Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Professional Musicians in the Bible

The Professional Musicians in the Bible

And other of their brethren, of the sons of the Kohathites, were over the shewbread, to prepare it every sabbath.  And these are the singers, chief of the fathers of the Levites, who remaining in the chambers were free: for they were employed in that work day and night.  1 Chronicles 9:32-33

Years ago as a student in Jr High and High School, I played an instrument in the school band.  We had a stage band, a marching band, and would perform a Christmas, and end of the year program.  Band practice was always a lot of fun.  My favorite part was the “tuning time” when the director would try to get all the instruments to be tuned to the key of “c.”  This was always a challenge with woodwinds, brass, and complicated teenagers trying to sound out on their instruments.  One exasperated director threw his baton, he was so upset that the practice was going so bad!

I enjoy listening to classical music.  Large orchestras filled with professional musicians making music in perfect harmony with accurate pitch and acoustic tenor is a wonderful thing for my ears to hear!  Hearing the various instruments resonate through the hall or park and the united sounds of the orchestra penetrating our ears can be amazing.

Music is a wonderful gift God has given man and it is a terrific tool that God has given us in part to worship God.  The Bible musicians took their presentations to the Lord very seriously.  In the verses above, they were so devoted to the music of the temple, that it became their occupation.  There are a few “professional musicians” in the Bible.

Not all the people of the Tribe of Levi became priests.  However, all those who were priests did come from the Tribe of Levi.  The non-priest Levites were asked of God to help with the functions around the temple and also to assist in facilitating the music and singing of the temple.  This was started back when the people of Israel were still worshipping God in the transportable temple called the Tabernacle.

Note how the music expectations developed by the time of King David.

1 Chronicles 15:16 And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.

Not just anyone was allowed to sing, but only the people approved by the leaders.  Some people do not have a good testimony and may not be allowed to sing.  I wonder if some of the Levites were born with “tin ears” and could not hold a tune.  I doubt they would have been asked to sing.

These musicians that were asked to present their music did so after much practice.  Think about a professional musician today.  They take their music so serious that they memorize the words and give every effort to put on a good performance.  While Christian singers are not performing as such, we are presenting our songs to the Lord Jesus Christ and we should give the best effort possible.

They were also to present their music pieces with joy.  A good attitude is a perquisite for singing a special in church.  Isn’t it amazing how sometimes when you are discouraged a song can lift you up?  These musicians were to be right with the Lord and joyful in their disposition before they delivered their music.

2 Chronicles 7:6 And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of musick of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.

The music was clearly a call to worship the Lord.  It was distinct music that directed people’s attention to the Lord.  Our music should have the same affect today.  The music and the words sung should guide our hearts and minds to the Lord Jesus Christ.  The congregational singing, choir number, and special music must work together to point people to the Lord.  The music director must be filled with the Spirit of God and emptied of self to be truly effective.

This also causes us to consider the quality of the music.  Our instruments should be tuned, and our musicians should be accustomed to playing the right notes at the right time.  Any Jr High music teacher will chuckle at that proposition!  I still laugh when I recall the band director throwing the conductors baton across the room!  It would not have happened if we Jr High students could have only played the warm up in the same key!

Not every song sung or instrument played will be pitch perfect every time – but we should try for it.  The idea of “winging it” or “hoping it will work out” would be an unfamiliar idea to David and to the Levite professional musicians who served the Lord in the music ministry.

At the same time, young people and developing musicians should be encouraged and given appropriate opportunities to present their music to the Lord.  Not every musician will be Sunday morning ready, but they should be utilized in the Nursing Home, Jail service, Jr. Church, and Youth Ministries.  While serving God, they are further developing their talents and preparing for more opportunities when the time is right.

2 Chronicles 34:12 And the men did the work faithfully: and the overseers of them were Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites, of the sons of Merari; and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to set it forward; and other of the Levites, all that could skill of instruments of musick. 

These musicians were faithful.  They were faithful to practice, they were faithful in service.  All of us have known people who attend a church service only when it is their turn to sing.  If they are not scheduled to lead singing, sing a song, or play an instrument, they do not show up.  These are not the people that should be ministering in music in our churches.  The music people should be faithful to be involved in other aspects of church life.  I have found that many times, the most involved people are the lovely piano players who are almost “stretched thin” they are so committed to serving the Lord in areas other than music.

Musicians should be involved in other areas, not just music.  This is clear as we see the musical Levites in their ministry.  If a person only serves in the spotlight, he is much quicker to become lifted up with pride.  Many talented musically enabled Christians have fallen because of pride.

The “overseers” would also coach and help the musicians get better.  If a musician cannot be encouraged to do better, then pride is getting in the way of true service to the Lord.  The work of music was “set forward” by the overseers.  Each musician should try to help the church music director and the church music ministry advance to become more professional to the glory of the Lord.  I enjoy listening to church and college CD’s and then comparing them to their next CD.  You can hear a “quality difference” in voice, music, and recording.  As the musicians, sound engineers, and technology get better, so does the quality of the CD’s.  We all are blessed when things are “set forward” and made better.

Not to suggest anyone quits their job to become a “professional musician” but we all can look at our music ministry and consider – are we being as professional as possible to make a joyful noise unto the Lord?

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Better or Worse?

Better or Worse?

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.  Romans 6:6-7

Trips to the eye doctor!  Getting new eyeglasses or fitting contacts can be a good thing.  Being able to see or understanding why headaches are more frequent and that these sight issues can be treated are terrific.  I am amazed at the new machines and the visual tools that the eye doctors of today utilize.  Place your face against a big “mask looking thing” and look at the image on the wall.  Sound familiar?

