“Joyful Noise?”

“Joyful Noise?”

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! 2 Serve the LORD with gladness; Come into His presence with singing.” (Psalm 100:1-2, ESV)

Have you ever heard someone use this verse to justify using a piano (or an organ, or a praise band, etc.) in worship to God? Often, the appeal is based on a “tongue-in-cheek” reference to the word “noise,” as if that word justifies ALL sounds! (Other translations render it as a “joyful SHOUT.”) Folks often reason that “if I’m okay with using instruments in worship” or “it doesn’t bother me if others use them, even though I don’t,” it must be ‘okay’ with God: But consider what the bible says!

Several passages in Psalms DO mention using instruments (timbrels, harps, trumpets, ram’s horns) in connection with praising God (Psalm 81:1-4; 98:4-6; 147:7; 149:3; and 150:3-4). Psalm 81 is directed specifically to the Israel of the Psalmist. Unlike ancient Hebrews, Christians are not part of God’s covenant through Moses – the new covenant of Jesus Christ is what applies to us (cf. Matthew 26:28; Colossians 2:14 & 3:17; etc.). This means is that anything God authorized for or permitted ancient Israel to do has nothing to do with our worship toward Him. Jesus also said we will be judged by His words (John 12:48), not by the words of Moses’ law.

Several of these Psalms also mention dancing with using instruments: If these verses permit (or require) using instruments in worship, the same would be true for dancing in worship. We know that in ancient days God allowed (tolerated) many things that He did not actually authorize (cf. Acts 17:30): The fact that something is mentioned in the old testament does not prove that God approved of it! Old testament-era worship activities do not set a precedent for new testament worship.

Almost no one disagrees that singing honors God: Paul says in Colossians 3:16 that Christians are to sing “with grace in [our] hearts unto the Lord.” The bible emphasizes over and over that God is only glorified by things that conform to HIS will. The prophet Samuel told king Saul, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22), and Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” We OUGHT to learn the lesson in these somber words!

Singing instructs and encourages the saints. Colossians 3:16 says Christ’s word is to “dwell” in us (to influence us for good). His word is meant to “teach” us, to continuously instruct or guide us. It is also supposed to “admonish” (literally, to warn), in song! To sing as Paul did (“with understanding,” 1 Corinthians 14:15), our songs must convey a message: This is why “sacred” music must be SUNG!

The sound of an instrument could please, inspire, or even upset us (bagpipes, anyone?) – but it can never communicate abstract ideas like words sung with the voice. Music without lyrics can never instruct us in the way of truth.

The HEART of this matter is the authority of God’s Word. He authorized us to sing, Ephesians 5:19. We are to sing “to one another” (this means ALL should participate, and it says nothing about the “beauty” of our voices!). This kind of singing involves the heart, which means that “merely” singing (i.e., mouth without mind) is not worship, and the object of our sacred music – the “audience” is God – not us!

By telling us to do something in a certain way, God shows exactly what He wants and expects from us! When His word authorizes “singing,” it automatically leaves out using an instrument. The point is not just to be “different:” It is to submit to God. The object of the exercise is to be well-pleasing to God, 2 Corinthians 5:9 – NOT to suit ourselves.


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *