stands out not only as a chief musician, but “God gave to [him] fourteen sons and three daughters” (25:5). Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, evidently were excellent musicians, passing their skills to their children who served under their father’s direction “in the house of the Lord, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God” (25:6). Altogether, there were 288 musicians who were described as “instructed [taught] in the songs of the Lord, even all that were cunning [skilled]” (25:7).

Of course, as noted earlier, there were 4000 singers and musicians whom David appointed to “offer praises to the LORD (23:5). These were divided by lot into twenty-four companies who ministered in the Temple in the morning and evening (25:8-31)

Closing thoughtsWorshipping the LORD was central to Israel as a nation, and the music ministry had an essential role. The orchestra and choir consisted of Levites whose lives were dedicated to ministering daily in the Temple.

The 21st century church would be wise to return to that standard, and remember the responsibility of those who minister in music was to “prophesy,” literally to inspire by word and song.

Godly character and musicianship were essential for those who ministered in music before the LORD and His people.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

 

A Primer in Congregational Worship (Psalm 33; Psalm 36)

Scripture reading – Psalm 33; Psalm 36

Worship in the 21st century Church is far from the reverential worship you would have known and experienced had you worshiped the LORD in the courtyard of the Tabernacle or at the Temple in Solomon’s day. Like all of the psalms, Psalm 33 has the LORD as its central focus, and its theme is a contemplation of God’s majesty as Creator, Almighty, Jehovah, Eternal God. * Today’s devotional will be taken from Psalm 33. As in earlier devotions, I have taken liberty to amplify word meanings in brackets.

A Study in Congregational Worship (33:1-5)

Psalm 33:1 – “Rejoice [sing; shout for joy] in the LORD, O ye righteous [just; lawful; innocent; blameless]: for praise is comely [beautiful; suitable; fitting] for the upright [righteous; right].

Psalm 33:1 emphasizes the DUTY of believers (the righteous and the upright) to worship the LORD. Old Testament saints understood to be righteous in the sight of the LORD, required obedience to His laws and commandments in both spirit and practice. The righteous have both cause and duty to “Rejoice in the LORD” and praise Him (33:1).

Psalm 33:2-3Praise [give thanks] the LORD with harp [lyre]: sing [sing praise] unto him with the psaltery [lute] and an instrument of ten strings [ten string instrument]3 Sing unto him a new song; play [make music]skillfully [well; good; pleasing; beautiful] with a loud noise [shout; i.e. like the sound of a trumpet].

The Father also desires His people to worship Him out of a heart of DEVOTION. With both instrument and voice, the righteous are able to express their love and devotion in congregational music and song (33:2). The psalmist called upon the congregation to sing a “new song” (33:3a), and “play skillfully with a loud noise” (33:3b).

While “a loud noise” might be an apt description of some 21st century “praise music,” it falls short of the message portrayed by the psalmist. As an explanation: Often overlooked in the phrase is the word “skillfully,” meaning beautiful and well-pleasing; and something that cannot be achieved apart from years of disciplined practice. The “loud noise” implies the sound of wind instruments, such as a trumpet.

DECLARATION is another word that describes congregational worship. Believers are to declare in their music and song the majesty of the LORD who is worthy of praise and worship (33:4-5).

Psalm 33:4-54 For the word [spoken word; discourse] of the LORD is right [righteous; just]; and all his works [acts; deeds] are done in truth [faith; faithfulness]. 5 He [the LORD] loveth righteousness [justice] and judgment [right]: the earth [land] is full [filled; overflow] of the goodness [mercy; kindness] of the LORD.

God’s glory is also revealed in His Word and works. His Word is right, and His works are honest and true (33:4). He is holy, just, loving, faithful and good (33:4-5), and if we look, we can see the LORD’S loving and faithful hand in the world around us, and hopefully reflected in us.

An Affirmation of the Character of the LORD (33:5-19)

Remembering Psalm 33 is a song, notice the focus of the verses is upon the divine character and attributes of the LORD (33:5-19). The LORD is righteous (33:5a), good (33:5b), omnipotent (33:6-9), omniscient (33:10), and His counsel (Word) is eternal and immutable (33:11).