What does the eye doctor say to you?  You are looking at a wall with letters of all sizes on it.  Then after looking and talking down the list the doctor says “Is that better or worse?”  He flicks a button and the lens in the tool he is using changes and he says it again: “Is that better or worse?”  Over and over again he says the same thing until he arrives at a lens that you declare is working well for your set of eyes to see better.

Eye doctor visits are visual “resets” that help us see better after getting the proper contacts or glasses.

In the aftermath of the Islamic terror strikes on America on 9.11, many Americans had a “reset” in their spiritual vision.  Many people started to consider eternity and getting things right with God.  The attacks shook our world in many different ways, from economics, military, public safety, and even spiritual considerations.   We learned about terror groups that hate Christians and that want to kill those who live with the “western ideology.”  What I am saying is that some people hate the American way of life and the American way of life was initially rooted in Judaic/Christian Values.  The attacks and this hatred we endured changed our perspective.

People changed for the better.   Living with God in mind is living with a better perspective.  Church congregations grew.  People prayed and read the Bible who had not done either practice in years.  Folks said they were turning back to the Lord.  Some people trusted Christ for salvation and were born again and others became religious for the next several weeks, months, and even years.  Priorities, motivation for life, and service to God became key components of the lives of many people.

Then time goes by.  Just like our eye vision, sometimes over time we do not see as well as we once did.

Each human is composed of three components: Body, Soul, and Spirit.  We are a trichotomy.  We are free to choose what we believe and how we will live.  Just like we go to the eye doctor when we need an eye exam, we all need to take time to examine our spiritual lives.

I like the following quote from William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) who said: “Christianity promises to make men free; it never promises to make them independent.”

It seems like people living in America today want to be free. Many want to be free to do what they want to do.  God would rather us be free to do what is right rather than what is wrong.  We are free, but as Christians, we are not independent from God.  If you are a believer in Jesus, you must be totally dependent on Jesus.

Romans 6:6-7 gives us great insight to the old nature and the new nature.  Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. 

Your body, the flesh, wants to do wrong.  This is our human nature.  As Christians, God has given us a new nature.  You are a new person in Christ Jesus.  God is not saying to destroy your body in these verses; He is saying to not let the old nature control your life.  When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, He made it possible for you to live in true freedom.  You have freedom to no longer follow the mandates of your sinful, fallen nature, but to joyfully live life for the Lord Jesus Christ.  The old nature was crucified too.  Backslidden Christians are allowing the old nature to “revive” and control their lives instead of enjoying the freedom Christ afforded over that old nature.

Jesus gave us real freedom when He died on the cross.  Our lives must reflect the victory that He purchased at Calvary.  As we remember 9.11 once again today, consider your life in retrospective: “Is life better or worse?”  Am I still free to do right, or am I claiming my freedom to do what my old nature wants for me to do.

We don’t have to look far to realize that a giant pendulum of morality and godliness in society is swinging far away from the side of righteousness.  People who once saw clearly their need to seek the Lord are now no longer interested in the things of the Lord.  Even if they are Christians, they have fallen into the traps and fallen for the lies of Satan to “live the way you want to live.”

Why not seek a “spiritual reset” today?  Just like when you go to the eye doctor to get help, go to church this Sunday and discover what you have been missing and see how you can honor the Lord once again with your life.

Are you “better or worse” in your walk with the Lord than you were 14 years ago?  “Better or worse” than you were a month ago concerning spiritual things?  How about today?  As time goes on, the temptation is to “let things go.”  Examine your life.  Make changes for the better… starting today.

Who are You a Companion To?

Who are You a Companion To?

I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.  Psalms 119:63

Have you ever met a person who said they “had no friends?”  Have you ever felt lonely thinking that others do not care about you?  Sometimes we can become depressed and discouraged when we approach relationship with the “They” and “I” perspective.  It may really be that instead of others being interested in you, you have not been interested in others.

As my family and I were reading this verse today, I was prompted to write down the following thoughts that may be a help to you and your relationships today.

Instead of asking “who are my friends” I should ask “Who am I friends with?”  One is egocentric, the other is others centric.  Self-centeredness has captivated many relationships throughout history.  You are in good company if you have thought this way, but you can change for the better today!

Be Proactive Relationally.  As the Psalmist pens Psalm 119, he gives great insight to the “direction” our relationships should focus.  Instead of saying “They are my companions” he said “I am their companion.”  This makes a world of difference!  He was looking for being friends with people who loved the Lord.  He was not letting the relationships come looking for him, he was proactive.

I have known people that say “No-one is my friend at church.”  A casual observation in nearly every case this is stated is that the person saying it is not proactive in his relationships.  If one sits in a corner and expects people to find him, his relational appearance portrays that he is not interested in relationships.  If the same man would walk around to people, actively greet old and new friends, then he would develop closer ties to people.  Proverbs 18:24 is still true: “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.”

Be Persistent Relationally.  The Psalmist is reaching out to people who fear God.  He wanted to be around people who loved the One True God.  What a blessing we have to be active in local Bible believing churches!  We can have friends who love the Lord too.  A man may say that he is lonely, but if he comes to the service 5 minutes late and leaves the service 5 minutes early, he is not giving friendships a chance to develop.  Relationships must be persistently pursued by spending time with others.

I have known individuals and families that come late and leave early and wonder why they have no connections with people in the church.  It is because they are unavailable to others.  Friendships should not be based solely on vocation, education, affluence, or personalities.  Friendships are based on love, value, and time shared.  The Psalmist was available. He put himself in a position to spend time with others that feared the Lord.

Encarta says the word “companion” means “somebody who shares time with another.”  Who are you a companion to today?  Don’t let others look for friendship with you – you look for friendships with them.  See if this does not help your emotions, demeanor, perspective and service to the Lord.  I believe it will help.  Don’t ask; “Who Are my friends?” instead ask; “Who am I a companion to? Who am I a friend to?”