Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Roar Like Thunder

A Devotional By Margot Cioccio

The sea of people at the Spokane Rock and Worship Road Show
 Psalm 98 
7Let the sea, everything in it,
the world, and those who live 
in it roar like thunder.
8Let the rivers clap their hands
   and the mountains sing joyfully
9in the Lord’s presence
 because he is coming 
to judge the earth. He will judge 
the world with justice
and its people with fairness.

I suppose I am some what intrigued by sound and resonance. This may be a bit out there but though the years in worship services I have noticed how there are some songs that seem to usher us right into Gods presence. There was a song called I Stand in Awe, I suppose its modern counter part is I Can Only Imagine. When we used to do concerts invariably the point in the evening where the Holy Spirit broke through most powerfully was at that particular song. Even in places where the song was un known to the people Gods Holy presence would fall upon the people. At that time we were among the pioneers of the worship movement and we would go into a lot of places where they knew nothing beyond the singing of a few hymns.  I often wondered was it the words of the song, or was there something about the frequency of the notes and the music. Or was it some how a combination of both. Did the words and the music some how tune the people as a whole.
You will notice in this next verse from 1 Samuel that Saul who has just been anointed to be the first king of Israel that this group of prophets is playing instruments and prophesying as they come down from the high places. They meet up with Saul and he is some how swept into it and changed.

1 Samuel 10
5 “After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. 6 The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.

I think there are times when we can get caught up into the river of Gods presence. Its always flowing but we are not always turned on and tuned to be able to connect with it.  Its like the radio - there are thousands of radio signals all around us all the time. We are not able to experience them unless our radio receiver is turned on and tuned to that particular frequency to be able to pick up those particular radio waves. So the science of how this works is over my head but I get the basic concept.  I think there are moments in corporate worship where the whole group becomes tuned and as a collective whole we become part of that mighty river of Gods presence. As a group we can be all over the map in our walk and relationship with the Lord. For some tuning into Gods presence is a well traveled path for others it requires others who know the path to bring them along. I think that happens like it did to Saul. The company of prophets was practiced at tuning into Gods presence. They were practiced at prophesying on their instruments and Saul meets them and he is changed. I think he experiences the presence of God first hand in that moment.

So this next verse challenges me but the point from it that I want to make is that God used the music that David played to break the bondage that Saul was under. He was afflicted in some way by an evil spirit that the passage says was sent from God. That part trips me out a bit the idea that that spirit would be sent by God.

1 Samuel 16:23

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
 23 Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

I think the related commentary by Matthew Henry is helpful in understanding this passage.  "Here is Saul made a terror to himself (1 Sam. 16:14): The Spirit of the Lord departed from him. He having forsaken God and his duty, God, in a way of righteous judgment, withdrew from him those assistances of the good Spirit with which he was directed, animated, and encouraged in his government and wars. He lost all his good qualities. This was the effect of his rejecting God, and an evidence of his being rejected by him. Now God took his mercy from Saul (as it is expressed, 2 Sam. 7:15); for, when the Spirit of the Lord departs from us, all good goes. When men grieve and quench the Spirit, by willful sin, he departs, and will not always strive. The consequence of this was that an evil spirit from God troubled him. Those that drive the good Spirit away from them do of course become prey to the evil spirit. If God and his grace do not rule us, sin and Satan will have possession of us. The devil, by the divine permission, troubled and terrified Saul, by means of the corrupt humours of his body and passions of his mind. He grew fretful, and peevish, and discontented, timorous and suspicious, ever and anon starting and trembling; he was sometimes, says Josephus, as if he had been choked or strangled, and a perfect demoniac by fits. This made him unfit for business, precipitate in his counsels, the contempt of his enemies, and a burden to all about him."