The LORD is vigilant, and He “looketh from heaven; He beholdeth all the sons of men” (33:13). He knows what lies within the hearts of men, and “He fashioneth their hearts alike; He considereth all their works” (33:15). The LORD is sovereign over all nations (33:16-17), and He is the protector and provider for them who fear and revere Him (33:18-19).

Three Benefits That Come to Those Who Worship the LORD (33:20-22)

Psalm 33 concludes with a doxology, that boasts of the LORD’s care for His children, and the benefits that come to them when they worship the LORD. When worship, and song focuses on the character of the LORD, believers who worship Him in Truth acquire three virtues: They learn patience, for they “waiteth for the LORD” (33:20). Their faith is increased, for they “have trusted in His holy name” (33:21). Finally, because they know the LORD is merciful, they are never without hope, for they “hope in [the LORD]” (33:22).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sing Unto the LORD! (Psalm 89; Psalm 96)

Scripture reading – Psalm 89; Psalm 96

Music has always been a central part of worshipping the LORD.  Had you been privileged to visit the Temple, you would have heard singers and musicians leading the congregation of Israel in worship. Their lives were dedicated to singing, playing, and composing songs of praise. Reading the psalms, you come to realize the deep, personal relationship the writers had with their subject…the LORD! Psalm 89 and Psalm 96 call upon the congregation to sing, sing unto the LORD!

Psalm 89 – The Person and Attributes of God

Psalm 89 was composed by “Ethan the Ezrahite,” and some scholars suggest he was also known as Jeduthun, a musician of David’s era. We can be certain he was a Levite, and his composition would have been sung in worship in the Temple. Time and space do not permit a thorough study of Psalm 89; however, I invite you to consider a few of God’s attributes detailed in the psalm.

A Call to Worship the LORD (Psalm 89:1-4)

God is merciful and faithful (89:1-2), and His promises never fail (89:3).

Divine Attributes (Psalm 89:5-18)

God is incomparable (Psalm 89:6-8), and He is to be feared and revered (89:7). He is strong and faithful (89:8). He is the Sovereign in nature, and the seas obey His will (89:9; Matthew 8:24-27). He is Sovereign of the nations, and He rules the “sea” of nations (89:10).

God is the Creator, and the mountains rejoice at His name (89:11-12). He is just, merciful, and to be trusted (89:14). He is righteous (89:16), and our protector (89:18). The LORD is “the Holy One of Israel, [and He] is our King (89:18).

God is Faithful, and No Promise of His Ever Fails. (89:19-52)

The LORD keeps covenant with His people, and He never forgets His promises (89:19-25). He is “my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (89:26). He is merciful (89:28), and just; and those who break His Covenant will not go unpunished (89:26-32). He is holy, and cannot lie (89:35). He is a righteous Judge, and sin will not go unpunished (89:38-45). He is just, and in Him is life, purpose, mercy, and forgiveness (89:46-51). He is worthy of praise, for He is “LORD for evermore” – eternal, perpetual, everlasting God (89:52).

Psalms 96 – “O SING unto the LORD a New Song!”

Psalm 96 is an evangelistic psalm of praise, a universal invitation to “all the earth” to worship and sing praises unto the LORD (96:1). Three times the psalmist invites worshippers to sing:  “1O sing unto the Lord a new song: Sing unto the Lord, all the earth. 2Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; Shew forth his salvation from day to day” (96:1-2).

What was this “new song?”  (96:1-2)

I believe it was a song of salvation, a song of redemption; and an invitation to all who worship the LORD to “shew forth His salvation” (96:2). The psalmist invites God’s people to, “Declare His glory among the heathen [all non-Hebrew people]” (96:3).

Not only are we to “sing unto the LORD,” we are also exhorted to “Give unto the LORD” (96:7-8). The psalm opened with a trifecta invitation to “Sing,” and now there is a triplicate invitation to Give: Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, Give unto the Lord glory and strength. 8Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: Bring an offering, and come into his courts” (96:7–8).

