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

David's Instruments and Contemporary Worship

What do David’s instruments reveal about worship today? Do David’s instruments have a place in true worship?

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’s Law into Jerusalem (1 Chr 16). God instructed David to establish worship with “the musical instruments of God” (1 Chr 16:42 ESV). Until this point, there was no mention of instruments in tabernacle worship under Moses unto David. In Moses’s 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.

Instruments of David

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 for use 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 (Ps 150). God commanded these instruments, and no one changed 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 precept and precedent? Would this mean that only Levite men can play musical instruments in worship? If believers would restore David’s instruments for Moses’s Law, why not the rest of Moses’s Law of worship?

Changing David’s Instruments

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 they took 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 contemporary use or from the surrounding peoples. 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?

David’s Worship and True Worship

What did Jesus say about worship? Jesus revealed true worship in John 4 as he expressed, “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 remain in spirit and Truth (John 4:23–24). David established God’s worship in Jerusalem. He set the orders of the Levites with their worship including music with singing and specific musical instruments. Why is true worship different from David’s worship in Jerusalem?

Jesus and True Worship

In John 4, Jesus revealed, “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? Yes, this is apparent. For those desiring to become true worshipers, John 4:19–24 includes that Christians should worship in spirit and truth apart from how David worshiped in the Old Testament. Should worship conform to Jesus’s words for New Testament worship 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). Likewise, the worship also changed from physical to spiritual (1 Pet 2:5). The priesthood of Levites and their physical worship ceased. They 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 true worshipers offer spiritual offerings unto God (1 Pet 2:5). With Christ as the atoning offering for sin (Heb 9:22–26), Christians offer spiritual sacrifices of good deeds including praise that is the fruit of their lips (Heb 13:15–16). The true worshipers make melody in their hearts to the Lord (Eph 5:19).

Music in True Worship

What music did Jesus command for Christians as 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. True worship consists of 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 that the music included instruments?

Shadows of True Worship

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 for 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 includes the curse: “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 to keep the carnal law. Moses’s Law was only until Christ, because Moses’s Law was weak and impoverished (Gal 3:19; 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). Why did God allow instruments in the Old Testament? This was probably for the hardness of hearts (cf. Matt 19:1–9). 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).

Lifeless Instruments

All those 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 “without soul” or “soulless” in Greek (1 Cor 14:7). Comparing these instruments to unknown tongues, 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. 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.

Follow Christ in True Worship

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. Ps 22:22). What was the last thing that Jesus did with all of His disciples before they went to the garden the night of His betrayal? Jesus sang a hymn with his disciples (Matt 26:30, Mark 14:26).

Where is the love of Christ and His true worship? All Christians seek to worship in spirit and truth, and for this reason, they should leave the instruments of 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; cf. 1 Cor 16:22). For these reasons, the churches of Christ emphasize congregational singing and do not sing with musical instruments.

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]
This entry was posted in Christian, churches of Christ and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Do David’s Instruments Have a Place in Worship Today?

  1. Dr. Willie J. Pettiway, Pastor of the Lighthouse Tabernacle Ministries says:

    I like to hear other opinions like yours, that does mean it is right but it gives us something to converse and think upon. All forms of instruments can be used in the service of God. The instrument will only play what the musician plays. The instrument does not have a heart (mind). A person does. God will only hold the person responsible. If the person or worshiper of God is holy before God, Godly music will be played or produced. This is the same for singers, preachers and the congregation. We are to consecrate ourselves unto God. It is very important that we follow the lead as presented to us in the entire Holy Bible, the New and Old Testaments. Many have tried to do away with the old testament but without it we would not know how we such come before God in the Temple or during congregational worship. King David commanded 4,000 worshipers to play instruments before God on each Sabbath and I must assume every known instrument of his time was used. Today the musical instruments may look different but they still make the same sounds. Personally according to my biblical study it is okay to use them in worship. We dedicate the instruments to be used in the worship of God and that makes them holy but what is of greater importance, it is the heart of the person playing the instrument that must be holy before God. Then and only then will the music played on the instrument be holy and acceptable to God.


    • Dr. Pettiway,

      I appreciate your kind and sincere approach. I do find that God did not allow every contemporary instrument in the OT but only David’s instruments. You are right that there is much that we can learn from David’s worship. For now, Jesus instructs true worship that contrasts worship in Jerusalem (John 4:21–24).

      I think you are right that this is a matter of the heart. My concern is for the congregation and the musician seeking the sound of the instrument as equal to God’s Word for making melody in the heart and singing to one another. I find that God must dedicate the most spiritual music that is best for us.



  2. Pingback: Instrumental music in the praises of God | UNDERSTAND YOUR BIBLE

  3. Hightone says:

    Keep on doing that Mr Scott. in so doing the God’s word is planted in our hearts. There’s nothing to ask you plainly explain how things are. The one with the ears must here. It is very difficult to know the secret if you are not in His house as the bible says. Ephesians 3:9-10. Let us try to be in His house so that we can refrain the flames of fire coming for those who are outside. John 15:6

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hightone says:

    Hello Mr Scott, even a deaf can hear and understand the way you are proclaiming. I just want to say
    keep it up so that we might be fed with the word of God.


  5. Pingback: Why Do the Churches of Christ Not Use Musical Instruments? | Seeing God's Breath

  6. John Dunigan says:

    Thank you Mr. Shifferd for this wonderful article. I have long thought the argument about David’s Instruments was the strongest argument against using instruments in New Testament Worship. But there is scarce information in our brotherhood regarding it. If I may add my take on it also.
    In the history of the Jewish synagogues they have always been non-instrumental. At least until modern times, but still the vast majority of the synagogues are still acappella. I believe when Ezra and Nehemiah rebuilt the Temple the reason they had to search for the Instruments of David was the fact that they were the only instruments that God had authorized in worship. Nothing else was even considered. To use pagan instruments in God’s worship would have been sinful to them.
    Their reasoning was the same logic we use today. God did not authorize it, therefore we do not do it. We get ridiculed for this logic today, but that is the same reasoning of those that rebuilt the temple after the Babylonian captivity.
    Also since the new covenant was introduced the temple of God is now us. God dwells in us now rather than in a temple made by human hands. (1 Cor. 3:16) And the only instrument inside us is our voice. (maybe if we swallow a flute, that might count. but I do not desire to test that theory.)
    I look forward to reading your other articles.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: A Church’s “Letter from the Shepherds” Proposing Instrumental Music | Seeing God's Breath

  8. 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.


      Liked by 1 person

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