Archives For Interpretation

Is the use of musical instruments in worship important? Several biblical lines of reasoning provide an answer to this crucial question.

Jewish Use of Musical Instruments in True Worship

Numerous passages of varying types reveal that the use of musical instruments in true worship of the Jews was divinely ordained (Ps. 33:1-3) and divinely accepted (2 Chron. 5:11-14). Such passages make clear that it was essential for God’s people to use musical instruments in worshiping Him.

Pagan Use of Musical Instruments in False Worship

Daniel 3 records a momentous instance of false worship that featured extensive use of musical instruments. In fact, no other passage of Scripture emphasizes the use of musical instruments in worship in quite the same manner as Daniel 3 does.

King Nebuchadnezzar forced people from all the nations that were under his dominion to respond to music as an impetus to false worship of the image that he had erected. No other passage of Scripture documents such an international occasion of false worship that employed what almost certainly was a vast number of musicians playing a vast number of musical instruments.

For reasons that we cannot know, King Nebuchadnezzar deemed it fitting that musical instruments be extensively used for his image to receive the worship that he desired for it to receive on this occasion. Scripture thus reveals to us that the paramount instance of false worship in human history to date involved the use of musical instruments on an unparalleled level in international affairs in human history.

The Divine Mandate for Worldwide Use of Musical Instruments in True Worship

Scripture reveals that God has commanded all peoples of the earth to worship Him using musical instruments:

Psa 98:4 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

 5 Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.

 6 With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King.

Note that these commands were not given only to the Jews nor were these commands an aspect of any of the covenants that God made specifically with them. These commands were not a part of the Law.

All the earth has never obeyed these commands of God. Scripture provides no basis for holding that these commands are no longer the will of God.

Heavenly Use of Musical Instruments in True Worship

Several passages in Revelation teach us that heavenly worship features the use of musical instruments as a prominent aspect of such worship (Rev. 5:8-14; 14:2-3; 15:2-4). We can be certain that such use of musical instruments was not in any way of human origin; the worship of God in heaven has always been and will always be exactly and only what God has ordained.

Because God has given us revelation about the use of musical instruments in heavenly worship, we know that the use of musical instruments in true worship is an essential element of such worship.

Conclusion

God commanded His chosen people, the Jews, to worship Him with the use of musical instruments. He has commanded all the earth to do so.

The paramount instance of idolatrous worship recorded in Scripture included the vast use of instrumental music— how much more must true worship of the living and true God include such use of musical instruments. Revelation about heavenly worship confirms this view about the necessity of using musical instruments in true worship by showing us that musical instruments are central to the worship of God in heaven.

Based on this biblical data, the lack of specific NT mention of or command for such use in worship does not provide any valid basis for holding that we do not need to use musical instruments in our worship today. We must use musical instruments in our corporate worship to give God the glory that is due His name!

In a NT passage that speaks directly about an actual service in a local church, Paul declares the following:

1Co 14:23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:

25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

This text speaks of an unbeliever who comes into the midst of a whole church that has gathered together into one place and everyone prophesies with the result that the unbeliever comes under genuine conviction and is brought to worship God openly in their midst.

Because this divine revelation plainly speaks of God’s using the combined ministry of an assembled local church to bring an unbeliever to worship Him, we have biblical warrant for inviting people to come to church with us so that they are put in the position of having God work in their hearts in the manner spoken of in this passage.

Whether God chooses to work in such a manner in any given service is not our responsibility—our part is to put them in the position for Him to do so, should He see fit to do so.

Christians should invite unbelievers to come to church with them.

Two remarkable statements by God reveal the unparalleled excellence of Job among all the people who were alive on the earth in his day:

Job 1:8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

Job 2:3 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.

An analysis of these statements provides all believers with profound instruction.

Comparative Divine Assessment of Human Excellence

God twice informed Satan that Job was uniquely excellent in his day (Job 1:8; 2:3), a truth that Satan would never have been able to know otherwise. These statements show that God had assessed all people who were living at that time and deemed that Job was superior to all other human beings in the qualities that God valued the most.