The evangelistic thrust of Psalm 96 continued with an invitation to “worship the LORD” (96:9). Sincere worship acknowledges the holiness of God, and those who worship Him, fear and revere Him (96:9). We who worship the LORD are to declare to “the heathen that the Lord reigneth…and He shall judge the people righteously” (96:10).

Psalm 96 concludes with a doxology, reminding us the sin Adam thrust upon the world, the curse of sin, and its effect upon nature has been “that the whole creation groaneth [sorrows] and travaileth [agonizes] in pain [i.e. pangs of death]” (Romans 8:22).

However, the psalmist foresaw a day when there would be rejoicing in nature: “the heavens…the earth…the sea…the field… [and] the trees of the wood [will] rejoice (96:11-12). What was the cause for rejoicing in nature? When the LORD comes to “judge the earth: He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the people with his truth” (96:13).

Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Solomon’s Faithfulness to the LORD (1 Kings 9; 2 Chronicles 8)

Scripture reading assignment – 1 Kings 9; 2 Chronicles 8

Having completed the Temple, “the glory of the LORD” so filled it that the “priests could not stand to minister” (8:11). Solomon then offered a prayer of thanksgiving and dedicated the Temple before the people (8:22-53).

1 Kings 9 is God’s response to Solomon’s prayer of dedication.

The LORD promised to bless Solomon if he would be a man of “integrity [upright; innocent] of heart, and in uprightness [honesty; walking a straight path], to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep [observe; heed] my statutes [ordinances; rules; laws] and my judgments [verdict]” (9:4).

God warned Solomon, should he or his children disobey His Law and Commandments and serve idols, the nation would be “cut off” and everyone would know Israel had forsaken the LORD and He had brought judgment against the nation (9:5-9).

The closing verses of 1 Kings 9 detail for us the cities Solomon built with Gentile slave laborers (9:15-24). In addition to the cities, we learn that Hiram, king of Tyre, assisted Solomon in building a fleet of ships (9:26-28; 2 Chronicles 8:17-18).

2 Chronicles 8 – The Twenty-first Year of Solomon’s Reign

2 Chronicles 8 records the accomplishments of Solomon at the close of the twentieth year of his reign (8:1) including the cities he had built and others he had conquered (8:2-6).

Showing the expanse of his realm, Solomon levied extra taxes on those who were strangers in his domain (8:7-8) and they were constricted to bear the labor of his palace. Solomon’s army and their captains were men of Israel (8:9-10).

2 Chronicles 8 concludes noting the various sacrifices Solomon offered and the feast days he and Israel observed as a people during his reign (8:12-16).

What can we take away from today’s Scripture?

Let’s remember Solomon’s commitment to the LORD and his faithful observance of the sacrifices and feasts days according to the Law (8:12-13). He made worship a priority and assured that the priests and Levites would faithfully perform their duties, leading the people in praising the LORD and singing the psalms (8:14-15).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Why Trust the LORD? (Psalms 134, 146-150)

Daily Scripture Reading – Psalms 134, 146-150

Today’s Scripture reading comprises six psalms: Psalms 134, 146, 147, 148, 149, and 150. I will limit the devotional commentary to Psalm 146.

The author of Psalm 146 is not known; however, his purpose in writing the psalm is obvious: It is a song of praise to the LORD.  Notice that the psalmist employs numerous names for God that are meant to describe His nature, personality, and character.

An Explanation: Understanding a word in the Hebrew texts can be translated into English with more than one word. It is my desire to give you a broader understanding and insight into this beautiful psalm of praise for your own worship and edification. My amplification of words in the text is in brackets.

The psalmist begins Psalm 146 directing his praise and worship to the only One worthy of praise…the LORD (146:1-2).

Psalm 146:1-2 1  Praise [Hallelujah; Glory; Boast; Celebrate] ye the LORD [Yahweh; the sacred name of the LORD]. Praise the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], O my soul.
2  While I live [have life] will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises [sing psalms] unto my God [Elohim; mighty God] while I have any being.

The psalmist exhorts and admonishes the people to not put their trust or confidence in man (146:3-4).  

