Do David’s Instruments Have a Place in True Worship?

Before David, God had not commanded musical instruments to be used 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 Chron. 16).  David was instructed to establish worship with “the musical instruments of God” (1 Chron. 16:42).  Until this point, there was no mention of instruments in tabernacle worship under Moses unto David.Jason Cullum  In Moses’ Law, God only commanded the use of 2 silver trumpets for Israel’s call to worship (Num. 10:1-2, 9-10).  Only prophets are mentioned to have worshiped with instruments before King David instructed musical instruments for 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 Chron. 7:6).  God commanded David to make specific instruments to be used only by the Levites in worship to God (2 Chron. 7:6, 29:25-27, cf. 8:14).  The instruments were the harp, lute, lyre, cymbal, tambourine, and horn (Psa. 150).  No one could change these instruments.  These were God’s instruments that God commanded David to make.  When worship was restored over 300 years after David, no one took from the instruments of contemporary culture, but instead King Hezekiah restored only David’s instruments to worship (2 Chron. 29:25-27).  Then 500 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?  In doing so, would this also mean that only David’s instruments should be used in worship?  Would this not mean that only Levite men can play musical instruments in worship?  If David’s additions to Moses’ Law were restored, 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 according to 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 stating, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father” (John 4:21).  Where did Jesus say that worship would not be?  Worship would no longer be in Samaria and no more in Jerusalem.  Who instituted worship in Jerusalem?  David did.  What did David institute?  David instituted 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 be true worshipers, closely read John 4:19-24, and seriously consider whether Christians should worship as David instituted.

What music does Jesus command for Christians to be true worshipers?  If God wanted Christians to worship Him with singing and musical instruments, then God would have told them.  God would have specified the music, the instruments, and the singing.
True worshipers can be certain that Christ’s music for His Church is the most beautiful, spiritual, and pure form of musical praise.  Although, true worship in spirit and truth does not include Jerusalem’s worship and David’s instruments anymore.  Music for true worship is not intended for show before others, but to be sincere in spirit and according to the truth of God’s Word rather than contemporary (Matt. 6:1-7, 16-18).  What music does Christ’s Spirit command for true worship?  True worship does include 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).  Understandable verbal singing is the only music commanded for worshipful praise and spiritual teaching in the New Testament Scriptures (Matt. 26:30, Mark 14:26, Acts 4:24, 16:25, 1 Cor. 14:15, Rom. 15:6, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, Heb. 2:12, 13:15, Jas. 5:13, Rev. 15:3-4).

Jesus distinguished true worship from worship in Jerusalem. The Temple of God changed from physical to the spiritual Temple, the Church (Eph. 2:21, 1 Cor. 3:16).  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 true worshipers make melody in their hearts to the Lord (Eph. 5:19).

True worship is perfect and better than the obsolete Law of Moses and the Old Testament (Heb. 8:13, 2 Cor. 3:7-18, Gal. 3-5, Rom. 7:1-7, Eph. 2:14-22, etc.).  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).  That fleshly worship has been replaced with a spiritual worship (1 Pet. 2:5).  The ordinances of worship from Moses and David were shadows and without the substance of Christ (Col. 2:16-17, Heb. 8:4-6, 10:1).  The worship from Moses and David of incense, the altar, sacrifices, and instruments are interpreted by the Apostle John to be symbolic of New Testament worship.  The voices of Christians singing from heaven sounded like many waters, thunders, and many harps (Rev. 14:1-3).  See, the Apostle John interpreted incense to represent prayer, and he referred to harps that were never played while instead John wrote of Christians singing meaningful words of praise to God (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, cf. v13).  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 would be true legalism.  Moses’ Law was only to be until Christ (Gal. 3:19), because Moses’ 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.”

Let all who seek to be 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 in Greek “soulless” (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 rather than worshiping with the spirit and the mind expressing 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 never commanded through His Spirit the use of musical instruments in true worship to God.  Therefore, every Christian is free from binding worship to 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 said, “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 said, “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).


About Scott Shifferd Jr.

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]
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2 Responses to Do David’s Instruments Have a Place in True Worship?

  1. Marc says:

    The Wahhabi movement is also very opposed to musical instruments in worship (or any other venue). By the way, the rapidly growing (and global) Pentecostal movement seems quite happy with the use of different musical instruments. Different strokes for different folks, I guess. Churches should be free in using whatever musical instruments they choose (or none at all). This does not make churches that choose to use a variety of instruments to be unbiblical. Too bad the Churches of Christ have so much fear of art, creativity and beauty. By the way, the English language was not originally used in New Testament worship. Neither were suits and ties. I hope Minister Shifferd supports the use of Aramaic at church as well as the use of sandals and robes by the congregation (it certainly would be more appropriate for the Florida summer). Some are selective about their purity.


    • I hope you reconsider.

      We are certainly not against art or musical instruments in our recreation. We do not favor them as talents or give anyone preeminence in the Assembly.

      You very much misunderstand that the lack of mention or silence does not mean that we cannot use something. Christ’s music is about using new wine rather wineskins. Read the article. You are not addressing the points of the article. God gave specifics about music. Singing is Christ’s music for the Church. Likewise, we do not add to how God wants worship in the Assembly. Note the Lord’s Supper should not be altered.

      You have the freedom to choose, but that does mean that God approves of you overlooking His Word and grace.



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