Bible College
Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Way of Life Bible College
Lessons on Congregational Singing From the Old Testament
June 6, 2023
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
The following is excerpted from The Church: The Pillar and Ground of the Truth and The Satanic Attack on Sacred Music - The Book,


David organized the music worship program for the Tabernacle. This began on the occasion of bringing the ark of God from Gibeah to Jerusalem (1 Ch. 15:1-24). After the ark was set in a tent in Jerusalem, David appointed a continual music program (1 Ch. 16:1-7, 37-42). When David was old, in connection with the charge to Solomon about the building of the Temple, he further organized the Levitical music program, assigning 4,000 priests to this task (1 Ch. 23:1-5; 25:1-31). He did this by divine revelation (2 Ch. 28:11-13).

Suddenly the Tabernacle was filled with holy worship music. There had been no such thing from the time of Moses until David. The divine Tabernacle service is described in Exodus and Leviticus, and there is no music. There were no Levites appointed to music. There was no hymnal.

With David, a new era begins. We are moving further along now toward the coming of Christ! David is promised an eternal throne and kingdom, ruled by his Son, who is Christ (2 Sa. 7:12-16).

In a foreview of that glorious kingdom, David begins to write the Messianic hymnal. The last five psalms of the hymnal explode with Messianic praise. “Praise” is mentioned here 50 times. These psalms are about “an everlasting kingdom” (Ps. 145:13; 146:13). The words “for ever” and “everlasting” and “all generations” appear nine times. These psalms prophesy of the time when the LORD will “build up Jerusalem” and strengthen the bars of her gates and “gather together the outcasts of Israel” and make peace within her borders and fill her with the finest of wheat (Ps. 147:2, 13, 14). Then the entire universe will resound with praise the LORD: the angels, the sun and moon and stars, the heavens and the earth, the mountains and hills and trees, the beasts and flying fowl, the kings, the princes, the judges, the young men and maidens, old men and children (Ps. 148:1-13). Then the Lord’s people will execute vengeance upon the heathen (Ps. 149:6-9). Then the LORD will be praised with the sound of the trumpet, the psaltery and harp, the timbrel and dance, the stringed instruments and organs, the loud cymbals and the high sounding cymbals (Ps. 150:3-5). Then everything that has breath will praise the LORD (Ps. 150:6)!

In 2 Ch. 5:12-13, we see the music ministry operating full blown in Solomon’s Temple.

“Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:) It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD.”

All of these passages contain instruction for the churches. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning...” (Ro. 15:4).

This does not mean that we are to construct grand buildings and have magnificent professional choirs and orchestras like the Mormon Tabernacle. The New Testament church is a pilgrim church. We live in tents, so to speak, like Abraham. We are composed of the weak things of the world rather than the noble (1 Co. 1:26-29). We are ever waiting and ready for the call, “Come up hither” (1 Th. 1:9-10). We are not laying up treasures on earth, but in heaven (Mt. 6:19-21). Our affection is not on earth; it is in heaven where our Saviour resides (Col. 3:1-4).

But there are important lessons from the Temple music service for New Testament churches. Following are some of them:

The instruments were harps, psalteries, cymbals, trumpets and cornets (1 Ch. 15:16, 28). Though some churches don’t believe in using music instruments, it is obvious that God loves sacred worship music that incorporates instruments. There should never have been a debate about this in churches; the Psalms are not just for the Mosaic era. Today the church is the house of God and the things in the Old Testament are our example (Ro. 15:4). We are specifically instructed to sing Psalms, which takes us right back to the Psalms and the instruments mentioned therein. Observe that these are not the type of instruments used to create worldly dance music. There were no drums, for example. (Drums can be used properly in sacred music, such as in the timpani section of an orchestra, but drums as used in pop music to emphasize the dance back rhythm are not sacred.) Cymbals are percussion instruments, but there can be no doubt that when used in the Temple worship, they were not continually banged together to create a discordant racket. That would be more in keeping with Babylonian music. The cymbals were not used as in a rock band. The instruments mentioned in 1 Chronicles 15:28 were used in accompaniment to the singing of the priests, so it is obvious that they were used in moderation so as not to drown out or overwhelm the voices.

The singers and musicians were skillful (“excel,” 1 Ch. 15:21; “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; Titus 1:9). If a man cannot do this work, he is not called to be an elder.

They excelled (1 Ch. 15:21). They wanted everything to be as perfect as possible; mediocrity was unacceptable. Anything we do for the Lord should be done right, with the highest level of expertise and preparation that we can produce. He is most worthy of our very best. God’s people need to be getting better educated, stronger in every area, moving in the opposite direction of most churches. This is the path of victory and revival.

They were trained (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 were well organized; there was oversight; 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, 6). The lot was used (1 Ch. 25:8) so that God’s will would be done in the appointment of the singers and musicians and so that no favoritism would be exercised by the leaders. The lot was used to determine God’s mind. There is no place for jealousy and carnality and favoritism in the church’s music ministry. All things should be done by the mind of God and for the glory of God rather than for man. Compare 1 Co. 12:7. We don’t need to use the lot today, because we have the indwelling Spirit and the complete Word of God. Submission to God-ordained authority is the way of peace in the congregation (1 Th. 5:12-13).

