Thursday, August 16, 2007

Praise the Lord with Instruments!

It is a good thing to praise the Lord, and to sing unto thy Name, O most High, To declare thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy truth in the night, Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the viol, with the song upon the harp.
(Psa 92:1-3 Geneva Bible)

I love my Geneva Bible. I love all the notes of the Reformers at the bottom of the page. However, when reading any notes we need to remember that the notes are not divinely inspired, as is the Holy Writ of scripture.

The Reformers’ notes in Psalm 92:3 state:
“These instruments were then permitted, but at Christ’s coming abolished.”

I ask my good friends, who are much more learned than me, the Reformers, just where they get such a stance? We are told in Hebrews where the sacrifices have ended.

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
(Heb 10:4-9)

We are told in Acts where the rite of circumcision has ended.

But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
(Act 15:5-10)

However, we are never told that the worship of the Lord with instruments has ended. What could possibly be the justification for such a stance? I have heard it suggested that the human voice is made by God and instruments are made by man, therefore it is profane to worship Him with instruments. I would ask, “What has changed in this regard since Christ’s incarnation?” If instruments are profane now, then they were profane then. If they were acceptable then, they should be acceptable now. We know that they were acceptable then through many Old Testament references.

Isn’t it a central part of Covenant Theology that we are to continue those things God has commanded unless He specifically discontinues them under the New Covenant? After all, this is the typical reason I hear from Reformed Christians on why the Ten Commandments are still applicable to us.

What I find very interesting is the Reformers notes in Psalm 98.

Sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvelous things: his right hand, and his holy arm have gotten him the victory. The Lord declared his salvation: his righteousness hath he revealed in the sight of the nations. He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. All the earth, sing ye loud unto the Lord: cry out and rejoice, and sing praises. Sing praise to the Lord upon the harp, even upon the harp with a singing voice. With shalms and sound of trumpets sing loud before the Lord the king. Let the sea roar, and all that therein is, the world, and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands, and let the mountains rejoice together, Before the Lord: for he is come to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world: and the people with equity.
(Psalm 98:1-9)

First of all, the Reformers attribute the “new song” to the song made in response to their deliverance by Christ. So, we see then, that the Reformers take this Psalm to be prophetic in nature, speaking of the coming Messiah.

Notes, 98:1
1 That is, some song newly made in token of their wonderful deliverance by Christ.
2 He preserveth his Church miraculously.

So, how do they explain the references to instruments here? After all, if the rest of the Psalm is prophetic, then why wouldn’t the instruments be prophetic as well? Here is their explanation:

Notes, 98:6
1 By this repetition and earnest exhortation to give praises with instruments, and also of the dumb creatures, he signifieth that the world is never able to praise God sufficiently for their deliverance.

Hmm…even if they are right in this regard, does this negate the validity of worshipping the Lord on instruments? Rather Psalm 150 emphasizes the importance of instruments in the worship of the Lord, as the very last Psalm.

Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
(Psa 150:3-5)

Even then the Reformers “poo-poo” this clear command from scripture with the following:

Notes, 150:3
1 Exhorting the people only to rejoice in praising God, he maketh mention of those instruments which by God’s commandment were appointed in the old Law, but under Christ the use thereof is abolished in the Church.

Again, dear Reformers, speak to me through the books you have left behind just where you get, “Thou shalt not use musical instruments in the New Covenant” out of the Holy Word of God. If any “anti-instrument” Christians care to explain this on their behalf, I would welcome their responses.


Anonymous said...

Hey Mike - just catching up with you guys. I noticed something in the reformers last comment that I thought might make a difference.

They used the phrase "In the Church". Since there are some clear distinctions about church service and normal everyday Christian life, I bet that is the distinction they made with instrucments. Although I have not studied this issue yet, these are some interesting comments.

Mike Southerland said...

This may be true, but I still fail to see where they get the idea that instruments are abolished in the church. The Church of Christ makes the same claim. However, their reasoning is that since it has not been commanded in the New Testament we are not to do it. My understanding of the Reformers' position is that things from the Old Testament continue into the New unless explicitly changed.