Hebrew Highlights 143 – The ABCDs of Worship
Shalom, this is Yuval Shomron coming to you from Jerusalem.
EXO 30:34-38, “Then the Lord said to Moses, "Take for yourself spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, spices with pure frankincense; there shall be an equal part of each. "And with it you shall make incense, a perfume, the work of a perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. "And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting, where I shall meet with you; it shall be most holy to you. "And the incense, which you shall make, you shall not make in the same proportions for yourselves; it shall be holy to you for the Lord. "Whoever shall make any like it, to use as perfume, shall be cut off from his people."
Today I’d like to take a look at what I will call the ABCDs of worship. They include Attitude, Balance, Calling, and Diligence. We will read several scriptures, and pull out some little gems, which correspond to theses four principals. In the end I will again sum up the main ideas. Although they may be most helpful to musicians, and worship leaders, they are for everyone. You see, I believe that every believer is a priest, and therefore a worship leader. Whether your service is being performed in front of the congregation of a mega church, or alone in your closet, there is still only one personage in your audience to whom the praise belongs, and that of course is God himself.
It is because of this very truth that I started with the scripture in Exodus detailing the use of incense. We are told in the Book of revelations that the incense used in heaven is made up of the prayers of the saints.
The formula used for the incense was very precise. If the balance of the parts was not just right, the incense would stink. And so it is with music. Music consists of the melody, which carries the message of God, the harmony, which provides the agreement of the congregation, and the rhythm, which carries the message forward. If you can’t hear the melody well, the words are useless. If the rhythm is too loud, it may well hype up our flesh, instead of ministering to our spirits. If the harmony is not good, it will grate on our nerves, and cause us to disregard the message.
As a side note, I might point out here that in many Moslem countries, music is played with only rhythm, and melody play on several instruments at the same time in parallel octaves. In western music schools, we are taught never to compose in parallel octaves. The resultant sound can actually drive people insane, and is purposely used to inflame anger and other emotions.
Our incense is also to be salted, pure, and holy. If our lives can be described with these adjectives, then our worship will come out in like fashion. When the scripture says “you shall beat some of it very fine”, I’m sure most of us can relate to the picture here. Any characteristics we have which are godly have probably been shaped in us through some good old-fashioned hard knocks.
The last two sentences in our beginning scripture bear a stern warning, "And the incense, which you shall make, you shall not make in the same proportions for yourselves; it shall be holy to you for the Lord. "Whoever shall make any like it, to use as perfume, shall be cut off from his people."
If God has given us any gifts, whether they be talent, or money, or anointing; we must not use them for our own gain or glory. This is particularly difficult for musicians and soloist, preachers, and those with a gift of healing or prophecy. How tempting it is to take some of God’s glory. Even when we try hard not to do so, our brethren sometime mistakenly pour flattery on us, and harm our spirits in the process. It is because of these very verses in Exodus 30 that I am very wary of so-called crossover Christian artists, who let their gifts be used in music which is palatable to the world, just for the sake of stardom. Most of these musicians with their feet in both worlds will tell you they want the chance to draw the sinners to God. Unfortunately, the drawing all to often goes in the opposite direction. I believe that the best way to bring others with us to God’s throne room is to continue on a straight path, and let them follow.
1CH 25:1-3, “Moreover, David and the commanders of the army set apart for the service some of the sons of Asaph and of Heman and of Jeduthun, who were to prophesy with lyres, harps, and cymbals; and the number of those who performed their service was: Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah; the sons of Asaph were under the direction of Asaph, who prophesied under the direction of the king. Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun with the harp, who prophesied in giving thanks and praising the Lord.”
In this scripture we begin to answer a question often asked. “Where does worship fit in the five-fold ministry?” In this case we see that worshippers are prophets. The musicians set aside here by King David received their official calling to prophesy on their instruments. We also touch on the principal of attitude, as we note that the members of the praise team were submitted to their fathers, or in the wide sense, their elders.
The principal of diligence is clear in the fact that they were trained. They didn’t just get together and strum on their harps, blow their horns, and beat on their drums in haphazard fashion. They studied and honed their skills to the Glory of God.
