Posted by Mike Sandeman on 18 June 2013

In the book of Exodus, God gives Moses detailed instructions for the tabernacle that he wants built and the precious objects that will go in it; objects that will be integral to the Israelites' worship - including the altar and the Ark of the Covenant. For God's habitation among his people, any old tent with a wooden box will not do. The specification calls for intricate workmanship with the finest materials to put together a magnificent earthly dwelling for the holy God of the universe. Making the place beautiful is clearly a priority with God. Who would have the skills to fashion such beautifully ornate and important objects? In Exodus 31 we're introduced to Bezalel:

Then the LORD said to Moses,  “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,  and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—  to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts..."

Here was just the guy Moses needed. God had raised up a man who could do what Moses himself couldn't do. Bezalel was a craftsman and an artist who with his team would skilfully create these objects that would help the Israelites worship the Living God.

In our day we live under a new covenant and God's earthly dwelling is no longer confined to a physical tent; it has been replaced by a new temple - the church! As Ephesians 2:22 has it:

And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. 

However, church leaders still need craftsmen and artists who just like Bezalel will make God's house beautiful and help the people worship. Musicians (among others) function in this role of creativity that draws glorious attention to God, and helps the people worship. There was something about the artistic magnificence of the old testament tabernacle (and later Solomon's temple) that spoke of the glory and holiness of God, and helped the people realize just who they were worshipping. In a similar way, the role of today's musicians and singers is to use music skilfully and creatively to bring beauty to God's house and glory to Him. At its best, music has the capacity to draw gasps of worship and delight for the Saviour and Creator. We musicians and worship leaders are not mediators between the people and God; there is already free access for all to draw near through the great mediator Jesus. But we can help people encounter God with this God-given language of music which uniquely touches the soul.

So does that mean that to be a church musician you must be a top-class pro?  What about church groups where we struggle to get through a few simple songs without going out of tune, never mind 'magnificently beautifying the temple'?!!  

Well, in the Exodus passage, we see that Bezalel was chosen by God. That comes first and is the most important bit. If you're a musician at church, do you know that God's call is on your life to do that? If you're just filling in because no-one else can play bass (or whatever it may be), then well done for serving, but perhaps in the longer term you need to think seriously about passing it on to someone else, and pursuing what God has for you.

Next we read that Bezalel was filled with the Spirit of God - and that in an age before Pentecost! It's so important that as worship musicians we value the activity of the Holy Spirit, learn to follow His lead and make room for Him in our private lives as well as when we're 'up front'. That includes allowing Him to challenge sin in our personal lives and habits, because he cares more about our character than our comfort.

Finally we read that Bezalel had wisdom, knowledge, understanding and all kinds of skill in his craftsmanship. This is where we can all feel inadequate, but we can ask our Father to give us those things just as he filled Bezalel. My guess is that Bezalel didn't just sit around doing nothing then magically awoke one morning with all this amazing skill. I suspect that he worked hard, he practiced, he had a passion for it. So as well as asking God to increase our abilities and capacity, we need to devote ourselves to grafting at the gifts God has given us. Spend time alone on your instrument. Develop skills in different genres of music. Take lessons. Listen to good music. Work on your vocal technique if you're a singer. Think through creative new sounds and arrangements for familiar songs. Develop the skill and sensitivity to 'flow' well between songs, and rehearse together with the rest of the team regularly. Reject the bland embrace the imaginative. Let's make his praise glorious!

By doing these things, the aim is not to for us receive the praise of men, it is to see God glorified in His beautiful temple - the church. 

 

 

Mike Sandeman is the keyboard player for popular band ‘Phatfish’ and has over twenty years experience of working alongside many of the UK’s best known worship leaders. Mike has recently setup the ‘Worship Band Advice’ service; he can come and work with your worship team in your venue; listening to you play and offering advice about how you might serve the congregation better. More details at www.worshipbandadvice.co.uk.

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