Summary: The way that David’s music ministered to Saul’s heart, music in worship can minister to ours. I include some suggestions for getting the most out of our music in worship.


A. Music is a powerful force – It gets our attention; it grabs our hearts; it transforms our souls.

1. This is the case because God has made it so.

2. God is the one who has created music and created us in a way that music ministers to us.

3. Not only that, God has also given certain individuals the ability to make music.

4. All the way back in the Bible’s first genealogical records we read that Jubal “was the father of all who play the harp and flute.” (Gen. 4:21)

I. David The Music Minister:

A. David, the man whose life we are studying, the man after God’s own heart, was a man of music.

1. Right in the middle of the Bible we find the book Psalms, all 150 of them.

2. More than half of them were written by David, and some of them, no doubt, were written in the very context we’re going to look at today, in the threatening presence of a madman named Saul.

B. After Samuel anointed David with oil, indicating God’s choice of him as the next king of Israel, we read some disturbing things about Saul.

1. The Bible says, “Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.” (1 Sam. 16:14)

2. Before we talk about the misery of this malady that Saul wrestled with, I think it’s important that we notice that the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul before an evil spirit came.

3. It’s also important for us to understand that the indwelling of the Spirit is different for Christians than it was for the people of the Old Testament.

4. Before the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the Spirit of God never permanently rested on any person, perhaps with the exception of David and John the Baptist.

5. In Old Testament times, it was common for the Spirit of God to come for a temporary period of strengthening or insight or whatever was the need of the moment, and then to depart.

6. However, at Pentecost and from that time on, when the Holy Spirit comes into the believing sinner upon their baptism, He stays.

7. We remain sealed by the Holy Spirit, as Paul wrote, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of salvation.” (Eph. 4:30)

8. And as you know, our very bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of God resides in us! (1 Cor. 6:19) We who are Christians.

C. But what is happening here in 1 Samuel 16 with King Saul is centuries before Pentecost.

1. We should not be surprised to read that as the Spirit of God departed from Saul, a vacuum was created into which God sent an evil spirit to torment him.

2. No one knows the exact reason that the Lord did this, but we can certainly speculate.

3. What seems most probable is that the Lord was disgusted with Saul.

4. It’s as if God was saying to Saul, “You have not taken me seriously. This will teach you to do that, Saul.”

5. The Hebrew word used here for “torment” means “to fall upon, to startle, to overwhelm.”

6. Keil and Delitzsch, two reputable Old Testament scholars, say this about the evil spirit that came upon Saul, “The “evil spirit from Jehovah” which came into Saul in the place of the Spirit of Jehovah, was not merely an inward feeling of depression at the rejection announced to him, which grew into melancholy, and occasionally broke out in passing fits of insanity, but a higher evil power, which took possession of him, and not only deprived him of his peace of mind, but stirred up the feelings, ideas, imagination, and thoughts of his soul to such an extent that at times it drove him even into madness. The demon is called “an evil spirit (coming) from Jehovah” because Jehovah had sent it as a punishment…”

D. So that was Saul’s malady, and it was so visible to those around him that even his servant realized he needed help and boldly suggested, “‘See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the harp. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes upon you, and you will feel better.’ So Saul said to his attendants, ‘Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.’” (1 Sam. 16:15-17)

1. Earliest archaeological records, carvings, and inscriptions show us that the ancients believed music soothed passions, healed mental diseases, and even held in check riots.

2. It is interesting how God uses this belief to provide the link needed to connect David to Saul and the throne.

3. Someone happens to hear that Saul is depressed and is looking for someone to provide him with soothing music, and he knows David, and he says, “I know a guy who can do that.”

4. God never runs out of creative ways to carry out His sovereign plan!

E. The Bible says, “One of the servants answered, ‘I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him.’” (1 Sam. 16:18)

1. That’s a pretty good resume, isn’t it?

2. David is a skilled musician; he’s a man of valor; he’s a warrior; he has control of his tongue; he’s handsome; and by the way, the Lord is with him.

3. One important thing this says to me is that we should never discount anything about our past, or any preparation or experience we have had – God can use it all!

4. We never know when something that we have done or something that happened years ago will open a door of opportunity in the future.

5. That’s precisely what happened to David – There he was plucking away on his harp, out in the fields of Judea.

6. He had never met Saul, yet he was to be Saul’s replacement, and so God works out a way to bring them together. And what is that way? Music.

7. The Bible says, “Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, ‘Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.’ So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.” (1 Sam. 16:19-20)

8. I don’t know if Jesse had any concerns about releasing David to Saul, but he didn’t send him to Saul empty-handed – He loaded him down with gifts for the king.

