All scripture is God-breathed and is useful. Some characters may not be pronounced but their examples were recorded for a reason: that we may learn from them. Our meditations on the ‘Silent Generals’ in scripture bring us this seventh instalment.
- ASAPH: MUSICIAN, SONGWRITER AND SEER
King Hezekiah and his officials ordered the Levites to praise the LORD with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness and bowed their heads and worshipped – 2 Chronicles 29:30
Asaph was a Levite. Named as one of the leaders of David’s choir, he first appears tucked away in the chronicles of the temple musicians. He, among others, was in charge of the music in the house of the LORD after the ark came to rest there. They were said to have performed their duties according to the regulations laid down for them (1 Chron. 6: 31-39). In the key verse above, he is said to also have been a seer. A seer was a name sometimes applied to the prophets because of the visions granted to them. At least a dozen of the Psalms in scripture are attributed to him: Psalm 50 and Psalms 73 – 83.
One of the blessings that God places on songs is that he makes some of them almost eternal. Asaph was a prophet (1 Chron. 25:2) but we do not have his prophecies recorded in scripture; his songs however are. You hardly come across the messages preached during revivals of old, but the songs and hymns composed and written then (centuries ago) still minister to us today like they were written yesterday.
Asaph didn’t die with his gifts. Besides recording songs for our worship of God even today, he raised men who took after him and outlived him. In 1 Chronicles 25:1, “David … set apart some of the sons of Asaph … for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals”. In 2 Chronicles 20:14, it is recorded that, “Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.” Five generations later, a spirit-filled man was still traced back to Asaph. When the exiles returned in the book of Ezra, there were singers among them whom exile didn’t erase: “The singers: the descendants of Asaph 128” (Ezra 2:14). O what a lineage! Whether they were blood descendants or poets who recognized him as their master is the same thing. He inspired generations of musicians. For many people, the main reason why they identify as Christians is because the faith was passed down to them by their parents, as it should be. David said “One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts” (Ps. 145:4). That’s what Asaph did. God speaking of Abraham said, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Gen. 18:19). God expects that the faith of parents will be passed down to their children and create a lineage of people who keep the way of the Lord. Asaph did that biologically and spiritually. It must have taken deep spiritual devotion to come up with the Psalms he wrote. Is there a higher way to write than to do so and have your words recorded as part of the canon of scripture, blessing countless generations and people endlessly?
What about you, contemporary musician? Do you have deep devotions from which songs can spring forth and bless many? When God wants to speak to his people, can he find your voice as the channel to prophesy (declare, tell forth) his message? Asaph was submissive to the authority of David even though he was a musician in his own right. You, you have released one album that not everyone in your city has heard of and then you have outgrown the choir; you only sing special numbers so that no one will obscure you. There are many popular secular musicians today who started out in church choirs. Why did they leave the church and go to sing for the world? Maybe if there was an ‘Asaph’ in their lives, they would be declaring the praises of the one who died to save them. As you are growing in the music ministry, how many ‘descendants’ or ‘sons’ are you raising? That’s the challenge that Asaph left. He lived out his calling and raised several generations that were traceable to him. Don’t die with your gifts. Record them, pass them on. That’s how to leave a legacy.
- LOIS AND EUNICE: TIMOTHY’S GRANDMOTHER AND MOTHER
I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also – 2 Tim. 1:5
Timothy was a young disciple who accompanied Paul on many of his journeys. Little is known about his father, other than that he was a Greek. In Lystra where he lived, Timothy was well spoken of (Acts 16:1). Later, Paul mentions his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice; he says the sincere faith that was in Timothy first lived in Lois and in Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5). When Paul wrote his second epistle to Timothy, who by now was a minister in his own right, he said, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you have learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:14-15). There is much that Timothy must have learned from Paul as he worked with him: “You however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings” (2 Tim. 3:10-11a). But the fact that he knew the Holy Scriptures from infancy must have come from his mothers, Lois and Eunice. Whatever Paul found in Timothy that was useful to his work was in large part due to the sincere faith passed down to him from his grandmother and mother.
Mothers have a vital role to play in raising godly offspring and Lois and Eunice show the way. We don’t know what Timothy’s father believed, but we know his faith was passed down to him across two generations of mothers. They didn’t wait for him to grow before they began their tutelage; Paul said he knew the Holy Scriptures from infancy.
