Lessons from Asaph
Who was Asaph? He lived during the time of David and was probably a young man when he was first appointed by David to be chief of the singers. When David first brought the ark to Jerusalem, it mentions Asaph.
1 Chronicles 16:4-7 NLT
4 David appointed the following Levites to lead the people in worship before the Ark of the LORD-- to invoke his blessings, to give thanks, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel.
5 Asaph, the leader of this group, sounded the cymbals. Second to him was Zechariah, followed by Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel. They played the harps and lyres.
6 The priests, Benaiah and Jahaziel, played the trumpets regularly before the Ark of God’s Covenant.
7 On that day David gave to Asaph and his fellow Levites this song of thanksgiving to the LORD: Give thanks to the Lord!
All during the time of David, Asaph put to music psalms that David wrote or also wrote his own. There are 12 psalms dedicated to him. In 2 Chronicles 29:30 it calls him a “seer” which means that not only was the director of music but he had visions from God and God talked to him through the visions. His four sons were also involved in leading the Levites that were dedicated to serving God through music.
An example of an early Psalm he wrote is Psalm 50. Asaph is known for his reproof to Israel. Later in the psalm he charges them to “repent all you who forget me.”
Psalm 50:1-5 A psalm of Asaph.
1 The LORD, the Mighty One, is God, and he has spoken; he has summoned all humanity from where the sun rises to where it sets.
2 From Mount Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines in glorious radiance.
3 Our God approaches, and he is not silent. Fire devours everything in his way, and a great storm rages around him.
4 He calls on the heavens above and earth below to witness the judgment of his people.
5 “Bring my faithful people to me-- those who made a covenant with me by giving sacrifices.”
Asaph evidently lived during Solomon’s reign also and possibly into Rehoboam's too. He was an integral part of the dedication of the temple after it was built. It was an incredible celebration!
2 Chronicles 5:12-14
12 And the Levites who were musicians-- Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and all their sons and brothers-- were dressed in fine linen robes and stood at the east side of the altar playing cymbals, lyres, and harps. They were joined by 120 priests who were playing trumpets.
13 The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the LORD with these words: “He is good! His faithful love endures forever!” At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the LORD.
14 The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the LORD filled the Temple of God.
After this glorious time, Solomon began to follow after other gods and was led astray by his many wives. Perhaps that is when Psalm 73 – 83 were written and in these psalms are some great lessons that I want to explore briefly.
Lesson 1: What to do when we see the wicked prosper – Get God’s perspective
Psalm 73:1-7 A psalm of Asaph.
1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure.
2 But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.
3 For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.
4 They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong.
5 They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.
6 They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty.
7 These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for!
12 Look at these wicked people-- enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.
13 Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?
14 I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.
15 If I had really spoken this way to others, I would have been a traitor to your people.
16 So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is!
17 Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.
Asaph got God’s perspective and it helped to heal his heart and he realized that his heart was bitter.
21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant-- I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
23 Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth.
26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
The thing that Asaph learned in this psalm is that in the presence of God, he will show us and strengthen us with the certainty of hope for the future – he will guide us with his counsel. To avoid looking at the wicked things that are happening we have to have our hearts firmly fixed on God’s perspective.
Lesson 2 Remember God’s power
Both Psalm 77 and 78 describe Asaph’s discouragement and fear.
Psalm 77:1-3 For Jeduthun, the choir director: A psalm of Asaph.
1 I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me!
2 When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted.
3 I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help.
11 But then I recall all you have done, O LORD; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
12 They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.
Psalm 78:7-12 NLT
7 So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.
8 Then they will not be like their ancestors-- stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God.
9 The warriors of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned their backs and fled on the day of battle.
10 They did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his instructions.
11 They forgot what he had done-- the great wonders he had shown them,
12 the miracles he did for their ancestors on the plain of Zoan in the land of Egypt.
Then he recounts at least 5 different miracles that God did in the wilderness.
40 Oh, how often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved his heart in that dry wasteland.
41 Again and again they tested God’s patience and provoked the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his power and how he rescued them from their enemies.
That’s what we need to do each and every day so that we will not be discouraged. Remember how God has been faithful to us day after day. So won’t he continue to be faithful?
Lesson 3 Praise, Listen and Obey
Psalm 81 is an exhortation to praise, but also to listen and obey. God doesn’t want our praise only; he also wants our obedience.
Psalm 81:1-3 NLT
1 Sing praises to God, our strength. Sing to the God of Jacob.
2 Sing! Beat the tambourine. Play the sweet lyre and the harp.
3 Blow the ram’s horn at new moon, and again at full moon to call a festival!
8 Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings. O Israel, if you would only listen to me!
9 You must never have a foreign god; you must not bow down before a false god.
10 For it was I, the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.
13 Oh, that my people would listen to me! Oh, that Israel would follow me, walking in my paths!
"Open our mouths wide" is a picture of listening.
“When the mother-bird brings food she never has to ask the little ones to open their mouths wide; her only difficulty is to fill the great width which they are quite sure to present to her: appetite and eagerness are never lacking, they are utterly insatiable…picture a nest of little birds reaching up their mouths, and all opening them as wide as they can.” (Spurgeon)
[From Enduring Word Commentary] "We open our mouths wide when we have a sense of need – when we are hungry.
We open our mouths wide when we ask for large things.
We open our mouths wide when we understand the greatness of the God we pray to."
But then the follow up to listening is to obey-- which Israel fell way short of doing.
14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
We can learn the lessons that Asaph did and then say what he did in Psalm 73:
28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.