Musical Oath

After defeating the Cushite invader Zerah, Asa leads Judah in covenant renewal (2 Chronicles 15:8-15). The people assemble in Jerusalem, offer sacrifice, and enter a covenant to seek Yahweh with all their heart and soul, on pain of death.

Verse 14 says that they made the oath “with a loud voice, with shouting, with trumpets, and with horns.” Music expresses and enhances the joy of the occasion (v. 15), Judah’s joy in their own oath-taking and God-seeking, their joy in the fact that God allows Himself to be found.

But verse 14 indicates a more intimate link between music and the covenant oath. They swear to Yahweh with a fourfold sound – voice, shouting, trumpets, horns. It’s a musical covenant-making.

Covenants are made by sacrifice (Psalm 50). “Sacrifice” implies not only slaughter and burning, but a meal. When Israel cuts or enters covenant, they seal it with a meal in the presence of Yahweh.

In Chronicles, music takes on much of the work of sacrifice. Song accompanies ascension offerings. Song is, like sacrifice, a memorial presented to God. Levites do the work (abodah) of music, and music is the new “burden” (massa) they bear, replacing the physical burdens of transporting the tabernacle.

Now, with Asa, we see another sacrificial function of music: Like offering an animal, music is a covenant-making or covenant-entering act. Song is a means of seeking Yahweh; song is also a commitment to seek Him.

Think of that next time you open your mouth to sing at church. You’re not just expressing your joy in the Lord, though you are doing that. The music doesn’t exist only to enhance or elicit joy, though it does that.

Your singing is an oath-by-sacrifice, a commitment of body and soul to seek the Lord with everything you’ve got.

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