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THE ASAPH MUSIC LETTER
ENCOURAGING BELIEVERS TO SET AND MAINTAIN A BIBLICAL MUSIC STANDARD
To the chief musician and his choir
Vol. 1 No. 4 July 31, 2002
(Go easy on your eyes. Print this letter for a more enjoyable read.)
WE'VE LOST DEAN WILDER--At the end of our last issue of "The Asaph Music Letter" we gave reference to the fact that we would include in this issue an interview with Mr. Dean Wilder of the Hale & Wilder duet of years gone by. Well, we seem to have lost Mr. Wilder. We emailed him well in advance about the interview, and he responded quickly and was excited to do it. But since that time he has retired from his position at William Jewell College in Missouri and moved to Oregon--if we recall correctly.
So, apologies are in order here, and we beg forgiveness from all those who were looking forward to this issue, expecting to read the interview. We will continue trying to contact Mr. Wilder, and hopefully next issue we will have the long-awaited interview in print.
Also, since we've changed the format a little already, we will continue changing and not feature the column "Our Philosophy, Part 4," in this issue but will plan to feature it in another issue. We do this because we want to highlight a special article by our financial assistant here at Asaph, Dr. Terry Frala. Dr. Frala has been quite a help to us since his coming a few months ago, and when we heard him deliver this devotional concerning music, we just had to print it for you.
"GOD SEEMS TO BE SAYING THAT HE WANTS OUR LIFE TO BE A SYMPHONY. HE'S THE MASTER COMPOSER. HE'S THE ONE WRITING THE SONG."
This is not a Bible study as such, something a little bit different, I guess—just a word study that I’ve been doing. This is one of the places where the word is found:
“And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written.”—Acts 15:15.
It is talking about Peter’s testimony that God had saved the Gentiles. Peter had gone and preached, and the door was opened to the Gentiles. They were having a big discussion about it in Jerusalem at the Council. When it came down to the end, James gave the final verdict and said, “This is what the Old Testament said,” and he quoted out of Amos 9. He said, “To this agree the words of the prophets.”
The root word of that word “agree” is phoneo, from which we get our words phonics, phonograph, and the like. It has to do with sound. The prefix sum means “with.” It means “to sound with; to harmonize.” Peter was saying they were harmonizing with the Old Testament.
When you put the root with its prefix in the Greek, it is sumphoneo. That sounds similar to a word we have in English, the word symphony. That’s what a symphony is supposed to be—a lot of people sounding together. The best symphonies are that way. If you get everybody playing a different note, it doesn’t sound very good; but if everybody’s playing the same one (and you have a good composer, of course), then you have a really good piece of music. It’s a symphony.
The word is used eight more times in the New Testament. In I Corinthians 7:5 and Acts 5:9 it’s talking about a husband and a wife agreeing together. That’s talking about family life. God says in the family life there ought to be harmony; there ought to be a symphony there; there ought to be sweet music.
Then, again, it’s used in Matthew 20:2 and 13, where the householder went out and hired people to work in his vineyard. It says they agreed together for a penny a day. It was a business dealing. “Agree” is from the word symphony.
In our business life, there ought to be harmony—working together in agreement. We do work together, and God says it’s sweet music when we work together, trying to accomplish the same thing. Our business life ought to be a symphony, or a harmony.
In Luke 15:25, the Prodigal Son has come back home, and they have killed the fatted calf, and they’re celebrating. The older brother comes in. The only time in the New Testament the word “musick” is used is when the older brother heard “musick.” That “musick” is the word symphony. Probably they had a little chamber orchestra in there or the like. They were playing some kind of symphony anyway. This has to do with social life. The fatted calf was more than likely a pretty big piece of meat for just the family. They probably had some friends in. They were celebrating a happy event.
In our social lives, in our celebrations, there ought to be harmony. God likes it when we are harmonious and celebrate and rejoice together.
The other three times the word is mentioned all have to do with the religious life. “What concord hath Christ with Belial?” (II Cor. 6:15). In other words, Jesus and idols don’t harmonize. They don’t work together.
I had a friend who was a missionary down in Central America. He showed me some slides that he had taken himself. A Catholic priest and a witch doctor were going side by side, conferring joint blessings on people. That’s not harmony. There’s no concord there. That’s not sweet music to God.
Jesus said, “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 18:19). That word “agree” is the same word. When two Christians get together and pray about the same thing, God says that’s sweet music. He likes to hear that so much, He’ll give them what they’re asking for. We should keep that in mind as we pray. We should pray about the same things.
“No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old” (Luke 5:36). In other words, they were about to switch from the dispensation of law to grace. Law was for Israel; grace is for everybody. That old wineskin just wasn’t going to hold that new wine. It has to do with doctrinal things.
God used this particular word dealing with family life, business life, social life and religious life. That just about covers it, doesn’t it? It has to do with life.
God seems to be saying that He wants our life to be a symphony. He’s the Master Composer. He’s the One writing the song.
That reminded me of something I had read one time: “It’s impossible hear a melody with your ear.” I thought, “Well, what do you hear a melody with?” What the writer was getting at was, the ear is not a reservoir; it’s a receptacle. All the ear can hear is a note or a chord. When that note hits the ear, it’s carried over into the brain and stuck in the memory. But the ear is forever through with that note. It might hear a note identical to that sometime, but it’s never going to hear that note again. It’s gone. The ear gets the next note that’s coming and runs it back in memory and sets it down beside the other one. Then it gets the next note and goes through the process. All these notes are stuck back in the memory, but you don’t hear the melody with your ear: you hear a note with your ear; you hear the melody back in memory, as your memory is playing through these notes and you see the pattern and how everything develops. It’s all heard back in your memory. That’s a good thing because you can be walking down the hallway and hear the melody again. You don’t have to get somebody out to the piano to play it because it’s back there in memory.
