Music and the Mask
Great Theologians
About 450 - AUGUSTINE - PRE-CATHOLIC:  "Nor must we keep back the mystical meaning of the 'timbrel and psaltery.'  On the timbrel leather is stretched, on the psaltery gut is stretched; on either instrument the flesh is crucified.  How well did he 'sing a psalm on timbrel and psaltery' who said, 'the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world'?  This psaltery or timbrel He wishes thee to take up, who loveth a new song, who teacheth thee saying to thee, 'Whosoever willeth to be My disciple, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'  Let him not set down his psaltery, let him not set down his timbrel, let him stretch himself out on the wood, and be dried from the lust of the flesh.  the more the strings are stretched, the more sharply do they sound."  (Expositions on the Psalms, Psalm CXLIX)
About 1270 - THOMAS AQUINAS - CATHOLIC:  "Our church does not use musical instruments as harps and psaltries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize"   "It is pernicious to make use of the ceremonies of the Old Law."  (Bingham's Ant., Vol. 3, pg. 137;  Summa Theologica, Secunda Secundae Partis).
About 1525 - ULRICH ZWINGLY, REFORMED CHURCHES:  Influenced the following events:  "On Sunday the 19th of January [1528], the day on which the doctrine of the Mass was attacked....some men, excited by the passion of the moment, fell upon his beloved organ, an accomplice in their eyes of so many superstitious rites, and violently broke it to pieces.  No more mass, no more organ, no more anthems!"  (History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, J. H. Merle D'Augigne, 1835, Translated by H. White B.A. of Canterbury, M.A. and Ph.D. of Heidelberg, 1844, Vol. XIII, pg. 606).
About 1540, MARTIN LUTHER - LUTHERAN:  "...organs are ensigns of Baal" (Eckhard, proponent of instruments, in argument with John Calvin.)
About 1550 - JOHN CALVIN - REFORMED CHURCHES:  "Music instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lightning of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law.  The Papists therefore have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews.  Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostles is far more pleasing to Him....In Popery there was a ridiculous and unsuitable imitation [of the Jews].  while they adorned their temples and valued themselves as having made the worship of God more splendid and inviting, they employed organs and many other such ludicrous things, by which the Word and worship of God are exceedingly profaned, the people being much more attached to those rites than to the understanding of the divine Word....Musical instruments were among the legal ceremonies which Christ at his coming abolished; and, therefore we, under the Gospel, must maintain a greater simplicity" (Commentary on Psalm xxxiii, Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:1-9 and Four Last Books of Moses I:263).
ABOUT 1550 - JOHN KNOX - PRESBYTERIAN:  "This principle not only purified the church of human inventions and popish corruptions, but restored plain singing of psalms, unaccompanied by instrumental music."
About 1775 - JOHN WESLEY, METHODIST: "I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels provided they are neither seen nor heard." [1]
About 1800 - ADAM CLARK - METHODIST:  "I have never known instrumental music to be productive of any good in the worship of God and I have reason to believe that it has been productive of much evil.  Music as a science I esteem and admire, but instruments of music in the house of God I abominate and abhor.  This is the abuse of music and I here register my protest against all such corruption in the worship of that Infinite Spirit who requires his followers to worship him in spirit and in truth" (Commentary on Amos 6:5).
1861, 1870, 1881, CHARLES SPURGEON - BAPTIST:  "In many of our dissenting congregations, some five or six who are the choir, sing to the praise and glory of themselves, and the people sit still and listen, not daring to spoil music so magnificent....In many other places it is thought most seemly to delegate the work of human hearts and tongues and lips to some instrument which shall praise the Lord.  May that never be the case here....If you and your choir wish to show off your excellent voices, you can meet at home...but the...church of God must not be desecrated to so poor an end....The institution of singers as a separate order is an evil, a growing evil, and ought to be abated and abolished....We should like to see all the pipes of the organs in our nonconformist places of worship either ripped open or compactly filled with concrete.  The human voice is so transcendently superior to all that wind or strings can accomplish that it is a shame to degrade its harmonies by association with blowing and scraping"  (Sermons in the Metropolitan Pulpit, London, 1861 pg. 218, 1870 pg. 353, 1881 pg. 474).