I am reminded of another woman, who though not in scripture, played a huge role in the godly upbringing of her many children: Susanna Wesley. She was married to Samuel Wesley and was the mother of John and Charles Wesley. Susanna and Samuel Wesley had 19 children. Nine of her children died as infants. Four of the children who died were twins. A maid accidentally smothered one child. At her death, only eight of her children were still alive. Susanna experienced many hardships throughout her life. Her husband left her and the children for over a year because of a minor dispute. A biographer said of her:
“…although she never preached a sermon or published a book or founded a church, (she) is known as the Mother of Methodism. Why? Because two of her sons, John Wesley and Charles Wesley, as children consciously or unconsciously will, applied the example and teachings and circumstances of their home life.”
During a time when her husband was in London, defending a friend against charges of heresy, he had appointed a locum to bring the message. The man’s sermons revolved solely around repaying debts. The lack of diverse spiritual teaching caused Susanna to assemble her children every Sunday afternoon for family services. They would sing a psalm and then Susanna would read a sermon from either her husband’s or father’s sermon file followed by another psalm. The local people began to ask if they could attend. At one point there were over 200 people who would attend Susanna’s Sunday afternoon service while the Sunday morning service dwindled to nearly nothing.
Susanna’s household organizational skills are the stuff of legend. She knew from personal experience that quality one-on-one time with a parent is hard to come by in a family with many children, yet powerfully important. So she set a rotating schedule through which each of her children spent an hour with her alone before bedtime on a designated night each week.
Early in her life, she vowed that she would never spend more time in leisure entertainment than she did in prayer and Bible study. Even amid the most complex and busy years of her life as a mother, she still scheduled two hours each day for fellowship with God and time in His Word, and she adhered to that schedule faithfully. The challenge was finding a place of privacy in a house filled to overflowing with children.
Mother Wesley’s solution to this was to bring her Bible to her favorite chair and throw her long apron up over her head, forming a sort of tent. This became something akin to the “tent of meeting,” the tabernacle in the days of Moses in the Old Testament. Every person in the household, from the smallest toddler to the oldest domestic helpers, knew well to respect this signal. When Susanna was under the apron, she was with God and was not to be disturbed except in the case of the direst emergency. There in the privacy of her little tent, she interceded for her husband and children and plumbed the deep mysteries of God in the Scriptures. This holy discipline equipped her with a thorough and profound knowledge of the Bible.
We have dug a little into Mother Wesley’s life to see what it takes to raise those kinds of children. We do not have details of what Lois and Eunice did but Susanna’s life is a good example of the discipline and devotion that come with the task of raising godly offspring.
What about you? Are you a mother (or even a father)? How are you raising your children? What devotional examples are you setting for them? What legacy will you bequeath to them? The church
still needs ‘Timothys’ today. Will you raise one for us?
- GAIUS: CHURCH-WIDE HOSPITALITY
Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings – Romans 16:23
Gaius was a Macedonian and one of Paul’s co-travellers. He was baptized by Paul (1 Cor. 1:14). There was a heathen uproar against the ministry of Paul in the city Of Ephesus, instigated by Demetrius, a silversmith and follower of the goddess, Artemis. He felt the conversions resulting from Paul’s preaching were robbing him of business. Because they could not find Paul, the mob seized Gaius and Aristarchus; Paul’s traveling companions (Acts 19:23-31).
In the verse above, Paul, in conveying his greetings, reveals what else Gaius was renowned for in the church: hospitality. He said not only him but the whole church enjoyed the hospitality of this brother. In a community like the church, people are known for different things, some positive, others not. For Gaius, it was his kindness that marked him out. Whereas there were people like Ananias and Sapphira, there was also Gaius.
As Christians, we are urged to be hospitable. Paul said in Romans 12:13: “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” This is not a call to one off acts of kindness; it is to be a practice. For the whole church to have benefitted from the kindness of Gaius, it must have been a practice in his life. The grace to give is also a spiritual gift. Romans 12:8 says about this gift: “if it is giving, then give generously.”
What about you? What will you be known or are already known for? For Gaius, the whole church enjoyed his hospitality; what does your church enjoy from you? Is giving not the gift you have received from the Spirit? Instead of fighting over public gifts like prophesy, why not give generously? And it doesn’t have to be a gift before you practice it. The gifted ones will obviously be more about it, but each believer is supposed to practice hospitality. It was in doing so that some entertained angels without knowing it (Heb. 13:2).