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Asaph the Seer!

ASAPH THE SEER / A CHARACTER STUDY

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION 

I.       FROM OBED-EDOM’S HOME TO THE CITY OF DAVID / AROUND 1000 B.C. 

II.     THE MUSICIANS PROPHESY 

III.    ASAPH, A PROPHETIC SINGER, COMPOSER, AND CYMBAL PLAYER 

IV.    DEFINING PROPHECY 

V.     THE SPIRIT OF GOD IN MUSICAL SOUND 

VI.    FROM DAVID’S TABERNACLE TO SOLOMON’S TEMPLE / 959 B.C. 

VII.  THE DAILY TRADITION IS CONTINUED 

VIII. FOLLOWING THE FAMILY OF ASAPH

IX.    KING HEZEKIAH RESTORES WORSHIP / 729-686 B.C. 

X.     KING JOSIAH RESTORES WORSHIP / 638-608 B.C. 

XI.    EZRA AND NEHEMIAH RESTORE WORSHIP / 538-433 B.C.

CONCLUSION 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

INTRODUCTION

God created His people so He could have fellowship and walk and talk together with them in the cool of the garden.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8).

His greatest desire is to have His people worship Him as their creator, savior, and provider.

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him (John 4:23).

Asaph understood the importance of worship. As a Levite, he loved to serve God and had a heart to lead His people into His presence. Asaph was a skilled musician and singer who also moved in the prophetic ministry of music. He is an example to all those who desire to lead, or be involved in worship, and to be led by the Spirit of God in the process.

 

I.                   FROM OBED-EDOM’S HOME TO THE CITY OF DAVID / AROUND 1000 B.C.

Asaph was a singer and cymbal player appointed by David the King and the Levite leaders. He was one of the three leaders of music in David’s organization of the tabernacle service, the other two being Heman, and Ethan. Asaph was appointed for the praise and worship as the Ark of the Covenant was brought from the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite to the City of David (Jerusalem), and placed in the tabernacle he made for it.

The singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were to sound the cymbals of bronze; (1 Chronicles 15:19).

Obed-Edom was a Gittite. This means he lived in the city Gath about 30 miles south west of the City of David. It was a long trip, however, King David brought the Ark of the Covenant with great joy along with the sacrifice of seven bulls and rams, and he and the Levites were all clothed in fine linen. Chenaniah was the music master for the event, and they were to raise their voice with resounding joy as they brought back the Ark of the Covenant with shouting, trumpets blowing, cymbals crashing, and music being played with stringed instruments and harps. King David was leaping and whirling and playing music so strongly that it caused his wife Michal (Saul’s daughter), to despise him.

After they placed the Ark of the Covenant in the tabernacle that David had prepared they offered more sacrifices and peace offerings. David then blessed the people in the name of the Lord and distributed bread, meat, and raisin cakes, to everyone in celebration.

King David then appointed Asaph as Chief to sing, thank, praise the Lord, and make music daily in the tabernacle with his cymbals, and the stringed instruments, harps, and trumpets of his brothers and sons.

And he appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the Lord God of Israel: Asaph the chief, and next to him Zechariah, then Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, and Obed-Edom: Jeiel with stringed instruments and harps, but Asaph made music with cymbals; (1 Chronicles 16:4-5).

On that day David wrote a psalm of thanksgiving which he delivered to Asaph to thank the Lord. And they sang the psalm of David…

On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the Lord: (1 Chronicles 16:7).

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever (1 Chronicles 16:34).

Asaph was now the chief worshipper in charge of ministering to the Lord daily in praise and worship along with his brothers.

So he left Asaph and his brothers there before the ark of the covenant of the Lord to minister before the ark regularly, as every day’s work required; (1 Chronicles 16:37).

 

II.                THE MUSICIANS PROPHESY

King David and the captains of the army separated for the service some of the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthan to prophesy. Under the direction of Asaph, his sons, and the sons of Heman and Jeduthan, prophesied on their harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals. They were musicians and singers of great skill prophesying, and giving thanks and praise to the Lord. The number of skilled musicians who were instructed in the songs of the Lord was 288.

