Asaph has long been one of my favorite characters in the Bible. In case you’re not familiar, Asaph is one of three music leaders that David commissioned to lead worship at the Tabernacle before the Temple was built. David would often send psalms to these leaders, and they would sing them – or lead others in singing them. This was a pretty serious job, and these music leaders had a pretty incredible responsibility. They led worship at the site that the Lord had chosen to dwell!
So, Asaph is one of three of these leaders. And, he doesn’t just sing David’s songs. He writes his own songs. In fact, more than 10 of the songs recorded in the Book of Psalms were penned by this man. These are some of my favorite passages. I think I’m drawn to them because of their honesty and transparency. Take Psalm 77, for example. The song is painful. It’s raw. I mean, you can feel his pain. He talks about just being rocked to the core by aching and confusion. Here’s an excerpt from verses 2-10 (from The Message):
I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord;
my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal.
When friends said, “Everything will turn out all right,”
I didn’t believe a word they said.
I remember God—and shake my head.
I bow my head—then wring my hands.
I’m awake all night—not a wink of sleep;
I can’t even say what’s bothering me.
I go over the days one by one,
I ponder the years gone by.
I strum my lute all through the night,
wondering how to get my life together.
Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good?
Will he never smile again?
Is his love worn threadbare?
Has his salvation promise burned out?
Has God forgotten his manners?
Has he angrily stalked off and left us?
“Just my luck,” I said. “The High God goes out of business
just the moment I need him.”
Can you feel it? Can you hear his desperation? Can you relate? I sure as heck can! I find myself in this spot way more often than is comfortable. “God, what is going on here? Are you even still there? Do you care that I’m hurting so bad?”
What’s great about Asaph, though, is what he writes in the very next verses. Take a look (verses 11-15):
Once again I’ll go over what God has done,
lay out on the table the ancient wonders;
I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished,
and give a long, loving look at your acts.
O God! Your way is holy!
No god is great like God!
You’re the God who makes things happen;
you showed everyone what you can do—
You pulled your people out of the worst kind of trouble,
rescued the children of Jacob and Joseph.
See what happened there? The way that Asaph felt didn’t change. But, he recognized that who God is doesn’t change. His situation hadn’t yet been resolved. But, he acknowledged God’s resolve.
Interesting fact: Asaph’s name means “He gathers”. Funny how music can do that, huh? Bring people together, that is. I find it incredible that David saw the importance of this “gathering together” in Israel. If I can draw a connection to the modern church, I believe that music can and should still play a key role in worship. Sometimes that should mean recognizing pain in a real way, and expressing concerns openly and honestly. Asaph didn’t shy away from the real emotions he was experiencing, and I don’t think that Christians should shy away from this kind of music (or these kinds of lyrics) either. I mean, the Scriptures are full of examples of this kind of reflection. And it’s a real part of our walk of faith. However, as we worship, we should keep in mind that our circumstances to determine God’s greatness. We shouldn’t ever neglect to communicate hope in our worship! So, in your churches or wherever you get together with fellow believers, don’t be ashamed to acknowledge what’s going on in your life. Don’t shy away from expressing your concerns, fears, pain. But, don’t let those feelings shape your opinions of your Creator. And, certainly don’t forget to acknowledge God’s greatness in the midst of your pain. Rather than running from God in your discomfort, lean on His everlasting arms. He’s the only One who can really hold you, after all.