Moses & the 40-Year Band Rehearsal


One divine melody permeates the grand narrative of redemptive history.  In The Father’s Song series, Jeremy guides us through the biblical narrative–from Genesis to Revelation–with “ears to hear” the penetrating God-beat keeping everything in sync. This excerpt is called describes the 40-year stubbornness of Moses and Israel in the desert.

I spent several years substitute teaching in the public schools to pay my way through seminary. Substitute teaching is not for the faint of heart. In order to survive, you must have thick skin, the patience of a saint and the ability to give the impression that you’re in control when you have absolutely none!

Some subs choose their classes carefully, avoiding certain subjects and grade levels that will prove more difficult than others. For example, library monitor or 10th grade history are two safe choices: the first you just read a book and occasionally remind the children to “use inside voices”; the second you usually pop in a History Channel video and hit play. Other subs live a bit more on the wild side. Perhaps the boldest of them all is the 6th grade band sub with no band experience…

I remember well the day I walked into the band room expecting to show”The Music Man” or something and instead found a conductor’s baton and detailed instructions on which musical pieces to lead the class through! The rest of the day is a blur.

If I could describe the scene you would see and hear 30 wild 12-year olds each trying to out “blast” their neighbor. Crazy Carl on the gong, Wild Willy on the cymbals, Sassy Sue and her crew on the ear-piercing flutes, Big Bobby on the Baritone and Terrible Tom on the tuba making the floor shake with his deep blasts. Warm up was literally the sound of 30 different instruments playing 30 different songs or scales at the same time. When it came time to rehearse, there was poor me, alone in the front, waving my baton around like a man on the verge of meltdown, desperately trying to get everybody playing together the same tune.

mirandabandpractice1-06In the previous “Father’s Song” post, the Great Composer led his people to Mount Sinai where He graciously wrote down his divine masterpiece — the Torah — and delivered it into the hands of His chosen conductor, Moses. For the next 40 years Moses will stand at the head God’s chosen people with his baton (or staff) in hand, trying his best to get God’s chosen people, or instruments (who often display the spiritual maturity of 6th graders!), to play together the “Father’s Song.” Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy give us a detailed account of this chaotic, ear-piercing 40-year long band rehearsal.

This image of a frustrated band conductor waving his baton hopelessly in front of a stubborn or “stiff-necked people” (Deut. 9:13) does not end with Moses, however.  The noisy rehearsal continues under the leadership of Joshua and the various judges of Israel. The Book of Judges introduces readers to a series of conductors — Deborah, Gideon, fullJephthah and the others — who all attempt to get God’s disgruntled classroom under control and with no avail.  Or, to get more detailed:

“As the book unfolds, readers encounter shocking accounts of violence, sexual abuse, idolatry, and misuse of power. Before the book is over, gruesome scenes of bodily mutilation and dismemberment are disclosed” (D. Howard, Introduction to Judges in ESV Study Bible).

What is a poor substitute band teacher to do in such a situation? What sort of note does he leave on the desk for the returning teacher? What one sentence summary aptly describes the overall classroom behavior? The Book of Judges provides one:

“At that time there was no teacher in the classroom.
Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
(Judges 21:25 My paraphrase!)

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