Mandatory Instrumentation?

Question
I notice you did not respond to the question regarding incense. Would you regard musical instruments as optional or mandatory? If optional, why? Were musical instruments optional in the temple worship of God in the Old Testament? The church is the fulfilled temple of God (not of the synagogue, as many people say). The shadows have passed away and the reality of the perfect sacrifice of God remains. The New Testament is full of temple language to describe the spiritual worship we owe to God.

You bring up Exodus 15:20-21. This describes a military victory celebration. They are celebrating God's victory. This scripture does not speak as to how musical instruments are to be used in Sabbath worship. I'm not that concerned about how musical instruments are used in funerals, birthday parties, military celebrations or parades (for the glory of God). The question is the public worship on the Lord's Day.

The thing that strikes me about 2 Samuel 6:5 // 1 Chronicles 13:8 is that the very next thing that happened was Uzzah being struck down by the Lord for touching the Ark. He was doing what he thought he should do: protect the Ark of the Covenant. David was upset at first but it sure made him re-think his way of transporting the Ark. This is obviously not a good Scripture to use to show the legitimacy of musical instruments.

You said, "Musical instruments do not seem to have been employed in any association with the sacrificial system prior to David's time. If musical instruments had been part of the Law prior to that time, then Israel was remiss for not having used them in conjunction with sacrifices -- but Scripture makes no indication of such remission. Nowhere do we find any command from God that David or anyone else institute the use of instruments in the temple service or in conjunction with the sacrifices."

You forget Numbers 10:10: "Ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt-offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace-offerings."

Please compare 1 Chronicles 28:11-19 with 2 Chronicles 29:25-30. The key point is that the commandment of David is the commandment of the Lord. Musical instruments were part of the temple service in connection with sacrifices. This is the temple service (Law) as ordained by God. Since the sacrifices have passed away, so has the musical accompaniment. Their use in other places (i.e. parades, military celebrations, times of war, etc.) is irrelevant to our discussion.
Answer
I regard musical instruments as optional. Incense is similarly optional. There is certainly nothing in Scripture forbidding the use of incense, and there would not seem, in my mind, to be anything in the symbolism of the incense that would offend Christ's sacrifice. It did not prefigure the atonement. I'm not sure I can see any positive benefit to the use of incense, but that doesn't mean that there might not be some benefit in the minds of others. The problem would not be in the use of incense it self, but in the use of incense as an efficacious act of obtaining God's favor.

As I suggested before, I believe we have quite a different hermeneutic that guides our determinations. (As part of this different hermeneutic, we probably have a different understanding of the applicability of the regulative principle as well.) One way this manifests itself is in the discussion of why or why not a practice should be discontinued. Your assumption seems to be that if a practice was closely related to the sacrificial system, then that practice was abbrogated Christ's first advent. This is not my assumption, and I do not believe the Bible teaches this principle. I do, however, believe that any practice that is continued from the Old Testament must be understood in light of Christ's first advent. So, while it would now be an offense to Christ's sacrifice to offer any sacrifice that was intended to foreshadow his atonement, it would not be an offense to offer another form of sacrifice, such as a thankoffering or a sacrifice related to a vow (cf. Acts 21:26). Thus, the abbrogation of the sacrificial system as a prefigurement of Christ's atoning sacrifice has been abbrogated, but not all things associated with that system have been abbrogated. Moreover, there is no command to prohibit the many non-sacrificial practices associated with that system. For example, prayer was associated with the sacrifices but has not been abbrogated.

As another manifestation of this, I would suggest that the church is not the fulfilled temple of God. As we read in Hebrews, the earthly temple was a foreshadow of the heavenly temple. The "fulfilled" temple is the heavenly temple, not the church. It is true that Paul describes the church in terms of "God's building" (1 Cor. 3:9), but that is a metaphor, not an indication that the church is the fulfillment of the temple. If there is an earthly "fulfillment" of the temple, it is probably best to assign that role to Jesus himself (cf. John 2:19-22). The modern church is not the extension of the temple or of the synagogue. The modern church is the extension of the people of God, of the kingdom of God. The Old Testament parallel to the church is the nation of Israel.

Moreover, while the temple was a primary location for Israel's corporate worship, it was not the location of weekly Sabbath worship on a national level. Rather, the Levites were appointed to attend to the daily and weekly celebrations, and the nation did not attend. The nation itself gathered only three times each year (at the appointed festivals). Given these circumstances, I fail to see how temple worship establishes a normative pattern of worship for the church. Certainly it demonstrates principles that we should follow, but it does not prescribe patterns to be followed or avoided.

