Introduction: I enjoy Gospel Music, particularly Charles Stanley, Bill Monroe and Flat & Scruggs type of Bluegrass Gospel, as well as "Southern Gospel". However, v. 1 here of chapter 25 requires a closer look at Gospel Music as we know it today.
I normally like to answer the questions I raise, but the following raises more questions than answers. As in every instance, all we can do is look at Scripture, and offer only what is clearly given. I also realize that dealing with many of these things, such as worship and music, most who read it may agree with what is said from God's word, but they are not about to change anything. To change would risk losing people and money, for the crowd and money to pay the bills were drawn with the entertainment music. The people today say with those of Isaiah's day, "Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:" And the preachers, pastors, or elders, have learned to give the people what they want to keep the pews full (Jer. 5:31).
Regardless, the following deals with music as it was used in the Old Testament temple worship services. Because it is the Old Testament, many will dismiss the ideas and their implications established there, and use the new freedom under Christ to develop and use music designed to appeal to the carnal, fallen nature of their congregations. I was "raised" with the idea that the end justifies the meansthat is, use whatever is necessary to get people in to hear the "gospel", so they can chose Christ over the enemy. We did an Examiner article on this point many years ago, "Free Beer and Pizza".
Matthew Pool introduces the chapter:
The number and offices of the singers out of the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, #1Ch 25:1-7. Their division by lot into twenty-four orders, #1Ch 25:8-31
Ver. 1. The captains of the host; both of the civil and sacred host, to wit, all the princes of Israel, with the priests and the Levites, whom David gathered together, #1Ch 23:2, for this very end, that in their presence, and with their approbation and consent, all these things might be established; who are here fitly called the captains of the host; for the princes were, under David, the chief captains or commanders of the militia or trained bands of the kingdom: and as the Levites are called a host, and the Lord's host, Nu 4:3, and elsewhere, because of their number and order in holy ministrations; so these priests and Levites were the captains and governors of the rest. Separated, i.e. distributed them into their several ranks and orders; which, though chiefly done by David as a prophet, and by Divine direction, as hath been oft observed, yet is here imputed in part to the captains of the host, because it was done with their concurrence and approbation. To the service of the sons of Asaph, &c, i.e. to the service of God under the conduct and command of these persons. Who should prophesy, i.e. praise God by singing the Psalms of David, (of which See Poole 1Ch 16:7,) and other sacred songs made by themselves, who were prophets in some sort, or by other prophets or holy men of God. Or this action of theirs is called prophesying, because it had been formerly performed by the prophets; and the sons of the prophets; of which see 1Sa 10:5 19:20 2Ki 3:15 1Ch 15:19. The number of the workmen; of the persons employed in this sacred work. (Pool)
V. 1, prophesy and workmen are identified together. Though the commentators say prophesy simply means praising God, the Online Bible (OLB) Hebrew Lexicon says it is to speak under the influence of supernatural spirits, divine or otherwise, e.g., Deuteronomy 13, 1 Kings 22.
nabiy', from naaba' "to bubble forth as a fountain," as <194501>Psalm 45:1, "my heart is bubbling up a good matter," namely, inspired by the Holy Spirit; (Fausset's Bible Dictionary, AGES. See Spurgeon on Psalms 45, OLB)
The Kethibh hnby'ym is an orthographical error for hanib|'iym <heb> (Keri), partic. Niph., corresponding to the singular hanibaa' <heb>, vv. 2 and 3. nibaa' <heb>, prophetare, is here used in its wider signification of the singing and playing to the praise of God performed in the power of the Divine Spirit. (Keil-Delitzsch [KD], AGES)
Who should prophesy.] Sing holy songs with a holy zeal, fervour, and motions of the body, like to those of the prophets. (John Trapp, 1865-1866. Tanskin Publications reprint.)
Thought: The ones who were to prophesy were not self-appointed. Divine Providence had to place them in the right family, and then Providence had to allow the lot to fall on them. Prophesy here means singing and playing to the praise of God; the music was "to bubble forth as a fountain". Thus, the "spirit" was not something worked up, but rather it was something given by God so the men could fulfill their calling in the temple service.
V. 1, prophesy is called a service, and those involved in this service are called workmen. Stirring up our fallen, corrupt nature to honestly praise God requires bringing our hearts under control, which will not be done without labour and struggle.
