Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 9, 1961
NUMBER 39, PAGE 1,12-13a

Music Divinely Appointed For True Worshipers

Cecil B. Douthitt, Fort Smith, Ark.

Music is considered an important feature in almost all religious meetings. Its value in making the services elevating and appealing is recognized generally.

Different kinds of music are found among different groups of worshipers. Some make music on mechanical instruments, some whistle, some hum, others yodel, but all sing in some of their meetings at least.

One of two things is true: (1) God has expressed his will in the Bible on the kind of music for worship under Christ, or (2) he has not expressed it, but left the kind for men to decide. An earnest desire to please God and a proper zeal for righteousness should urge all to search the Scriptures whether his will on the kind of music is revealed or not, and if his will is made known by the Bible on this subject, then the only kind that meets the expressed approval of the Lord should be offered in worship to him.

I. Singing As An Act Of Worship Was Divinely Enjoined Under Both The Old And The New Covenants.

Moses in the law commanded the people to sing, and he wrote a song for the Israelites. Jehovah said unto Moses: "Now therefore ye write this song for you, and teach thou it to the children of Israel."....So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the children of Israel....And Moses spake in the ears of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were finished," (Deut. 31:19, 22, 30); then the words of that song follow immediately in the 32nd chapter of Deuteronomy. Again God said, "Sing and rejoice, 0 daughter of Zion; for lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith Jehovah." (Zech. 2:10)

While Jesus was here on earth and after he had established the Lord's supper on the night before his crucifixion he and the disciples sang a hymn. (Matt. 26:30)

The following scriptures reveal the whole counsel of God on the subject after the church was established:

Acts 16:25. "But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns unto God, and the prisoners were listening to them."

Rom. 15:9. "Therefore will I give praise unto thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name."

I Cor. 14:15. "I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also."

Eph. 5:19. "Speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord."

Col. 3:16. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God."

James 5:13. "Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise." Therefore, it is God's will for true worshipers to sing.

II. Other Kinds Of Music — Instrumental, Whistling, Humming, Yodeling — As Acts Of Worship Are Without Any Divine Authority Whatever, And Therefore Sinful When Performed As Such. 1. History Of Instrumental Music Under The Old Covenant.

In giving the law at Sinai God described the tabernacle, its furniture, and the priestly garments, in detail. He mentioned every item in the attire of the priests, in the material and make-up of the tabernacle, in the worship, and the trumpets to be used in calling Israel together. But it stands as a biblical, historical, significant fact that He said not one word about instruments of music in that tabernacle or in that worship. He did say, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it." (Dent. 4:2) "What thing soever I command you, that shall ye observe to do: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish therefrom." (Deut. 12:32)

Under the law God gave them judges to protect and govern them, and for a period of about 400 years Israel continued to walk under this divinely appointed regime. But in the days of Samuel, matters had become so complicated that the people decided that God's plan of ruling by judges would be successful no longer. They wanted to change from the rule of judges to a kingly government. So they rejected the wisdom of Jehovah and adopted a system of their own wisdom.

Did any people ever offer better excuses for changing God's order, than was offered by these Israelites? (1) Samuel was old, (2) his sons did not walk in his ways, and under their rule justice probably would be perverted; (3) they wanted a king, like other nations, who would go before them and fight their battles. Yet God said they rejected Him in making this change.

God in his anger gave them a king. After His administration had been exchanged for a human dynasty, instrumental music was introduced into the worship. Amos (6:1-6) said: "Woe to them that invent for themselves instruments of music, like David." David was not the inventor of the instruments themselves; they were invented long before David's day. He introduced them into the worship of God, and made them a part of the worship. That was his invention, and that was why Amos reproved him.

Upon a few special occasions before David's innovation, some broke into ecstasy of exuberant praise by means of both the dance and mechanical instruments (see Ex. 15:20, 21), but David is invariably accredited with the introduction of instrumental music under the Old Covenant. About 500 years after David was anointed king, Ezra (3:10) said that the setting of the sons of Asaph with cymbals-to praise Jehovah was "after the order of David, king of Israel." In 12:36 the instruments are again referred to as "the musical instruments of David." The prophesying with harps, psalteries and cymbals mentioned in 1 Chron. 25:1-7 was "under the order of the king." In 2 Chron. 29:25, 26, the cymbals, psalteries and harps in the house of God, "according to the commandments of David," are mentioned in contradistinction to the commandments of God. God never failed to distinguish between the instruments of David and the divine requirements. It is obvious from this distinction, and the woe pronounced by Amos, that David brought these instruments into the worship of his own accord and without God's approval. Adam Clarke, who has been called the Prince of Commentators, has made some very appropriate statements on this point: _

