“But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you (Psalm 33:18-22).”
Last week I asked my class of international Fulbright scholars to write about the summer festivals in their countries. Most of the responses reflected the importance of music to these celebrations.
In Morocco, a week long music festival of international singers is held in Casablanca. It culminates with a big ceremony on the shore with fireworks.
The country of Djibouti, located on the Horn of Africa, has its own music festival called Music Day. It has its origins from French colonial days. It showcases musical talent. One of the highlights is the myriad of juices given out in this hot country, including papaya, guava and watermelon.
In Cosquin, a little town in Argentina, throngs of people gather to hear folk singers. There is a competition that sounds similar to American Idol. In most cases, the winners become musical celebrities.
Finally, the Russians have a musical celebration honoring a famous bard. Other poet-singers perform and people camp out.
I could have written my own festival story. When I lived in Finland, the country hosted a European-wide competition called the Eurovision Song Contest. A Finnish band won the previous year, and in keeping with tradition, Finland was the host the following year.
This music competition is well-known, televised all over Europe. When I was living in Saudi Arabia, if anyone knew anything about Finland, they knew about “Lordi”, the band that had won the Eurovision Song Contest.
To participate in these festivals, you have to possess talent. You can’t be a slouch. There has to be a certain level of competence to even make it to the starting line in these competitions and shows.
It’s really no different with church music. No one wants an amateurish musician offering their less than beautiful sounds to a worship service.
Sure, we all are to participate and sing in the congregation. But even the Bible says that music honoring the Lord should be played skillfully (Psalm 33:1-3). Therefore, at least the lead singers and musicians should know what they are doing.
Competence is important in any line of work. My students want me to know at least something about English when I teach them.
A nation’s people want talented people leading them. We honor our best in America, putting their faces on money and Mount Rushmore.
The Israelites must have figured they had gotten the leader from hell when they had to deal with Ramses, the Pharoah of Egpyt. When Moses approached him about taking his people out to the desert for their own worship festival, the king of Egypt lost it.
In his anger, Ramses insulted the Israelites and made it impossible for them to do their jobs. He called them lazy and took away a key ingredient to the brickmaking they did for him. Furthermore, Ramses refused Moses’s request to go to their festival(Exodus 5:1-17).
The Israelites knew they were in big trouble, and blamed their own leader Moses for it. They figured he was an incompetent lout . As a result of Moses’s seeming bumbling attempts to deliver them, they figured they were dead men now (Exodus 5:19-21).
Moses turned around and blamed his own Leader for the mess. It was God who had sent him on his mission to deliver the people of Egypt, after all.
Moses went to the God and said,”O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all (Exodus 5:22-23).”
Moses was questioning God’s competence. He kind of figured the Lord wasn’t up to the job. Besides, He was making Moses look bad to boot.
God tried to set Moses straight. He reminded Moses that He was the Lord and that He was poweful and mighty. God reminded him of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of His promises.
Moses went back to the people to report what God said, but they were so bummed in their trouble they wouldn’t listen. Then, God instructed Moses to go back to Pharoah and tell him to let the people go to their festival (Exodus 6:1-10).
In one of history’s great cyclical cause and effects, Moses told God that sending him back to Pharoah was futile. Moses told God,”Look, I’ve already proven I’m incompetent. He won’t listen to me. What’s the point of going back there (Exodus 6:12)?”
Despite Moses’s loss of confidence God persisted (Exodus 6:13; 7:1). He didn’t trust in Moses, the Israelites, Pharoah, or anyone else to bring about His will (Psalm 33:11). But He did trust in His own abilities.
God knows who He is. He breathed the heavens and seas into existence. He made us. Furthermore, He is totally capable of stopping bosses, leaders and nations in their tracks (Psalm 33:6-7,9,10).
When life is beyond troublesome, it’s understandable to give up. But we shouldn’t give up on God. We shouldn’t assign our own human incompetence to Him because He is perfect. He doesn’t make mistakes. (Matthew 5:48)
If we’re going to be delivered out of our troubles, He is the One to do it. More trouble doesn’t mean He has stepped off the throne or gone to a summer festival. It’s just part of the process He takes us through on the way to deliverance.
Like a talented musician, God is playing His music in our lives. His hands are skillful, like those of a wonderful harpist or guitarist (Psalm 33:2).
As the old children’s prayer made popular in a gospel hit says,
“He’s got the whole world in his hands he’s got the whole wide world in his hands
He’s got the little bitty baby in his hands he’s got the little bitty baby in his hands
He’s got the whole world in his hands…
He’s got you and me brother in his hands he’s got you and me sister in his hands
He’s got the whole world in his hands…
He’s got everybody here in his hands he’s got everybody here in his hands
He’s got the whole world in his hands…”
Aren’t you glad God is not an incompetent boob? He has some pretty big and mighty hands.