We must take pains with our hearts to bring them, and keep them, to this work, and to engage all that is within us. (Matthew Henry [MH])
Joseph Parker gives an excellent understanding of the musical prophets of v. 1, also called workmen:
"Moreover David and the captains of the host [rather, "the princes" the same persons who are mentioned in xxxiii. 2, and xxiv. 6] separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy [rather, "divided for the service the sons of Asaph, etc., who prophesied." By prophesying is probably meant public recitation of the sacred services (see v. 3)] with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals" (xxv. 1).
Let us analyze these indications. We want warriors ; there is not one in this list : we need builders; there is not a man in the catalogue that ever built anything that could be seen or valued arithmetically : we want legislators, men who can make duty mysterious, and dissolve responsibility in polysyllables; there is no such erratic genius in this guild. Whom have we ? Prophets; for the word is "prophesy," and to prophesy means in this connection to teach, to reveal doctrines, to indicate duty, to exhort to service, to reveal the will and purpose of heaven. With what apparatus are these men furnished ? Harps, psalteries, cymbals. They were known amongst their fellows as a guild of sacred minstrels. When a man prophesies he utters under a spiritual influence. (Emp. added. Joseph Parker, The People's Bible, pp. 132, 133. Reprint, Baker Book House, 1960.)
The music, therefore, that praised God as required in His service as was produced by the workmen taught sound doctrine and duty to God and man. It exhorted the hearer to Godly service and revealed the will and purpose of heaven. Here in the Old Testament order of things, women had no part in this worship service. The purpose of the temple music, prophesy, was to give thanks and to praise the Lord, v. 3.
Through His prophet, Amos, God condemns those who invent music for their own benefitthat is, worship or gospel music designed to please their own ears and the ears of their hearers. Thus, music designed to draw and appeal to people under the name of "gospel" is not Godly music, no matter how much the performers profess their love for God, and profess a desire to sing "praises" to Him.
The Lord, through Amos, pronounces Woe to them that are at ease in Zion... (Amos 6:1.) He then defines their evil ways, and in v. 7, tells them that He will deliver them to their enemies. One of their evils bringing judgment upon themselves was the use of music:
Amos 6:5 That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David;
3. They indulged themselves in all manner of sensual pleasures and delights, #Am 6:4-6. These Israelites were perfect epicures and slaves to their appetites. Their dignities (in consideration of which they ought to have been examples of self-denial and mortification), they thought, would justify them in their sensuality; the gains of their oppression and violence, they thought, would bear the charge of it; and they put the evil day at a distance, that they might give them no disturbance in it. That which they are here charged with is not in itself sinful (these things might be soberly and moderately used), but they placed their happiness in the gratification of their carnal appetites; and though they were men in office, that had business to mind, they gave themselves up to their pleasures, spent their time in them, and threw away their thoughts, and cares, and estates upon them. They were in these enjoyments as in their element. Their hearts were upon them; they exceeded all bounds in them, and this at a time when God in his providence was calling them to weeping and mourning, #Isa 22:12-13. When they were under guilt and wrath, and the judgments of God were ready to break in upon them, they called for wine and strong drink, presuming that to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant (#Isa 56:12), thus walking contrary to God and setting his justice at defiance. (MH)
The evils they are charged with here were not sins in themselves it is not a sin to eat, rest nor to be interested in music. The problem was that they were slaves to their appetites; their god was their belly. (1 Cor 6:13, Phil. 3:19). They were not grieved about their own sins and the sins around them, v. 6. When they should have been weeping and mourning (Isa. 22:12-13) over sin, they were finding happiness in gratifying their carnal appetites through these things listed by Amos. Instead of meditating on the glory and holiness of God and on their sins that were bringing judgment upon themselves; they were escaping reality by pursuing the pleasures of the flesh. Rather than self-denial and mortification because of the quickly approaching judgment of God, they presumed that tomorrow would be as today, only much more abundant (Isa. 56:12). (See MH)
Today we may hear, "We may not be here tomorrow, so there is little or no reason to prepare nor be concerned", or "Time is short, so we must do whatever we must in order to attract people to the gospel', so they can make a decision for Christ". As D.L. Moody said: "We must make the gospel appealing (to the natural man, we must add)."
Like David, they develop songs and instruments of music, but rather than developing those things to the glory of God, they develop them to entertain themselves and others (and then sell records and videos for entertainment, as they profess to be praising God.)
V. 5. As David invented stringed instruments in honour of his God in heaven, so do these princes invent playing and singing for their god, the belly. (KD)
V. 7, Because these revellers do not trouble themselves about the ruin of Israel, they will now be obliged to wander into captivity at the head of the people (cf. 1 Kings 21:9), when the approaching shebher occurs. (KD)
Though I love "Bluegrass" and "Southern Gospel", I believe Scripture does not generally support those kinds of concerts under the name of praising God. (Promoting concerts simply as entertainment is a horse of a different color.) Music that praises God must fit into Parker's description above. Music that appeals to the baser nature of man must not be passed off as "Gospel Music" that praises God.
Did the workmen in 1 Chronicles 25:1, rent a meeting hall, and then use the abilities given to them by God for His praise to entertain all who would come hear them work? The work of praise was for God benefit, not man's.
Where does this prophesy or workmen fit into the Gospel Church age? There are two schools of thought concerning the prophet of Romans 12:6 (see also, 1 Cor. 12:10, Eph. 4:11):
(6.) The office or the endowment was temporary, designed for the settlement and establishment of the church; and then, like the apostolic office, having accomplished its purpose, to be disused, and to cease, from these remarks, also, will be seen the propriety of regulating this office by apostolic authority; or stating, as the apostle does here, the manner or rule by which this gift was to be exercised. (Barnes' Notes, OLB.)
(1.) Prophecy. Whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith. It is not meant of the extraordinary gifts of foretelling things to come, but the ordinary office of preaching the word: so prophesying is taken, #1Co 14:1-3, &c.; #1Co 11:4; #1Th 5:20. The work of the Old Testament prophets was not only to foretell future things, but to warn the people concerning sin and duty, and to be their remembrancers concerning that which they knew before. And thus gospel preachers are prophets, and do indeed, as far as the revelation of the word goes, foretell things to come. Preaching refers to the eternal condition of the children of men, points directly at a future state. Now those that preach the word must do it according to the proportion of faithkata thn analogian thv pistewv, ... (MH. See also John Gill.)
The two schools are: (1) the office was temporary for the purpose of establishing and settling the new church, and the office passed away, as did the office of the apostle. (2) the office continues, consisting of preaching the entire word of God, which is called the more sure word of prophecy, 2 Peter 1:19. (See also Rev. 19:10.)
Using Joseph Parker's definition of prophets in 1 Chronicles 25:1, and Matthew Henry's definition of prophet in Romans 12:6, the praise music makers, workmen, of our day seems to fit best under the Romans 12:6 definition of prophet, for that music must:
1) exalt our God's holiness, majesty, might and providence
(and many more characteristics than we can mention);
2) teach sound doctrine and duty to God and man;
3) warn concerning sin and duty;
4) exhort the hearer to Godly service;
5) and it must reveal the will and purpose of heaven.
These things listed above make up the music that praises God. Godly Gospel Music will follow the pattern of what is found in the Psalms; there are far more themes presented there than just the characteristics of God. Psalms 51 is addressed "to the chief Musician", as is Psalms 52 & 53. (From the songs I have heard, my opinion is that Michael Card offers Godly Gospel Music, as he sings about sin, repentance, justice, judgment, godliness, the glories of God, &c.)
Let us ask, Where does the worship music of our day fit? People gladly pay to hear music (and I use music very loosely) that promises escape, and glorifies man. Can that be music that glorifies God? How many will pay to hear music workmen sing about the sins of society and of their hearers and sing of their duties to repent of their sins of adultery, fornication, &c., as well as their duty to subdue all things for the glory of God (songs patterned along the line of Psalms 51-53) in other words, a good "hell-fire" message set to godly music? Few people will tolerate such messages from the pulpit of sound, Bible believing churches, let alone pay $5-$25 a pop to have the same message sung to them.
