The tormented and the tunes

1 Samuel 16:12-23 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” (13) Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.

(14) Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the LORD tormented him. (15) And Saul’s servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. (16) Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” (17) So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me a man who can play well and bring him to me.” (18) One of the young men answered, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the LORD is with him.”

(19) Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me David your son, who is with the sheep.” (20) And Jesse took a donkey laden with bread and a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them by David his son to Saul. (21) And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. (22) And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight.” (23) And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.

The spiritual and the physical are related in ways which are not easy to sort out. Damage the brain and you will see someone’s spirit affected; their will, their demeanor, their abilities. But it also appears that willful choices from our spirit, what we choose to think and do, change the physical composition of the brain. We are physical and spiritual.

For Saul, his rationalizing subtle rebellion against God left him unprepared for the sudden departure of the Spirit of the LORD. When it happened, he was more than empty. A different spirit came and tormented him. Why did his servants think to get a musician? What does that have to do with mental/spiritual torment?

Harvard Gazette: Your inner ear contains a spiral sheet that the sounds of music pluck like a guitar string. This plucking triggers the firing of brain cells that make up the hearing parts of your brain. At the highest station, the auditory cortex, just above your ears, these firing cells generate the conscious experience of music. Different patterns of firing excite other ensembles of cells, and these associate the sound of music with feelings, thoughts, and past experiences.

That’s a sketch of how the brain listens to music — just a short ditty to outline the complex symphony of activity that governs our perception of everything from Bach to U2. It’s also a lot more than was known until recently.

Well, the i-pod may in fact be a good coping mechanism. But, like Saul, it only provides episodic relief. David, though he obviously treasures music as well, goes deeper in his quest to deal with depression and torment:

Psalms 13:1-6 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (2) How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (3) Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, (4) lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. (5) But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. (6) I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Confess our need and ask of God with trust. God help us.

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