As human beings, even redeemed ones, we are incapable of correctly making such an assessment. Nonetheless, we must not allow our inability to lead us into holding any false views about divine assessment of all human beings—God knows and cares about who in the world is uniquely excellent in His sight!

Based on this revelation, we learn that God makes comparative assessments of all human beings and that it is false to say that in the sight of God we are all deemed to be equals because whatever good qualities we have in us are solely due to the work of God in our lives and the fruit of His grace bestowed upon us. Being saved by grace alone does not mean that we are all equally excellent in the sight of God!

Divine Desire for Human Excellence

God inspired the writer of Job to record these profound statements for our benefit. We can be certain that through this revelation, God has made known that He desires that all human beings strive to be excellent before Him in all the same ways that Job was.

We must not allow the contemporary overemphasis on grace to detract us from our continually pressing on for such excellence. Knowing that God makes such assessment of human excellence and knowing that Job attained such excellence should impel us to strive to be as Job was before God!

Cosmic Significance of Human Excellence

Knowing that God informed Satan about the unique excellence of Job and challenged Satan to consider Job’s excellence teaches us about the profound cosmic significance of human excellence. We do not have any way of knowing what God through us desires to display to fallen spirits in heavenly places.

We must live our lives with the awareness that comparative divine assessments of human excellence matter to both God and other heavenly beings. Let us allow these lessons that we learn from the unique greatness of Job to challenge us to strive to be uniquely excellent on the earth for the glory of God!

God intends that biblical revelation about angels transform the way that believers live. Because of the angels who observe what we as believers do, we must live our lives not only with the awareness that we are in the sight of God but also with the awareness that we are in the sight of angels.

2Ki 6:16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. 17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

Mat 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

1Co 4:9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

1Co 11:10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

Eph 3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

1Ti 5:21 I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.

Heb 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

We must live godly because of the angels!

Numbers 10:1-10 reveals that God directed His people to make two silver trumpets and then assigned specific meanings to various uses of those musical instruments. For example, blowing the trumpets signaled that the entire assembly gather at the door of the tabernacle (Num. 10:3) whereas blowing only one trumpet signaled to the princes to gather to Moses (Num. 10:4).

This passage shows that certain humans have been supernaturally directed concerning assigned musical meanings communicated by specific uses of certain musical instruments. Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians concerning an apparently well-understood response to a trumpet being used in a specific way (1 Cor. 14:7-8) may attest to something similar or may in fact refer back ultimately to God’s revelation to Moses that Numbers 10 records.

Scripture also reveals that demonic spirits have influenced human beings to do many things without those human beings having any knowledge about such influence directing them to do so (1 Chron. 21:1; 2 Chron. 18:21; Acts 5:3).

Just as God directed His people to do specific things with musical instruments that would convey specific assigned meanings, it is entirely possible that demonic spirits have influenced human beings to do things with musical instruments that communicate specific assigned meanings in the heavenly realm, meanings which are entirely unknown by humans and unknowable by them apart from supernatural revelation (either divine or demonic) about those meanings.

To hold that demonically assigned musical meanings to human use of musical instruments in specific ways is impossible has no biblical basis and goes against specific divine revelation about supernatural influences on humans that have directed them to do things that the humans had no knowledge were their actually doing what the supernatural beings wanted the humans to do. We must consider also that various rock musicians have testified of demonic influence upon them in their producing and playing their music.

Aside from the corrupting influences of rock music on its human hearers, we must consider the possibility that rock music has a demonically assigned meaning to it such that anyone who plays music in that style communicates anti-God sentiments to supernatural beings, sentiments which are humanly unknowable. Such a possibility provides one more valid reason for Christians not to listen to, play, or use rock music in any other way.

Paul informed the Corinthians that his prayers for them included prayer about a vital matter: “I pray to God that ye do no evil” (2 Cor. 13:7). We need to learn from this Scripture that praying for ourselves and for others that we would do no evil is a vital matter of prayer for all believers!

Let us pray frequently about this vital matter of prayer!

A person who desires to abide in the presence of God has to be an upright person who lives all his life according to what God has revealed. God revealed to David a challenging aspect of being such a person:

Psa 15:4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

This revelation teaches that when a righteous person makes a promise to someone, he is to keep his word even though it may cost him personally to do so.