Moreover David and the captains of the army separated for the service some of the sons of Asaph, of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals. And the number of the skilled men performing their service was: (1 Chronicles 25:1).

All these were under the direction of their father for the music in the house of the Lord, with cymbals, stringed instruments, and harps, for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the authority of the king. So the number of them, with their brethren who were instructed in the songs of the Lord, all who were skillful, was two hundred and eighty-eight (1 Chronicles 25:6-7).

Asaph was a seer. “Seer” was the word used at that time to describe a prophet.

Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: “Come, let us go to the seer”; for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer (1 Samuel 9:9).

The original Hebrew word translates to “one with prophetic vision.” King David also had Gad as his prophet/seer.

Now when David arose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying (2 Samuel 24:11).

What constituted prophetic worship? Why was Asaph called a seer? What did it mean when the King appointed Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthan, to “prophesy” instrumentally and vocally? We can see the reason in many of the psalms he wrote. Many of them are prophetic (seeing things in advance) in nature.

 

III.          ASAPH, A PROPHETIC SINGER, COMPOSER, AND CYMBAL PLAYER

As an apprentice and minister for King David, Asaph wrote 12 Psalms; Psalm 50, and Psalms 73-83.  It is interesting how a “singer – percussionist” was appointed as Chief for worship in the Temple! Here are samples of some of his writings.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26).

To the Chief Musician. Set to “Do Not Destroy.” a Psalm of Asaph. A Song. We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near (Psalm 75:1).

Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God? (Psalm 77:13).

To the Chief Musician. On An Instrument of Gath. A Psalm of Asaph. Sing aloud to God our strength; Make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob. Raise a song and strike the timbrel, The pleasant harp with the lute. Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, At the full moon, on our solemn feast day (Psalm 81:1-3).

Psalms 50, 78, and 80, are prophetic in nature, both “foretelling” about the future, and “forth-telling” about the greatness of God. In Psalm 50 he prophesies about the coming of the Lord, and that all those who call upon Him shall be saved.

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; A fire shall devour before Him, And it shall be very tempestuous all around Him (Psalm 50:2-3).

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me (Psalm 50:15).

Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God (Psalm 50:23).

Asaph again prophesies our salvation in Psalm 80;

Restore us, O God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved! (Psalm 80:7).

Asaph prophesies that the coming Messiah will teach using parables.

A Contemplation Of Asaph. Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done (Psalm 78:1-4).

Matthew quotes Asaph from Psalm 78:2; 

All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 13:34-35).

Confirming the canon of Asaph’s writings and his ministry as a prophet of the Lord, John records Jesus quoting the prophet’s writing from Psalm 82;

I said, “You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High (Psalm 82:6).

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’? (John 10:34).

We can see that “prophecy” can easily take place vocally, but what about with musical instruments? The king directed the musicians to prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals. Asaph was a cymbal player.  “Cymbals were the only percussion instrument in the temple orchestra. They were used when the people were celebrating and praising God. They joined with trumpets and singers to express joy and thanks to the Lord. In passages such as 1 Chronicles 16:5, some versions
translate the Hebrew as castanets. It is now generally believed that this is inaccurate and should be cymbals.” 1  In order to determine how prophecy could take place with musical instruments like harps, stringed instruments and cymbals, we need to first define what prophecy is.

 

IV.             DEFINING PROPHECY

The Hebrew word King David used when he directed them to prophesy in 1 Chronicles 25:1 is the Hebrew word “naba” pronounced “naw-baw,” and “it is used to describe the function of the true prophet as he speaks God’s message to the people, under the influence of the divine spirit.” 2  Another way to express it would be to “to receive God’s speech and then to proclaim it.” 3

The prophet Amos describes how compelled he was when the prophetic word of the Lord came up on him when he stated “A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8). Who can but prophesy? This statement seems to express that the word of the Lord is so good, how can anyone refrain from proclaiming it!

How would the definition “to speak God’s message to the people, under influence of the divine spirit,” apply to a musical instrument? To understand this we must look at how the Spirit of God can be involved in musical sound.