1888, JOHN GIRARDEAU - PRESBYTERIAN:  "The Church of Scotland....for centuries knew nothing of instrumental music in her public services....But...some who clamored for a more artistic 'celebration' of worship....The floodgates are up, and the result is by no means uncertain: the experience of the American Presbyterian Church will be that of the Scottish."
            My heart sings to you, God.  The strings of my heart tremble in lowliness, resonate in hope, and arise in echoes of love.  From earth to heaven.  From my heart to yours.  From spirit to Spirit.  Transcending worlds, my song spreads your laughter, calms my tears, and rests in you.
            He wondered if she really loved him.  He certainly did love her.  But the way she responded to him was rather unusual, and at first left him wondering.
            Whenever he went to pick her up at her house, she would fling open the door, sweep her arms upward, and - with a tape playing in the background - begin to sing her greeting to him:
With loving effervescence
I come into your presence!
            Furthermore, every time he took her home, she would tell him to wait a moment and then fling open the front door, turn on the tape player again, and sing out her appreciation for their lovely evening together:
When with you my heart can sing and chime!
When apart I relive that precious time.
            Well, he decided this was just her way.  And, after all, one of the things he had liked about her from the beginning was that she wasn't shy about expressing her feelings toward him.  He even got so he bragged to his friends about her.
            As a result, she was so pleased that he was pleased, she began singing while with him even more. 
            Eventually he began writing her love letters.  When he would see her later, sometimes he would want to talk to her about the letters.  When he'd ask her how she felt about his words, she would burst out in song:
I love your words; they touch my heart
Even when we are far apart.
            To her amazement, he was a little annoyed.  He tried not to show it because he loved her so, and appreciated her talent.  But all he wanted to do was for them to talk one on one with each other.  She'd talk to him some, but then burst out in another refrain:
How assuring it is to firmly know
You'd protect me from my every foe.
            It was obvious she adored him.  This he knew without all doubt.  Who else would spend so much time writing such lovely lyrics and composing such magical melodies?  So they continued their relationship.
            One time while on one of their dates, she stepped out in front of a car; he saw it just in time to push her out of its path.  But in the process, he was hit and hospitalized in a distant city where she could not go.  He nearly lost his life.  When he finally got well and returned, it was like receiving him back from the dead.  She had no doubts how much he loved her.
            In fact, when she finally saw him again, she could not control her emotions.  He felt the same way and expected a hug and a quiet and intimate moment of just being reunited again.  Instead, she burst out in another song:
Your life you willingly gave for me.
Your love has measureless degree.
            When other people heard her sing to him in public, they thought how lucky he was to have such a talented woman who adored him so.  Indeed on the surface it seemed obvious she loved him.
            But the singing became so incessant, more and more substituting their talks together, their quiet moments together, he finally began to seriously wonder who she was more interested in ~ him or herself. 
            It was as though she were wearing a mask all the time.  It was as though she was performing rather than face talking directly to him and allowing him to talk directly to her.  It was as though she was always on stage.
            This story is a parable.  Do you see the parallels?  God the Son ~ Jesus ~ is the groom awaiting the wedding day at the end of time on earth.  His bride is the church.  The time spent together is our worship. 
            Intimacy is avoided.  Although there is mutual love, the woman is insisting on "pleasing" the man in her own way, regardless of what really pleases him.
            Oh God, may I never do anything that displeases you.  Help me understand more perfectly what does please you and not take for granted what people claim pleases you.
            Our word hypocrite comes from the Greek word, "hypokrites" which originally meant pretender, but later came to mean an actor on the stage.
            We usually think of hypocrites as doing something morally wrong in their life away from the church building, despite their declarations on Sunday morning of how much they love God.
            But we can have hypocrisy in our worship.  There are examples in the Bible of hypocritic worshippers doing what pleased them instead of God, even though it seemed so right.
            Cain and Abel both worshipped God.  Cain and Abel both made sacrifices to God.  Both sacrificed their time to acknowledge God.  Both sacrificed part of their livelihood, part of their income.  How righteous of them both. 
            But Abel's worship was accepted by God and Cain's was not.  Although the Bible does not say outright, there seems to be a strong inference that what displeased God was that Cain offered God products from his gardens and fields.  Abel, on the other hand, had offered an animal sacrifice, shedding its blood.  (See Genesis 4:2-5).  Many scriptures refer to sacrifices of animals being used as substitutes until Jesus came to earth and sacrificed his own blood.