Joshua 9 provides an excellent illustration of such uprightness. Because they had failed to ask counsel from God (Josh. 9:14), the Israelites were deceived by the people of Gibeon into making a league with them (Josh. 9:6) and making peace with them so that they would allow them to live (Josh. 9:15).

Although they had been deceived into doing so, the Israelites had to honor the commitment that they swore to them by the Lord:

Jos 9:19 But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them. 20 This we will do to them; we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them.

We should learn from this account that we must be very careful what promises we make to people and that we must keep our word when we do so in spite of how it may hurt us to do so.

Joshua 9 thus provides us with a sobering, excellent illustration of the necessity of keeping our word.

 

 

Psalm 106 ends by making known something that God desired that all His people would say:

Psalm 106:48 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD. {Praise…: Heb. Hallelujah}

Psa 106:48 בָּר֤וּךְ־יְהוָ֙ה אֱלֹהֵ֪י יִשְׂרָאֵ֡ל מִן־הָ֤עוֹלָ֙ם׀ וְעַ֬ד הָעוֹלָ֗ם וְאָמַ֖ר כָּל־הָעָ֥ם אָמֵ֗ן הַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ׃

Psalm 150:1 shows us that the same Hebrew expression  that ends Psalm 106:48 (הַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ) and is translated as “Praise ye the LORD” in both Psalms is transliterated as αλληλουια in the LXX rendering of Psalm 150:1:

Psa 150:1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.

Psa 150:1 הַ֥לְלוּ יָ֙הּ׀ הַֽלְלוּ־אֵ֥ל בְּקָדְשׁ֑וֹ הַֽ֜לְל֗וּהוּ בִּרְקִ֥יעַ עֻזּֽוֹ׃

Psa 150:1 αλληλουια αἰνεῖτε τὸν θεὸν ἐν τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ αἰνεῖτε αὐτὸν ἐν στερεώματι δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ

Revelation 19 illumines the OT directives from God that are found in both Psalm 106:48 and in Psalm 150:1 by teaching us that heavenly angelic beings say exactly what God directed His people of old to say at the end of Psalm 106:

Rev 19:4 And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.

Rev 19:4 καὶ ἔπεσαν οἱ πρεσβύτεροι οἱ εἴκοσι τέσσαρες καὶ τὰ τέσσαρα ζῷα καὶ προσεκύνησαν τῷ θεῷ τῷ καθημένῳ ἐπὶ τῷ θρόνῳ λέγοντες· ἀμὴν ἁλληλουϊά,

Notice that Revelation 19:4 ends with a transliteration of אָמֵ֗ן הַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ that is found at the end of Psalm 106:48 and teaches us that saying “Amen; Alleluia” is what heavenly beings say when they worship God!

By comparing Psalm 106:48 with Revelation 19:4, we learn that the directive at the end of Psalm 106:48 was a directive about how God wanted His people to worship Him—they were to say, “Amen, Praise ye the Lord.” We should learn from this comparison that God wants both angelic beings and humans to worship Him by saying these two expressions!

The only authentic information that we have about the worship in heaven is what God provides us with in Scripture. Every reference to singing in the worship of heaven is directly connected to the use of musical instruments:

Rev 5:8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

Rev 14:2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:

3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.

Rev 15:2 And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.

3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. 4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.

We know that the worship of heaven is perfect in every way. We should learn from the music used in heavenly corporate worship that we should use instruments to accompany our singing when we worship God corporately.

Through the prophet Zechariah, God has provided vital revelation about the future of the nation Israel and of the world. Reading the book today, I was struck by a statement that appears to reveal a profound truth about God Himself:

Zechariah 9:14 And the LORD shall be seen over them, and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning: and the Lord GOD shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south.

This statement informs us that God Himself will blow the trumpet on this future occasion!

God certainly did not learn to do this from any human beings; this verse, therefore, seems to reveal the stunning truth that God Himself will play this musical instrument! If this is the right understanding of this text, it puts a new light on many related texts:

Exo 19:16 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.

19 And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.

Isa 18:3 All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye.

Isa 27:13 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.

1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

Is God the divine Instrumentalist?