Music of the Spirit

Music of the Spirit September 7, 2017

Creation has a musical quality both in its origin and in its very nature. Genesis 1 sets out a melody: The act of creation is musical, a patterned, recurring sequence of speech acts.

As product of God’s creating activity, creation is also melodic, rhythmic, musical. Creation is not a fixed and static three-decker object. It is made in movement, and it moves. The way it’s made, the sevenfold melody of its making, is the recurring melody of its history.

Not only the setting, the fixed structures of the creation account in Genesis 1, but the sequence of actions and events, sets the pattern for the rest of Scripture. Creation establishes the rhythm of world history. The music of creation is the music of time.

Creation is to history as theme is to variations.

Creation’s heptamerous rhythm is the rhythm of history because it’s the rhythm of the Spirit who hovers over the waters.

We learn in Revelation that the Spirit Himself is seven Spirits of God (1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6). Among other things, this means that the Spirit works in sevenfold patterns, pulses in sevenfold rhythm.

The Spirit provides the rhythm and melody of creation because the Spirit is the music of God. The Spirit clothes judges for war, but war is carried out by the weapons of musical instruments.

The Spirit comes on Saul when he meets prophets with instruments, and Saul begins to prophesy musically (1 Samuel 10:5-10). The Spirit falls on David, and in the next scene David is playing before Saul to drive away the evil Spirit (1 Samuel 16:13-23). Be filled with the Spirit, Paul says, and the Spirit’s first manifestation is singing of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:18-19).

As I was composing this, a friend passed on the closing lines of the late Robert Jenson’s Systematic Theology, which others have cited in the aftermath of his death.

“God will reign: he will fit created time to triune time and created polity to the perichoresis of Father, Son, and Spirit. God will deify the redeemed: their life will be carried and shaped by the life of Father, Son, and Spirit, and they will know themselves as personal agents in the life so shaped. God will let the redeemed see him: the Father by the Spirit will make Christ’s eyes their eyes. Under all rubrics, the redeemed will be appropriated to God’s own being.
“The last word to be said about God’s Triune being is that he ‘is a great fugue.’ Therefore the last word to be said about the redeemed is Jonathan Edward’s beautiful saying. . . ‘When I would form an idea of a society in the highest degree happy, I think of them . . . sweetly singing to each other.’
“The point of identity, infinitely approachable and infinitely to be approached, the enlivening telos of the Kingdom’s own life, is perfect harmony between the conversation of the redeemed and the conversation that God is. In the conversation God is, meaning and melody are one.
“The end is music.”
Jenson, who deeply appreciated the musical quality of creation, observes that creation’s end is also musical.

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