Bible Readings for November 21st
1 Chronicles 16 | James 3 | Obadiah 1 | Luke 5
As the festivities in worship grow during the settling of the ark of the covenant in the city of Jerusalem, we learn more about Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, three men whose names we find prominently featured in another book of the Bible: the Psalms. So, who are these men, what are their roles in the worship of God’s people, and what does that teach us for our own worship today?
Heman, Asaph, and Ethan are Levites, so to understand their context, it is important to refresh our understanding of the three clans of Levi, formed from the descendants of Levi’s three sons: Gershon (sometimes spelled Gershom), Kohath, and Merari (Ex. 6:16; 1 Chron. 6:1, 16). Each of these clans had different roles in the transportation of the tabernacle: the Gershonites carried the fabrics (tent screens and coverings), the Kohathites carried the holy furniture, and the Merarites carried the frames, bars, pillars, bases, pegs, and cords (Num. 3–4).
These three men, then, are representatives for each clan. Heman is a Kohathite, a descendant of the rebellious Korah who opposed Moses in Numbers 16 (1 Chron. 6:33–38). Then, Asaph is a Gershonite (1 Chron. 6:39–43), and Ethan is a Merarite (1 Chron. 6:44–47). In 1 Chronicles 6, the chapter containing the genealogies of the Levites, Heman seems to be the leader, with Asaph at his right hand (1 Chron. 6:39) and Ethan on his left hand (1 Chron. 6:44). Then, in 1 Chronicles 15:16–17, David commands the Levites to appoint for themselves musicians, and these three men become the leading musicians for their respective clans. Finally, David appoints Asaph and the Gershonites to minister before the ark (1 Chron. 16:4, 37) and sends Heman and Ethan to sing at the high place in Gibeon (1 Chron. 16:39, 41–42).1 These men were great worship leaders who all contributed songs that are still preserved for us in the Book of Psalms. Heman, the son of Korah, wrote Psalms 42, 44–49, 84, 85, 87, 88; Asaph wrote Psalms 50, 73–83; and Ethan—who also seems to go by the name of Jeduthun (1 Chron. 16:37–42, 25:1, 3, 6)—wrote Psalms 39, 62, 77, 89.2
Still today, we need worship leaders who will lead us in praising Jesus Christ. Worship leaders, however, are not merely musicians. These worship leaders wrote profoundly deep songs that ought to guide our own hymn-writing and serve as the criteria for selecting the songs we sing on a weekly basis. And more than that, our own worship ought to be steeped in the inspired lyrics of the Psalms. Let us therefore read psalms, preach psalms, and sing psalms as we exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, who declares himself the fulfillment of the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44).
1 Although high places eventually became a place of idolatry and wickedness throughout the reigns of the later kings, Yahweh had neither forbidden high places nor appointed Jerusalem as the only place for his people to worship him during the days of David, or even during the early days of Solomon (1 Kgs. 3:3–4).
2 Probably. The different names makes this difficult to track, but 1 Kings 4:31 may identify Ethan as “Ethan the Ezrahite,” the name used in Psalm 89. All the other psalms in this list were written under the name Jeduthun.
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Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.