Many people use Psalm 149 & 150 as their basis to support the use of all kinds of musical instruments in their Church worship service. They even insist that dancing is permitted since Psalm 149:3 says “Let them praise His name with the dance”.
Well, if we interpret Psalm 149 & 150 in this manner, we ought to use 2-edged swords & start “killing” in worship as well – since Psalm 149:6-7 says “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a 2-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the people…” So, obviously, Psalm 149 & 150 cannot be about what we can or cannot do in worship. To understand what these 2 Psalms are about, we need to appreciate their context and background.
In Exodus 14, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. They were pursued by Pharoah & his army all the way to the edge of the Red Sea. They were in a state of desperation – Pharoah’s army was about to kill all of them. In Ex 14:13-14, Moses said to the people “…Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD,…The LORD will fight for you,…”
What happened thereafter was a miracle – God opened the Red Sea and the people crossed over. Pharoah & his army pursued them but were drowned as the Red Sea covered them. This was the salvation of the LORD; this was how the LORD fought for them. After settling down on the other side of the Red Sea, Israel celebrated their “salvation” and amazing victory. They actually did nothing except depended on God. Moses led them in a song praising God & Miriam led them in a jubilant dance. Psalm 149 is reminiscent of the Ex 14 incident. If you have just been delivered from death in such an amazing manner, you would celebrate in a similar manner and exhibit such joy & jubilation as well.
Old Testament history are types & symbols of salvation fulfilled in the New Testament. This Red Sea crossing is a type of how we are rescued from the effects of sin. We cannot save ourselves; as sinners, we are hell-bound. God, through the work of Jesus on the Cross, rescued us just as He did the Israelites at the Red Sea. Our enemies – Satan & death – are destroyed, just as Pharoah & his army were. We cannot do anything, except to repent & believe by faith. If we fully appreciate the mighty hand of God in our salvation, we too will leap with jubilation and celebrate the way the Israelites did after crossing the Red Sea.
So, Psalm 149 & 150 is NOT about what type of musical instruments ought to be used or what we can or cannot do in our worship service. When it comes to worship, God “…does not desire sacrifice….He does not delight in burnt offering.” What God will not reject is “…a broken spirit, a broken & contrite heart – These God will not despise” – Psalm 51:16-17.
At the end of the day, it is about our hearts when we come to worship God. Worship is not about us and what we get out of it. It is about God and whether He is pleased to accept it. The use of certain instruments may distract us and our hearts will not be right before Him. Are we so joyous in our salvation that it results in jubilant dancing? Well, before we can be so joyous, we will first be weeping for our sins. Hence, we need to carefully examine our intent and purpose when considering whether all kinds of musical instruments & even dancing should be used in worship. Will God be pleased to accept these from us? This is something that we need to be very careful about lest God is displeased.
God has the prerogative to deal with those who trouble us. This verse tells us that He may bring tribulation to repay them for the trouble they give to us.
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Rom 8:31. The God who made the heavens & the earth can mobilise every resource He owns to punish those who make trouble for us. This is comfort for those who are persecuted and bullied.
However, there are some important questions we need to first ask ourselves:
1) Is God pleased with me? Do I have unconfessed or secret sins that I am hiding?Am I His child, reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ?
2) Is He pleased with my actions & responses in the situation where my opponents “troubled me”?
3) What kind of response would God be pleased with?
To answer question 1, check out these articles:
To answer questions 2 &3, consider what
1 Pet 2:19-21 has to say:
“For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:”
In other words, if we seek God’s glory & obey Him in every situation, and we do not attempt to “justify” ourselves but totally leave it to Him for “vengeance” – we can be assured that God sees and in His good timing (which can be a long time in our measure), He will vindicate us and deal with our enemies according to His justice.
It takes great faith for us to remain silent when the natural reaction is to defend ourselves when we are “targetted” by our opponents. In fact, the world considers those who remain silent as being “weak”. But while the argument & fight goes on, there is a God sitting on the throne in heaven, seeing and watching all these. Only those with eyes of faith will be able to see & appreciate this, just like Stephen in Acts 7.
