Does the Bible portray the role of music to be essentially prophetic? Certainly, I don’t necessarily mean prophecy in the sense of “history written in advance” (a quote I got from an interesting book I read about fundamentalist end-times theology, including varieties of the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic stripe; but I digress…), but rather prophecy in the sense of speaking the oracles of God.
1 Chronicles 25 relates how David:
…set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was: Of the sons of Asaph…who prophesied under the direction of the king. Of Jeduthun, thesons of Jeduthun…who prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the Lord….All of these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer… (1 Chronicles 25:1-5, my emphasis)
It seems as though David’s musicians were not simply musicians in the sense that we would use the word today, but that their roles were fundamentally tied up in prophecy. I know that, at my college ministry, our worship team is composed of people with musical talent as well as spiritual maturity, but should we, at least in theory, perhaps be requiring a certain level of spiritual sensitivity higher than we currently do require?
If this Old Testament passage does not persuade you, consider Paul’s words in Colossians:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spirituals songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
Paul links our singing with the word of Christ. (To be fair, the passage in Ephesians that talks about singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19) does not seem to be talking much about prophecy, but its context rather concerns our using our time wisely and encouraging each other with such songs. This is not explicitly prophesy, but it does perform at least a partially teaching role.) If, then, music is to perform a prophetic/teaching role (i.e., in causing the word of Christ to dwell richly among us by proclaiming it through song), how would that influence the church’s music? Better stated, would a criterion that establishes whether or not a song has a prophetic/teaching element be a standard under which all music that we might use to worship could be judged?