            How could God be displeased with Cain's worship?  After all, Cain chose to worship God and not some idol.  Cain wanted to please God.  Cain sacrificed time and things of monetary value for God.  Cain gave liberally.  But what Cain did was not what God wanted him to do.
            Then there were Nadab and Abihu.  They were priests under their father, Aaron, the high priest.  Nadab was in line to be the next high priest, in fact.  One day they went into the tabernacle and burned incense to God.  How beautiful a ceremony it must have been. 
            How did God reward them for this beautiful ceremony?  The fire they used to light the incense blazed out and burned them.  How could God do such a thing? 
            Nadab and Abihu both went to "church" regularly.  Nadab and Abihu held high office in the church.  Nadab and Abihu worshipped God, not just weekly, but every day.  How dedicated to the Lord these "clergymen" were.
            So how could God have punished them?  Because these men took fire from outside the Tabernacle against God's regulation for worship.  Because what Nadab and Abihu did was not what God wanted them to do.  (See Leviticus 10:1-3). 
            Then there was King Saul.  He had just been to battle against the enemies of God and had captured all their sheep which he, in turn, planned to sacrifice en masse to Jehovah God.  What a grand and holy event this was to be.  Thousands and thousands of sacrifices to God!  Nothing is too much for God.  Nothing is too costly for God.  Nothing withheld from God.  What pageantry!
            How did God reward King Saul for this grand ceremony in his name?  God took the kingdom from Saul.
            But King Saul had seemed to love God so much.  After all, he took the chance of losing his own life in order to fight idol worshippers.  Then he took the plunder and prepared a worship service like none had ever seen before!  How grand it would be!  How impressed the people would be.  And God.
            How could God have punished him for all this?  Because Saul was told to destroy all the animals of these people who worshipped gods of their imagination.  Because what King Saul did was not what God wanted him to do.  (See 1 Samuel 15:3, 20-24.)
            We will talk more later about what pleases God.  Let us discuss for a moment first about what pleases our visitors, especially the lonely. 
            Like it or not, in "thinking of the visitors" we are often justifying what we want to do instead of what God wants us to do.  It's not a matter of what is pleasing to God, we illogically surmise.   It is popular today to have a lot of hype in our "seeker services."  I suppose if no one is lonely, that would be effective on a permanent basis.
            But does a grand musical presentation fill the hearts of the lonely?    The music is important.  It is part of the public worship.  But, after the hype becomes old hat, so often people leave our congregations because ultimately they feel on a gut level that no one really cares how they feel. 
            Proverbs 14:13 says that, even though there may be a lot of laughter, people with heartache will still have their heartache.  Does our congregation have a revolving door?  Does it draw people temporarily; that is, until the heartache and loneliness resurfaces?
            Ultimately, having more people on Sunday is what we want to do so we can convert more people.  And that ultimately glorifies God.  We have to look at the big picture, we contend.  Okay.  Let's look at the big picture. 
            Jehovah God, we're doing everything we know how to glorify you to those who do not know you.  You understand that, don't you, God?           
Music in Jesus' Day
            According to TIME LIFE BOOK:  ROME, music was as much a part of people's lives in Jesus' day as it is today.  Indeed, they had background music during their entertainment, just as we do during movies.
            According to the mosaic of the Dar Buc Ammera from Zliten, 2nd century A.D., while gladiators fought in the amphitheater to entertain the people, they were accompanied by a band of musicians playing such instruments as bronze horns, trumpets, and the water organ.  [2]
            Plautus wrote "rollicking musical comedies" for the commoner.  [3] 
            As depicted on a wall painting from Stabia, probably lst century A.D., Museo Nazionale, Naples, at Roman banquets a single performer might play two instruments at the same time, such as plucking a cithara with one hand and a harp with the other. [4]
            They had their military bands too.  Sometimes they played in front of the procession just before entering battle.  And they always played after they won and as they re-entered their home cities in triumph.  These triumphal processions after winning wars included a band of flute, horn and trumpet players.[5] 
            So, it wasn't as though music was uncommon or unpopular in Jesus' day.  On the contrary, music was expected at just about all occasions of pomp and ceremony or entertainment.
