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The Sabbath and Worship Music


elation] sends its triumphant joy back into the life of time. The justification of glorious Christian music in the world is always justification by faith . . . The writings of Paul also have this characteristic of bursting into song. You can judge an interpretation of the Christian religion by its capacity to set men singing. There is something wrong about a theology which does not create a triumphant music.”19

The triumphant music of Revelation is inspired, not by the hypnotic beat of percussion instruments, but by the marvelous revelation of God’s redemptive accomplishments for His people. As the worshippers of the heavenly sanctuary are privileged to review the providential way in which Christ, the Lamb that was slain, has ransomed people of every nation, they sing with dramatic excitement in their doxological praise of the Godhead.

Worship leaders, who are urging the use of an array of drums, bass guitars, and rhythmic guitars to give a rocky beat to their church music, should notice that both in the earthly Jerusalem Temple and in the heavenly sanctuary, no percussion instruments were allowed. The only instrument used by the heavenly choirs is a harp ensemble (Rev 5:8; 14:2). The reason, as Thomas Seel explains, is that “the distinctive timbre of the harp in worship blends harmoniously with the worshippers’ collective voices. It should be noted that the instrumental support does not supplant the importance of the words of the text, nor does it contain a mixture of diverse instruments. The instrumental ensemble contains a singular type of instrument [the harp] which blends with the voice.”20

No Secular Music Allowed in the Temple. The distinction between sacred and secular music which is present in the heavenly sanctuary was also evident in the Jerusalem Temple. In the next chapter on “Biblical Principles of Music,” we shall see that only a selected group of Levites made up the Temple choir. They played only four instruments at specific times during the service: the trumpets, cymbals, lyres, and harps (1 Chron 15:16; 16:5-6). Of the four, only the last two, the lyre and harps (both string instruments that blended with human voices), were used to accompany the singing.

The trumpets were used only to give various signals, such as when the congregation was to prostrate or the choir was to sing during the presentation of burnt offerings (2 Chron 29:27-29). The cymbals were used to announce the beginning of a song or of a new stanza. “Contrary to common opinion, the cymbals were not used by the precantor to conduct the singing by beating out the rhythm of the song.”21 The reason is that the music in ancient Israel, as Anthony Sendrey has shown, lacked a regular beat and a metrical structure.22 It is evident that there was no possibility for any Jew who could play an instrument to be invited to join the Temple rock band and turn the service into a music festival.

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