What is interesting to me is how the presence of anointed music would bring relief.  I think it is the absence of Gods presence in Sauls life that opens the door for evil spirits to torment him. Perhaps you have turned back from whole heartedly following God and find yourself beset with troubles similar to those described of Saul. Saul figured out that the music helped him but he never got to the place of truly repenting and turning back to God and so he felt the removal of Gods presence upon his life.

There is a passage in 11 Kings 3:11-16 where King Jehoshaphat needed a prophetic word of direction and not only does he send for a prophet but the prophet sends for a minstrel.

2 Kings 3:11-16

King James Version (KJV)
 11But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may enquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.
 12And Jehoshaphat said, The word of the LORD is with him. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.
 13And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the LORD hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab.
 14And Elisha said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee.
 15But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.
 16And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches.

I love how in this passage the presence of God was so strongly upon them that the priests could not even stand to perform their priestly duties.

2 Chronicles 5:13-14

King James Version (KJV)
 13It came even to pass, as 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 endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD;
 14So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.

Did you catch the line tat said as the trumpeters and singer were as one.... there is something powerful about the unity of a group of believers. In this instance the place was filled with a cloud of God's glory. This whole subject is a wonder to me. There are things about God that I at present do not fully understand or to begin to be able explain. But I know that music can be a vehicle that carries us into the presence of God. I suppose this is on my mind because of the worship concert I attended last night. I could see this happen at various points of the concert. It was more than a bunch of bands playing music to inspire and encourage us. There were points when the bands were playing songs of worship to God and there were with in the evening moments when the attention of the room became more than being entertained and getting to see a favorite artest play a favorite song but when as a group of thousands we together touched heaven and heaven touched us.

In my own small way I tune my guitar and I often tune myself as I play my guitar and sing before the Lord. Quite often however my household is asleep and so I have discovered another method of tuning myself and that is through listening to the music played on the Healing Refuge. I have found it particularly helpful on days when I have been tired or not feeling well. There is something profound that happens as spend time soaking and allowing my spirit to be tuned to the presence of God. As I allow what is being played to move or direct my thoughts and prayers before God. I am not just a spectator as I pray and sing along, I become part of the river. I guess my encouragement to you is that if you struggle to connect with God don't forget that music can be a conduit to help you focus your thoughts before the Lord and to help you enter into his presence. 

I think there are different places with in Gods Holy presence that we can tune ourselves to enter into. Things that I find help tune me are thankfulness, praise, remembering what God has done but sometimes it is just the sounds. The roar of sound last night is not something I get to participate in all that often but it was a place of being part of a Holy Roaring of Gods people rising up to Him.
I guess I hope that somehow in those times and places that we like Isaiah we will hear God speaking and we will be also be motivated to say Here am I Lord, Send Me. (Isaiah 6:8)  I think some times people are so spiritually dry that they just need to be refreshed. There is a time and place for that as well. So in that Holy Roaring place last night I suspect that some heard God calling and inspiring them to take some step of faith, for some perhaps chains of bondage fell away and they were changed much like Saul to even be aware that such a place of Gods presence even exists. Some were encouraged and refreshed.  I found myself wishing in that moment that God would roll back the veil and allow me to see what was happening in that instant in the heavenly realms. Were Gods angels empowered by that worship and praise to do battle, was God blessed by that moment of united hearts poured out to Him?
I think He was blessed for me it was a marvel, and a wonder to see God move upon His people united in worship.

Psalm 93

 1The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.2Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting  3The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. 4The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.5Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine house, O LORD, for ever.

Dear Lord,
Lord I pray that your people would find more and more ways to connect with your Holy Presence. That you would meet us as we read your word. You would meet us as we listen to anointed music. That you would move upon us and carry us as we lift our voices in song and in prayer before you. I pray that weather it be in some large worship service or alone in a quiet place that you would meet with us, that you would bring us along to know you more and more. That we would hunger and thirst for your living water and that we would not simply run from place to place to find it but we would make our own well worn paths into your presence to drink from the wells of salvation and the river that flows from the throne room of your Holy presence. 

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