            It is striking then, that when Jesus travelled about for some three years spreading the news of the impending Kingdom of God, never was music even mentioned other than for children playing games and funerals (Matthew 11:16-17).
            Even for his own triumphal procession into Jerusalem, there is no mention of music (see Matthew 21:21:9; Mark 11:9; Luke 19:37; John 12:13).
            Only when Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper was music mentioned.  Did he organize great pomp and ceremony for this grand historic occasion?  No.  Did he organize choirs and dramas and costumes and decorations?  No.  He held it in private.  He held is quietly.  And when he was through they sang one hymn (Matthew 26:30).  That's all.
            How amazing it is to our modern minds to think of this auspicious ceremony including only one quiet hymn.  Or of the entire ceremony itself being so quiet.
            Was it foreign in Jesus' mind to have a lot of singing and playing which he could call upon for his newly instituted religious ceremony?  No.  He was used to it.  After all, the Jewish religion guided by the Law of Moses under which Jesus lived his entire life, included many rules about their use of music in their services.  They are quite interesting.
            God, I just want to praise you in my songs.  Show me how.  I'm trying, God.  I'm really trying.  Don't let me get discouraged.
Choirs in Judaism
            There are always ads on the religious page or in the church bulletin section in the newspaper, or on radio or TV about special singing groups or performances various evenings of the week.  They are meant to draw visitors.  And, of course, they are usually wonderful in their own way.  Do they draw visitors?
            Usually they draw people who are already religious and already attending church somewhere.  However, let's consider what it would take to draw the unchurched.
            Our reasoning is that we have to compete with TV to get them to come to church.  Or perhaps rock concerts or other kinds of concerts professionally done.  Therefore, we have to draw them on their level, whether or not it is a spiritual level. 
            Of course, it all makes sense.  And in their own way, they accomplish some good.  I remember going to hear Christian college choruses sing at special programs; and since I loved to sing, I decided I wanted to go to a Christian college and be able to sing like that.  Yes, they accomplish some good at their special programs set aside just for that.
            But what about drawing people to come to church on Sunday?  In order to have such high quality music, we would have to have a special singing group or choir every Sunday. 
            Did the church always have special singing groups and choirs?  According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, the entire congregation sang until around the sixth century when only men were permitted to sing in church.  Soon that, too, was limited, and only the Catholic clergy could sing.  Up until then it was unison singing, the only kind that civilization knew about.
            Gradually during the Middle Ages, the idea of singing in harmony came into being, and there became a demand for trained singers.  These singers were usually monks who had been trained in their monasteries.  In a nut shell, then, choirs were introduced by the Roman Catholic Church around the sixth century. [6]
            Is there anything in the Bible about choirs during the regular worship attended by everyone?  Let's look it up and find out.
            The Bible does not usually say the word choir, but often refers to singers singing together.  Obviously, they were choirs.              The first mention is in 1 Chronicles 6:31-46.  It says King David, around 1000 BC, put certain men in charge of the music in the house of God after the ark was put inside.  There was still no temple in David's day, so it explains they "performed their duties according to the regulations" in front of the tabernacle.  The tabernacle, which was actually a tent, was too small to hold a choir in addition to all the other things that had to be accomplished in it.  Besides, they couldn't be heard as well inside.
            Back in verse 1, it says Levi, one of the twelve patriarchs whose descendants became one of the twelve tribes of Israel, had three sons:  Gershon, Kohath and Merari.  Then in verse 33, it lists the head musician - the choir director.  His name was Heman, and he was a descendant of Kohath.  Heman was a grandson of the prophet Samuel, the last and probably most famous judge of Israel.  What a legacy!
            Verse 39 says Heman's associate at his right hand was Asaph, who was a descendant of Gershon.  And verse 44 says Ethan, a descendant of Merari, was at Heman's left hand.
            The next mention is in 1 Chronicles 9:33.  By this time, the temple had been built.  This scripture relates that the musicians - still all Levites - stayed in apartments provided for them at the temple, and they were exempt from other duties because they were responsible for providing music both day and night.  Being a church musician was a full-time job!
            By now there were a lot of men in these choirs - 470 to be exact (1 Chronicles 15:5-10).  Heman later appointed someone to be in charge of all the choirs.  So he appointed Kenaniah to be in charge of the singing "because he was skillful at it."  You will find this in 1 Chronicles 15:22 and 27.  Kenaniah was musically talented, a God-given gift.  How pleased he must have been to be able to use his talent for the Lord.
