(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the American King James Version).
The use of musical instruments (including the clapping of hands) in the praise and worship of God is frowned upon by some Christian denominations who see mechanical aids to worship as carnal and unspiritual, especially since Jesus and the original Apostles were not recorded to have used them. To such Christians, God may have grudgingly allowed the use of musical instruments in worship in the Old Testament (even though he wasn’t pleased with them), but Christians in the New Testament are to only sing songs of worship with their mouths, as even clapping of the hands is not permitted. It’s usually claimed by these advocates of non-instrumental worship that the use of musical instruments in worship originated from David’s self-will, especially as the practice is widespread among pagans. Is God against the use of musical instruments in worship? Does the New Testament forbid Christians from using musical instruments in the worship of God? We shall examine the Scriptures to answer these questions.
To begin with, let’s address the fallacy that the use of musical instruments in worship in the Old Testament was initiated by David. Long before David, prophets in Israel used musical instruments during their acts of prophesying and in the praise and worship of God. In the book of Exodus, we read of Miriam the prophetess, Moses’ sister, leading the women with musical instrument in praise and worship following the destruction of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. This was in the time of Moses, with whom God readily spoke face-to-face to give laws and instructions to his people. If God was displeased with this practice, no doubt he would have legislated against it in the Mosaic law which regulated all aspects of the lives of the Jews, including their worship of God. But, we find not a single verse of scripture in the law forbidding the use of musical instruments in worship. Not one!
Exodus 15:20 And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dances.
Exodus 15:21 And Miriam answered them, Sing you to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider has he thrown into the sea.
During the time of the Prophet Samuel, the use of musical instruments in worship was a widely accepted practice among prophets. They would sing and praise God with musical instruments, and the Spirit of God would come upon them. Also, we see another notable prophet in Israel, Elisha, relying on the use of musical instruments by a minstrel, to enable him get into the Spirit of prophecy and prophesy. David was called upon to play on the harp inorder to subdue the evil spirit upon Saul and restore his sanity. If the use of musical instruments in worship is carnal and unspiritual, would it activate the Spirit of prophecy, bring down the Holy Spirit and cast out evil spirits?
1 Samuel 10:5 After that you shall come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when you are come thither to the city, that you shall meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy:
1 Samuel 10:6 And the Spirit of the LORD will come on you, and you shall prophesy with them, and shall be turned into another man.
2 Kings 3:14 And Elisha said, As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward you, nor see you.
2 Kings 3:15 But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came on him.
2 Kings 3:16 And he said, Thus said the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches.
2 Kings 3:17 For thus said the LORD, You shall not see wind, neither shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that you may drink, both you, and your cattle, and your beasts.
2 Kings 3:18 And this is but a light thing in the sight of the LORD: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.
2 Kings 3:19 And you shall smite every fenced city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree, and stop all wells of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones.
1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the middle of his brothers: and the Spirit of the LORD came on David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.
1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
1 Samuel 16:15 And Saul’s servants said to him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubles you.
1 Samuel 16:16 Let our lord now command your servants, which are before you, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is on you, that he shall play with his hand, and you shall be well.
1 Samuel 16:17 And Saul said to his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me.
1 Samuel 16:18 Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.
1 Samuel 16:19 Why Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, Send me David your son, which is with the sheep.
1 Samuel 16:20 And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son to Saul.
1 Samuel 16:21 And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armor bearer.
1 Samuel 16:22 And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray you, stand before me; for he has found favor in my sight.
1 Samuel 16:23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was on Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.
The use of trumpets to usher in the presence of God is well documented in the Scriptures. When God descended on Mount Sinai, the sounding of angelic trumpets heralded his coming. The Feast of Trumpets was a special and sacred festival of the Jews, and was to be celebrated by the blowing of trumpets in the presence of God. Even on the Day of Atonement during the year of Jubilee, which is one of the most sacred days in the Jewish calendar, the trumpet of jubilee is to be sounded throughout the land of Israel. Lest we forget, trumpets are musical instruments too! If God would specifically order their use in the celebration of these sacred festivals, surely, that’s sufficient testimony that musical instruments are allowed during solemn feasts in which God’s presence is expected? Trumpets were also to be blown to summon Israel to worship, as well as to invite them to arise from their camps and follow God’s leading in the wilderness.