F. David didn’t know it, but he was getting ready to enter boot camp on the road to becoming a king.

1. The Bible says, that “David came to Saul and entered his service.” (1 Sam. 16:21a)

2. When David walked into the king’s presence, Saul had no idea who he was – Saul’s successor was standing right in front of him, but the king didn’t know it.

3. David certainly didn’t mention it.

4. He never said to Saul, “I’m gonna take you place, pal. So step aside.”

5. Even though he had been anointed, he never once did he pull rank on Saul. He wasn’t presumptuous.

6. Why? Because he was a man after God’s own heart – he was a special man.

7. David had come for one purpose – to minister to the king in his torment and depression.

G. So how did things go for David with Saul? Well at the start things went very well.

1. The Bible says, “Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, ‘Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.’ Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” (1 Sam. 16:21b-23)

2. Isn’t that a beautiful picture?

3. There was Saul on his bed, or pacing his bed chamber, writhing in madness, and in the corner sits David playing his harp and perhaps singing one of his Psalms.

4. Who knows, maybe they sang together at times. Maybe David taught some of his songs to Saul.

5. David’s music was effective – It refreshed Saul.

6. The Hebrew word translated “refreshed” or “relief” means “to be wide, to be spacious, to give space so as to bring relief.”

7. Moffatt translated it, “He played for Saul till Saul breathed freely.”

8. God had His hand on this young man whose music not only would fill the heart of a depressed king overwhelmed by blackness, but also would someday fill His written Word.

H. And the result of all this was that Saul began to love that young man because he brought him relief.

1. Saul said to David’s father, “Your son is a keeper.”

2. And Saul gave David additional duties – David became one of his armor bearers as well.

II. How Music Ministers to Us

A. What about us? How does music minister to us?

B. Martin Luther believed that the Reformation was not complete until the saints of God had two things in their possession – a Bible in their own tongue, and a hymnal, which they called a Psalter.

1. He believed they needed the Word that could lead them to a deeper understanding of their God, and a companion volume that would help them express the love and joy of their faith.

2. Luther said, “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise.”

3. I don’t think we can have genuine worship without those two elements blending together – the preaching of the Word, and the expression of our faith in melody that flows from our hearts and voices in song.

C. God certainly has cast His vote in favor of music.

1. Long before there was humankind, or the voice of humankind on the earth, there was singing.

2. In the book of Job, we hear God questioning Job about what he knows about the early days of creation, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone - while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7)

3. Just imagine the kind of harmony the morning stars and the angels must have emitted as they sang!

4. Also, consider all the scenes the Bible gives us from Revelation – what will we and the angels be singing around the throne for all eternity? “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain…” (Rev. 5:12)

5. So don’t you think that since there was singing before the earth was formed and there will singing after the earth is gone, that there should be a lot of singing while we are here on the earth?

D. Don’t you think it interesting that the longest of all the books of the Bible is the one dedicated to singing?

1. In the preface of his book The Treasury of David, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “The delightful study of the Psalms has yielded me boundless profit and ever-growing pleasure.”

2. Spurgeon later called the Psalms the “peerless book.”

3. G. Campbell Morgan said this about the Psalms, “The Book of Psalms…is the book in which the emotions of the human soul find expression. Whatever your mood, and I suppose you have changing moods as well as I do…I can find you a Psalm that will help to express it. Are you glad? I can find you a Psalm that you can sing. Are you sad? I can find you a Psalm that will suit that occasion. The Psalms range over the whole gamut of human emotions…They were all written for us in the consciousness of and in the presence of God…In every one of these Psalms, from the first to the last, whatever the particular tone, whether major or minor, the singer is conscious of God. That gives peculiar character to the Book of Psalms.”

4. That’s not to say that the Psalms are easy, because they aren’t.

5. Of course, there are a few that are very popular and easier to benefit from – like Psalm 1, 23, 91, 100, and parts of 119.

6. But for the most part, the rest of the Psalms take time and effort to benefit from them.

7. They are music for the mature, and those who want to mature should spend their time in the Psalms with a mind and heart engaged.

8. The Psalms offer wonderful opportunities for times of refreshment and recovery, they can be very helpful to channel emotions that seem to be getting out of line, or that we find difficult to express.

9. Praise God for inspiring David and others to write the Psalms and then to preserve them for us, and those who have put melody to them so we can sing them!

E. I don’t think I can over emphasize the importance of music in our spiritual lives both personally, privately and publically, corporately.

1. Paul teaches some very important truths about this subject in the similar passages written to the churches at Ephesus and the Colosse.