And invent to themselves instruments of music. Using the same "pains" as did David in developing instruments and music that honoured God, these people, while claiming to be God's people, developed meaningless instruments and music that appealed to the baser nature of the listeners. They suited instruments and music that were meant to glorify God for the service of luxury (make money) and sensuality, and used David to justify their actions: "Much as people have justified our degraded, sensualizing, immodest dancing, by the religious dancing of Holy Scripture!" Their instruments and songs were not for the purpose of glorifying God, but were meant to appeal to the natural man in both the saved and unsaved, attract a crowd, and to gain "wealth". (Pusey) David developed his musical skill for the praise of God. These whom Amos rebuked develop musical skill for their own self-gratification or for the gratification of others. (JFB) Rather than glorifying God, music was used to escape the reality of what was taking place around them. Today we have music about a "rapture", and thus an escape from the reality of what is taking place around us. (Pusey)
E. B. Pusey (1800-1882), as found in Barnes' Notes:
Amos 6:5. That chant to the voice of the lyre Accompanying "the voice of the lyre" with the human voice; giving vocal expression and utterance to what the instrumental music spoke without words. The word, which Amos alone uses in this one place, describes probably a hurried flow of unmeaning, unconsidered words, in which the rhythm of words and music was everything, the sense, nothing; much like most glees. The English margin "quaver" has also some foundation in the root, but does not suit the idiom so well, which expresses that the act was something done "to the voice of the lyre," accompanying the music, not altering the music itself. In fact, they would go together. An artificial, effeminate music which should relax the soul, frittering the melody, and displacing the power and majesty of divine harmony by tricks of art, and giddy, thoughtless, heartless, soulless versifying would be meet company. Debased music is a mark of a nation's decay, and promotes it. The Hebrew music seems to have been very simple; and singing appears to have been reserved almost exclusively for solemn occasions, the temple-service, or the greeting of victory (1 Samuel 18:7). "Singing men and singing women" were part of the state of David and Solomon (2 Samuel 19:35; Ecclesiastes 2:8). Else the music at the feasts of the rich appears rather to be mentioned with blame (Isaiah 5:12; 24:9). Songs they had (Proverbs 25:20); but the songs, for which the Hebrew exiles were celebrated, and which their Babylonian masters required them to sing, "the songs of Zion" (Psalm 137:3,4), were the hymns of the temple, "the Lord's song." (Emp. added. Pusey, Barnes' Notes.)
It sounds like Pusey is describing modern "Gospel Musing" in which the rhythm is everything, and the sensedoctrinenothing. It is debased music, and is a mark of not only the nation's decay, but it marks the church's decay, and promotes the decay of both.
[Amos 6] Vv. 8-11, In order to show the secure debauchees the terrible severity of the judgments of God, the Lord announces to His people with a solemn oath the rejection of the nation which is so confident in its own power (cf. v. 13). (KD)
What is, generally speaking, the purpose of "Gospel Music" concerts? More often than not, the purpose of those concerts, though the performers proclaim they are there to "glorify God", is to entertain people, and make money. Look at the charge to get into most of them. Do the workmen gather to just sing praises to God when there is no audience? What kind of personal lives do the workmen live? (Adultery seems to be all too common among "Gospel Music" singers also.) What motivates writing Gospel Musicthe appeal to the people or love for Biblical, sound doctrine and many times harsh truth?
I realize that as the temple workmen were supported by the giving of God's people as required by God, so the workmen of our day need support. So they get that support from what they charge to let others hear them "praise God". In days past, many times it was the church which supported the workmen, and those workmen turned out some fantastic music that glorified God.
[and] invent to themselves instruments of music, like David: not content with old ones, such as were used in former times, they invented new instruments and new tunes, and new songs to sing to them; as David made songs and invented several instruments of music to sing them upon and to, in religious worship, and for the praise and glory of God; so these men invented new ones to indulge their carnal mirth and jollity, in which they thought themselves to be justified by the example of David. (Gill)
invent...instruments...like DavidThey fancy they equal David in musical skill (#1Ch 23:5 Ne 12:36). They defend their luxurious passion for music by his example: forgetting that he pursued this study when at peace and free from danger, and that for the praise of God; but they pursue for their own self-gratification, and that when God is angry and ruin is imminent. (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown [JFB]).
Ver. 5. Woe to them that, in a time of deepest morning, do entertain themselves with songs, and with greatest skill sing to their musical instruments, as if they had no greater thing to mind! ...
Invent to themselves instruments of music; not content with known, old-fashioned music, they find out new instruments, new songs and tunes.
Like David; in imitation of David, as they profanely pretend, or else emulating his skill, and preferring their own feast songs and music before his temple music and songs. We may imagine what songs such ungodly, cruel, voluptuous men would sing, and what tunes they would set too, on such occasions, viz. loose, profane, and impure enough. (Matthew Pool)
(e) As he caused different types of instruments to be made to serve God's glory, so these did strive to invent as many to serve their unrestrained affections and lusts. (Geneva)
That drink wine in bowls (Literally, as the English margin, "drink in bowls," literally, "sprinkling vessels, of wine"). ... 152). They had shown zeal for God in offering the massive bowls for the service of the tabernacle: the like zeal had these princes for the service of their own "god (Philippians 3:19), their belly." (Pusey)
But (And) they are not grieved (Literally, "grieve not themselves,") admit no grief, shut out all grief, "for the affliction" (literally, "breach") of "Joseph." ... "Cast off thought," "cast off care," is the motto of sensualists and of the worldly; "seize joyous the present hour, and leave the future," said the pagan (Hor.). This was the effect of their luxury and life of sense. The prophet recounts, they stretched themselves listlessly, ate choice food, sang glees, drank deep, anointed themselves with the very best ointment, "and grieved" not themselves for any sufferings of their own flesh and blood. It followed, of necessity, from the rest. Luxury shuts out suffering, because any vivid knowledge of or dwelling upon sufferings must needs disturb its ease. Selfish wealth persuades itself that there is no suffering, lest it should be forced to think of it; it "will" think distress either too little, so that it can relieve itself, or so great that it cannot be relieved; or it will philosophise upon distress and misery, as though it were best relieved by its own luxuries. Any how it will not know or hear of its details, it will not admit grief. ... (Pusey, Barnes' Notes.)
