You ever like something that hits you somewhere right in the sweet spot that basically no one else around you has? There are some things, I’m convinced, that I like that I have to keep quiet about because liking it to the degree I do draws an inappropriate level of attention. I don’t mean living in Dallas and driving around with an Eagles sticker.
I don’t know enough about car repair to do something like that.
I mean, I really like the music style that comes out of the middle east. There’s something about microtonal music that is really fun in my ears. I play it, and of course, receive a few rash judgments about my people heritage, my religious, social, and political leanings.
And I just wanna say, “Dude, listen to the syncopation of this beat! And the warbly tone! And the fun beat! Did I mention the way the drummer seems like he has both ninja level focus and ADHD?”
Give it a listen:
If you want a translation during the song, turn on YouTube subtitles. However, it says,
A chant to king David
He feasts in a field of lilies
Who plays the strings
with singing and chanting
and David has a beautiful countenance
he feasts in a field of lilies
Saul hath slain his thousands
and David his ten thousands
Son of Yishai exist forever
Now I know that I said music from the middle east.
And it wasn’t really a misnomer. I guarantee that most people, had I pulled up next to them with this blaring out of my car would look at me and not assume I was playing music of any sort of Jewish ancestry. Most would assume I bow toward Mecca five times a day.
Yamma Ensemble, who did the preceding song on commission has a fascinating catalog of music. They are definitely worth spending some time listening to their music. Ever wanted to hear a shofar used musically, check this one out
Like I said, I like it. If you don’t like it, it’s probably because its sounds are a little too foreign to your ears to pick up on some of the nuance. The reason it fascinates me is because its sound is so other to my normal experience. It seems to call old times back from the ancient days. I can actually imagine that shofar blowing at a solemn moment during Rosh Hashanah, remembering the receipt of the Ten Commandments.
During the previous song, I can actually imagine why the singing that welcomed David and Saul back into Jerusalem made Saul so nuts. I mean, it’s kinda repetitive huh? The music style is likely nowhere near what the song style at the time sounded like. There exists no notation accurate enough from ancient times to give us any hope of accurately replicating the song style. Much of the music of the middle east is an amalgamation of the peoples who have conquered the area in the past: Greek, Persian, Mede, Babylonian, Roman, Muslim.
But again, the otherness of the musical style is what gets lodged in my mind and I can more accurately imagine what it must have been like to march in the dusty column of victory back into the great capital of Israel. Saul, whose sole desire in existence was to see his name brand elevated. David, whose sole desire in life was to chase after the heart of God. One of them received a blow to his honor. Well kinda. I mean, Saul did slay thousands.
The other man received the praises and promptly sent them heavenward in thanks for preserving him.
In the court of the king and the table for his dinner, Saul would stew with the chorus ringing through his ears about how he was only a decimal point to the greatness of the musician whose services made him less angry. The Bible does not say what David played, only that by doing so, Saul’s anger was tempered.
It must be stated through implication and knowledge of character, that David would not have played anything in the presence of Saul except those songs of his composition which were raised to the praise of God. David, after all, was a man whose extraordinary focus on the person of God drew him to the throne of Israel. He would, therefore, not have been singing a song of praise to Saul.
It’s hard to imagine what happened, but I can see David quietly strumming away at his stringed instrument, perhaps humming or even singing one of his praises to God. And then suddenly a melody began to resonate with the notes sung by the people chanting the victory with a ten to one ratio of greatness. David would not be stupid enough to sing that song in Saul’s presence, but it is possible his music sounded like those songs for just a moment.
It’s how narcissists organize their hearts. Everything is about them, or lacking that dedication must be eradicated.
And thus positioned with hatred, malice, and murder, Saul grabbed up his spear and hurled it across the chamber, embedding iron into stone. Flecks of chipped rocks sparked from the palace walls and glanced off of David’s startled face, he met eyes with Saul and saw, for the first time, his future relationship with the anointed king of Israel and one time prophet of the Most High.
David’s song over the course of his life would range between the admiration of God’s goodness, might, and love, to the prayers asking for a tracking number for His justice. No matter, though, in good times or bad, David would dedicate his music and honest heart-born words to the sovereignty of God.
Saul could only see the honorifics that weren’t his. He could only see the praises not filtered toward his crown. Saul resented that anyone except his own person would be a hero in his kingdom.
David desired God to receive the glory for the wars he won. And the time that he tried to flex his administrative kingdom and its size, he was punished.
Saul would not allow that his son would submit himself to the greatness of this musician.
David showed his friend’s legacy kindness because the right thing is always right.
I can see this relationship played out when I listen to this music. I invite you to do the same. It’s beautiful. The latest greatness will still be there from Hillsong et al for us to turn our Western hearts to God in a musical language that is all ours. But seriously, for now, check out Psalm 104.