Christianity 201

November 13, 2013

To The Chief Musician

Although many of the Bible’s books are poetic in nature, you don’t see a proportionate number of contemporary writers using that form. But there are a few Christian blogs devoted to poetry. Yesterday, I discovered CHRISTian Poetry by Deborah Ann.  Here’s a sample:

Did You?

Did you feel the Lord’s hand,
in your life today
did you feel Him gently
nudging you His way?

Did you feel His tender touch,
in your soul today
did you notice Him tenderly
guiding you His way?

Did you feel the Lord’s breath,
in your ear today
did you hear Him softly
calling you His way?

Did you feel the Lord’s love,
in your heart today
did you sense Him quietly
beckoning you His way?

Did you feel the Lord,
in your life today
did you know He wants you
to always feel this way?

At the end of a long day, I found that poem to be quite challenging. Poetry has a potential that prose does not. But in our society, we don’t have a lot of poets, what we have instead is songwriters. They are our modern poets. But despite the evocative nature of music, we often minimize its power.

The Bible’s best known book of poetry is Psalms, but we forget that Psalms is really a book of song lyrics; the songs were sung and in some cases the title of the song tells us a tune name. It would be interesting to know what those tunes were, but perhaps its for the best that we cannot force the Psalms to be associated with a particular musical genre.

Many of the Psalms were written by David. His songwriting career got off to a slow start, performing before an audience of one, i.e. Saul.

I Sam 16:14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil[a] spirit from the Lord tormented him.

15 Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.”

17 So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.”

18 One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”

19 Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” 20 So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.

21 David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. 22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.”

23 Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

But perhaps the best worship we can offer today is when it is performed before an audience of One, i.e. the Lord.

Of this passage, Matthew Henry writes:

…Only his instrumental music with his harp is mentioned, but it should seem, by the account Josephus gives, that he added vocal music to it, and sung hymns, probably divine hymns, songs of praise, to his harp. David’s music was Saul’s physic.

[1.] Music has a natural tendency to compose and exhilarate the mind, when it is disturbed and saddened. Elisha used it for the calming of his spirits, 2 Kgs. 3:15. On some it has a greater influence and effect than on others, and, probably, Saul was one of those. Not that it charmed the evil spirit, but it made his spirit sedate, and allayed those tumults of the animal spirits by which the devil had advantage against him… Music cannot work upon the devil, but it may shut up the passages by which he has access to the mind.

[2.] David’s music was extraordinary, and in mercy to him, that he might gain a reputation at court, as one that had the Lord with him. God made his performances in music more successful, in this case, than those of others would have been. Saul found, even after he had conceived an enmity to David, that no one else could do him the same service (1 Sam. 19:9, 10), which was a great aggravation of his outrage against him. It is a pity that music, which may be so serviceable to the good temper of the mind, should ever be abused by any to the support of vanity and luxury, and made an occasion of drawing the heart away from God and serious things: if this be to any the effect of it, it drives away the good Spirit, not the evil spirit.

The second point reminds us that the powerful potential of music and poetry can be used for things that are spiritual profitable, and things that are spiritually harmful.

We have to decide what we allow to shape us.