            The next mention of choirs is under the reign of King Solomon, David's son, when the brand-new permanent temple was dedicated.  After the choir sang, according to 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, the glory of God filled the temple.  This, of course, was a sign from God that he was well pleased with what was going on.
            The mention of choirs is not made again for several centuries.  Finally, when King Josiah restored scriptural Mosaic worship, they had a Passover feast at the temple, the first in many years, and the greatest since the days of Samuel.  Here is the first mention of God's direct authorization of the use of choirs.  It says the musicians, descendants of Asaph, "were in the places prescribed by David, Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun the king's seer [prophet]" (2 Chronicles 35:15).
            Once more there is silence in the history of the Jews, much of which was due to the Jews forsaking worship to Jehovah in favor of idols, and their eventual exile to Babylon.  They returned to Palestine to rebuild the temple under the leadership of Ezra around 540 BC.  Singers were listed as the returnees in Ezra 2:41 & 70, 7:7, and 10:24, still all Levites.
            A few years later, Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls.  Nehemiah 7:1, 44, 73 lists the fact that singers, descendants of Levi, returned with him and were appointed to do their jobs at the temple.  Nehemiah 10:28-39 says these singers, along with the gatekeepers, stayed at the temple, and declared, "We will not neglect the house of our God."
            So, after all these years, how often were the choirs performing?  Nehemiah 11:22-23 says they performed every day as other Levites offered sacrifices or whatever they were to do daily.
            By this time, there were so many singers (see above), plus the 4000 orchestra members (1 Chronicles 23:5), they built entire villages just for them and their families (Nehemiah 12:28-29)!  What a grand idea!  They could get together and practice any time they wanted!  Is it any wonder, then, that when they all got together to sing in Jerusalem under their choir director, Jezrahiah, "the sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away"?
            Nehemiah now points out the continuity of having choirs at the temple.  "For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the singers and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.  So in the days of Zerubbabel and of Nehemiah, all Israel contributed the daily portions for the singers and gatekeepers.  They also set aside the portion for the other Levites" (Nehemiah 12:45-47).  Yes, the singers were even supported by the "church."
            Later, Nehemiah became quite disturbed when he learned the apartments had been taken away from the singers, also the rooms used to store their equipment, and they were no longer getting paid.  All of them had just gone home to their villages (Nehemiah 13:5 & 10).  After he restored them, Nehemiah prayed, "Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services."
            So, there you have it.  Choirs in the Bible.  When did they perform?  Every day and into the night.  How did they make a living?  By being paid to sing.  Who were they?  Male Levites. 
            Jehovah God, I knew that there were choirs in the Bible.  That's why we have them where I attend church.  They are exactly what you wanted.  I'm so glad we are pleasing you.
Choirs in the Church
            Did God through his prophets says they could have choirs if they wanted to?  No.  He insisted on it.  He designated what they were to do, when they were to do it, that they were to be paid, and that they were to be only males from the Levite tribe.
            Does that mean we should have choirs now during our worship?  If God made so many specifications in the Old Testament, he would have repeated them in the New Testament.  God did not just leave it up to our discretion.  He was specific in the Old Testament with what he wanted.  Did he forget in the New Testament?  He didn't in the Old Testament.  There is no mention of choirs in the New Testament.
            If we choose to copy the Old Testament pattern, then our choirs must be only men, only from the Levite tribe, they must sing all day every day at the church building, and they must be paid.
            But, of course, Jesus nailed the Old Law to the cross (Colossians 2:14).
            By the time of Martin Luther in the late 1400s and early 1500s, there was no longer any such thing as congregational singing.  It had gradually been taken over by choirs and the clergy.  J. H. M. D'AuBigne in the early 1800s explained in his book, HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, that the congregations which broke away from the Roman Catholic Church no longer had monks and priests; therefore the chanting of the clergy was to be succeeded by the singing of the entire congregation.
