The Professional Musicians in the Bible
And other of their brethren, of the sons of the Kohathites, were over the shewbread, to prepare it every sabbath. And these are the singers, chief of the fathers of the Levites, who remaining in the chambers were free: for they were employed in that work day and night. 1 Chronicles 9:32-33
Years ago as a student in Jr High and High School, I played an instrument in the school band. We had a stage band, a marching band, and would perform a Christmas, and end of the year program. Band practice was always a lot of fun. My favorite part was the “tuning time” when the director would try to get all the instruments to be tuned to the key of “c.” This was always a challenge with woodwinds, brass, and complicated teenagers trying to sound out on their instruments. One exasperated director threw his baton, he was so upset that the practice was going so bad!
I enjoy listening to classical music. Large orchestras filled with professional musicians making music in perfect harmony with accurate pitch and acoustic tenor is a wonderful thing for my ears to hear! Hearing the various instruments resonate through the hall or park and the united sounds of the orchestra penetrating our ears can be amazing.
Music is a wonderful gift God has given man and it is a terrific tool that God has given us in part to worship God. The Bible musicians took their presentations to the Lord very seriously. In the verses above, they were so devoted to the music of the temple, that it became their occupation. There are a few “professional musicians” in the Bible.
Not all the people of the Tribe of Levi became priests. However, all those who were priests did come from the Tribe of Levi. The non-priest Levites were asked of God to help with the functions around the temple and also to assist in facilitating the music and singing of the temple. This was started back when the people of Israel were still worshipping God in the transportable temple called the Tabernacle.
Note how the music expectations developed by the time of King David.
1 Chronicles 15:16 And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.
Not just anyone was allowed to sing, but only the people approved by the leaders. Some people do not have a good testimony and may not be allowed to sing. I wonder if some of the Levites were born with “tin ears” and could not hold a tune. I doubt they would have been asked to sing.
These musicians that were asked to present their music did so after much practice. Think about a professional musician today. They take their music so serious that they memorize the words and give every effort to put on a good performance. While Christian singers are not performing as such, we are presenting our songs to the Lord Jesus Christ and we should give the best effort possible.
They were also to present their music pieces with joy. A good attitude is a perquisite for singing a special in church. Isn’t it amazing how sometimes when you are discouraged a song can lift you up? These musicians were to be right with the Lord and joyful in their disposition before they delivered their music.
2 Chronicles 7:6 And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of musick of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.
The music was clearly a call to worship the Lord. It was distinct music that directed people’s attention to the Lord. Our music should have the same affect today. The music and the words sung should guide our hearts and minds to the Lord Jesus Christ. The congregational singing, choir number, and special music must work together to point people to the Lord. The music director must be filled with the Spirit of God and emptied of self to be truly effective.
This also causes us to consider the quality of the music. Our instruments should be tuned, and our musicians should be accustomed to playing the right notes at the right time. Any Jr High music teacher will chuckle at that proposition! I still laugh when I recall the band director throwing the conductors baton across the room! It would not have happened if we Jr High students could have only played the warm up in the same key!
Not every song sung or instrument played will be pitch perfect every time – but we should try for it. The idea of “winging it” or “hoping it will work out” would be an unfamiliar idea to David and to the Levite professional musicians who served the Lord in the music ministry.
At the same time, young people and developing musicians should be encouraged and given appropriate opportunities to present their music to the Lord. Not every musician will be Sunday morning ready, but they should be utilized in the Nursing Home, Jail service, Jr. Church, and Youth Ministries. While serving God, they are further developing their talents and preparing for more opportunities when the time is right.
2 Chronicles 34:12 And the men did the work faithfully: and the overseers of them were Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites, of the sons of Merari; and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to set it forward; and other of the Levites, all that could skill of instruments of musick.
These musicians were faithful. They were faithful to practice, they were faithful in service. All of us have known people who attend a church service only when it is their turn to sing. If they are not scheduled to lead singing, sing a song, or play an instrument, they do not show up. These are not the people that should be ministering in music in our churches. The music people should be faithful to be involved in other aspects of church life. I have found that many times, the most involved people are the lovely piano players who are almost “stretched thin” they are so committed to serving the Lord in areas other than music.
Musicians should be involved in other areas, not just music. This is clear as we see the musical Levites in their ministry. If a person only serves in the spotlight, he is much quicker to become lifted up with pride. Many talented musically enabled Christians have fallen because of pride.
The “overseers” would also coach and help the musicians get better. If a musician cannot be encouraged to do better, then pride is getting in the way of true service to the Lord. The work of music was “set forward” by the overseers. Each musician should try to help the church music director and the church music ministry advance to become more professional to the glory of the Lord. I enjoy listening to church and college CD’s and then comparing them to their next CD. You can hear a “quality difference” in voice, music, and recording. As the musicians, sound engineers, and technology get better, so does the quality of the CD’s. We all are blessed when things are “set forward” and made better.
Not to suggest anyone quits their job to become a “professional musician” but we all can look at our music ministry and consider – are we being as professional as possible to make a joyful noise unto the Lord?