Let’s delve a little further into the aspect of prophecy as we read 1Samuel 10:5-6. "Afterward you will come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is; and it shall be as soon as you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and a lyre before them, and they will be prophesying. "Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man.”
In this case we are reading about Saul. The prophet Samuel purposely sent Saul to meet a group of minstrels prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord came on Samuel so mightily that he was changed into another man. This is not the only story where a man of God turned to musicians for help, as we see in 2KI 3:13-15, “Now Elisha said to the king of Israel, "What do I have to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and to the prophets of your mother." And the king of Israel said to him, "No, for the Lord has called these three kings together to give them into the hand of Moab." And Elisha said, "As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look at you nor see you. "But now bring me a minstrel." And it came about, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him.”
Prophecy is not just telling the future. It is a tool for strongly proclaiming the Word of God. When we worship, we are proclaiming the Word of God both to the congregation, and to the heavenly places. In some cases we are speaking the truth to non-believers, who may be hearing the gospel for the first time. Therefore, it is important that our words are clear, precise, and truthful to the principals of the scriptures. A good description of this principal is found in ISA 58:1, "Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression, And to the house of Jacob their sins.”
I happen to be a trumpet player, and I can tell you from experience, that a trumpet can be heard clearly from a far distance if played properly. Its sound cuts through the din of the world. It was used widely in the Bible to proclaim the beginning of festivals, to announce the coming of the King, and to call the soldiers to war. Trumpet players who play under the anointing of the Holy Spirit are often told that their melodies have done a special work in someone’s heart, or broken through the enemy lines in some spiritual battle.
The trumpet is mentioned again in the famous passage about spiritual gifts in 1CO 14. In verses 1-3 we read, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.” Then, skipping down to verse 8, the apostle Paul continues, “For if the trumpet produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?”
Remember that the trumpet is an example of prophecy. Therefore, we could legitimately paraphrase this verse by saying, “if no one can understand the words to your song, who will understand and obey God’s commands.”
What should happen when we worship properly? Let’s find the answer in the story of the dedication of the temple in 2CH 5:11-14, “And when the priests came forth from the holy place (for all the priests who were present had sanctified themselves, without regard to divisions), and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and kinsmen, clothed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, standing east of the altar, and with them one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and when they praised the Lord saying, "He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting," then the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.”
Once again, we find that an important first step in this service was the priests sanctifying themselves. Each and every worshipper, that is to say every member of the congregation, should prepare their hearts before the service. Repentance and renewal of our covenant with God each day is a necessary ingredient in our praise formula if we really want to see things happen.
Unity is also important. One hundred and twenty priests blowing their trumpets in unison and being heard with one voice with the singers and musicians is nothing short of a miracle. Neither a worship team nor a congregation will experience the shekinah glory of God unless infighting and jealousies are dealt with before the praises begin. When love and understanding prevail, there will be both musical and brotherly harmony.
Let me point out one more phrase from this story. “They praised the Lord saying, "He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Praise and worship are for God, to God, and about God. Songs, which are personal testimonies about ourselves, have their place, but we cannot call them worship.
As I mentioned before, there is only one in the audience who matters, and that is the Lord himself.
To summarize as I promised, A=attitude. We must have right hearts, both with God, and with one another. B=balance, in our musical mixture, in our doctrines, and in our lives. C=calling to edify, exhort, and console. And finally, D=diligence to practice and prepare.
Music is not mentioned in the five-fold ministry because it helps fulfill every aspect of service. In our songs we prophesy, teach, evangelize, pastor, and bring God’s message to the world as apostles. Our worship brings both physical and emotional healing, and prepares the way in spiritual battle.
Our last scripture is from PSA 68:24-25, “They have seen Thy procession, O God, The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary. The singers went on, the musicians after them, In the midst of the maidens beating tambourines.”
Anyone who leads worship leads the whole congregation into the Holy of Holies. There everyone takes part in raising the incense of praise to God’s awaiting approval. If our mixture smells good, He will be pleased every time we return.
Shalom, Shalom from Jerusalem