Exodus 19:16 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightning, and a thick cloud on the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.
Exodus 19:17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.
Exodus 19:18 And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
Exodus 19:19 And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice.
Leviticus 23:23 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
Leviticus 23:24 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall you have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.
Leviticus 23:25 You shall do no servile work therein: but you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.
Leviticus 25:8 And you shall number seven sabbaths of years to you, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty and nine years.
Leviticus 25:9 Then shall you cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall you make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.
Leviticus 25:10 And you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee to you; and you shall return every man to his possession, and you shall return every man to his family.
Leviticus 25:11 A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be to you: you shall not sow, neither reap that which grows of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of your vine undressed.
Leviticus 25:12 For it is the jubilee; it shall be holy to you: you shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.
Leviticus 25:13 In the year of this jubilee you shall return every man to his possession.
Numbers 10:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
Numbers 10:2 Make you two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shall you make them: that you may use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps.
Numbers 10:3 And when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to you at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
Let’s address the issue of David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel, the composer of most of the Psalms and the man who took great pains to set up the Levites in their service of God in the Temple. It’s true that David as king of Israel set up the various divisions of the singing Levites and their use of musical instruments in the worship of God. But, what is not known by many people is that David was simply carrying out a divine instruction. David was guided by both Prophets Gad and Nathan, in the reforms he spearheaded concerning worship in the Temple. It wasn’t David imposing his carnal desires upon the house of God as king. David sought to do the will of God and to set up a befitting Tabernacle and order of worship for his God, and he received inspiration from God’s prophets to do exactly that. So, David’s organisation of the Levites into various singing divisions, with their instruments of music, wasn’t an act of self-will. It was simply an expression of the divine will. We will do well to remember that despite David’s many faults (which were readily rebuked by God), David was a man after God’s heart and a prophet too! He always sought the mind of God (either through the urim and thummim or through God’s prophets) before taking most of his actions. The few instances where he acted from self-will are recorded in the Scriptures, along with their consequences, leaving us no room to assume that God would overlook any act of self-will from David in matters of instrumentation in music, in both the Psalms he composed and among the Levites. God never shied away from rebuking David and setting him right when he strayed from divine order.
2 Chronicles 29:25 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.
The Acts 2:29 Men and brothers, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us to this day.
The Acts 2:30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
The Acts 2:31 He seeing this before spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
In the New Testament, we’re enjoined to sing hymns and psalms and spiritual songs, making melody in our hearts unto the Lord. The psalms our Lord and his apostles sang were the same ones penned by David. Those psalms were Holy Spirit-inspired, like all other Scriptures, and were frequently quoted by our Lord and his apostles. They were not just songs of praise and worship, but prophetic writings as well, detailing great prophecies concerning the Messiah and endtime events concerning Israel. Those who insist we must only sing hymns, psalms and spiritual songs, without use of musical instruments (and clapping of hands), forget that all the psalms were set to musical instruments! The Holy Spirit-inspired psalms were set to various musical instruments and were so sang throughout Israel’s history. The psalms were not just hymns to be sang vocally; they were to be accompanied with various musical instruments. Although they could be sang without musical instruments (if such were unavailable), the biblical psalms were designed to be played with musical instruments. That the Lord and his apostles authenticated the psalms meant they also approved the facts that they were set to musical instruments. We cannot accept one aspect of the psalms as divinely inspired and reject their other aspects (set to musical instruments). The inspiration upon the book of Psalms means everything about them, including their being set to musical instruments, was inspired. Inspiration is either total or not at all. It’s either the psalms were totally inspired, including the instructions setting them to musical instruments, and the use of musical instruments within them, or they were not inspired at all! We cannot have it both ways. The psalms are inspired Scripture, including the worship of God in them with musical instruments.
Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Colossians 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.
Psalms 4:1 To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.
Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer (NKJV).
Psalms 5:1 To the Chief Musician. With flutes. A Psalm of David.
Give ear to my words, O Lord,
Consider my meditation (NKJV).
Psalms 6:1 To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. On an eight-stringed harp. A Psalm of David.
O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger,
Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure (NKJV).
