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Doctrine of Religious Worship: History of Music in the Partriarchs

October 16, 2022 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Ephesians 5:18–20, Colossians 3:16–17


It is my aim to walk through the Scriptures to see what they have to teach us about the origin and use of music.

This will be a study of worship songs as they were or were not used in Scripture

  • From the time of creation until the end of the Joshua, Judges, and Ruth
  • After Ruth we begin to enter into Samuel and the establishment of the monarchy.
    • With the coming of King David, we will see a complete change to the concept of music and worship songs

We are going to start at the beginning and attempt to trace the use of music as recorded in Scripture. We will see:

  • how the Lord records for us in the history of redemption, up to the time of the Davidic kingdom
    • how music was used
    • how the change that took place in that day

Serious Nature of Worship

Scripture: Eph. 5.18-20 / Col 3.16,17

These are two of the most controverted passages with regard to exclusive psalmody in the New Testament.

  • One might look at these and say, “See, the Bible says we are to sing hymns.”
    • But is that the same meaning there as we understand today?

As part of our study, we will examine these terms: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs as they are used by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3

Each week we recite the 10th commandments.

  • One of those is the 2nd commandment where we are reminded of worshipping God not by images or any other way not appointed in His Word.
  • That is the negative way of saying it
  • The way positive way of saying it is that we worship according to His commandment
    • if he has not commanded a particular method or a particular way, then we leave it alone.

As we worship the Lord

  • let us remember that coming before the Lord is a great privilege.
  • And His condescending to us in worship is a great blessing, one that ought not to be abused.

Let us also remember that with every privilege comes responsibility

  • to obey the standards that are requisite with that privilege.

For instance, we understand that driving a car is a privilege, not a right

  • What happens if you violate the responsibilities of that privilege?
  • Privileges can be revoked

We have seen that same thing in the history of redemption.

  • If we understand worship as a great privilege, and we abuse that privilege, the Lord might take that away as He has in the past (one of those time has happened in our recent history)

Ezekiel 7, 8, 9, and 10 as a block of text.

In chapter eight - the Prophet see four things

  1. the image of jealousy and the north of the court.
  • An image of jealousy means an idol has been brough into the court and the Lord is jealous for his own name and jealous against that image.
  1. The abominations that were done in the inner chambers
  2. The women on the porch of the temple that are weeping for Tammuz, the ancient god of fertility of the Phoenicians (the Greeks called him Adonis)
  3. The men who had turned their back on the temple and were worshipping toward the sun.

In chapter nine

  • There is the vision of the wheels and the fearful angels
  • The cherub that had the four faces, and the wheels and the providence of God and how it moves forward.

In chapter ten

  • the glory of the Lord lifts up from the house. And it kind of makes the slow ascent it goes up and departs
  • They continue with their services
  • But the worship is gone
  • They abused the privilege
  • And the privilege has taken away

The Lord takes his worship very, very seriously

Circumstances and Elements

Sometimes this can be confusing for us.

We have studied this before, so we only need to do a quick review.

Turn in your Westminster Confession of Faith to chapter one, and article six.

  • … there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God and the government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.

Why is this important here?

Well, if you look around the chapel

  • You might see chair, tables, lights, windows, window covering, painted walls, carpet, some decorations, a pulpit, etc.
  • None of those things are required in Scripture.
  • We could have incandescent lights instead of fluorescent lights.
  • We could have a wood floor instead of carpet
  • We could blue chairs instead of red chairs.

But God has not ordered or decreed these things

  • These are circumstances.
  • These are common to human actions, ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence

Thing of it this way:

  • If you were a member of a club, and you were going to have a meeting
    • you would have a place to meet
    • you would have a certain time
    • you might have a place to sit
    • you might have a place for a speaker
    • …things common to human actions and societies.

But those are not the elements of worship.

  • Elements of worship are those specific and commanded actions by which we worship the Lord.
  • The other things are ancillary to them, they facilitate the worship, they make it possible.
  • If we did not have a building
    • We could rent a place or meet outside
  • We would not say we did not have a worship service because it was not in this building

But when a worship service is held, what is necessary?

  • You assemble together with the saints (not at home and not just with your friends that agree only with you regardless of the Scripture)
  • We read and listen to Scripture.
  • We have an exposition of the Scripture.
  • We sing worship psalms.
  • We pray.
  • We observe the sacraments.
  • We have a call to worship and a benediction.

Those things are mandated/ commanded in the Word of God.

Those things are not to be changed or altered.

Those things are not to be left our or ignored simply because we want to change them.

