As I read chapter 16 I wonder where in the world David got the authority to do what this chapter tells us. First, he separates the Ark of the Covenant from the Tabernacle and forms two places of worship: one in Jerusalem, another in Gibeon. Second, he evidently creates a dual High Priesthood with Zadok serving in Jerusalem and Abiathar in Gibeon (see 1 Chronicles 15:11 and 18:16). Third, he creates a new ministry, a music ministry whose function was to petition, praise, and give thanks to the Lord.
On top of all this, David performed the function of a priest (offering sacrifices and the wearing of the linen ephod – see parallel account in 2 Samuel 6:14).
The chapter does not explain David’s authorial presumption. Presumably, as God’s anointed monarch, he had divine approval. Given previous examples of how God dealt with those who chose to go their own way in worship rather than stick with His directives, one might want to be cautious about throwing caution to the wind on the basis of David’s actions here.
Still, surely this text is important for us. But why?
The chapter contains the only hymn in the book. The purpose of the musicians was to petition, praise, and give thanks. This hymn does precisely that in that it calls us to thank, praise, and remember all that God has done.
My take-away from this chapter is that worship should have some thought put into it. A preacher who put no time into preparing his sermon would not last very long. Why then do we put up with pray-ers who believe they can get up, lead me in prayer and speak to God on my behalf all the while doing so “off the cuff”? Why do we put up with song directors whose selection of hymns is sometimes hastily put together and poorly thought out? Some churches assign these functions to the “clergy” (or the paid help) hoping to ensure better preparation. But this betrays simply a persistent inattentiveness on the part of the laity to what really ought to be the most important part of our week.
One final note about music. On a recent trip to Vietnam, a little girl in worship caught my eye. She was singing with the congregation with all her heart, but she never looked at the hymn book. Asking about her later, I found out that she had only been coming to church about six months and that, at eight years old, she had a learning disability that affected her long term memory. Her school work suffered horribly. But there she was, singing the “songs of Zion.” From memory. I believe David knew that music could do what sermons cannot: embed the will of God on the hearts of people. Music in church deserves more time, more effort, and more participation. God may be satisfied with offerings “according to what one has,” but He will not be satisfied with just whatever we decide to give.