“The trumpeters and the singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: ‘He is good; his love endures forever.” – II Chronicles 5:13
Much of the sacred choral music to which the Bible refers is connected to sacred occasions in the life of God’s people. In fact, from the beginning of Jewish formal worship connected with the tabernacle, choral music was integral to the ceremonies, rituals, feasts, and festivals in which the people of God participated. For example, at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, when the Ark of the Covenant is brought to the inner sanctuary, a choral and instrumental ensemble emerges described as trumpeters and singers joining in unison, una voce, to give praise and thanks to God.
Both the context and the content of this sacred occasion are instructive for us who continue the sacred choral music tradition. We note first of all, that there is a unity of purpose in performance. Singer and instrumentalist alike were committed to praise and thank God. Performing music was a means of extolling the goodness and greatness of God. Each participant had an integral role in realizing that purpose for the people of God. We note, secondly, that the liturgical refrain, “He is good; his love endures forever”, is rich with theological meaning. The word “good” calls to mind God as Creator and the goodness of his creation, while “love” evokes the experience on Mount Sinai and affirms God’s faithful covenant relationship with his people.
And, perhaps most noteworthy of all, when great theology and great music came together, the glory of God filled the temple. Something rather remarkable happens when singer, song, instrumentalist and occasion align to honor, extol, laud and magnify the Lord. The presence of God may be manifest in unpredicted ways that evoke reverence, awe, and wonder. May God grant that it may be so for Canto Deo, for the glory of God, and for the good of his people.
Dr. Keith Wells is the Chaplain for Canto Deo and also a Professor at Denver Seminary.