This study © 2000 by David Humpal
Worshipping in Music
I understand that some of you used to sing in the church choir, but don’t do it anymore. Perhaps you are like the man who was asked, “Since when did you stop singing in the choir?” He replied, “Since the Sunday I was absent, and everyone thought the organ had been tuned.” Or perhaps you are one who says, “I must have lots of music in me since none of it ever seems to come out.”
Music is an important part of our daily life. And it’s a valuable part of every church service. We know how much of a blessing music can be in our everyday lives. When we are feeling good, how often we catch ourselves humming a tune! This is why musical worship is so important in church. It is a time for musicians, singers, and congregation to join together in worshipping God.
Hebrew music seems to have emphasized rhythm over melody. Hebrews loved to dance and become involved in their musical worship. Often the songs were sung in two parts where one group sang the first part and the next group responded with the second part. You will notice that much of Hebrew poetry features parallel lines of thought -- either repeating the same idea in similar words or contrasting ideas.
According to Gower, “Music was very much a part of religious life, and musicians had always been important. They were classed along with smiths and those who possessed flocks and herds.”
David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service certain of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was:
It is probably no surprise that David was the one to organize the temple musicians. Throughout his life, music played an important part. When he was a young man watching the sheep for his father, he would sit and compose songs. He was so well known for his music that he was brought into King Saul’s court to help soothe the king when he suffered evil thoughts. Throughout David’s life, we see his victories and his defeats commemorated in song. He wrote during his greatest times of joy and even during his bitterest times of sin. David understood the importance of music in the worship of the nation. So he wanted to get it organized. This may have been the reason he began compiling his songs into a book of psalms. It is generally accepted that the first 72 psalms were probably the original hymn book for Israel which David either gathered or caused to be gathered.
David selected three men and their families to help organize the temple worship. He certainly wanted men of skill, but he also wanted those with a heart for God. So he selected three -- Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman. In the history of Israel these three turned out to be exceptional individuals. God knew exactly whom he wanted for this important ministry. God has a ministry for you. He has searched throughout his kingdom and has chosen you for the task. It may not be a musician or even a singer, but God has a job for you.
Root comments on these temple musicians, “In the services of the Jewish temple all is devout, exalted, appropriate, devotional, impressive, and soul-subduing, because the musicians themselves are close to the heart of the great Jehovah; the worshipping congregation hears His voice with awe.... Musical effect is one thing -- musical sincerity another. Words may be eloquent; they are useless when they do not touch the soul.”
Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah, sons of Asaph, under the direction of Asaph, who prophesied under the direction of the king.
Asaph was a Levite. He was eminent as a musician, and David appointed him chief musician as recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:4-5, “Moreover he appointed certain of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel. Asaph was the chief, and second to him were Zechariah, Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obededom, and Jeiel, who were to play harps and lyres; Asaph was to sound the cymbals.”
Asaph is mentioned elsewhere as a prophet of God. Here in this verse we are told that Asaph prophesied under the direction of the king. This may refer to his gift of music and indicates how important it was to the Hebrew mind.
Elmslie comments, “Only recently have scholars adequately envisaged the fact that these professional prophets were part of the regular staff of the temple. One reflects how radically different were their ways and words from the character and spiritual discernment of the supreme, individual prophets.”
There are twelve psalms that bear his name -- Psalm 50 and 73-83. Centuries later, in the times of Hezekiah and Nehemiah, Asaph’s name is linked with David’s as those who sang praises to God.
2 Chronicles 29:30, “And Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed down and worshiped.”
Nehemiah 12:46, “For in the days of David and Asaph of old there was a chief of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.”
Asaph was in charge of the cymbals. And although in today’s orchestras that may not seem very important, in an orchestra which accents rhythm over melody, this was the important position. Asaph passed his love of music down to his children.
As we see from these verses, music was an important part of Israel’s worship. It should be an important part of our worship too. If you can play a musical instrument or sing, allow God to use your talents. Nothing is greater than when you can share your musical ministry with the church family. We are not looking for professional musicians or singers, we just want those who love God and want to express their worship through music.
Here’s a music lesson if you wish to share your music with us:
Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the Lord.
Jeduthun was a Merarite. His name means “praising” so he was appropriately named for his task. Jeduthun is named with Heman as being appointed by King David in 1 Chronicles 16:41-42, “With them were Heman and Jeduthun, and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures for ever. Heman and Jeduthun had trumpets and cymbals for the music and instruments for sacred song. The sons of Jeduthun were appointed to the gate.” From this reference and the one we are studying, it seems that Jeduthun played both the trumpet and lyre. The trumpet was probably only occasionally used in certain songs since it was more of a solo instrument, whereas the lyre would be used for accompanying most songs.
Jeduthun’s name is attached to three psalms -- Psalm 39, 62 and 77. He may have been the musician named Ethan in the Bible since the two Hebrew names have linguistic similarities.