"Moses had not appointed any musical instruments to be used in the Divine worship; there was nothing of the kind under the first tabernacle. The trumpets or horns then used were not for song nor for praise, but as we use bells, i. e., to give notice to the congregation of what they were called to perform, etc. But David did certainly introduce many instruments of music into God's worship, for which we have already seen he was solemnly reproved by the prophet Amos, chap, 6:1-6 ....It was by the hand or commandment of the lord — and his prophets that the Levites should praise the Lord; for so the Hebrew text may be understood: and it was by the order of David that so many instruments of music should be introduced into the Divine service. But were it even evident, which it is not, either from this or any other place in the sacred writings, that instruments of music were prescribed by Divine authority under the law, could this be adduced with any semblance of reason, that they ought to be used in Christian worship? No; the whole spirit, soul, and genius of the Christian religion are against it: and those who know the Church of God best, and what constitutes its genuine spiritual state, know that these things have been introduced as a substitute for the life and power of religion; and that where they prevail most, there is least of the power of Christianity. Away with such portentous baubles from the worship of that infinite Spirit who requires his followers to worship him in spirit and in truth, for to no such worship are those instruments friendly." (Com. on 2 Chron. 29:25)

In view of this "woe" pronounced by Amos, and of the oft repeated' distinction that God made between David's instruments and God's commandments, all that can be logically or reasonably claimed for the use of instrumental music under the law, is that God tolerated it as He tolerated divorce, polygamy, and the kingly form of government. Under the Old Covenant the Israelites were in a course of preparation for the system we are now under: they were under a school master; and Jehovah overlooked many things during those days of childhood and ignorance that He does not tolerate under this covenant of truth, grace and faith. No more can be said in defense of instrumental music under either the law or the gospel, than can be said in defense of divorce and the kingly form of government. Not one of these things pleased Jehovah, even under the law.

Though God was never pleased with divorce and remarriage yet He tolerated it under the Old Covenant. Dent. 24:1, 2, says "When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, then it shall be, if she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of the house, she may go and be another man's wife." If this passage contained all the information we have on the subject, none could deny that divorce and remarriage met the sanction of God unreservedly. But Jesus gave us some more information concerning the mind of God on this subject: "He saith unto them, Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it hath not been so." (Matt. 19:8) From this we learn that divorce did not please Jehovah even when He tolerated it under the Jewish economy.

After the Israelites had asked for a king, "Jehovah said unto Samuel, Hearken unto their voice and make them a king." (1 Sam. 8:22) He went so far as to select that king, and to send His prophet to anoint him. Yet we know that thing did not please Him for He protested and said: "They have rejected me that I should not be king over them." (1 Sam. 8:7)

Likewise He tolerated instrumental music under the law, and likewise He registered a protest. Psalms 150:4, 5, says, "Praise him with timbrel and dance; Praise him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise him with loud cymbals: Praise him with high sounding cymbals." We would not have any disposition whatever to deny that God was pleased with instrumental music and dancing under the law, if Psalms 150 contained all the information we have on that subject in that dispensation. But the protest of the Lord registered against instrumental music in Amos 6:1-6, is expressed as plain and prohibitive as any opposition He ever expressed to divorce and the kingly government. "Woe to them — that invent for themselves instruments of music, like David." These are GOD'S words; they are not meaningless, and should not be ignored. Again let me give a few sentences from that "illustrious commentator," Adam Clarke:

"If there was woe to them who invented instruments of music, as did David under the law, is no woe, no curse to them who Invent them, and introduce them into the worship of God in the Christian Church? ;

I am an old man; and an old minister; I here declare that I never knew them to be productive of any good in the worship of God and have reason to believe that they were productive of much evil. Music, as a science, I esteem and admire; but instruments of music in the house of God I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music; and here I register my protest against all such corruptions in the worship of the author of Christianity." (Com. Amos 6:5)

But were it evident from any passage of scripture — which it is not — that instrumental music had been divinely prescribed under the law, even then it could no more be justified in Christian worship than burning incense, lighting candles, circumcision, eating the mutton of the Passover supper (Ex. 12:1-14; Matt. 26:17-20), and the restoration of other shadows of the law. (Col. 2:14-17) The law of Moses has been taken out of the way, and we are now under the New Testament of Jesus Christ. An attempt to justify religious practices by the law is a dangerous procedure because it is a rejection of the authority of Christ. "Ye are severed from Christ, who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." (Gal. 5:4)