As mentioned in previous posts, I admit to a slight fascination with the seemingly obscure group referred to as the “company of prophets” or “sons of prophets” in the Old Testament.
We first meet this group in 1 Samuel 10 where the prophet Samuel dismisses the young and future king, Saul, telling him that on his journey home he’s going to meet “a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them” (1 Samuel 10:5).
Whenever I used to read this I would ask myself, why the music? I mean, I love music as much as the next guy but what role, if any, did the music play in their prophesying? Was the role of the musicians simply to make the passing of time on their journey more enjoyable, similar to a car stereo? Or, was there something “magical” in the music that empowered their prophecies? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I’m sure we could keep guessing and come up with some great theories.
However, I’d much rather look for an explanation in Scripture. Not that Scripture always explains everything but when it does, it has more weight to me than a good theory. So, does Scripture offer any insight regarding their use of music in their prophesying? I believe it does and that it is incredibly relevant today. But first, we need to fast forward a couple hundred of years.
A reading of the first thirteen chapters of 2 Kings will show that when Elijah the Prophet’s young padawan, Elisha, replaced him in his prophetic office he also took on the role of leader of the “sons of the prophets”. Elisha was undoubtedly very familiar with the practices of the group.
In chapter 3, the kings of Judah and Israel seek Elisha’s prophetic insight regarding a matter of war they had found themselves in. When Elisha sees the king of Israel approaching, he is instantly filled with disgust and tells him to go away (3:13). (Cue “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift). Despite Elisha’s lack of warm fuzzies towards Israel’s King, he has huge respect for the king of Judah so he agrees to seek God’s word on their behalf. What happens next is very interesting.
Upon yielding to their request, Elisha requests that a musician is brought to him (3:15). As soon as the musician begins playing, the hand of the Lord (i.e. Spirit of God) comes upon him and he gives the prophetic word. What’s interesting to me about this scenario is that there are many other times when Elisha gave a prophetic word without seeming to need a musician (e.g. 4:16).
What was unique about this situation? The unique thing about this situation was that the man of God was in a pretty foul mood. Have you ever been asked to pray for someone or offer encouragement when you were in a bad mood? It’s a bit more difficult wouldn’t you say? Familiar with the practices of the sons of the prophets, Elisha understood the ability music had to bring one’s mood back into “alignment” with God and thus, into a posture of receiving.
Similar to Elisha and the sons of the prophets, we don’t require music to worship or prophesy but we do need to acknowledge it has powerful properties that can help us do these things more easily. We shouldn’t be surprised to see that music is mentioned in the New Testament as an essential part of our worship and cultivation of prophetic environments (e.g. 1 Corinthians 14:15, 26; Ephesians 4:19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:14; Revelation 5:8; etc…).
Music is God’s gift to us. He designed it to affect human hearts the way it does. Worship leaders, we are architects of environments and music is one of the most powerful tools we have in our belt. Let us thank Him for it and use it to His glory and to the edification of His people.