 

V.                THE SPIRIT OF GOD IN MUSICAL SOUND

King David was also a skilled musician and songwriter. He wrote most of the book of Psalms. He understood the prophetic ministry of music, both instrumentally and vocally. Where did he learn this and how did it operate in his life? As a young man serving under King Saul, he would minister on the harp and evil spirits would leave the king and bring him relief.

And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him (1 Samuel 16:23).

David learned as a young man that the Spirit of God can be involved in the inspired sound of music to the point that it can actually cast out devils and bring people relief!

Another good example is found in 2 Kings. King Jehoshaphat needed a prophet to hear from the Lord. They were going to war against the Moabites but they had run out of water for their soldiers and animals. So they sought the prophet Elisha for help. When they met Elisha, he  called for a musician to play, the spirit of God came upon him and he prophesied.

And Elisha said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, surely were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you, nor see you. But now bring me a musician.” Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. And he said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches’ (2 Kings 3:14-16).

“Then it happened – when the musician played!” Through inspired musical sound, the Spirit of God came and spoke through Elisha. Not only does God indwell his inspired word spoken by man, but He also manifests Himself and ministers to His people through inspired musical sound.

Obviously, when King David directed his chief musicians and singers to prophesy, he knew what he was talking about. He knew that God inhabits His inspired word, but he also knew that He inhabits Holy Spirit inspired music.

 

VI.          FROM DAVID’S TABERNACLE TO SOLOMON’S TEMPLE / 959 B.C.

When David’s son Solomon finished building the Temple, he continued the same traditions of his father, as he moved the Ark of the Covenant from the tabernacle in the City of David to the new House of the Lord in Jerusalem. The sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthan also continued in the traditions of their fathers as they were appointed by King Solomon to provide the worship for the event.

And the Levites who were the singers, all those of Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, stood at the east end of the altar, clothed in white linen, having cymbals, stringed instruments and harps, and with them one hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets (2 Chronicles 5:12).

They sang the psalm that David wrote years earlier and gave to Asaph; 

Indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever,” so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God (2 Chronicles 5:13).

The unity and worship was so great, the house of the Lord was filled with a cloud, and as the King James version states, the priests “could not stand to minister” for the glory of the Lord had filled the house! 

 

VII.       THE DAILY TRADITION IS CONTINUED / 959-938 B.C.

Solomon, having been brought up by good example in worship and true humility, followed his Father David in appointing daily thanksgiving in the new temple.

And, according to the order of David his father, he appointed the divisions of the priests for their service, the Levites for their duties (to praise and serve before the priests) as the duty of each day required, and the gatekeepers by their divisions at each gate; for so David the man of God had commanded (2 Chronicles 8:14).

 

VIII.    FOLLOWING THE FAMILY OF ASAPH

Asaph was a Levite, the son of Berachiah who was a doorkeeper for the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:17), and his sons Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah, were all musicians who prophesied in the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 25:1-2).  Meshelemiah, a grandson, was also gatekeeper in the tabernacle, and Joah, another son was a recorder (court historian or royal scribe) for king Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:18).  

Jahaziel, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, proclaimed the famous prophecy to King Jehoshaphat “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:14-15).  When King Jehoshaphat appointed the singers to go before the army and the enemy was defeated, the sons of Asaph were part of the team!

And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever.” Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another. So when Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; and there were their dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped (2 Chronicles 20:21-24).

 

IX.          KING HEZEKIAH RESTORES WORSHIP / 729-686 B.C.

King Hezekiah when he restored the Temple worship he commanded the Levites to sing praise to the Lord with the words of David, and Asaph the Seer. 

Moreover King Hezekiah and the leaders commanded the Levites to sing praise to the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshiped (2 Chronicles 29:30).

 

X.             KING JOSIAH RESTORES WORSHIP / 638-608 B.C.

King Josiah finds the Book of the Covenant in the house of the Lord and Makes a covenant to follow the lord and keep His commandments. He restores true worship, and celebrates the Passover. The sons of Asaph, having been brought up in the ways of the Lord are still serving as musicians and singers!

And the singers, the sons of Asaph, were in their places, according to the command of David, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun the king’s seer. Also the gatekeepers were at each gate; they did not have to leave their position, because their brethren the Levites prepared portions for them (2 Chronicles 35:15).

