It’s tempting to stop concentrating when there’s so much repetition here of the stories I’ve recently read in the books of Samuel and Kings. I found myself thinking more about the place of repetition than the stories themselves. After all, we read the same stories over and again from the Bible. Admittedly we do this with only a selection of stories, and to some extent I’m rediscovering the rest… But where God has inspired repetition, perhaps we need to take note!
But then something new jumps out of the text, and grabs my attention just because I don’t remember it being there the first time round. It fits, though. Back when I read the start of David’s story I commented on the two sides of his spiritual gifting. Most of the later focus has been on his talents as a national and military leader, but he also came to Saul’s notice as a musician and poet. So I’m glad to see that from 15:16 onward the musicians appointed by David are named, giving them prominence along with the mighty warriors and faithful soldiers of whom we’ve already read. They didn’t get much mention in the Samuel-Kings account, and we haven’t had much at all about the musical side of worship, just the sacrifices and offerings.
So why, if this account of history is indeed later, written as people come back from exile rather than going in to it, do the musical leaders of worship get a bigger place? Perhaps it’s because when the Temple was demolished, its songs were remembered and carried into the worship of people in exile. Music and words, well matched, tap into emotions and make memories. In worship today, the choice and quality of music can be one of the biggest influences on our experience of worship – and if most complaints when we get it wrong.
My daughter Lizzie is studying music, and one of her favourite courses has been the scary – sounding ethnomusicology, studying the place of music in culture. I remember her commenting that the lecturer had said that there is no long -standing religious tradition in which music does not play a part. I found this fascinating but not surprising. Music gets deep inside us, and its beauty is tied to the fundamental maths of the universe! Meaux helps us to take words to heart more fully and to remember them more readily. It can touch our hearts in ways that words alone cannot.
This makes it precious and powerful. And that’s why I’m glad that David’s musicians are honoured as well as his warriors. I hope that’s not just because I’m more of a musician than a warrior myself…
I’m reminded that music is part of God’s plan for worship, though not quite at centre stage and developing more naturally than the realm of prayers and sacrifices. And I’m reminded to tell our organist tomorrow how much I appreciate her! And I’m asking myself the question – what music would I take into exile to shape and feed my worship of God? Any ideas?