Psalm 81 (NIV)
1 Sing for joy to God our strength;
shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
2 Begin the music, strike the timbrel,
play the melodious harp and lyre.
3 Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon,
and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival;
4 this is a decree for Israel,
an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
5 When God went out against Egypt,
he established it as a statute for Joseph.
I heard an unknown voice say:
6 “I removed the burden from their shoulders;
their hands were set free from the basket.
7 In your distress you called and I rescued you,
I answered you out of a thundercloud;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
8 Hear me, my people, and I will warn you—
if you would only listen to me, Israel!
9 You shall have no foreign god among you;
you shall not worship any god other than me.
10 I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
11 “But my people would not listen to me;
Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
to follow their own devices.
13 “If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,
14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringebefore him,
and their punishment would last forever.
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
I’ve never struck a timbrel. I’ve never got a melodious tune out of a harp (although I have tried). I’ve never laid hands on a lyre. I’m not sure what the neighbours would make of the blast of ram’s horn at new moon.
I have, however, sung for joy to God our strength. I have shouted aloud to the God of Jacob. I have frequently begun the music and, thanks be to God, I have not yet stopped.
For me, music is one of the most special places where we connect to God. In its ethereal, transient nature, I believe we touch the edge of the divine. In music we experience some of the immanence and transcendence of God – we can see the dots on the page, or hear the rhythm and melody but, at the same time, there is something deeper, something higher, something beyond us.
Music gives us the opportunity to speak to, and listen to, God in ways which are not strictly verbal. Yes, there are words, but it’s the pulse and the emotional resonance of a chord which transcend the everyday and take us, for an instant, into a different Kingdom, a place where the hair on our neck stands up, our hearts soar and our souls connect with the maker of the universe.
Let us re-tune into God’s calling to us.
Father God, thank you for the gift of music. We pray that in those moments where we are lost in melody we will find you; where the drum beat dominates our listening, we will hear you; and where we raise our hands to heaven, we will meet you reaching down. In Jesus’ name. AMEN