Have you ever had a question pop into your mind that you can’t answer? It happens to me all the time. The truth is, those questions aren’t meant to be answered – they are intended to make us think. And, today, I want to share one of those questions I’ve thought about for years.
What happened to the music?
In the Psalms, we are fortunate to have a number of superscriptions from the original texts that give us details about some of the psalms. A few describe the setting of the psalm, like Psalm 34 that has a superscription that reads, ”Concerning David, when he pretended to be insane in the presence of Abimelech who drove him out, and he departed.” Now we can read the psalm with a little more understanding of what it was about – like today when a songwriter explains why a song was written. People love “song stories.”
The superscription of Psalm 45 intrigues me and leads me to the question. It reads, “For the choir director: according to ‘The Lilies.’ A Maskil of the Sons of Korah. A Love song.”
According to “The Lilies?” What does that mean? Well, it seems the original performance of this text was associated with a particular tune called, “The Lilies.”
What in the world did that sound like? We don’t know.
And, now to my question; if the Sovereign God of the universe preserved the text of this psalm as well as the whole Bible – and I certainly believe he did – why didn’t he preserve the tune? Hmmm.
He could have. He could have given us the exact music to be performed. Think of all of the arguments we could have avoided if God had just handed us the proper music setting for worship along with the scriptures.
After thinking about this a decade or so, I’ve come to this belief: God didn’t hand us the tunes so each generation could join him in creating the music. One of his divine attributes is his creativity – he has allowed us to express our own creative nature as we have written the songs with him down through the ages of the church. And, think about how much the music has changed. Each generation has found it’s own tunes and it’s own way of expressing our faith and worship in song.
The tragedy would be if any particular generation came to believe they were the one that landed on the final melody. God gives every era of believers their own chance to add to the music. What a wonderful gift that is to us. It truly is “The song that never ends.”
Let the children of God from every generation keep right on writing it.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.