TODAY’S READING: 1 Chronicles 6–7, Psalm 81
God’s purposes triumph either in the nations or through the nations. Either God’s missionary people receive God’s blessings and carry them to the nations, or God has His people carried to the nations to use their plight to showcase His glory (1 Chr. 6:15). It is interesting that the text lists music ministers directly after the verses describing Nebuchadnezzar carrying God’s people to exile (vv. 31–32). We all get to sing, and whether those songs be celebratory victory chants or funeral dirges depends on our missionary obedience. Worship is a primary means of warfare. When surrounded by lostness, one of the things we can do is lift our voices in praise, for praise pushes back darkness and wins battles. Because worship is warfare, it is critical we sing well (which really has nothing to do with musical talent). Singing well means (a) we sing Scripture, (b) we avoid an overuse of first person pronouns when we sing, (c) we specifically mention the names and specific titles of our God (lest others thing we are praising our girlfriend or boyfriend), (d) we sing songs simple and memorable enough that everyone can sing without an instrument or professional singer, (e) we sing without performing or drawing attention to ourselves, and (f) we repeatedly sing the great redemption themes (most of the great hymns have stanzas about being lost, being saved, enduring trial, reaching the nations, and the King returning). Let’s go to war in song.
The Chronicles genealogies are fascinating for their inclusion. Reading through them to discover the illuminating side commentary invigorates, for over and over again we see that God is interested in foreigners and the marginalized (a Syrian concubine in 1 Chr. 7:14), daughters and sisters (vv. 15, 24, 30), warriors and sons of warriors (v. 2), and leaders (v. 40). God’s missionary plan is that all people of all peoples will take the glorious gospel to all people of all peoples. God is sending the young and old, male and female, rich and poor as missionaries. God is sending Latinos, Europeans, Africans, Arabs, Asians, Americans, and every combination thereof to represent Him among unreached peoples. Missionary qualification is judged by the internal content of character, fidelity to the Scriptures, and obedience to the Spirit, and not by the color of external skin. All God’s children are invited to lift their song among the nations.
Psalm 81 instructs the variegated people of God to make some noise, to shout joyfully to the God of Jacob. The superscript of the Psalm indicates that this hymn was composed on an instrument of Gath, a leading Philistine city. How beautiful that Jehovah taps His toe to ethnic music. On a redeemed instrument the people of God recalled (through music) what God did in Egypt when His people were surrounded by a language hard to understand (81:5). In song, God revisits yet again the tripartite formula for covenant missionary relationship (vv. 9–10, 13): We are to have no foreign gods for Jehovah will be our God, He will live among us to fill our mouths with both laughter and provision, and from that overflow we can bless all nations. With Jehovah filling us with Himself, with a steady diet of His presence, we can overcome all nations and all enemies, and His love can win the hearts of all the peoples of the earth. But, alas, though He would have fed us with the finest of wheat and satisfied us with honey from the rock, we stubbornly refused to sing His songs and refused to walk in His missionary ways (v. 16).
God is a singer. In C. S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, Aslan represents the Creator who sings a new world into being and into beautiful order. God sings over the nations, and He asks us to sing along with Him. He’s not concerned if we have professional voices. The great conductor of heavenly choirs enjoys the enthusiastic anthems when all His people shout and sing far more than simple solos. And with His divine ear He wistfully notes the ongoing absence of Afar voices and instruments.