“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 . May God help us.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
If you were to compare all the religions in this world, there are actually only 2 types:
1) Those that teach that Salvation comes by works, or
2) those that teach that Salvation is by grace.
Salvation by works means you get to heaven by your own merit. You discipline yourself by meditation, philosophy, yoga or other restrictions imposed by some human teaching. You do good works such as charity, financial contributions and other things that make you feel you can be accepted.
The reality is this…., if heaven can be attained by such means, I suggest to you that it is not worth going. Because you are going to find a lot of people there who are so proud of their achievements. Some of us may already feel embarrassed because we don’t even have the possessions that our neighbour has.
On the other hand, there is salvation by the free grace of God. Heaven is such a wonderful place because Jesus Christ – the God-Man who is without sin is there! And none of us sinful creatures deserve to be there! And if we ever get there, it is because God has graciously opened our eyes to see how unworthy we are. And in spite of our unworthiness, He paid the price required to bring us there. Jesus gave His life to pay for the sins that we have committed. (Check out this sermon to understand the required redemption for our sins). And He lived a sinless life – which is the requirement for anyone to get into heaven. And all these are accorded to us when we believe in Jesus Christ…..That’s grace – totally unmerited salvation! You can’t do anything to achieve it – it is totally a gift from God! This is the gospel of grace!
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
We would not give our daughters as wives to the peoples of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons. Neh 10:30
2 Cor 6:14 exhorts us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. This reinforces the principle of Pro 13:20 – “..he who walks with wise men will be wise…“. Whoever we associate ourselves with will have their values influence ours. If our inner circle of friends are unbelievers, unwittingly, our minds will be influenced by their values, priorities, words & actions without our realisation.
Here in Neh 10:30, the principle is extended to marriage. The people of God should not be united in marriage with unbelievers. Who you choose as your life partner will determine the course of your life. Take heed!
What should you look for when seeking a life partner?
1 Pet 3:3-4 exhorts wives – “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
If this is what scriptural wives ought to be like, it means that the scriptures are directing us not to seek the external appearances, but the inner traits of character & grace in a prospective life partner. Why? Because external appearances will fade away. But character & grace are what pleases God & will last for life. These are the traits that you must find compatibility in when you seek your prospective spouse. Do read this short article from Desiring God on the 6 traits to look out for in a spouse!
‘But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”’ John 4:23-24
What does it mean to worship God in spirit and truth?
In spirit – because God is is spirit. He is omnipresent & omniscient. You need not be at Jerusalem or any specific place on earth in order to worship Him. You call out to Him in your spirit and He is right there. God is also not to be worshiped in any shape or form of an object. In fact, He specifically reminded us about this in the 2nd commandment – “You shall not make any image of God or bow down to it.” God is spirit. He is to be worshiped in spirit.
In truth – the truth as He has reviewed Himself in His word, the Bible. I was once acquainted with a follower of the cult group called the Moonies. I heard this friend pray – “my father, hallowed be your name“. Was he praying and addressing the same Father of my Lord Jesus Christ whom I believe? Obviously not! But what differentiated our prayers? It was the body of truth that we individually believed in. The body of truth that he held to was based on the teachings of Sun Myung Moon. This was totally different from the truths that I believed and understood from the bible. Hence, the body of truth that we believed in our spirit distinguished whom we were addressing our prayers to. And if the body of spiritual doctrines that you hold to is different from the essential ones in the bible, you are probably worshiping a different person altogether. This is a reminder to us that we should never belittle the importance of doctrines.
The bible teaches us that Jesus laid down His life for His sheep so that through Him, His redeemed people may approach God. If you believe this truth, your prayers are “directed” to the God of the Bible. It is this truth that distinguishes us as His children even as we obey Him to worship God in spirit and truth. May God help us worship Him in the way He prescribed.