            Martin Luther, therefore, translated many of the Psalms into the language of the people and set them to tunes to be sung by the congregation. [7]
            Baptist leader, Charles Spurgeon, said this in his sermon entitled, "Singing in the Ways of the Lord" preached in 1881:
            "Oh, brethren, let us take care that all our songs are to the honour and praise of God, for if we ever sing to our own praise it will be idolatry.  I fear much public worship is thus marred.  We heard of a man in Boston, in America, praying such a grand prayer that the newspapers said on the next day that it was 'the finest prayer that had ever been offered to a Boston audience.'
            "Why, we hear of churches where four people are hired to do the praise of God, and all the people sit still and listen to them.  And that is according to the New Testament, is it?  It must be a very 'revised version,' surely.  I find nothing of that sort in the book I have been accustomed to use. 
            "Let all the people of God praise him.  Singing should be congregational, but it should never be performed for the credit of the congregation.  'Such very remarkable singing!  The place is quite renowned for its musical performance.'  This is poor..." [8]
            Henry Halley said, "....even at best, it is better that the people sing than that they listen to singing.  Why not turn the whole congregation into a choir?  Under proper leadership, the hymns of a vast congregation could be made to rise like the swell of an ocean's roar, and cause angels in heaven to lean over and listen.
            "....It was the public singing of Luther's hymns that bore his preaching over central Europe, and shook the world into the Reformation.  It was singing that made the great Welsh revival.  Was there ever a revival without it?
            "....Sing the same hymns often.  Only as they are sung often can the people become familiar with them.  It is the hymns that we know that are the ones we love.  And we never tire of the hymns we love, never.  Sing the old hymns.  Sing them over and over.  A church that would do this would not have to beg people to come to church.  It could not keep them away.
            "Memorize hymns.  A congregation should be taught to memorize the hymns they sing most often, at least some of the verses.  They will sing better, and feel deeper, the spirit and power of what they sing.  It will give power to the service.  Train children to sing hymns and to memorize them.  It is the best religious education.  It will develop their spiritual growth, and tend to tie them to the church for life." [9]
            Well then, if it is indeed possible that we cannot have trained choirs, we have to have something.  What about all those people who can't keep a tune?  At least an instrument of some kind would keep everyone on key, and hopefully drown out the bad singers among us who are just as embarrassed for themselves as the rest of us are for them.
            Yes, we know that God loves bad singers as well as good singers.  We understand that God hears a perfect voice when we raise puny imperfect voices to him.  But what about the visitors?  They're not going to want to come back if the singing is bad.  Furthermore, we might lose what members we have if the singing gets to be too insufferable.  Surely God wouldn't want that.
            Before we enter into the next phase of music in worship, let us look at some surprising historical facts about church music.  For in it we find out that what we in our century take for granted was always acceptable in the church was not widely acceptable at all until the sixteenth century.  First, review all the quotes of famous theologians of past centuries on the subject at the beginning of our chapter.
            Oh, God, I want so much to please you in song.  We all thought you'd be more pleased the better the singers were.  We all thought it would glorify you, God.
Instruments in Judaism
            Pianos and organs were not invented for well over 600 years after the time of Christ, and not very well developed until about the 1700s, and therefore 2700 years after the time of David, and about 4000 years after the time of Moses.  So, research on instruments used during worship must be done in the Bible concordance using the key words "play," "instrument," "musician," and even "singer."
            The first mention of instruments used in worship is 1 Chronicles 15:16-22 which goes into some detail.  In addition to the Levite singers, they were to be accompanied by musical instruments.  The instruments were not left to chance or personal discretion.  The selection of instruments was specified:  Lyres (psaltries), harps and cymbals.
            A trio, Heman, Asaph and Ethan, the head musicians, were to sound the bronze cymbals.  An octet was to play the lyres.  And a sextet was to play the harps.  It must have sounded very angelic - the strings of the lyres played with a pick, the strings of the harps played with fingers, and the cymbals keeping the tempo.  Try to imagine it.  So beautiful!
            When King David brought the ark of the covenant made under the direction of Moses to Jerusalem where he had erected a new tabernacle (tent of worship) there was a grand procession.  Rams' horns and trumpets sounded out to call people's attention to it.  And what instruments were played?  Cymbals, lyres and harps were played while the singers sang (1 Chronicles 15:25-28). 
            From then on, Levites were appointed to perform various duties "before the ark of the Lord" by playing, yes, the lyres, harps and cymbals, and to "blow the trumpets regularly" (1 Chronicles 16:4-6, 41-42).