If that’s the way music works, then think about your life being a symphony, and keep something in mind: Today is not the song; today is just a note. Today is just one chord out of the whole piece. If you want to hear a melody, you have to replay those notes.
I have more notes in my life than I like to think about, but there is a lot back there that I can go over and see how everything is developing, the pattern. ‘All things do work together for good to them that love God.’ There is a melody that has been developing, and the Master Composer has been doing it right.
You know how, when you hear a good symphony, it’s not all high, cheery, chipper notes that run by really fast. Sometimes it gets down really low and somber and slow. It’s variety. If you sit there and peck on that one high key all the time, there’s not much music. That’s kind of what rap music does. It’s not very good music. Good music moves and goes and changes, and you do with it. It kind of picks you up and carries you along. That’s how music works.
You might think, “Boy, this is pretty sour right now. This is pretty spooky. Everything is in a minor key. It sounds like a Frankenstein movie.” That’s the way it works sometimes. But don’t get so wrapped up in today’s note that you miss the melody, because it’s all part of the same thing. Tomorrow’s note won’t sound like today’s.
I’m not a student of classical music; I’m a fan. But I have several classical recordings at home. I looked through them and noticed some things about them. Only the composer knows how long the symphony is going to be. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is 64 minutes long on the version I have. Beethoven’s 8th Symphony is 24 minutes long. That’s a lot of difference. The same person wrote them, one right after the other. Nobody else knew how long they were going to be.
You could buy your ticket, go in there and sit down, and it would be over before you thought it had gotten started really well. That’s the way symphonies are.
Schubert’s 8th Symphony is called “The Unfinished Symphony.” It has only two movements instead of four, like most have. He died when he was 31. I don’t know if he was planning on adding more to that or not. He might have thought there was more to add to it. The Master Composer said, “No, that’s it. It’s all over.” You say, “Boy, what a shame! He never got to finish it.” Well, I don’t know. It’s recognized as maybe the best symphony he ever wrote and still played as a classic today. People still enjoy it today.
You think about people like David Brainerd and Robert Murray McCheyne. They lived less than half a normal lifetime. You say, “What a shame that they died so early!” Well, what they left behind has been a tremendous blessing to people. The Master Composer said, “This is finished. It’s all wrapped up.” We just don’t know when that last note is going to be.
Not only that, but the Composer is the only One who knows what’s coming next. Have you ever listened to a song for the first time, yet you kind of anticipate what’s coming next? You’ve heard music before, and you know that one particular pattern of music usually leads to a certain kind of climax. Music is not just random notes thrown out on a page. When you’re in a certain place, certain notes work next, and certain ones don’t. There’s a variety there, but you can’t just put anything out there. You kind of anticipate what’s coming next.
But every now and then you expect it to go up, and it goes down. It kind of catches you off guard a little bit. What happens is, the composer and you weren’t thinking the same thing.
Sometimes that happens in life, doesn’t it? You say, “Things are going along like this, and I’m planning on doing that.” But we know not what a day may bring forth, the Bible says. Sometimes the Composer is not thinking the same thing we are. Sometimes it goes the other direction.
I remember the first time I heard Haydn’s 94th Symphony. It’s called “The Surprise Symphony.” I was surprised! There was nothing leading up to that that prepared me for the surprise. Only the composer knew what was coming.
It’s my understanding that there are major chords and minor chords. If you have musical accompaniment to some kind of story in which a couple of young people are in love, the music will probably be in a major key—kind of happy and cheery. But if you have the swamp monster coming out of the swamp, you probably hear music in a minor key. It sounds kind of eerie and does something to your nerves. There is a lot of difference between a minor and a major key.
My understanding is that the only difference between a minor chord and a major chord is that one of the tones moves half a step. If you’re playing it you move one figure a half step, and it makes a big difference in how it affects everything.
You say, “Oh, today is just terrible!” or, “Today’s great!” David Gibbs said, “It only takes one phone call to turn your world upside down.” Things are going along great, and that phone rings.
On the other hand, it takes only one phone call to turn everything back right side up.
The Master Composer doesn’t have to change things a whole lot, but He can change everything quite a bit. We don’t have to be in despair or worry about it.
I don’t know what kind of note is playing for you today, but that’s not the song; it’s just the note. The next one’s going to be different, and a whole pattern is developing. Just let the Master Composer work on you.
When the Master Composer is finished and the whole thing is done, all will be tucked away in memory, and we’ll have a chance, as long as we want to in Heaven, to go back and play it again and see what a wonderful work the Master did. “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). The reason for the things that are happening to you is that God has a plan in eternity. He’s going to demonstrate His grace in the way He works in your life. You are a trophy of God’s grace. We don’t always feel like trophies, but we are.
Beethoven wrote nine symphonies, and each has four movements. One of the greatest pieces he wrote (a lot of people think it’s the best piece he ever wrote) we call “The Ode to Joy.” We have it in the hymnbook: “Joyful, joyful we adore Thee.” That’s the fourth movement of his ninth symphony. That’s the last one. He saved the best for last. He went out with a bang, you might say.
Well, the Master Composer just might be going out with a bang. You say, “Well, life is not all that great.” What does He have in store? Sometimes He saves the best for last.
hope that will put a song in your heart today. Just let God write His
song and appreciate the beauty of the melody that He’s making even in
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