In our Bible study, we looked at 1 Samuel 16:14-23, a passage that shows us David entering Saul’s service after his anointing by Samuel. Saul at this point is a troubled man; the Spirit of the Lord had left him because of his disobedience and rebellion and he was tormented by an evil spirit. HIs servants recommended music therapy to him, and David was singled out as being someone who was not only musically skilled but was also blessed by God.

The power of music to soothe the spirit and help with both physical and mental illness was known even then, it seems, and modern scientific studies have confirmed these truthsListening to (or making) music increases blood flow to brain regions that generate and control emotions.[1] The limbic system, which is involved in processing emotions and controlling memory, “lights” up when our ears perceive music.[2] The chills you feel when you hear a particularly moving piece of music may be the result of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that triggers sensations of pleasure and well-being. As your brain becomes familiar with a particular song, your body may release dopamine upon hearing just the first few notes of the song. Just as Pavlov’s dogs learned to associate food with a ringing bell – and eventually began drooling at the sound of a bell, even when no food was in sight – our bodies actively anticipate pleasure upon hearing familiar notes. Interestingly, music can affect our mood even if we can’t recognise or replicate the notes and rhythm. Science has documented numerous instances of people who suffered brain injuries and lost their ability to distinguish melodies but retained the ability to recognise the emotion conveyed by music. Researchers noted that these patients had sustained damage to the temporal lobes of the brain, a region involved in comprehending melody; their frontal lobes, which play a role in emotional regulation, were unaffected.

Singing is also recognised as a valuable means not only of enhancing lung capacity but also of improving mental alertness, memory and concentration, as it involves focusing on multiple things at once, engaging many areas of the brain in the process.

David’s musical ability, probably honed whilst he was tending the sheep, was of great benefit to Saul at this time, and we are indebted to it as he was the author of many of the Psalms. We know much about David’s inner life with God from these prayers set to music, and the Psalms continue to inspire songwriters today. One of the most famous (Psalm 23) reflects his experience as a shepherd and his knowledge of God as the ultimate shepherd. Many psalms urge us to sing and make music to God (see Ps 33:1, Ps 13:6, Ps 96:2) Worship of God is at the heart of a life well lived; David is our example in this.


[1] Singing My Dad Back to Me. New York Times.

[2] Jäncke, L. (2008). Music, memory and emotion. Journal Of Biology7(6), 21. doi: 10.1186/jbiol82. Retrieved from