2. To the Ephesians he wrote, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20)

3. To the Colossians he wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Col. 3:16)

4. In those two passages we see what an important spiritual activity our singing really is.

5. It is a form of communication where we speak to each other, and teach and admonish each other.

6. This is to be done with the word of Christ and with all wisdom dwelling in our hearts.

7. And it is to be done with thanksgiving in our hearts as well.

8. Certainly we sing in order to please God as our praise goes up to Him as a spiritual sacrifice, and as our melody is broadcast into heaven where God’s antenna is always receiving.

9. But also we sing in order for it to minister to us and to each other.

F. Many people struggle with singing in worship because they don’t consider themselves very good singers.

1. Even though they may be right – that they aren’t a good singer – that doesn’t matter.

2. We are not auditioning for American Idol here, we are making melody in our hearts to the Lord.

3. So never mind how good or bad you sound, make a joyful noise unto the Lord – sing loud enough to drown out the self-defeating thoughts that sometimes clamor for attention.

G. We also sometimes struggle with the types of music we sing.

1. Some people like the new songs; some people like the old songs.

2. Some people like fast songs; some like the slow ones.

3. Some like more songs; some like less.

4. The point is – none of us like or want the same things – that’s why we need to be flexible.

5. Keep in mind that the very song or songs that you dislike, are very likely someone’s favorites!

6. And keep in mind that today’s “old” music was yesterday’s “new” music – today’s classical music was yesterday’s contemporary music.

7. Sometimes we just have to get used to things – and that takes time and patience.

8. And we have to realize that nothing stays the same – everything is ever changing – and again – that’s why we have to be flexible.

H. Let me give a few suggestions that might enhance the ministry of music in our spiritual lives.

1. First of all, concentrate on the words.

a. The best spiritual songs have incredibly powerful words.

b. The meaning of these songs can bless our lives as they remind us of what the Lord has done, or what the Lord will do for us.

c. They also can give voice to our deepest longings to praise the Lord, ask for His mercy, or offer thanksgiving.

d. And as we have already mentioned, the words allow us to express our faith and teach each other God’s truths.

e. We must not let our minds go into neutral – concentrate on the meaning of the songs.

2. Second, I would suggest that we engage the heart as well as the head.

a. The meaning of the songs we sing should often prompt strong emotions, so let those emotions flow.

b. How can we sing “When We All Get To Heaven” without rejoicing in our hearts?

c. How can we sing “When Peace Like a River” and not be moved as we think of what Christ as done for us, and the fact that no matter what is happening it can be well with my soul.

d. I could go on and on, but I won’t – Singing should prompt our emotions, and when it does, let them flow in tears, or joy with smiles, and nodding heads, or raised hands.

3. Finally, I would suggest that we sing as much as possible.

a. We should carry a song with us in our hearts throughout the day.

b. And we should participate in singing whenever possible.

c. Some of the greatest moments in my spiritual life have come during singing gatherings.

d. I remember some of the devos at Harding on the Benson steps, and in the old recording studio – I didn’t want those moments to come to an end.

e. There have been times when we have been singing at Camp Hunt around the campfire or in Grindley Auditorium, when we could have gone on forever.

f. I would have to say that there has never been a time when I have gathered with Christians to sing when I haven’t been blessed.

g. Singing spiritual songs just does wonderful things to the soul.

I. Let me say a few words about how thankful I am for the song leaders here at Wetzel Road.

1. I really appreciate how Roy, Tracy, and now Jon minister to us by leading our singing.

2. They spend a lot of time carefully choosing the songs for each service.

3. There is really a lot that goes into it – from the pacing of the songs, the mix of songs, and the themes of the songs and the sermon.

4. Beyond that there is the challenge of leading the congregation into the worship of our Holy God – what a responsibility. That’s enough to make anyone tremble.

5. Add to that the challenge of the music and melodies, nervousness, and making the voice cooperate early in the morning, and you have a very daunting task.

6. Why do they do it? Because we need them to do it, and they feel called to minister in this way.

7. They certainly don’t do it to draw attention to themselves.

8. Why not let them know, from time to time, how much you appreciate their efforts?

J. Soft music for a hard heart, that’s what David provided for Saul and that’s what we need.

1. That’s the soul music that Christ the Savior provides, and that’s the place we all must begin.

2. Jesus died for us. He rose from the dead to give us the desire and power to have eternal life and to live a blessed life, free from the cage of human discouragement and despair.

3. He is our shepherd, and we are His sheep, needing the music of His voice.

4. He has given us a song, and we can rejoice and exalt God together.


David – A Man of Passion and Destiny, by Charles R. Swindoll, Word Publishing, 1997.

David I, by W. Phillip Keller, Word Books, 1985.

The Making of a Man of God, by Alan Redpath, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1962.