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 does mention 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 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, King Hezekiah restored only David’s instruments to worship (2 Chr 29:25–27). No one took from the instruments of contemporary culture. Then five hundred years after David, 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 from 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
Many churches point to David for a reason to worship with instruments, but they do not apparently use the instruments that God commanded David, but they take freedom in choosing instruments by their own discretion from contemporary culture. Why? David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and Jeshua did not choose to use instruments from contemporary use or from the surrounding peoples. Why not use the instruments that God commanded? Many churches are now changing from using one instrument like the organ and to using other more contemporary 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 for true worship?
David’s Worship and True Worship
What did Jesus say about worship? Christ 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 Samarian mountain or in Jerusalem? David brought the temple worship to Jerusalem. However, Jesus taught that worship must now remain in spirit and Truth (John 4:23–24). Why is true worship different from David’s worship in Jerusalem?
Jesus and True Worship
In John 4, Christ taught, “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 the material temple to the spiritual temple, which is the church (1 Cor 3:16; Eph 2:21). Likewise, the worship 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 by singing with musical instruments, would He have 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 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 keeping 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 certainly 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? These were physical and carnal as the Scriptures reveal when God gave commands while they had 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).
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 the original Greek text (1 Cor 14:7). Comparing these instruments to unknown tongues, Paul spoke against teaching, singing, and praying with unknown languages instead of worshiping with the spirit and the mind and expressing meaningful words (1 Cor 14:9–15). Likewise, instruments are impotent of teaching, praying, and singing meaningful words. God’s Spirit never commanded the use of musical instruments in true worship. Therefore, every Christian is free from man-made worship borrowed from contemporary culture, manmade traditions, and conflicting opinions.
Follow Christ in True Worship
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). Christians must follow the example of Christ.
Where is the love of Christ for 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.
One of the scriptures used to not use instruments is Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. When you study the scripture you will find Strong’s concordance definition of psalms:
ψαλμός psalmós, psal-mos’; from G5567; a set piece of music, i.e. a sacred ode (accompanied with the voice, harp or other instrument; a “psalm”); collectively, the book of the Psalms:—psalm. Compare G5603.
STRONGS NT 5568: ψαλμός
ψαλμός, ψαλμοῦ, ὁ (ψάλλω), a striking, twanging ((Euripides, others)); specifically, a striking the chords of a musical instrument ((Pindar, Aeschylus, others)); hence, a pious song, a psalm (the Sept. chiefly for מִזְמור), Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; the phrase ἔχειν ψαλμόν is used of one who has it in his heart to sing or recite a song of the sort, 1 Corinthians 14:26 (cf. Heinrici at the passage, and Lightfoot on Col. as above); one of the songs of the book of the O. T. which is entitled ψαλμοί, Acts 13:33; plural the (book of) Psalms Luke 24:44; βίβλος ψαλμῶν, Luke 20:42; Acts 1:20. (Synonym: see ὕμνος, at the end.)
Thank you for challenging any teaching that may appear to teach too far. Please, let me challenge you in return. I hope that you will study psallo further. Strong’s lexicon is very useful, but not academically complete. Dr. Everett Ferguson published a book on his study of the use of psallo word in the Bible. It is not hard to find on Amazon.
A word-study of people reveals the word’s meaning to make melody with only singing, only instruments, or both together.
This is from my study article that helps balance one’s understanding of the word of psallo:
“The New Testament defines psallo as singing. Romans 15:6–9 described psallo by glorifying God with one mouth. This is how Christians worship by psalm. First Corinthians 14:15 teaches that psallo is to make melody with understandable words (1 Cor 14:9–15). Ephesians 5:19 instructs all Christians how to psallo by speaking to one another. In the New Testament, the word psallo does not infer to musical instruments any more than the English reference to ‘making melody’ implies instruments. The New Testament teaches only singing for good reasons. The words are what are important. Understandable words make the worship. The fruit of the lips make praise (Heb 13:15), and Christians can no more change the fruit of our lips in praise as they can change the fruit of the grapevine in the Lord’s Supper (Matt 26:29).”
See the article here: https://Godsbreath.net/2011/12/12/psallo-church-music/
IS GOD ANGRY WITH CHURCHES WORSHIPPING WITH MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS. OR ARE CHURCHES WORSHIPPING WITH MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS GOING TO HELL?
No scripture explicitly demonstrates God’s anger or God condemning anyone to Hell for worshipping with any such addition to singing with words. However, some were weak, ill, and dead for profaning the body and blood of Jesus in the breaking of the bread (1 Cor 11:27–32). When any worship becomes about people, their agendas, and amusement and profanes God, then there is spiritual death.
God is displeased with those who add or take from His words. The Scriptures warn of adding to God’s Word (Gal 3:15; 2 John 9). The unfaithful are already condemned and those who continue to do sin will not inherit the kingdom of God. Ultimately, this is God’s judgment.
I see God responding to such churches as Paul responded to the church at Corinth for using tongues in a way that did not edify and not singing and praying in understandable words. These actions demonstrate immaturity. The further results of such thinking include a disregard for principles of God’s Word and people may kindle their own fire. Condemnation is subsequent of manmade worship.
God made the assembly for Christians not Christians for the assembly.
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.
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.
Quote: “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.”
Jacob cursed the Levites (Genesis 49) and commanded people not to enter into their covenant nor to attend their assemblies. They were later commanded to STAND IN RANKS under the military making noise warning any one not of the rare duty priests not to be near or be executed.
When Israel rose up to play meaning with loud instruments they were continuing the worship of Moloch where infants instead of goats. experienced the HOLOCAUST. God turned the people over to worship the STARRY HOST (Acts 7) and sentenced them to Babylon for captivity and death.
When the elders demanded a king God washed His hands of the nation. They went on to establish animal sacrifices as well as infants (Isaiah 1; Jeremiah) proving that God commanded nothing of the monarchy.
From the wilderness onward the godly people RESTED on the Sabbath to READ the Word while vocal or instrumental rejoicing was outlawed (Numbers 7). The Godly Jews were quarantined to their local areas and no one went to Jerusalem for Congregational worship with instruments. Instruments always silence God and are associated with BURNING. Sabbath and Baptismos point to SCHOOL where apt elders are limited to teaching that which has been taught.
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
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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.
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.
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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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