The music was a ministry of the priests (1 Ch. 15:16). Compare 1 Pe. 2:5, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” This is a description of a church that is much more serious and wise and spiritually zealous than the vast majority of churches in these last days. It is a church of a regenerate membership (“living stones”). It is a spiritual house, not a carnal, worldly, flippant affair. It is a holy priesthood. Each member of a true New Testament church is a priest of God! His or her job on earth is to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God, works that show God’s holy character to an unholy world, lives that shine light into this dark world,

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 they 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.

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.

They sang God’s Words (1 Ch. 25:5). Compare Colossians 3:16. Worship 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.

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. God’s people owe Him everything, natural life and spiritual life. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (Jas. 1:17-18). He saw us, loved us, planned our salvation, accomplished our salvation, call us by the gospel, saved us by His grace, lives in us by His Spirit, gave us the very riches of Christ. How wicked we are when we fail to give thanks for everything! “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb. 13:15).

They sang in unity (“the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard,” 2 Ch. 5:12-13). The singing and playing were one voice. It was harmonious rather than discordant. It was not a bunch of individuals doing as they pleased. Every individual was submitted to the Lord and to one another and to the leadership as one body. God made the amazing human voice, and its first purpose is to praise God. How lovely it is for God’s people to use their God-given voices to unite in teaching and admonishing one another and in proclaiming thanksgiving to God!

Whenever there was a revival in Israel, the Temple music “program” was revived. We see this in the days of Hezekiah.

“And he set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the LORD by his prophets. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel. And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshipped. Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the LORD with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped” (2 Ch. 29:25-30).

There were rooms in the Temple for the singers and instruments. In Herod’s temple, they were located below the Nicanor Gate that led from the Court of the Women to the place of the sacrificial altar before the Temple proper. In front of the Nicanor Gate was a series of semi-circular steps and a platform on which the singing priests presented themselves.

In ancient Israel, when she was right with God, the music associated with worship was carefully prepared and skillfully performed with godly oversight.

All too often a church’s song service is led by individuals who know almost nothing about what they are doing, who lack the skill, enthusiasm, and spirituality to do a good job and aren’t interested in getting a proper education to improve their ministries.

No wonder many are tempted to move to a church that has an enthusiastic contemporary worship service. No wonder young people often think of church as dull. I received an email recently from a woman who informed me that her family left an independent Baptist church that was lifeless and that they are now happy members of a lively, contemporary Southern Baptist congregation. That’s too bad, but I wonder how many people have turned away from the truth because it was presented in a lifeless, incredibly boring manner!

A doctrinally sound church that is dull, half-hearted, half-dead, and mediocre does not glorify the Lord. God’s people are instructed to do everything
heartily (“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men,” Col. 3:23).

If a church is half-hearted and boring, it is not a true NT church, because Jesus Christ and the Bible are the most exciting “things” on earth!

If a church is young and the congregation small, it is understandable that there might not be proper musicians and song leaders. No one expects a young church to have everything that a more established church has. Under such conditions, the church must do the best it can with what it has and beseech God for growth. We are referring here to churches that
could do better in this matter but don’t simply because it is not a priority. They are content with mediocrity and dullness.

We need to be getting better educated, stronger in every area, moving in the opposite direction of most churches, which is weaker, less cautious, more ignorant. To get stronger is the path of continual revival.

- Receive these reports by email


Sharing Policy: Much of our material is available for free, such as the hundreds of articles at the Way of Life web site. Other items we sell to help fund our expensive literature and foreign church planting ministries. Way of Life's content falls into two categories: sharable and non-sharable. Things that we encourage you to share include the audio sermons, O Timothy magazine, FBIS articles, and the free eVideos and free eBooks. You are welcome to make copies of these at your own expense and share them with friends and family. You may also post parts of reports and/or entire reports to websites, blogs, etc as long as you give proper credit (citation). A link to the original report is very much appreciated as the reports are frequently updated and/or expanded. Things we do not want copied and distributed are "Store" items like the Fundamental Baptist Digital Library, print editions of our books, electronic editions of the books that we sell, the videos that we sell, etc. The items have taken years to produce at enormous expense in time and money, and we use the income from sales to help fund the ministry. We trust that your Christian honesty will preserve the integrity of this policy. "For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward" (1 Timothy 5:18). Questions?

Goal:Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc., the Fundamental Baptist Information Service is an e-mail posting for Bible-believing Christians. Established in 1974, Way of Life Literature is a fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. Brother Cloud lives in South Asia where he has been a church planting missionary since 1979. Our primary goal with the FBIS is to provide material to assist preachers in the edification and protection of the churches.

Offering: Offerings are welcome if you care to make one. If you have been helped and/or blessed by our material offerings can be mailed or made online with with Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or Paypal. For information see: