“Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their heart and stir up wars continually. They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s, and under their lips is the venom of asps. Selah”
Psalm 140:1-3 ESV
Of the one hundred and fifty Psalms, more than a third of them begin with “To the Choirmaster.” That’s how the ESV translates the Hebrew word nasach. Other translations render nasach as “choir director” (lame); “music director” (lamer); or not at all (inexcusable).
For me, the best of them is the Authorized Standard Version, which translates nasach as “The Chief Musician.”
The word itself, according to the translation notes in the Blue Letter Bible app, can mean to excel, be bright, preeminent.
Which took some of the early church fathers in an entirely different direction with interpretation. One article I found says,
A few centuries ago, a strong argument was made for the word “choirmaster” or “chief musician” to be translated more literally as “to the end.” Many of the Greek and Latin church fathers believed that this was a reference to the Messiah, “the great end.” In other words, there is a strong belief that those Psalms addressed “to the choirmaster” are really addressed “To the Messiah.”Gregg Hunter, Christ the Choirmaster
It’s not a stretch to see messianic themes in the 55 “Chief Musician” psalms. It’s actually harder not to find them. As we’ve seen day after day in this reading plan, the Messiah is everywhere in the Old Testament.
This year, I’m reading Psalm 140– a “choirmaster” Psalm, on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. Like the word nasach, this day has also been called by many names throughout church history. Holy Saturday. Great Saturday. The Great Sabbath. I especially love that one. It signifies the ultimate day of rest, when the Messiah rested from the finished work on the cross.
But on this dreary, gray Saturday, a day when I’m still reeling from my annual viewing of The Passion of the Christ (the most gut-wrenching, horrifying portrayal of the suffering of Jesus that’s ever been put on film), I’m going to call it Silent Saturday.
This is the day after Jesus died on the cross; the day when, contrary to Psalm 140, the Messiah was delivered to evil men, instead of from them. When the “evil things planned in the hearts of violent men” came to fruition.
If the Messiah is the Chief Musician, Good Friday is the day the music died.
But as any musician knows, sometimes the most powerful part of a composition is the rest. When the entire symphony hall is waiting, on the edge of their seats, for the conductor to raise the baton again. To bring the orchestra to a thundering crescendo.
Today, I sit silently, in the dark of the concert hall. Eyes puffy from the emotional weight of the penultimate movement. Waiting for the chorus of ten thousand times ten thousand angel voices.
Waiting for the finale, which comes with the dawn of the morning.