Worship the Lord with Familiar Tunes – Part 10
by Pastor Bill
A couple of weeks ago, we looked at worshipping the Lord with the Gitteth, which was a harp from Gath. Many times the psalmist gave instructions at the beginning of a psalm about what instrument it was to be accompanied with. For example, Psalm 5 was to be played with a Nehiloth, which means a flute. Psalm 12 was to be played upon a Sheminith, which is an eight-stringed lyre. Psalm 45 was to be played upon a Shoshannim, which literally means a lily. The shape of a trumpet resembles a lily, and so Shoshannim is one of the Hebrew words used for a trumpet. Psalm 45 is about the majesty and grace of Christ’s kingdom, so the announcement of His majesty being accompanied by a trumpet is very fitting.
It is important to read the introductions to the psalms, as they give us very important information about the psalm. In Psalm 58, David tells us that this psalm was for the nasaw. The King James translates this as the Chief Musician. The New American Standard translates this as the Choir Director. I have heard some pastors teach that there is no such thing as a worship leader or choir director in the Bible. Well, this particular psalm was written specifically for the Choir Director or Chief Musician.
(Ps 58:1) For the (nasaw, H 5329) choir director; set to Al-tashheth. A Mikhtam of David. “Do you indeed speak righteousness, O gods? Do you judge uprightly, O sons of men?
David says that Psalm 58 is a mikhtam, which means an engraving, or poem. This was a poem that David wrote and set to music for the Chief Musician. Some psalms, like Psalm 74, are maschils. A maschil is a didactive or instructive psalm. It was meant to worship the Lord, but also to instruct those who sang or played it. Some psalms were prayers, like Psalm 90, which is a tephillah (Strong’s H8605, prayer) of Moses.
As we continue reading David’s introduction to Psalm 58, we find it was set to Al-tashbeth, which means “Thou must not destroy.” Strong’s and many other scholars believe this was the name of a popular song. The psalmist put these words to a commonly known tune, which made it easy for the people to sing. In the protestant reformation, some of the hymnists used popular tunes or melodies that were sung in the bars and taverns, and set words to these tunes that honored and glorified God. Like David, they wanted to use the music of the day to help people in their worship. They understood the importance of familiarity in worship.
Lord, give us understanding and insights about the psalms and worship music that we use. Give us freedom and creativity in our worship. Help us facilitate worship to the people of our generation. Help us to be a church that worships You with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul. Amen.