1 and 2 Chronicles are peculiar books: they cover much of the same material as the books of the Kings but describe some events in much less detail or leave them out altogether. At the same time, they go into great detail when it comes to names and genealogies. One name that stands out among the crowd is Asaph. If you’ve heard his name before, it is most likely because we have twelve Psalms that bear his name as the author. Asaph is an intriguing man with an even more intriguing ministry. This is what 1 Chronicles 16 has to say about him:
4 David appointed some of the Levites to be ministers before the ark of the Lord, to celebrate the Lord God of Israel, and to give thanks and praise to Him. 5 Asaph was the chief and Zechariah was second to him. Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel played the harps and lyres, while Asaph [sounded] the cymbals
This is fairly straight-forward so far: Asaph was the head music minister among the Levites before the ark of God. That is a pretty cool job, but nothing earth-shattering. 1 Chronicles 25 continues:
1 David and the officers of the army also set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, who were to prophesy accompanied by lyres, harps, and cymbals. 2 From Asaph’s sons: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asarelah, sons of Asaph, under Asaph’s authority, who prophesied under the authority of the king.
Now this is where this man begins to catch my attention: Asaph prophesied to the accompaniment of lyres, harps, and cymbals. While this can become controversial, I cannot escape the conclusion that Asaph was involved in what we would describe today as ‘prophetic worship’. And just in case you thought Asaph’s prophesying was limited to speaking forth God’s truth, 2 Chronicles 29 confirms for us that Asaph was not just a worshiper but also a seer or prophet:
30 Then King Hezekiah and the officials told the Levites to sing praise to the LORD in the words of David and of Asaph the seer.
Asaph was a man of God, a Levite, who operated in a unique ministry in the Old Testament, combining prophecy and music to create an inspiring new ministry before the Lord. From his pen flowed twelve Psalms – more than anybody else but David. He is the one that wrote my favorite verses in Psalm 73: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.” Like David’s songs, his Psalms show both a great understanding of who God is and a humanity familiar to all of us. Hundreds and thousands of years later, people were and are still singing the inspired songs of this prophetic worshiper.
As a worship leader, I am thrilled to find that there was such a thing as prophetic worship in the days of the kings of Israel and Judah. Long before the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, God anointed people with musical ability and spiritual anointing to sing, play, and move in the prophetic to that music! Asaph is certainly one of my new favorite people in the Bible and an immense inspiration as to what God can do through a musician and a worshiper who has a sensitive spirit. God may just make him a prophetic worshiper before the ark of God.