These past weeks, I’ve been reading with the Lectionary through 1 Samuel, revisiting all the stories of Samuel and David and Saul.
As I read, I look through the thoughts of the Ancient Christian Fathers on each text. Not only is it fascinating to see how interpretations have varied throughout different periods in church history, but re-reading the early teaching on the Scriptures brings a refreshingly Christocentric interpretation. For the ancients, every verse is always about Jesus. I love it.
I’ve lately been puzzling over the ongoing conflict between Saul and David. There are many layers to it, not least the early church’s teaching that David is a type of Christ, and Saul, his antagonist, represents the scheming of the enemy. Recently I read 1 Samuel 16:14-23, which records how when David played the lyre, Saul’s spirit was refreshed, and the evil spirit that tormented Saul departed.
I’m not about to tackle what it means that the evil spirit “from the Lord” came upon Saul or how that contributed to Saul’s murderous intentions toward David. But check out what the leaders of the early church had to say about music and our souls:
“Not that there was any kind of power in [David’s] harp, but, with its wooden frame and the strings stretched across, it was a symbol of the cross of Christ. It was the passion that was being sung, and it was this which subdued the spirit of the devil.” — Nicetas of Remesiana
“You, a man of the church, ought to be better instructed by the music of the church than by Pythagoras. Think what David’s lyre did for Saul…” – Augustine
“So there is no doubt that sounds of music, at the Lord’s command or with his permission, have unleashed great forces.” – Cassiodorus
I love how Martin Luther is said to have snagged his friend Melancthon to go out and “Sing the 46th!” when his soul was discouraged. There are so many great hymns and songs that give courage to our souls, and now that I’ve written this post, I feel as though I should link to the old, classic, theology-laden hymns (which I love in their turn!). Instead, I’m going to link to this contemporary song I stumbled across last year that has so rallied my soul when it is downcast. It’s worth a listen right through to the end: