The book of Psalms is the only collection of songs that God has inspired. It therefore has divine authority that we must heed in understanding what God wants us to do in our music. Those who would be disciples in their music must pay attention especially to the commands that God gives concerning the music of His people. In that respect, Psalm 33 is an especially important passage for understanding God’s mind about music because it records multiple commands and explains the basis for them.
Psalm 33:1-5 presents five commands from God concerning our music. The righteous are to “rejoice in the LORD” because praise is fitting for the upright (33:1). Those who would fulfill all their obligations to God and man must continually delight themselves in God in their music because He deserves such praise because of all that He has done, especially for them (cf. 33:18-22), and because such activity befits those who are upright before Him.
The righteous must also praise Him and sing to Him with various string instruments (33:2). Both of these commands make clear that God wants us to use string instruments in our worshiping Him.
Moreover, we are to sing to Him a “new song” (33:3a), which is a mandate for freshness of quality in the music that we sing to Him: “Praise should be spontaneous and fresh—new mercies demand new songs” (BKC: OT, 819). Repeated commands and statements about such songs (Ps. 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isa. 42:10; Rev. 5:9; 14:3) show that this is a vital element of godly music.
These four commands teach that God calls for joyfully worshiping Him with quality music that consists of the singing of words accompanied by string instruments. Repeated references to the LORD (“in the LORD” [33:1a]; “the LORD” [33:2a]; “unto Him” [33:2b; 3a]) emphasize that He is to be the object of such worship.
Finally, we must “play skillfully with a loud noise” (33:3b). This command conveys God’s mandate that believers be skillful in playing stringed instruments, which calls for diligent preparation for such worship of God. It also mandates playing energetically so that the instruments will produce “a loud noise.” To meet this demand, we must worship God with all our might (cf. 2 Sam. 6:14; Eccl 9:10) and do the best we can in playing skillfully.
This command receives considerable expansion in the passage, with the next two verses serving as the explanation of the basis for the command (33:4-5). Four statements comprise the basis for the mandate to worship God skillfully with instrumental music:
- “The word of the LORD is right”
- “All His works are done in truth”
- “He loves righteousness and judgment”
- “The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD”
These statements highlight the perfections of His word and His works. They also set forth His excellent character, especially as it is bountifully manifested in the earth.
Alternatively, this teaching (33:4-5) may be the basis not just for this command, but also for all the preceding commands as well. Either way, the great elaboration of the basis for His authoritative direction concerning our music shows that we must excel in our music because He demands that it be in keeping with the excellence of His word, His works, and His person!
Based on this teaching, believers must continually be involved in activities to become skillful at playing string instruments for the glory of God. Renewing our minds with these truths, our homes, churches, and schools should provide suitable opportunities for the continual discipling of top-notch Christian musicians by those who are already highly skillful and dedicated Christian musicians.
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