For my morning devotions the last couple of weeks I have been reading through the book of 1 Chronicles. 1 Chronicles has taken a bit of a hard time in the higher critical era which is a shame. I can honestly say I do not think in 28 years I have ever heard a Sermon that originated out this book, which is even more unfortunate. The book is filled with innumerable stories and explanations that make the rest of the Old Testament that much clearer and understandable. It also helps in illustrating the life of an Israelite in the period of Israel’s greatest prosperity as a nation, the time spent under the rule of David and Solomon. All that being said the thing I wanted to highlight in this short piece this morning is the section I read this day over coffee and cereal. It again centers around an issue that God seems to continually toss into my lap at every turn of events and readings of Holy Scripture. That issue as one may have surmised at this point from the title is the proper place of musical intrumentation in the worship of God in the New Testament world and church life. Despite my protestations and the instruction and pleas of others there definitely looks to be a sharp division (as the writer of the Book of Hebrews demonstrates on nearly every page of his letter) between the worship of God in the Old Testament Temple by shadows and types with the slaughtering of bulls and burning incense and all the smells and bells that accompianied worship in the time of David and Solomon up till the day Rome destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the worship in the Church Age in which we now all live. One of these “types” that has seen resurgent use in the last 150 years has been the development of the playing of musical intruments (particularly the organ and piano) in worship. This is something our Puritan and Presbyterian forefathers never dreamt of doing, yet one of the interesting things about the introduction of musical intstruments into worship is that it came about for many of the same reasons people are looking to slide shows, drama, dancing, and other violations of the Regulative Principle in today’s culture. William Romaine, an Anglican priest writing in the early 1800’s notes in his work An Essay on Psalmody that the introduction of musical instruments (which is a side issue and technically unrelated to Exclusive Psalmody) was done in his Church for the effect of attracting and keeping the youths in the pews! How seemingly the same are the arguments made for the inclusion of every thing one can imagine in the worship by the broadly evangelical. Yet how do we speak against it? By using identical arguments found in books like Mr. Romaine’s and others including John Girardeau in defense of acapella worship.
Getting back to the text of 1 Chronicles 25 the basic background is that David is separating for a special service some of the Sons of Asaph that they alone should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals. In verses 1-8 we read who the sons are and what their responsibilities will be in the Temple. Verses 9-31 is the listing of what order they have been placed as far as their duties go. So what we read here is three-fold. Firstly, not all the priests who served in the Temple were to play musical instruments, only those given by David for that task, echoing David’s earlier statements in 1 Chronicles 15:16 and 16:4,9. Secondly, they were only to use the instruments that David had constructed for this purpose. There is no mention made of David giving these Sons of Asaph the right to do what they pleased in regards to musical instrumentation. In fact their conduct is strictly regulated. Thirdly and finally, we are to notice in verse 6 that this use of Musical Instrumentation was specifically rooted in the worship at the Temple. That there is an intimate tie between the Temple Sacrifices and the use of Musical Instruments.
Now what does this all mean? Well at least to this observer this means that musical instrumentation has a place in the Church that we ought to more closely take a look at and take our pre-suppositions and arguments based on nothing more than romantic notions and understandings and examine what it is we are to do more closely in the Worship of the Divine.