Let me tell you a story about the singers and orchestra that led God’s people, the children of Israel, on many journeys, including battles and a journey to place the ark of God in a permanent home!
The story begins in I Chronicles 15:1 and 2: David built houses for himself in the City of David; and he prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched a tent for it. Then David said, “No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the Lord has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever.” (NKJV) The story continues through the chapter with verse 16 stating, Then David spoke to the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers accompanied by instruments of music, stringed instruments, harps, and cymbals, by raising the voice with resounding joy. (NKJV)
It is important to remember that as we study the Torah and the Law of God (primarily in the books of Exodus and Leviticus), we become aware that the Levites were one of the twelve tribes and the only one of the tribes to be “priests” of God and minister to Him in the Tabernacle, which at that time was portable and could be carried. It was a tent-like structure made of animal skins, rich tapestries and other coverings, curtains, ornate wood overlaid with gold, and beautiful furnishings. The ark of God (often referred to as the Ark of the Covenant) was housed within the Holy of Holies and only the priests (Levites) were allowed in this area. The Tabernacle was carried with the children of Israel during their many years of wandering in the wilderness on their way to the “Promised Land”.
David desperately wanted to find a permanent home for the ark of God. He desired to build a house, or temple, for God, but the Lord denied David this honor, telling him that because he had been a man of war, He would only allow it to be built by his son at a later time. Solomon, David’s son, became king after David ruled for 40 years and built the temple, much of it planned out by his father! But God allowed David to house the ark in a tent, as we read above, and that is where it remained until the completion of the temple at a later date. This is where we get the terminology “The Tabernacle of David” because it refers to the glory of God brought into our lives through praise and worship! God is restoring this type of worship today, a spontaneous, non-structured, joyful “entering into His presence” experience. Holy Spirit anointed instrumental and vocal musicians lead the way into the “Holy of Holies” where the Ark of the Covenant used to be located, but is now located within us as we enter into His presence! We can come boldly before the Throne of Grace today as we enter in through our worship! (Hebrews 4:16)
What is interesting to me, as a musician, is the detail recorded in I Chronicles regarding the musical instruments the musicians played. In chapter 15, verse 20 we read about several musicians playing “harps tuned to alamoth”, apparently a tuning scale of the day. Verse 21 mentions six other musicians would “lead with lyres tuned to the sheminith”. The Hebrew Interlinear Bible interprets this as, “with lyres on the octave” indicating a scale similar to ours today. I find this fascinating! Verse 22 says, Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was in charge of the singing; he gave instruction in singing because he was skillful. (NASB) (A footnote says he was “trained”). This indicates that a portion of the Levites were musicians who apparently even taught music! So, being a music teacher is very scriptural! Psalm 33:3 says, Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. (NASB) and Isaiah 23:16 says, Take your harp….Pluck the strings skillfully, sing many songs, That you may be remembered. (NASB) I spent nearly 35 years as a music teacher, and I am glad that God found this to be important…stressing the need for playing skillfully!
These verses should give music directors, teachers, singers and instrumentalists cause for joy in their profession! Now, let’s see how the musicians who were of the tribe of the Levites were supported on a day-to-day basis. I Chronicles 9:33 reads, These are the singers, heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites, who lodged in the chambers, and were free from other duties; for they were employed in that work day and night. (NKJV) They were obviously engaged in singing and playing instruments, as well as teaching, in the house of the Lord. Nehemiah 11:22b & 23 tells us, ...the singers in charge of the service of the house of God. For it was the king’s command concerning them that a certain portion should be for the singers, a quota day by day. (NKJV) The ESV puts it this way, For there was a command from the king concerning them, and a fixed provision for the singers, as every day required.
So, music must have been extremely important to God, for He provided for the musicians in His House, not only as singers and instrumentalists, but as instructors of future musicians! They were a part of the Levitical priesthood and as such, were provided for financially! Nehemiah 12:44-46 reads, On that day men were also appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions required by the law for the priests and Levites;….For they performed the worship of their God and the service of purification, together with the singers and the gatekeepers in accordance with the command of David and of his son Solomon. For in the days of David and Asaph, in ancient times, there were leaders of the singers, songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving to God. (NASB)
But, unfortunately, some had not been paid. Nehemiah 13:10 & 11 tells us, I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field. So I confronted the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their stations.” (ESV) The NASB says, “Restored them to their posts.” Nehemiah then speaks in the next verses about restoring the tithes and appointing treasurers over the storehouses so that the Levites and musicians could once again serve, being supported financially. Verse 12 says, All Judah then brought the tithe of the grain, wine and oil into the storehouses. Nehemiah put several “in charge of the storehouses” (in verse 13) for they were considered reliable, and it was their task to distribute to their kinsmen. Isn’t this fascinating how the tithes were distributed to also include the payment of musicians?
I will conclude this fascinating study with Part II tomorrow….Please don’t miss it!
A few years ago I recorded my arrangement of the beautiful praise song written by Fanny J. Crosby, “Praise Him! Praise Him!”…it has a bit of a “jazzy” twist. I hope you will enjoy this as you worship today!