Lessons for Church Music From David’s Temple Worship
January 26, 2022
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
Worship Music
1 Chronicles 15:16-28; 16:4-6; 23:1-5; 25:1-31

In his latter years, David organized the temple music worship in coordination with Gad and Nathan by divine revelation (2 Ch. 29:25).

Though some churches don’t believe in using music instruments, it is obvious that God loves sacred worship music. Today the church is the house of God and these things in the Old Testament are an example for the churches (Ro. 15:4). Notice some lessons from these passages. Since the churches are commanded to sing “psalms,” it seems obvious that this involves the use of musical instruments as taught in the Psalms themselves. By the end of David’s life, there were 4,000 Levites who played instruments (1 Ch. 23:5).

Everything was done according to God’s commandments. They were not at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of their own hearts or according to the ways of the world.

They used the assigned musical instruments. They didn’t follow the pattern of the world. Even the type of musical instruments were chosen by God: harps, psalteries, cymbals, trumpets, and cornets (shofar) (1 Ch. 15:28). The HARP is the kinnor. “The name comes from the word kanar which meant to give forth a tremulous and stridulous sound, as a string when struck. The instrument probably resembled very closely the lyre and was played either with a plectrum or by plucking the strings with the fingers. It was portable and could easily be used in processions to accompany vocal music. Psalm 81:2 tells us that the kinnor had a ‘pleasant’ sound” (Paul McCommon, Music in the Bible). The PSALTERY is the Hebrew nebhel (nebel). “This instrument seems to have been of more elaborate construction than the kinnor and, as Stainer says, ‘consequently of greater capabilities than the kinnor, both as to tone and pitch.’ ... Josephus tells us that it had twelve strings and was played with the fingers and not a plectrum. There were probably many different sizes and types of this instrument in use” (Paul McCommon). The TRUMPET is the Hebrew chatsoterah (hasosrah), the straight silver trumpet of Numbers 10:1-10. The chatsotserah was sounded at the dedication of the first temple (“a hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets,” 2 Ch. 5:12) The CORNET is the sophar, a trumpet made of rams’ horns. It is usually translated “trumpet.” The CYMBAL, the Hebrew mesiltayim, is always used in plural or dual form. The orchestra director beat the time upon the cymbals for the whole Levitical choir” (McCommon). “... but Asaph made a sound with cymbals” (1 Ch. 16:5). These are instruments that provide good accompaniment to the human voice, because it is the human voice that enunciates the words of edification and praise.

They sang and played with enthusiasm and joy (1 Ch. 15:16). God’s people should follow this example in the churches, and the music leaders should teach and encourage it. I believe that congregational singing is a reflection of a church’s spiritual character. Many of the Lord’s people do not sing or sing so softly that no one can hear them, but the song service is not about me and whether or not I feel like singing or whether I like to sing, and it’s not a time to be entertained. It is about singing to God and edifying one another, and it should be done with exuberance.

Everything was done by due order under proper authority. The singers and musicians were not free spirits. They submitted to God’s order and to the authority figures God had put over them; they were assigned their places (1 Ch. 15:17, 19; 25:2, 3, 6). Submission to God-ordained authority is the way of peace in the congregation (1 Th. 5:12-13).

They were instructed (1 Ch. 15:22). Compare 1 Ch. 25:7. Churches should do everything they can to provide training for their singers and musicians to the glory of the Creator. It is one thing to be untrained and ignorant, but it is quite another thing to be content to remain untrained and to offer unto God something less than our best. Every church must be a serious Bible training institute.

They excelled (1 Ch. 15:21). They wanted everything to be as perfect as possible; mediocrity was unacceptable.

The singers and musicians were skillful (“skilful,” 1 Ch. 15:22; “cunning,” 1 Ch. 25:7). One qualification for ministry is ability. When God calls an individual to a ministry, he gifts and equips him for that ministry. For example, the elder must be apt to teach and must be able to exhort and convince false teachers (1 Ti. 3:2; Tit. 1:9). If a man cannot do this work, he is not called to be an elder.

They prophesied (1 Ch. 25:1-3). Compare 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 which says that all the saints should prophesy. This doesn’t mean that every member preaches. Paul limited the actual prophesying or preaching to two or three (1 Co. 14:29). 1 Corinthians 14:3 says prophesying is speaking “unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” Any of that is prophesying. For all to prophesy means that every believer participates in and responds to every part of the service from the heart: to the singing and playing, to the preaching and teaching, even to the corporate prayer. I like the practice I have seen in Korean Baptist churches. During public prayer, as one brother is leading, the brethren say a loud “amen” after every statement. This is prophesying! This is unity in corporate prayer. When visitors see that the members are enthusiastically involved in the services, they understand that the brethren really do believe in Christ, and they are convicted of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We see prophesying by singing in Col. 3:16. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

They gave thanksgiving to God (1 Ch. 25:3). This is the first and foremost purpose of the Christian life and church. There are two kinds of spiritual songs: those that teach and edify the brethren and those that praise the Lord (Col. 3:16). The churches need to make sure that they sing hymns of worship and not only songs for the edification of the saints. True worship is not a rock & roll dance party; it is not a performance. True worship is glorifying God with the mind and heart for His attributes and character and works. See Psalm 100. True worship is to give thanks to God (Heb. 13:15).

They sang God’s words (1 Ch. 25:5). Compare Colossians 3:16. Worship must must be based solidly upon Scripture; it must not be heretical or frivolous or shallow. The first test of Christian music is the test of whether its message is Scriptural. Worship music should flow from lives that are filled richly with God’s Word, and from lives that understand the Word and practice its precepts wisely in daily living. This is what creates a spiritual song service. Yet in my experience, the average member of Bible-believing churches is ignorant of God’s Word and doesn’t have the wisdom to apply it to daily living. No wonder our services are so lukewarm.

All of this looks forward to the Millennial Temple when Christ will be seated on the throne of His glory and the priests will sing and play to His glory and people will worship Him (Eze. 40:44). The Psalms are filled with prophecies of this (e.g., Psalm 33:1-11; 149:1-3; 150:3-6).

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