Psalms 8:1 To the Chief Musician. On the instrument of Gath. A Psalm of David.
O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!(NKJV).
Psalms 12:1 To the Chief Musician. On an eight-stringed harp. A Psalm of David.
Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases!
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men (NKJV).
Psalms 54:1 To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. A Contemplation of David when the Ziphites went and said to Saul, “Is David not hiding with us?”
Save me, O God, by Your name,
And vindicate me by Your strength (NKJV).
Psalms 55:1 To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. A Contemplation of David.
Give ear to my prayer, O God,
And do not hide Yourself from my supplication (NKJV).
Psalms 61:1 To the Chief Musician. On a stringed instrument. A Psalm of David.
Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer (NKJV).
Psalms 76:1 To the Chief Musician. On stringed instruments. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.
In Judah God is known;
His name is great in Israel (NKJV).
Psalms 81:1 To the Chief Musician. On an instrument of Gath. A Psalm of Asaph.
Sing aloud to God our strength;
Make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob (NKJV).
Psalms 84:1 To the Chief Musician. On an instrument of Gath. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.
How lovely is Your tabernacle,
O Lord of hosts!(NKJV).
For those who argue that the Psalms are part of the Old Testament anyway, and that the use of musical instruments in them may be okay then but has expired now, I have news for you! Even in heaven, there is and will be musical instruments used in the worship of God. Angels will use blaring trumpets to herald the coming of the Lord in the rapture and the resurrection of the saints. And resurrected saints will use harps in worship to the glory of God, singing with their harps right before the throne of God! Yes, the redeemed will sing with musical instruments in heaven! So, those Christians averse to the use of musical instruments in worship right now had better prepare and hone their skills on how to use them, because heaven will be full of them! Believers will not just sing with their mouths in heaven—we will also use musical instruments like harps to sing to God’s glory!
1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
1 Corinthians 15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Revelation 14:1 And I looked, and, see, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.
Revelation 14:2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
Revelation 14:3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
Revelation 14:4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits to God and to the Lamb.
Revelation 14:5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
Revelation 15:2 And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
Revelation 15:3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are your ways, you King of saints.
Revelation 15:4 Who shall not fear you, O Lord, and glorify your name? for you only are holy: for all nations shall come and worship before you; for your judgments are made manifest.
Finally, let’s address the issue of clapping of hands in worship. According to the Bible, we’re to present our entire bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable or sensible service. As people who are redeemed from the bondage of sin, we’re to present our members as instruments of righteousness unto godliness. Our bodies are the temple of God and we should glorify God with them. That includes our hands too. The Scripture enjoins us to lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting unto God in prayers. If we can sing and dance and shout praises to God and use musical instruments to glorify him, surely, we can clap our hands to his glory? In the Psalms, we’re enjoined to clap our hands and shout to God with the voice of triumph. Even inanimate objects like hills and floods are commanded to clap their hands to God’s glory! How much more then should intelligent and reasonable humans who have hands clap them to the glory of God! All our members (body parts) are to be used in the praise and worship of God, including our hands!
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
1 Corinthians 6:20 For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
1 Corinthians 6:19 What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?
1 Timothy 2:8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
Psalms 47:1 O clap your hands, all you people; shout to God with the voice of triumph.
Psalms 98:5 Sing to the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.
Psalms 98:6 With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King.
Psalms 98:7 Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
Psalms 98:8 Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together
Psalms 98:9 Before the LORD; for he comes to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.
In conclusion, the use of musical instruments (including the clapping of hands) in worship, though frowned upon by some Christian groups, was sanctioned by God in the Old Testament and is nowhere condemned in the New Testament. Even though there is no record of Jesus and his apostles using musical instruments in worship, they sang from the Psalms which are set to musical instruments. As the New Testament never expressly forbade the use of musical instruments in worship, their use can never be sinful, because sin is the transgression of an extant law—where there is no law, there is no sin. Furthermore, we see redeemed saints in the Book of Revelation singing and harping with harps in heaven, showing that the use of musical instruments in worship is allowed in heaven. If God approves and allows the use of musical instruments during worship in heaven, then no man should disallow them during the worship of God on earth! What God has sanctified and accepted, let no man call impure!
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