Theme: How to Praise the LORD
In this week’s lessons, we learn how this last psalm teaches and exhorts everyone, everywhere to praise the LORD.
Scripture: Psalm 150:1-6
What an obvious flow of thought this final psalm has! After telling us where to praise God (in v. 1) and reminding us why we should praise him (in v. 2), the next three verses, exactly one-half of the psalm, tell us how God should be praised (vv. 3-5). The answer is: with everything you’ve got. If you have a trumpet, use that. If you have a lyre, tambourine, stringed instrument, flute or cymbals, use them. If all you have is a harmonica, play that! The list of instruments is not meant to be comprehensive, though it may be. We do not know what instruments the ancient Jews had. The point is actually that everything you have can be used to worship God and should be. 
What about these instruments? The trumpet is actually the shophar or ram’s horn. It makes a tremendous noise, and the noise carries a long way. Tambourines are linked to dancing in verse 4, because they were normally used by women when they danced. Verse 5 mentions two kinds of cymbals; the words are not mere repetition. The first is a small instrument, perhaps like our castanets. The second was larger, hence a “resounding” cymbal. We would probably say “crashing.” These instruments embrace all branches of musical instruments: wind instruments, string instruments and percussion. 
We can look at this another way, too. Trumpets were blown by priests; harps and lyres (psalteries) were played by the Levites; tambourines were played by women and other people. So the call to praise God is addressed to priests, Levites and people, that is, to everyone. Everyone is to praise and worship God. 
But here we have to deal with a controversy about worship, and we need to offer some cautions. The controversy has to do with people who think it wrong to use any instruments in worship or to use any songs other than psalms, and those who, on the other side, would embrace anything at all. Let’s look at the first controversy. 
1. Those who forbid the use of instruments in worship. The first are people who exclude the use of any instruments in worship on the grounds that the Bible does not authorize them and that we must stick strictly to what the Bible prescribes. This is called “the regulative principle,” and it is something that is worthwhile in itself. It means that God sets the terms and means by which he must be worshiped and that it is not our prerogative to do anything we want. In some parts of the church this is understood to mean that only psalms may be sung. Hymns and choruses are considered to be human compositions only, which means they should therefore be rigorously excluded. In other parts of the church, often overlapping with the first, instruments are excluded from worship services and for the same reasons. It is pointed out that instruments were not used in the early church. Christians simply sang psalms together.
What should we say to this? One thing is that this is a matter that ought not to divide Christians from one another. It should be treated as Paul treats questions of not eating meat and observing holy days in Romans 14. “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind,” he says (v. 5), adding, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (v. 19). 
But we must also have reasons for thinking as we do. Respecting others for their diverse convictions about worship does not mean mindless acceptance of just anything another Christian might do. We need to be as biblical as we know how to be. So we should ask, Why do most Christians use instruments in worship? And why do most sing compositions in addition to the psalms? 
As far as exclusive psalmody is concerned, I have already suggested in last week’s study a defense of additional compositions by what I wrote about singing “a new song” in the study of Psalm 149. I argued that it is always appropriate to sing new songs when these are based on new experiences of God’s grace. I am not saying that any music is worship music. A secular song is not worship. But if we have learned something about the character and grace of God, it is not wrong to sing about it even in new words and new music. And the music can be contemporary. I pointed out that the elders sing “a new song” in Revelation (Rev. 5:9; see 14:3). We should also remember Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:19, 20). 
What about instruments? Surely Psalm 150 alone should have definitive bearing on this question. I know the arguments against them. They go like this. In the temple worship in Israel, musical instruments were used only when the sacrifices were being offered. Today, since the sacrifices of Israel have been abolished by the completed sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the music that was associated with the ancient sacrifices should be abolished too. But that is certainly special and (I would say) unpersuasive pleading. Were instruments really used only when sacrifices were offered? How could we possibly know that? And what about this psalm? It tells us to praise God with a variety of instruments and says nothing about sacrifices. What about the worship of God in heaven according to Revelation? There are harps in heaven (Rev. 5:8) and trumpets (Rev. 8:6-8, 10, 12; 9:11, 13). There is singing, all of it in words not found explicitly in Psalms. How can we deny that Psalm 150 endorses the use of new songs and instruments in worship? 
Study Questions: 

What points about who praised God can be made about the list of instruments? 
Explain the meaning of the regulative principle. How does this define worship for some churches? 
What makes music worship?

Reflection: Think of various controversies that divide Christians you know. Do you make every effort to “do what leads to peace and to mutual edification”? Conversely, do you mindlessly accept what other Christians do differently?

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