These are those things that are elements, necessary elements, commanded things that we are not allowed to add to or take away from.

Without these things, you are not holding a worship service.

History of Music in Scripture

Let us start at the beginning in Genesis.

What did the worship service of the ancient saints look like?

  • It is extremely hard to tell.
  • But the first instance of music in the Scripture is in Genesis 4

Cain has risen up against Abel and slain him.

Notice that in the talk about their worship service

  • They are offering unto the LORD
  • there is no mention of music.
  • Music is never mentioned there.

The first mention of music is not until after Cain was sent away and Jubal is born. (v. 21)

  • Jubal was the father of all that handle the harp (lap-held instrument) and organ (pipe music)

The context is important as to where they are mentioned.

  • Where is Jubal born?
    • In Enoch
  • What does Enoch mean?
    • Dedication
  • To whom is the city dedicated?
  • Not to God – but to Cain’s son.

This music, and the arts, and the entertainment is not developed from a command of God as part of worship of God.

  • They are developed in a city built by someone drive from the face of God.

Now hear me – I am NOT saying that all music is bad.

I am simply pointing out that the development of music was in connection with the worship of God

  • On the contrary, it was done away from the “presence of the Lord.”

Brothers and sisters, there is nothing inherently wrong with playing instruments.

  • That is not the point of this discussion
    • Music is a gift from God
    • Music was used in civil worship ceremonies
    • Instruments were used in battles the Israelites were sent by God to fight
  • The point is that the first mention of instruments is that it is for the pleasure of mankind.
    • Not in connection with a worship service.

But let us be careful not to press this farther than we should.

  • I am not saying all music is bad.
  • I am not telling you to turn off your radios
  • I am not telling you to stop playing instruments
  • But should be careful to do all these things to the glory of God.

Genesis 31.25

Here Jacob has fled from Laban, and he has taken his wives, children, and his livestock.

Laban pursues and eventually catches Jacob.

With that as the backdrop to verse 25:

  • We learn something about the use of music in the days of the patriarchs
  • We learn that music was used in celebrations

Laban says, if you had just come and told me that it was time for you to go, we would have thrown a party.

  • We would called out the band
  • We would have sung songs
  • It would have been a time of celebration

So, we learn here that music was used for joy

  • It was used for times of celebration

Job 21.12

Here we see a similar thing – using music to celebrate.

Job 29.13

Here music is used as a metaphor – Causing the widows heart to sing for joy.

Remember, being a widow in those days was not a good thing.

  • they had no visible means of support
  • they were generally thought of as being destitute, poor, and therefore in grief

When Job says he caused the widow's heart to sing for joy

  • he is talking about song as a sign of joy.
  • I made her happy in that I supplied her need.
  • I gave her joy instead of grief.
  • She was in grief because of her poverty, and I gave to her heart sang for joy.
  • So, singing there is put for joy.

Job 30.8-10

Here we see an illicit use of song/ music.

Job is saying that he has become a song to them

  • a mocking song.
  • They are having joy and happiness his expense
  • Rejoicing in his difficulty

Job 30.31

Same two Hebrew words

Same two musical instruments.

Here we see music not connected with joy but with sadness.

  • Often the harp and organ would be connected with a celebration
  • But here it is connected with sadness and suffering


In the Days of the Patriarchs

These are most all (if not all) of the references of music to this point

  • From Genesis to Job
  • There are no other references to music, song, instruments
  • This is the sum total of everything that is in the Patriarchal age.
Music was developed in the city of out of the presence of the Lord for man's pleasure.
  • That does not mean it is not of God's doing providentially speaking
    • it most certainly is
    • but that it can be misused
    • but it can be abused.
  • It was not developed specifically in connection with the worship of God
Music is indicative of joy and sadness
  • It indicates a particular joy
    • With those who are playing
    • With those who are singing
  • It indicates a particular sadness
    • With those who are playing
    • With those who are singing
    • With those using it to express sorrow
  • It indicates pleasure and/ or sadness
There is no indication of music in use in connection with the worship of God
  • This is strangely absent from the Patriarchal age
  • If there was an argument that it was used during this time it be made without reference to the scriptures.
  • The scriptures are completely silent with regard to music, and worship
    • in the days from Adam until the end of the Patriarchal age
    • up the end of the Exodus
  • When the people of God worshipped the Lord, in the book of Genesis, they did not use instruments.
    • They came to him by prayer
    • They came to him by sacrifice
    • They came to him by listening to the prophets that spoke
      • Abraham, Isaac, Jacob

Next, we will look at music in the Scriptures from the days of Moses to the days of 1 Samuel.

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