Don’t forget your tambourine

Saturday evening, Feb 6, I attended the Union College Music Festival Concert. This concert pulled together chorale groups from Academies around the mid-west to join with the Unionaires in a celebration of joy and praise to our loving God. I don’t think there’s anything that can lift me into the presence of the divine like good music–not good preaching, not good praying, not even good reading.  It was truly a wonderful experience.

Friday evening, Feb. 5, I attended a play, The Prince of Egypt, put on by Union College students. During the Festival Concert, I got to thinking about Moses standing on the bank of the Red Sea singing praises to God for His marvelous deliverance. After the concert I read again that account in Exodus 15. Here is a text that caught my eye:

“And Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her with tambourines . . .” Ex 15:20 (NIV)

Reading between the lines: The Israelites had been strangers in a strange land for 400 years, and during a portion of that time, they had been slaves. The fact that the Israelite women made sure when they left Egypt–in a rush too since they were being pushed to get out–that they didn’t forget their tambourines, indicates to me the importance of music during their homelessness and slavery. We know about the importance of music to the African slaves in America. We know little about the Israelite music in Egypt, but I suspect that their music was also a beacon of hope in the darkness of their despair. When they left, the ladies did not forget their tambourines; thus, the lesson that I get from Ex 15:20:

No matter where you journey in life, no matter how rushed you are, no matter what sea you have to cross, no matter what enemy is closing in behind you, no matter what wilderness you need to trek through to get to your promised land, don’t forget your tambourine.  

-Bruce McClay, Union College Librarian