In 1 Chr. 25:1, the Chronicler recorded that, “David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals.” And again, in verse 3, the Chronicle mentioned “…six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the LORD.”

This curious passage, not echoed elsewhere in Scripture (though there are hints here and there), suggests a role for music not often considered. Of course, by using “with lyres” or “with cymbals” the writer may have meant “accompanied by lyres, cymbals, etc.”, in which case the prophecy was sung with words. But what if omitting any mention of singing was intended to say that the prophecy was not in words at all? Is this possible, music alone expressing thanksgiving and praise to the Lord? Ask any accomplished musician and you will get a firm reply, “Yes!”

Music is irreducibly spiritual.

Music creates a path through all the noise and tumult of our chattering, tangled minds, to sing a divine word directly into our hearts. The Psalmist knew this: music can convey God’s calling. His calling cards are truth, love, goodness, and beauty, and He created us as bearers of His image such that we can receive them and thereby know Him.

Modern investigation has produced evidence that music is processed in a different part of the brain than speech, and that textual memory and music memory are distinct. Our own experience can affirm that the messages of music, textual or otherwise, are taken in uncritically and unintentionally. Music moves us, whether we want it to or not.

Naturally, the involuntary absorption of messages by way of music as a universal human characteristic has not gone unnoticed. Malignant forces, as well as many purely commercial ones, have used music to convey their lies since time immemorial. In our society, this goes on constantly. We can close our eyes, but we cannot shut our ears.

And it works: millions carry around with affection some appallingly wicked messages obtained from music that they would never dream of affirming in plain language. Who can say what evil, corrosive effects those messages work deep inside us, where they lie unthought of and uncriticized, until they are reactivated as attitudes through some circumstance of life?

But just as there is wicked and depraved music, there is also sacred and uplifting music. The greatest beauties of music open a tiny window into heaven, revealing the authentic Presence of God in one of His essential attributes—beauty. Why do the elect in heaven perpetually sing God’s praises—because they cannot do otherwise, so great is the beauty and majesty of the Lord and the overflowing of their hearts with joy.

A great, life-changing blessing can come—will come—through God’s voice heard in music. Such is the power of music, that the singing of sacred songs can nourish and keep alive the tiny, flickering flame of faith, when all else has grown cold, for years until the day when it bursts into the conflagration that purifies and saves. Many can testify to this (including me).

Can music be a vehicle for prophecy?

It can, and it does whenever music carries the authentic voice of God.

Robert McAnally Adams is curator of The Christian Quotation of the Day. With his wife, Ellen Rose, they are sponsors of Crescendo, a worldwide fellowship of Christian musicians.

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