 

XI.          EZRA AND NEHEMIAH RESTORE WORSHIP / 538-433 B.C.

After Nehemiah finished restoring the wall of Jerusalem, and Ezra the priest read the Book of the Law, revival began. The Word of God was brought back, the walls of the city were rebuilt, tithing and giving began again, the singers (128 sons of Asaph) were appointed and songs of praise and thanksgiving were again sung in the temple. 

The singers: the sons of Asaph, one hundred and twenty-eight (Ezra 2:41).

The praise continued during the construction of Zerubbabel’s temple.

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel (Ezra 3:10).

Nehemiah found a record of those who returned from captivity in Babylon and the singers, sons of Asaph totaled 148.

Then my God put it into my heart to gather the nobles, the rulers, and the people, that they might be registered by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of those who had come up in the first return, and found written in it: (Nehemiah 7:5).

The singers: the sons of Asaph, one hundred and forty-eight (Nehemiah 7:44).

Mattaniah a third generation grandson of Asaph led the thanksgiving with prayer (Nehemiah 11:17). Uzzi a sixth generation grandson was in charge of the service of the house of God (Nehemiah 11:22), and Zechariah, another sixth generation grandson played the trumpet in the temple (Nehemiah 12:35).

 

CONCLUSION

After King David’s instructions, the family of Asaph ministered as prophetic singers and musicians in the house of the Lord for a minimum of 600 years. Being a Levite and serving in the House of the Lord was a great privilege and honor. Asaph was evidently a great worship leader and father. He was a man who knew and saw the power of God manifest in the praise of His people. He was sensitive to the Spirit of God in word, song and music. He knew the importance of praise and worship to bring forth victory. He was a man who truly praised God every day of his life. He was dedicated, faithful, skillful, and his legacy has now lasted nearly 3000 years. He is even spoken of as “the days of old.”

For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chiefs of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving to God (Nehemiah 12:46).

As a father, it’s obvious he believed the prophetic word God gave him when he wrote Psalm 78. Asaph did not hide the praises, strength, and wonderful works of God to his son, and his sons, sons!

A Contemplation Of Asaph. Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done (Psalm 78:1-4).

Heavenly Father, we pray that all those who have the gift of worship would have a spirit like Asaph in their hearts. That all those who lead God’s people in worship would have the same spirit of excellence, dedication, faithfulness, and sensitivity to your spirit. That they would “prophesy” on their instruments and voice by the Spirit of the Lord. For all of us Lord, want to give you the honor and praise that you are truly worthy of. We want to walk with you in the cool of the garden (Genesis 3:8), and we yearn to worship you in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23).

Who knows, you might even be a descendant of Asaph!

It’s interesting, dictionary.com gives three excellent definitions of the word descendant:

Descendant 4:
1. A person or animal that is descended from a specific ancestor; an offspring.
2. Something deriving in appearance, function, or general character from an earlier form.
3. An adherent who follows closely the teachings, methods, practices, etc., of an earlier master, as in art, music, philosophy, etc.; disciple.

Pastor Jim Langlois


BIBLIOGRAPHY

All scriptural quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible. The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

1 Packer, J., Tenney, M. C., & White, W. (1997, c1995). Nelson’s illustrated manners and customs of the Bible (Rev. ed. of The Bible almanac, c1980; electronic edition.) (501). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

2 Vine, W., Unger, M. F., & White, W. (1997, c1996). Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words (electronic ed.) (1:190). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

3 Harris, R. L., Harris, R. L., Archer, G. L., & Waltke, B. K. (1999, c1980). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) (544). Chicago: Moody Press.

Dictionary.com. www.dictionary.com (accessed April 19, 2012).

_______________________________

Pastor Jim Langlois is the Senior Pastor of The Master’s House www.tmhnow.org, President of MKEA (The Master’s Kids Evangelistic Association) www.mkea.org, and an Area Director for ICFM (International Convention of Faith Ministries) www.icfm.org. You can follow him at docinthehouse, on Twitter at jimlanglois, and on Facebook at jim.langlois. His most recent books are “Is it Okay to Pray in Tongues in Church?” and “Will the Real God Please Stand Up!” Both are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com

 

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