            By the time David was old, he had quite an orchestra for worship.  There were 4,000 Levites appointed to "praise the Lord with the musical instruments" (1 Chronicles 23:5)!
            After King Solomon built the permanent temple and the golden ark of the covenant had been placed in the Most Holy Place of the temple, "all the Levites who were musicians...stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres.  They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets.  The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord.  Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang" (2 Chronicles 5:12-13).
            Was God pleased with the use of these instruments?  You bet he was.  In the next verse it says that God's glory filled the temple.  Later, after Solomon's prayer of dedication, the Levites took "the Lord's musical instruments which King David had made for praising the Lord."  Then the priests blew their trumpets.  So could instruments be used to praise God?  You bet. 
            Then, when the temple was dedicated, 2 Chronicles 7:6 says the priests took their positions ready to offer sacrifices, as did the Levites "with the Lord's musical instruments, which King David had made for praising the Lord and which were used when he gave thanks."  Opposite the Levites the priests blew their trumpets.
            Some may say that this was David's idea and not endorsed by God.  Not so.  These instruments were commanded by God.
            Some 500 years later, one of the last kings of Israel, Hezekiah, had the temple repaired, it having been closed in favor of idol worship.  When it was rededicated, Levites were stationed in the temple with the usual 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."  As soon as the burnt offerings began to be sacrificed, the singers began to sing, accompanied by trumpets and the instruments.  (See 2 Chronicles 29:25-30). 
            Notice what instruments were still being played:  Cymbals, harps and lyres.  But then, that's what God had designated.
            Shortly after that, the first Passover was celebrated in many years.  For seven days the Levites and priests sang in the temple every day accompanied by the Lord's instruments of praise (2 Chronicles 30:21).
            After Hezekiah, temple worship was neglected again.  But when King Josiah became king, they once more repaired the temple, and would you believe all Levites "skilled in playing musical instruments" were made supervisors over the repairmen (2 Chronicles 34:12-13).
            About a hundred years later, after the Jews were taken exile to Babylon and then returned, Nehemiah led them to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem that had been destroyed in their capture years earlier.  These walls were dedicated with songs of thanksgiving and instruments.  Which instruments?  Cymbals, harps and lyres (Nehemiah 12:27-28 & 36).
            There are many references to individuals singing to God accompanied by a musical instrument, most of them being in the Psalms.
            Okay, we see that God commanded instruments to accompany the singers.  But they weren't just any instruments.  They were cymbals, harps and lyres.  Trumpets (and sometimes rams' horns) were used to call attention to what was going on, but apparently seldom played songs.  And this was all done during the days that the Law of Moses was in effect.
            Heavenly Father, I love you and worship you.  The instruments do too.  It is just one more way to worship you.  I'm eternally grateful you made instruments available to us all.
Plucking Strings to the Lord
            Well, what about New Testament and Christian worship?  No instruments are mentioned except in connection with funerals and children playing.  None were mentioned in connection with worship after the time of Christ.
            Was this an accident?  Did God forget to mention the instruments, or did he leave it up to our discretion?  He didn't forget in the Old Testament.  He didn't leave it up to the worshippers' discretion in Old Testament Jewish worship.  Why would he forget in New Testament Christian worship?
            We may say that we choose to copy the Old Testament where instruments were used.  In that case, we can only play the cymbal, lyre (psaltry), and harp.  Furthermore, the only ones who can play them are Levites.  Seen any Levites lately?  Further, they are required to play while the Levite priests offer their daily animal sacrifices.  Slaughtered any animals in the name of the Lord at church lately?
            Others may concede that instruments should not be part of worship, but one can play hymns on the piano in other places and sing them, and that is not worship.  When is it worship and when is it not?  It is not worship if a person is not paying attention to the words, such as when trying to learn a tune.  Are there other exceptions?
            If we're in a building with stained-glass windows, that's worship, but if we're in a building with curtains, that's not worship?  If we're sitting on a seat thirty feet long, that's worship, but if we're sitting on a short seat, that's not worship?  If we're wearing street clothes, that's worship, but if we're wearing costumes, that's not worship?  If we're with a group, that's worship, but if we're alone, that's not worship?