Regarding Exodus 15:20-21 and similar events, I think we should be concerned with how instruments were used on those occasions. Those were times of public worship for the corporate nation of Israel. We are committed to the whole counsel of God, and the portions of that counsel that were given prior to the giving of the Law ought to inform us just as much as those given after. Yes, the national worship in Exodus 15:20-21 preceeded the giving of the explicit law of the Sabbath, and commemorated God's military victory (as do many of the Psalms), but that does not make it irrelevant. It still pertained to corporate worship.

Moreover, I must object to the assumption that corporate worship on the Lord's day ought to be governed by different rules than corporate worship at other times. Certainly this idea cannot base this on the temple pattern, for worship there took place daily. Unless these assumptions can be substantiated scripturally, I see no reason to limit argumentation to fit them. Again, this goes to our presuppositions regarding hermeneutics, theology, etc. We have to solve the root problem before we can work out the details in areas such as worship.

It seems to me that your evaluation of 2 Samuel 6:5 // 1 Chronicles 13:8 skirts the issue, and in fact ignores an important point. We all agree that what Uzzah did was wrong, and we all recognize the importance of keeping God's worship pure -- that's why God killed Uzzah, right? But God didn't kill anyone else -- he didn't kill the people that were using instruments in public worship. There is no indication whatsoever that this act was improper. Uzzah's sin does not somehow taint everything else that took place during that procession and celebration. I insist that it is a good Scripture to prove the validity of the use of musical instruments in worship.

Further, the fact that we disagree on this Scripture again demonstrates my point that we have a different hermeneutic; it does not demonstrate that I am wrong in my interpretation or application. Unless it can be demonstrated that my hermeneutic is improper, I cannot be convinced that I am in error. I am wrong according to your assumptions, but what makes your assumptions normative? Prove that, and you'll be getting somewhere.

Numbers 10 is potentially good ground from which to argue your point. Yet, I am not yet convinced that it pertains to the sacrificial system itself as opposed to an accompaniment of that system. In the context of this chapter, the command to blow the trumpets over (or "because of"; Heb. 'al) may also simply be a form of announcement. In any event, the trumpets do not appear to have been musical instruments of song, but rather blaring horns of announcement. Their function was not so much to produce music as to produce distinct volume that could convey messages over distances. If you can change my mind on this point, you may make some headway toward convincing me that musical accompaniment of song was part of the sacrificial system. But given the literary context of this passage, I think you would be hard-pressed to demonstrate that it was speaking of song. The modern parallel to these trumpets does not seem to me to be the instruments played during the worship service, but rather the church bell in steeple that calls people to worship.

Regarding 1 Chronicles 28:11-19 and 2 Chronicles 29:25-30, I agree that a key element here is that David's command is also the Lord's command in this instance. However, I do not agree that this is the main point, or even a relevant point to the argument regarding the sacrificial Law. First and foremost, these instruments did not accompany the sacrifices in this case. Rather the sacrifices and the instruments both accompanied the consecration of the priests. This is an example of musical instruments used in the consecration of the priests, not of musical instruments used in sacrifice. Also, it was a one-time event, not a regular practice. It was "law" insofar as it was God's command, but it was not "Law" insofar as it was not a prescription of the sacrificial legal code.

I'll suggest that the weakest points of your argument are twofold: your reduction of relevant Old Testament precedent to temple worship; and your insistance on the abbrogation of random elements associated with that worship. Excluding contrary evidence (e.g. non-temple worship evidence) seems intrinsic to your method, but I don't find this to be a valid tactic unless you can establish the necessity for the exclusion (which you have not done, and which no one else has done yet to my satisfaction as far as I have read). Further, unless you can establish a close enough tie between instrumental music and sacrifices prefiguring atonement, you cannot in my mind begin to establish a case for abbrogating instruments in worship. Moreover, even if you can establish such a connection (I do not believe that you can), you will still need to prove why the element of instrumentation should be abbrogated when other elements such (e.g. prayer, confession) have not been abbrogated.

Finally, I'll suggest one more avenue of discussion: the sacrificial law has not been abbrogated. Rather, Christ's once-for-all-time sacrifice continues to fulfill that law on our behalf. The commandment still stands, but subsequent offerings are superfluous and indeed offensive to the sufficiency of Christ's offering (which is rendered eternally in his heavenly session). Our observance of the Old Testament sacrificial law has been altered significantly by Christ's atonement, but the law itself has not been abbrogated. Thus, to prove the case against instruments, it is necessary to prove (in addition to those other elements mentioned above) that our modern observance of the still-standing law should reasonably exclude instrumental music. Of course, this part of the argument is for me academic, since I am not convinced that instrumental music is part of the law, but it is an important wrinkle for which your system must account (according to my presuppositions).

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Creative Delivery Systems at Third Millennium Ministries.