From the March/April, 2018 issue of Touchstone
bible A Sacrifice of Song by Peter Leithart

Quodlibet

A Sacrifice of Song

In the Bible, covenants are made by sacrifice (Psalm 50). "Sacrifice" implies not only slaughter and burning, but also a meal. When Israel cuts or enters covenant, they seal it with a meal in the presence of Yahweh.

In Chronicles, music takes on much of the work of sacrifice. Song accompanies ascension offerings. Song is, like sacrifice, a memorial presented to God. Levites do the work (abodah) of music, and music is the new "burden" (massa) they bear, replacing the physical burdens of transporting the tabernacle.

When Asa renews covenant with the Lord, we see another sacrificial function of music: the people sing the covenant oath. Like offering an animal, music is a covenant-making or covenant-entering act. Song is a means of seeking Yahweh; song is also a commitment to seek him.

Think of that next time you open your mouth to sing at church. You're not just expressing your joy in the Lord, though you are doing that. The music doesn't exist only to enhance or elicit your delight in God, though it does that. Your singing is an oath-by-sacrifice, a commitment of body and soul to seek the Lord with everything you've got.

—Peter J. Leithart


more on bible from the online archives

5.3—Summer 1992

The Bible Tells Me So

Everything You Need to Know About Morality & the Bible by David Mills

27.4—July/August 2014

The Things Freely Given

The Bible, Sacred Theology & the Mind of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon

24.3—May/June 2011

God's English

The Making & Endurance of the King James Bible, 1611-2011 by Barton Swaim

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