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.