            We have examples in the Bible of people worshipping informally in small groups on a hill (Genesis 22:4f), on a road (Joshua 5:13f), at a camp site (Judges 7:13-15), in a yard (Job 1:20), in a house, (Matthew 2:11), in a boat (Matthew 14:33), in a garden (Matthew 28:9), in a cemetery (Mark 5:3,6), on a river bank (Acts 16:13f).  
            Further, we have examples in the Old Testament of worshipping with song completely alone, and yet honoring the commandment given by God by using only those instruments He authorized in public worship.  See Psalm 71:22 which says, I will praise with the lyre, psaltry and harp; Psalm 92:1-4 mentions singing praises with an instrument of ten strings, psaltry and harp, for God made ME; and Psalm 144:9 says I will sing upon the psaltry and instrument of ten strings to praise God.
            H. G. Wells in his famous history of the world published in 1920, said that by the mid-500s, "The music of the early Christian centuries was devout and enthusiastic rather than elaborate....'A Christian maiden,' said St. Jerome, 'ought not to know what a lyre or a flute is.'  Psalm singing and instrumentation were taken over by the Christians from the Jewish services" [10]
            The NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA states that the early church prohibited musical instruments because they were paganistic.  It also states that "the organ has never been prescribed for use in the Roman Catholic Church by Church law; it has apparently been used in the Church consistently since the 9th century.  By the 13th century the organ was certainly in general use."  [11] 
            However, in 1903, Pope Pius X opposed the use of instruments in worship, although he approved of the organ.  Pope Pius XI later followed this same determination.  "In 1939, Pope Pius XII relaxed this prohibition, allowing instrumental music that was executed artistically."
            In his book, Early Christians Speak:  Faith and Life in the First Three Centuries, by Everett Ferguson, he wrote this:
            "Until the latter part of the fourth century the psalms were performed responsorially.  That is, the main content was sung as a solo by a cantor (psaltes he was called in the church) with the congregation repeating the last words or responding with a refrain or acclamation [because they had no song books]....
            "In Christian hymnography the words were the important things and melodies were adapted to the words.  This was possible where the words were chanted and so were not bound to a rigid form of meter.  The priority of the words and the form of rendition ensured that the singing was done without instrumental accompaniment.  Indeed, an instrument had no function in these simple chants with their emphasis on the content of praise.
            "There is no certain evidence of the use of instruments in the Christian liturgy until the later Middle Ages.  Because of the associations of musical instruments with immorality in the pagan world, the church fathers took a very dim view of them in any setting. [12]
            The Catholic Cyclopedia, considered one of the most accurate sources of church history, says this in Volume 10:  "For almost a thousand years Gregorian chant, without an instrumental or harmonic addition, was the only music used in connection with the liturgy....While all this development [of music instruments] had up to the first half of the sixteenth century, served mainly secular purposes, it was through Ludovico Grossi da Viadana (1564-1627) that the use of instruments became more common in churches."
            Holy Father, I never thought of these things before.  I have been pleasing you all these years.  Surely this cannot be wrong.  God, I just want to please you.
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Endnotes for this page
[1].  Walker, Fred B., The Kind of Music God Wants, Milbryan Foundation, Dallas, undated, pg. 8
[2].  Hadas, Moses, Great Ages of Man:  Imperial Rome, Time Inc., New York, 1965, pg. 51
[3].  Ibid, pg. 103
[4].  Ibid, pg. 134
[5].  Ibid, pg. 58-59
[6].  McDonald, William J., New Catholic Encyclopedia, "Choir," pg. 621, "Music, Sacred," pg. 129-131
[7].  D'Aubigne, J. H. Merle, History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, The Religious Tract Society, London, pg. 376-377
[8].  Spurgeon, Charles H., The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit During the Year 1881, Vol. XXVII, Pilgrim Publications, Pasadena, 1973, pg. 483
[9].  Halley, Henry H., Pocket Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley Publisher, Chicago, 1952, pg. 740-741
[10].  Wells, H. G. The Outline of History, Garden City Books, NY, Book 6, Ch.28, Pg.448
[11].  McDonald, William J., New Catholic Encyclopedia, McGraw-Hill, Chicago, 1962, pg. 129-131, 746
[12].  Ferguson, Everett, Early Christians Speak, Sweet Publishing Co., Austin, 1971, pg. 161
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