(I will mention that Adam Clarke says of v. 5 that God is rebuking any use of musical instruments in worship of God.)
[1 Chronicles 25:1] "Moreover David and the captains of the host [rather, "the princes" the same persons who are mentioned in xxxiii. 2, and xxiv. 6] separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy [rather, "divided for the service the sons of Asaph, etc., who prophesied." By prophesying is probably meant public recitation of the sacred services (see v. 3)] with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals" (xxv. 1).
Let us analyse these indications. We want warriors ; there is not one in this list : we need builders; there is not a man in the catalogue that ever built anything that could be seen or valued arithmetically : we want legislators, men who can make duty mysterious, and dissolve responsibility in polysyllables; there is no such erratic genius in this guild. Whom have we ? Prophets; for the word is "prophesy," and to prophesy means in this connection to teach, to reveal doctrines, to indicate duty, to exhort to service, to reveal the will and purpose of heaven. With what apparatus are these men furnished ? Harps, psalteries, cymbals. They were known amongst their fellows as a guild of sacred minstrels. When a man prophesies he utters under a spiritual influence. We do not know how much we are indebted to music. He would be the most combative man that ever lived who would fight with a tune; the tune will not fight. There are atheists who have shed tears under the influence of what is known as sacred music. Then they were not far from the kingdom of God : they were only atheists argumentatively. How many men have committed suicide by the razor of logic I They were never meant to be logicians. When you see a man take hold of a razor you do not exhort him to be careful, because you know that he can handle it wisely; but if you saw a little child open a case and take out a razor, how you would exclaim, how you would rush to the rescue ; how you would deprecate the audacity of the thoughtless little creature ! It is even so with the Church. There are some infants we cannot keep away from the razor-case : if they would only take their seat within one inch of the organ they might be saved. How are these musicians described in the verse? They are described by a word which some men would begrudge ; they are described as " the workmen." It should be put more vividly than this, namely, "the men working." But is music work? Certainly. Is a song a sacrifice ? Yes, if sung with the whole heart. He labours who toils with his hands. Probably, but not he only. He labours who gives his brain away, who imparts to others the fragrance of his love, who makes the world welcome to all the hospitality of his prayers. He is a labourer who puts things into sweet musical rhyme for us. Sometimes we get our children to persuade themselves that they are enjoying an amusement when they are learning, in fact, the multiplication table, through the medium of rhyme. Children who would abhor the multiplication table if it were set before them nakedly would come up to it quite loving and sympathetically if they might sing it all through. So there are men who help to sing us into our duties, and who help us to sing in the discharge of those duties, and who show us, by a mysterious power given to them of God, that all work should blossom into play, all service should find its fruition in song. There' are those who have distinguished between sacred music and secular music. What a marvellous faculty of analysis such men must have ! There are those who talk about sacred and profane history. By what right do they so talk? What history is profane ? Is there anything profane that belongs to the development of humanity, the cultivation of the total nature of man ?
Are we to attach a stigma to the study of history, to the perusal of those documents and records which testify to the progress of all manner of human thought ? There are persons who can sing bad common metre in the church, and think it pious ; whereas they could not listen to a sweet domestically beautiful song in church without a shudder. The only thing to be done with such is to let them shudder. We must see to it that the religious spirit is maintained, and nothing can maintain it so healthily as music. To think that the enemy has all the brass bands but about a dozen 1 whereas the church ought to have every one, and he ought to be considered a thief who plays anything on an instrument that could not be played in the church. There was music in the Old Testament sanctuary ; men praised the Lord loudly and sweetly in the ancient time.
(Joseph Parker, The People's Bible, pp. 132, 133. Baker Book
House Reprint, 1960.)