Psalm 146:3-4  3  Put not your trust [confidence] in princes, nor in the son [children] of man, in whom there is no help [salvation; deliverance].
4  His breath [man’s breath] goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day [time] his thoughts perish.

Whether a prince among men or a mere mortal man; all men live under the sentence of death (Romans 6:23). Their breath disappears as a vapor, their bodies return to dust, and their plans and designs perish with them.

Such is the spiritual lesson the rich man encountered in Luke 12. 

Experiencing an overflow of the fruits of his labor at the time of harvest, the rich man determined to tear down his barns and hoard God’s blessings (Luke 12:17-18).  God judged the man a fool (Luke 12:19-20). Because his affections were on earthly riches, he died a spiritual pauper… “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God” (Luke 12:21).

While the rich man’s affections for earthly treasures perished with him, the psalmist describes the man who looks to the LORD as “Happy” (146:5).

Psalm 146:5  5  Happy [Blessed; prosperous] is he that hath the God [Almighty God] of Jacob for his help [aid], whose hope [expectation] is in the LORD his God:

Why should you trust the LORD (146:6-9)? 

The psalmist suggests four qualities that lead us to trust the LORD.

We should trust the LORD because He is Creator of heaven, earth, the sea and “all that therein is”. (146:6)

Psalm 146:6  6  Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth [preserves; guards] truth for ever [i.e. God is forever faithful; trustworthy]:

We should trust the LORD because He is faithful and true: He “keepeth truth for ever” (146:6b).

We should trust the LORD because He is just and compassionate. (146:7-9)

Psalm 146:7-9 7  Which executeth [lit. to make or prepare] judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth [sets at liberty] the prisoners: 8  The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth [lifts up; comforts] them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous [just]: 9  The LORD preserveth [keeps watch; regards; saves] the strangers [sojourners]; he relieveth [bear witness; admonish; protects] the fatherless and widow: but the way [journey; path] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty] he turneth upside down [subverts; thwarts; overthrows].

Fourthly, we should trust the LORD because He is King Eternal, the God of Zion of whose kingdom there is no end (146:10).

Psalm 146:10 10  The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.

How foolish to trust man or place your confidence in earthly possessions!  The LORD is eternal, just, compassionate, faithful, true and our Creator!

Why trust any other?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Those Who Minister Before the LORD in Music (1 Chronicles 23-25)

Scripture Reading – 1 Chronicles 23-25

The opening verses of 1 Chronicles 23 remind us that David is an old man and is setting both his house and kingdom in order. David has reigned 40 years (1 Chronicles 26:31) and has “made Solomon his son king over Israel” (23:1).

Today’s Scripture reading registers the king’s charge to organize the Levite families who will lead the worship of the LORD.  I invite you to especially notice the prominence of music, musicians, and song in today’s Scripture reading.

1 Chronicles 23 – A Census of the Tribe of Levi

The census of Levi found there were 38,000 heads of house who were thirty years and older (23:3). The organization of the men of Levite is stated by their employment: 24,000 men to assist the priests; 6,000 to serve as “officers and judges,” 4,000 who were porters or keepers of the doors, and another 4,000 men who were musicians and called to praise the LORD with “the instruments” (which David had apparently supplied – 23:4).

1 Chronicles 24 – The Aaronic Priesthood

Twenty-four classes of priests are identified in chapter 24.

1 Chronicles 25 – Twenty-four Orders of Levite Musicians

David was intimately involved in the music of the Tabernacle and the organization for the music ministry in the Temple. As both a poet and musician, the king realized the important role music would have in worshipping the LORD.

David appointed the sons of Asaph to serve in the ministry of music (25:1). Of Asaph’s sons, one named Heman stands out not only as a chief musician, but the father of eleven sons (25:4) who were powerful in song and instruments (25:5-6).

In addition to musicians who were skilled in their instruments, we find another two hundred eighty-eight men described as “cunning,” skilled singers who were trained and instructed “in the songs of the LORD” (25:7).

Godly character and musicianship are essential traits for those who minister in music before the LORD and His people.

Heman, the father of eleven sons who were gifted musicians (25:4-6), had one quality we dare not overlook: He was “the king’s seer in the words of God to lift up the horn” [the “horn” being a symbol of power and authority] ().

