Before David, God had not commanded the use of musical instruments in worship to Him. Five hundred years after Moses received the Law from Mt. Sinai, God commanded King David to use musical instruments when he brought the Ark of the Covenant and all the worship of Moses’ Law into Jerusalem (1 Chr 16). God instructed David to establish worship with “the musical instruments of God” (1 Chr 16:42). Until this point, there was no mention of instruments in tabernacle worship under Moses unto David. In Moses’ Law, God only commanded the use of two silver trumpets for Israel’s call to worship (Num 10:1–2, 9–10). The Old Testament mentions only prophets worshiping with instruments before King David instructed musical instruments for temple worship in Jerusalem.
When Solomon dedicated the Temple, the Levites worshiped with “instruments of the music of the LORD, which King David made to praise the LORD” (2 Chr 7:6). God commanded David to make specific instruments to be used only by the Levites in worship to God (2 Chr 7:6, 29:25–27, cf. 8:14). The instruments were the harp, lute, lyre, cymbal, tambourine, and horn (Psa 150). God commanded these instruments, and no one change these instruments. These were God’s instruments that God commanded David to make. When Israel’s leaders restored worship over three hundred years after David, no one took from the instruments of contemporary culture, but instead King Hezekiah restored only David’s instruments to worship (2 Chr 29:25–27). Then five hundred years after David, the priests returned from captivity and restored David’s instruments to their worship (Ezra 3:9–10; Neh 12:27, 36). They respected God’s command and did not add or take from them (Deut 4:2, 12:32).
If today people seek to worship as David did, should they restore all of God’s commands back to David? What is the biblical example? In doing so, would this also mean that believers should use only David’s instruments in worship? Would this mean that only Levite men can play musical instruments in worship? If believers would restore David’s additions to Moses’ Law, why not the rest of Moses’ Law of worship?
Although many churches point to David for a reason to worship with instruments, they do not apparently use the instruments that God commanded David, but rather they take freedom in choosing instruments by their own discretion from contemporary culture. Why? David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and Jeshua did not choose to use modern and contemporary instruments from common use or from the surrounding nations. Why not use the instruments that God commanded? Many churches are now considering to change from using one instrument like the organ and modernize by using other instruments like drums and guitars. What wisdom and motives would God have His followers use to discern what is right for Christian worship? Would God have told His worshipers what music is true worship?
What did Jesus say about worship? Give attention to Jesus about true worship in John 4 revealing, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father” (John 4:21). Why did Jesus say that worship would no longer be on that Samaritan mountain or in Jerusalem? Jesus taught that worship must now be in spirit and Truth (John 4:23–24). Remember that David established God’s worship in Jerusalem. David established the orders of the Levites with their worship including music with singing and specific musical instruments. Is Christian worship different from David’s worship? Is there a difference between true worship and Jerusalem’s worship?
Listen to Jesus in John 4, who said, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Was Jesus contrasting the worship in Jerusalem from true worship in spirit and truth? Apparently, yes. For those desiring to become true worshipers, closely read John 4:19–24, and seriously consider whether Christians should worship as David established in the Old Testament. Should worship being according to Jesus’s words in the New Testament or according God’s words in the Old Testament?
Jesus distinguished true worship from worship in Jerusalem. The Temple of God changed from physical to the spiritual Temple, the Church (1 Cor 3:16; Eph 2:21). Therefore, the worship also changed from physical to spiritual (1 Pet 2:5). The priesthood of Levites and their physical worship has ceased, who were the only ones commanded to worship with David’s musical instruments (Heb 7:12). Christians are the priests of God’s spiritual Temple, the Church, in which Christians offer spiritual offerings unto God (1 Pet 2:5). With Christ being the offering for sin (Heb 9:22–26), true worshipers offer spiritual sacrifices of good deeds including praise that is the fruit of their lips (Heb 13:15–16). Let the true worshipers make melody in their hearts to the Lord (Eph 5:19).
What music does Jesus command for Christians to remain true worshipers? True worshipers can certainly know that Christ’s music for His church is the most beautiful, spiritual, and pure form of musical praise. What music does Christ’s Spirit command for true worship? True worship includes singing. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15). God commanded verbal music — singing — for worshipful praise and spiritual teaching in the New Testament Scriptures (Matt 26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts 4:24, 16:25; Rom 15:6; 1 Cor 14:15; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Heb 2:12, 13:15; Jas 5:13; Rev 15:3–4). If God wanted Christians to worship Him with singing and musical instruments, would He had specified the music, the instruments, and the singing in the New Testament?
True worship is perfect and better than the obsolete Law of Moses and the Old Testament (Rom 7:1–7; 2 Cor 3:7–18; Gal 3–5; Eph 2:14–22; Heb 8:13). The letter to the Hebrews teaches that the sacrificial worship of the Old Testament was symbolic consisting of “fleshly ordinances” for “that present time […] until the time of reformation” (Heb 9:9–10). Christ has replaced that fleshly worship with a spiritual worship (1 Pet 2:5). The ordinances of worship from Moses and David were shadows without the substance of Christ (Col 2:16-17; Heb 8:4–6, 10:1). The Apostle John interpreted the worship from Moses and David with an altar, sacrifices, incense, and instruments as symbolic of New Testament worship. John described the voices of Christians singing from heaven sounding like many waters, thunders, and many harps (Rev 14:1–3). The Apostle John represented Christian prayers with incense and symbolized Christian singing by harps that they never played (Rev 5:8–14, 15:1–2).
What happened to the Old Testament and its fleshly worship? “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second” (Heb 8:7, 13). Keeping the Law of Moses is cursed. “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse” (Gal 3:10). The Apostle Paul warned against continuing “in all things which are written in the book of the law,” because doing so adds and annuls to God’s new covenant (Gal 3:15). This is true legalism. Moses’s Law was only until Christ (Gal 3:19), because Moses’s Law was weak and impoverished (Gal 4:9–11). “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4).
Let all who seek to become true worshipers consider Christ’s words as written by His Apostles and prophets. The Apostle Paul noted that musical instruments are “lifeless,” which literally means “soulless” in Greek (1 Cor 14:7). Comparing these instruments to unknown tongues, Christ’s Spirit through Paul spoke against teaching, singing, and praying with these unknown languages instead of worshiping with the spirit and the mind to express meaningful words (1 Cor 14:9–15). Likewise, instruments are even more impotent of teaching, praying, and singing meaningful words than unknown languages. See, Christ’s Spirit never commanded the use of musical instruments in true worship to God. Therefore, every Christian is free from man-made worship borrowed from contemporary culture, church traditions, and conflicting opinions.
Let all true worshipers admire and revere their Savior. How would Jesus worship if He was bodily in Christian assemblies? Jesus professed, “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You” (Heb 2:12, cf. Psa 22:22). What was the last thing that Jesus did with all of His disciples before they went to Garden the night of His betrayal? He sang a hymn with them (Matt 26:30, Mark 14:26).
Where is the love of Christ and His true worship? Let all Christians worship in spirit and truth, and leave David’s worship in Jerusalem. Jesus declared, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me” (John 14:21, 23–24). “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed” (1 Cor 16:22).