Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.
Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.
Your procession, God, has come into view,
the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary.
In front are the singers, after them the musicians. (Psalm 68:19-21, 24-25)
(Elisha said) But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played, the hand of the Lord came upon him. And he said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I will make this dry stream bed full of pools.’ (2 Kings 3:15-16)
Who would place musicians at the front of an army? Who would react to a national threat with the command, “Bring me a musician?”
We were walking from the Mount of Olives, past the Garden of Gethsemane, down through the valley of tombs and back up the hill toward the other side where Caiaphas’ house has been recently excavated and inside the walls where the Roman pavement of the soldiers quarters still exists below a convent. It was very hot -at least to a Canadian who had been driving through a snow storm only a week before.
At the bottom, in the shade of an ancient tomb surrounded by hundreds of graves, literally in the valley of the shadow of death, this young man sat and played his instrument. The others in our group went on to explore more tombs, but I stopped and sat on a low stool by his feet and listened. The music was foreign to my ears. I didn’t understand the structure or the harmony, but it soothed my soul.
I had a dream in which a hotel we were preparing was inundated with new guests. At the front of the crowd, looking for a place to stay, were musicians of every sort. Some of them brought guitars and we put the instruments in gun cabinets while they rested. To me this spoke of the power of music in fighting the evil one.
When our son-in-love was walking through his own valley of the shadow of death on Good Friday, when doctors doubted he would survive, his faithful friends brought their guitars and sat in the waiting room quietly strumming and singing songs of praise to the great healer. Singing seems like an odd activity at such a time, but they understood the importance of warring with their instruments and with their songs.
There is something about music that by-passes our personal defence systems. It can get by the heart/brain barrier.
I had a singing student whose relationship had just broken up. She assured me, quite calmly, that she was fine, that it was a logical time to end it and she was ready to move on. We happened to be working on the song, “On My Own” from Les Miserables. She didn’t make it two lines into the song before the floodgates of tears opened. Music therapy works on the theory that words delivered via music can get past our intellectual defences and help us heal.
There is something about music that allows us to hear more than just the music. On that day in Jerusalem I felt jostled by crowds, harassed by vendors, impatiently tolerated by folk in religious garbs of many types, rushed by tour guides, dismayed by the lack of respect warring factions showed for each other and my feet and sun-burned neck hurt. Although our tour director carefully planned our itinerary to avoid the worst crowds there was no getting around this one if we wanted to see where Jesus spent so many critical hours. It was in the shade of a tomb, in the valley of the shadow of death, away from the crowds as I listened to a simple instrument played by a nameless man, that I heard my heavenly Father. He said simply, “Cease striving and know that I am God. It is finished. Rest in my love.”
The psalmist, David, understood. We war from a position of rest, in the valley of the shadow of death. That is where the feast is kept.