Here’s an interesting item that came up when reading through Chronicles. In the midst of genealogies, lists of temple workers, and so on, there are some casual statements about prophecy. They reveal some things about this gift that aren’t often thought of in the Old Testament context.
Three men are listed as serving in the music department with their children:
David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was: Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah, sons of Asaph, under the direction of Asaph, who prophesied under the direction of the king. Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the LORD.
Of Heman, the sons of Heman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, and Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, Mahazioth. All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer, according to the promise of God to exalt him, for God had given Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the order of the king.
1 Chronicles 25:1-3,4-6
Notice how these musicians are described as prophesying in their music. This is given without explanation, but one thing that is known is that some of these are related to Psalms. Asaph wrote Psalms 50, and 73-83. Jeduthun is mentioned with regard to Psalms 39, 62, and 77. And Heman may be the one mentioned in Psalm 88. This may have involved writing them, but it seems may also have included some other involvement.
Nonetheless, the mention of them in these passages doesn’t necessarily lead to composing songs, although that could be included. The comments are more vague than that, and seem to include playing the instruments themselves.
Taken together, these paint a more extensive and subtle picture of prophecy than just telling the future. This picture supports the description of prophecy being the act of speaking forth something from the Lord, and this speaking forth may take many forms.
Now, this was in the Old Testament, but given that prophecy is to be a characteristic of believers in the New Testament church, what can we learn? It seems that prophecy may have a special place in worship, although when was the last time you heard those two things associated (even though here they are in Scripture)? It may also be that we need to consider that prophecy may take various forms, if we allow it outside worship. And of course, we probably need to stop thinking of prophecy as simply telling the future, and think of it as speaking forth what we have been told by the Lord.
This raises a lot of questions, and it should, but these are questions we should be tackling in the context of church, in my opinion.