Talent Night in Babylon
Daniel 3:4-6 (4) Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, (5) That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: (6) And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. The Holy Spirit here takes us to the scene of a gala worship event celebrated by an international, multilingual congregation. Surely this was one of the greatest “crusade meetings” ever held! It was likely the scene of great pomp and ceremony, a spectacle to excite the senses and whelm the mind. Who has not experienced, or who does not know of the compelling power of a mass gathering such as this? Without regard to rational thought, a crowd like this is easily caught up in the moment and brought to a united ejaculation of “esprit de corps” jubilation. In such an emotional state, everything else is secondary and anything which would dampen or disagree with the sensation of the moment is looked upon, not just as a distraction, but as an enemy. Mind that this was a State-ordered event for the purpose of exalting the State and it is well known that the power of religious music is an effective tool to help whip the masses into patriotic fevers. The relevance of this crusade-leader's message was driven home by the threat of terminal fire (DAN 3:6) but to appeal to the softer side of the attendees, what is offered but a concert? Matthew Henry here observed, “This mirth and gaiety in the worship would be very agreeable to carnal sensual minds, that are strangers to that spiritual worship which is due to God who is a spirit....That way that sense directs the most will go; there is nothing so bad which the careless world will not be drawn to by a concert of music, or driven to by a fiery furnace. And by such methods as these false worship has been set up and maintained.” The carnal mind is not subject to the spirit or law of God (ROM 8:5-8) but it is very much subject to whatever excites natural senses. If, therefore, gospel fishers of men (MAT 4:19) bait their hooks with carnal delights, is it any wonder that they should reel in carnal men? Perhaps this is one reason why the gospel net will have so many bad fish in it at the coming of Christ (MAT 13:47-50). A Jansenist once was asked why their places of worship were so devoid of adornments, trappings and musical instruments, to which he responded, “Because the purpose of the worship service is to feed the sheep, not entertain the goats.” Amen! Instrumental music, even bands or orchestras, have become almost standard fare in modern evangelistic crusades and Christian church services. In essence, they differ little from Nebuchadnezzar's formula of fire and concert: the threat of hellfire with a stirring instrumental backup. It is almost as if life-giving properties are assigned to the instruments, that somehow the work of the Spirit upon sinners is facilitated by them. But life cannot spring from that which has it not, “...even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp...” (1CO 14:7). When Jesus described the Spirit's work as “...wind [which] bloweth where it listeth...” (JOH 3:8), it is unlikely that He meant it to be through an oboe, trumpet or organ pipe. “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,” Jesus said in JOH 6:63. Even the very trumpet of God is, at best, a coincidence of the resurrection at the Second Coming (1CO 15:52 c/w 1TH 4:16); it is the voice of Christ that gives life to the dead (JOH 5:28-29 c/w JOH 11:43). In the Old Testament, instrumental music was sometimes used in the worship of God but the New Testament knows of no such thing in the church service. To justify instrumental music in the New Testament church assembly on the basis of its usage in the Old Testament church is to also justify the continued use of incense, heave offerings, wave offerings and essentially any other “...carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation” (HEB 9:10). We are under the New Testament, not the Old, and by virtue of a new and living way through Christ (HEB 10:19-22) approach God in worship and service according to His current design. The New Testament having just been introduced, we read NOT that Jesus and the disciples plugged guitars into an amplifier, but rather “...when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives” (MAR 14:26). Christ's design of worship of the Father is, “...in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee” (HEB 2:12). The only “church” in the New Testament that is noted for musical instruments is a monstrous counterfeit church called MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT (REV 17:5 c/w REV 18:21-22) whose service is eerily similar to Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon Crusade. She is hardly a good model for a true church to imitate. It is true that there are musical instruments used in heaven (REV 8:2; REV 15:1-2), but the order of the heavenly state is not a rule for believers' conduct now. If that were the case, then believers would now be forbidden to marry since marriage is ruled out of that world: “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world...neither marry, nor are given in marriage” (LUK 20:35). For now, assembling saints are instructed to be “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (EPH 5:19), “...teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (COL 3:16). An orchestra or an organ can raise goosebumps but not understanding. Instruments cannot teach or admonish but musical speaking and singing can, and thereby facilitate the saints' growth in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2PE 3:18). This is by far more profitable for us, and by divine order more acceptable to God. A fundamental upgrade of the N.T. from the O.T. is that its more spiritual worship, duty and service is characterized by living things. We have been begotten again “...unto a lively hope...” (1PE 1:3) and out of our bellies flow “...living water...” (JOH 7:38). We in public worship enter into the holiest by “...a new and living way...” (HEB 10:20). We in duty present our bodies “...a living sacrifice...” (ROM 12:1). As God's temple, we are “...lively stones...” (1PE 2:5). The musical praise that we render in the church service comes from living hearts and voices. By contrast (as noted earlier), musical instruments are “...without life...” (1CO 14:7). Let the string section of the church service be the proverbial strings of the heart, by doctrinal singing provoking one another to increased faith, hope, love and good works. The only proper instruments in a N.T. church are submissive members: “...yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (ROM 6:13).