Jeduthun’s sons were used as gatekeepers, which probably means they welcomed those entering the temple and ministered to their needs. Perhaps Jeduthun’s family members were the extroverts among musicians. God needs us to be sharing the music in our heart by showing love and concern to others. These gatekeepers were willing to do that. Are we as willing? God does not place a song in our heart only for our benefit. The music in your soul must come out. Allow it to be shared, and you will experience a great blessing.
It should be noted that in the original Hebrew, only five sons are listed in spite of the fact that it says Jeduthun had six sons. In verse 17 we discover the missing son’s name was Shimei and that’s why the translators have included it here. But he was overlooked in verse 3. If you ever feel overlooked, take heart from this example. Even though Shimei was overlooked by the author of 1 Chronicles, he was not overlooked by God and performed an important ministry in the temple.
Of Heman, the sons of Heman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel, and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, and Romamtiezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, Mahazioth. All these were the sons of Heman the king's seer, according to the promise of God to exalt him; for God had given Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.
Not much is said about Heman except that he had a large family and that God had promised to exalt him. From verse 1 we may surmise that Heman’s family played the harps. I will speculate that Heman must have been a humble person. God usually exalts those who don’t exalt themselves. We often see musicians or singers with a high opinion of themselves, but God wants Christian singers and musicians to be humble. Any talent or gift we may have is a gift from God. Although, we may have to work hard to improve our skill, it is God that gives us the strength. And God wants us to do more than just play an instrument or sing a song -- our music should flow from the heart.
When my two sons were in high school, their jazz ensemble would compete throughout the state. They were very good. At some of these competitions they would have different adult performers. You could always tell who were the professional musicians. Some of the soloists were technically very good, but the ones who were good enough to earn a living at it played the music from their heart. That is what God wants from us. He wants us to share from our heart with others. We can play a musical instrument, we can sing, or we can share the music that God has given us in other ways too. We can share our faith and reach out to others in love. We can help those in need and we can spread the joy that we feel. God wants us all to be musicians -- with our voices, with our musical instruments, with our heart, with our love, and with our joy.
It is mentioned here in verse 5 that Heman was also a seer. McClintock and Strong tell us, “Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun are termed ‘seers,’ which refers rather to their genius as sacred musicians than to their possessing the spirit of prophecy, although there is not wanting evidence of their occasional inspiration.”
The prophets were the Old Testament preachers. As we sing Christian songs each day, we find that we are preaching that sermon to ourselves over and over again. A minister’s sermon may soon be forgotten. But a musician’s sacred composition will be preached over and over again for years and in many cases for centuries. Heman’s name is attached to Psalm 88, and all three of these psalmists have had their music blessing believers for almost three thousand years.
They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the order of the king.
This ministry of music was passed down from father to son. It is important that our gifts be shared with others so that they can also learn how to worship God with their talents. When my two sons began music lessons almost twenty years ago, there were times of frustration and times when they wanted to quit. But they kept with it and the joy of the music was always greater than the sacrifice of practicing. Good things only come from those who are willing to make a commitment. Nothing that is worthwhile comes easily. But what a joy it is when our family gathers together and we all play our musical instruments together. It’s at those times that none of us ever think about all the hours of practice, instruction, and repetition.
God wants you to make wonderful music for him. God wants you to worship him and God wants you to share the love and joy he has placed in your heart. If you can play a musical instrument, be willing to share it in God’s ministry. If you can sing, be willing to share it to encourage others. If you have a song in your heart, be willing to tell others about Christ who saved you and has forgiven you. If God has given you a melody in your soul, be willing to share with others about your loving God.
The number of them along with their brethren, who were trained in singing to the Lord, all who were skilful, was two hundred and eighty-eight.
The temple choir was a large group -- this verse tells us there were two hundred eighty-eight of them. But observe that these musicians and singers did not just suddenly arrive at their ability. It says they were trained and they were skillful. We all may have talents that God can use, but we must be willing to be trained. Skills are learned. They require times of practice and learning. Perhaps God is calling you to help minister in some form of music. Allow God to use you. You will never regret being a musician for the Lord.
This study on 1 Chronicles 25:1-7 © 2000 by David Humpal, all rights reserved.
Stories of singing from The Complete Speaker’s Sourcebook pg. 169-170 © 1996, Zondervan Publishing House
Gower: The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times pg. 305 © 1987, Moody Press
Root: The Biblical Illustrator, vol. 5, pg. 91, Baker Book House
Some notes on Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman taken from the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, electronic version © 1988, Moody Press
Elmslie: The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. III, pg. 426-427 © 1954, Abingdon Press
Music lesson from The Complete Speaker’s Sourcebook pg. 169 © 1996, Zondervan Publishing House
McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia quoted in the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, electronic version © 1988, Moody Press