As Christians, we are a people of the Book, but as we devote ourselves each week to praising the Lord with our instruments, are we clear on what the Bible says about the subject of instrumental music in worship? If we were asked to provide Biblical support for the instrumental music ministry in our church, do we understand all that the Bible has to say on the subject?
The Biblical foundations for the use of instrumental music in Christian worship are found in four distinct areas in Scripture. These “four pillars” are the Psalms, Davidic worship, New Testament implied references, and instrumental music in the Book of Revelation.
The first pillar in the Biblical foundations of instrumental music in worship is the Psalms. When considering the Psalms and instrumental music, most instrumentalists think of Psalm 150, but there are actually a total of twenty-four psalms that mention the use of instruments in worship, either in the psalm heading or in the text itself. We won’t take the time to examine all those psalms, but let’s take a closer look at two of the more familiar psalms that mention musical instruments, Psalm 150 and Psalm 33.
Psalm 150 concludes the book of Psalms with a chorus of praise, including every family of instruments: woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings:
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Pipe, trumpet, timbrel (or tambourine), cymbals, harp, lyre (similar to the harp), and stringed instruments, representing all four families of instruments and all used in praise of almighty God! Even though this psalm mentions instruments in each of the four families, note the conspicuous absence of singing. Commentators on this psalm have seen this as undeniable Biblical support for instrumental praise alone.
Psalm 33 is the first psalm to mention instruments, and connects the worship attitudes of joy, thanksgiving, and praise with the use of instruments:
Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones;
Praise is becoming to the upright.Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings.
Sing to Him a new song;
Play skillfully with a shout of joy.
Take special note of the latter half of verse three in this particular psalm: “Play skillfully with a shout of joy.” We are to play skillfully as we worship the Lord. The famous British preacher, Charles Spurgeon, comments on this verse, “It is wretched to hear God praised in a slovenly manner. He deserves the best that we have.” Let us remember this Biblical mandate to minister with excellence each and every Sunday!
For more information on this important subject and the other three pillars, please check out my book, The Biblical Foundations of Instrumental Music in Worship: Four Pillars, published by Outskirts Press and available from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.