Heman was a man of God and served the king as the voice and prophet of the LORD (25:5).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“You Call that Worship Music?” (Psalms 95, 97-99)

Scripture Reading – Psalms 95, 97-99

Our Scripture reading for today is four psalms of praise. Though the author of the psalms is not identified, most scholars assign them to David because of their style and content. We know David authored Psalm 95 because the writer of Hebrews quoted the psalm and identified the king as its author (Hebrews 4:7).

Today’s psalms are too rich for one devotional commentary to adequately address them all; therefore. I will limit this devotion to Psalm 98.

Psalm 98 – “Sing Unto the LORD a New Song”

Like Psalm 97, I believe the theme of Psalm 98 is the Second Coming of Christ. Hymnwriter and preacher Isaac Watts, cited Psalm 98 as the inspiration of his hymn, “Joy to the World.” Although most often sung as a celebration of Christ’s birth, “Joy to the World” is in fact a celebration of Christ’s Second Coming.

Psalm 98 is an invitation to worship the LORD in song, rejoicing in His salvation and righteousness (98:2). Let us consider the instructions in worship music we find in this psalm as a basis for judging the music style your church has implemented in its worship services.

We find that Psalm 98 consists of three stanzas, each three verses in length. The first is a call for Israel to worship and rejoice in the LORD (98:1-3). The psalmist writes,

Psalm 98:1 – O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.

What is this “new song?” (98:1-3)

It is a victory song, for the LORD through His strength and power had given His chosen people salvation (98:1-2a). It is a song of redemption and praise for God’s grace (98:2b). It is a song praising the LORD for His faithfulness for He had not forgotten Israel.

Do you realize of all ancient people, the Jews are the only identifiable people from ancient times? The smallest, most insignificant people in all the earth have been preserved by the LORD.

The second stanza calls upon all nations of the earth to worship the LORD (98:4-6).

As one who loves music, and in particular congregational singing and choral anthems, notice with me that singing and playing on instruments was an essential part of worshipping the LORD.

The musicians who ministered in the Temple were trained, skilled, and dedicated musicians. The sound of their voices and instruments was not noise, but an energetic expression in music and song. The literal meaning of “noise” in vss. 4 and 6 is a “shout” or cry or triumph.

The music of the Tabernacle and Temple was never meant to entertain the masses or the congregation. The focus of worship music was the LORD, and His holiness was reflected in both words and music. The singers and musicians did not perform for the applause of the people. Singers were accompanied by string instruments (the harp, vs. 5) and wind instruments (trumpets and coronet, vs. 6). The focus of worship was “the LORD, the King” (98:6).

The final stanza in Psalm 98 calls on all Creation to worship the LORD (98:7-9).

All creation will rejoice (95:7-8) and be freed from the curse of sin when the LORD comes to set up His millennial kingdom. Romans 8:18-25 reveals the devastating effect of man’s sin on creation. Creation awaits its deliverance from the curse of sin (Romans 8:19), but will be delivered “from the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21) when the LORD comes again.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and yes, pandemics remind us that “creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together” (Romans 8:22) until the LORD comes to set up His earthly kingdom. He will right the wrongs for He is “to judge the earth” and will judge the earth in His righteousness (98:9).

An Observation

The Book of Psalms is a compilation of songs of praise and worship that was employed in daily worship in the Temple. While nothing took the primacy of reading and teaching God’s Word, the centrality of instrumental music and song is obvious throughout the Psalms and in other passages of Scripture in the Bible (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16-17).

Sadly, I fear today’s church has taken the command, “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD…make a loud noise” literally and not figuratively. While the priests and Levites were dedicated and consecrated to serve the LORD and lead God’s people in earnest worship, today’s “hip-worship leaders” evidence a greater affinity for the world than the holiness of God. Employing every music genre of the 21st century world, the church’s attempt to satisfy the palate of carnal Christians and a secular culture’s demand for entertainment has come at the sacrifice of sincere worship.

Challenge: – Make Colossians 3:16-17 the standard for your worship music.

Colossians 3:16-1716  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith