The human voice lifted up in unison praising the Holy name of God is as good as it gets.
The human voice lifted up in unison praising the Holy name of God is as good as it gets.
Read an excellent post by the Rev. Iain D Campbell of Point on the Isle of Lewis Free Church of Scotland this morning on the Trinitarian nature of the Psalms that answers the oft charged point made by those arguing for hymnody that the Psalms are somehow deficient for New Testament worship since they do not have the literal name of “Jesus” in them.
Find it here and enjoy!
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.
Below I wrote a short little piece on Revelation 14:2 and its relation to the use of Instruments in Worship in the New Testament. Rev. Kevin Carroll said, “Personally, I think Rev. 5 provides a great argument against exclusive psalmody in worship.” So we’ll take a look at it and see if Revelation chapter 5 makes this argument.
But first I want to make a point about categories. There is some misunderstanding as to what “Exclusive Psalmody” argues and what I am talking about here. Whether or not the Psalms are to be sung exclusively is a completely separate argument as to the discsussion we are having over if we should accompany our singing with musical instruments aside from the human voice. There are plenty of examples of denominations and churches that have and do use musical instruments but limit the verse to the 150 Psalms of the Book of Psalms. Now this all being said Revelation 5 has nothing to do with instrumental worship. The only verse that mentions instruments at all is Rev 5:8 which says, ” 8When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”
The question then would be for those wanting use this as a support for instrumental accompaniment is two-fold.
1) Why do you not also have all of your elders carry golden bowls full of incense?
2) Are the bowls of incense literally the prayers of the saints? Yes or No? If No then why is the harp literal then?
One of the verses I see most quoted in the arguments surrounding the propriety of using Musical Instruments in stated corporate worship is Revelation 14:2. This verse is used by many of the proponents of Musical Instruments as being a source text that we can point to for showing a New Testament example of the use of Musical Instruments in worship after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. In the short exegetical piece after the pericope I will show how the citation of this verse is folly and ripped out of context for those who wish to use it for the purpose of supporting the use Musical Instruments in worship.
Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.
The above section of Scripture from Revelation 14 (specifically the highlighted part in verse 2) is often used as a proof text (and we wonder why the Puritans were not too keen on proof texting) against the view that instruments should not be used in stated corporate worship. However the problems with using this verse as a proof of “New Testament instrument use in worship” are many.
1) It is a dangerous thing to do, in my opinion, to use the visions of John to support practically anything we do, because hermeneutically and logically if we do it here in Rev. 14:2 then why should we not do so for the other places in Revelation where worship is described in heavenly places? (cf: Rev 4: 9-11, 5: 13-14, 7:11, 11:16, etc…)
2) The Greek grammar in this passage, specifically verse 2, is full of simile. In Greek, just as in English, simile is not meant to be taken literally. The passage uses the Greek word ως before describing the many waters (ως φωνην υδατων πολλων), the loud thunder (ως φωνην βροντης μεγαλης), and the harpers playing their harps (η φωνη ην ηκουσα ως κιθαρωδων κιθαριζοντων). I have never seen “many waters” or “loud thunder” used in corporate worship, but if we take the third clause in that way why should we exclude them? Also we would never use verse 1 in this passage to support writing God’s name on our foreheads so why would we use a like, as simile statement to support what we do in worship?
3) Even more so this passage has nothing to do with the church gathered for worship, on earth or in heaven. Remeber who/what is John describing in verse 2? He is describing the voice from heaven, not what the 144,000 are doing.
I am of the opinion that Google Books is the most important invention of the 21st Century. Without it I would not be able to read any number of PDF way out-of-print books such as this one by a man previously unknown to me who has written a wonderful book unknown to most.
The book is called “An Essay on Psalmody” written by an Anglican Priest and published in 1775 in London. It is about 380 pages in PDF linked above. Great reading if you have the time (and the patience and skill to read English in the old typeface)…
What does it teach?
25 [Hezekiah] stationed the Levites in the temple of the LORD with cymbals, harps and lyres in the way prescribed by David and Gad the king’s seer and Nathan the prophet; this was commanded by the LORD through his prophets. 26 So the Levites stood ready with David’s instruments, and the priests with their trumpets.
27 Hezekiah gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar. As the offering began, singing to the LORD began also, accompanied by trumpets and the instruments of David king of Israel. 28 The whole assembly bowed in worship, while the singers sang and the trumpeters played. All this continued until the sacrifice of the burnt offering was completed.
29 When the offerings were finished, the king and everyone present with him knelt down and worshiped. 30 King Hezekiah and his officials ordered the Levites to praise the LORD with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness and bowed their heads and worshiped.