by Steven Chan
It is instructive to note that although King David wanted to build a house for God, God did not permit David to build His Temple; He said that David’s son, Solomon, would build His temple:
2 Samuel 7:1-13: “Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies all around, 2 that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains.” 3 Then Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.” 4 But it happened that night that the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying,5 “Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Would you build a house for Me to dwell in? 6 For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt, even to this day, but have moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle. 7 Wherever I have moved about with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’”’ 8 Now therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel. 9 And I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have cut off all your enemies from before you, and have made you a great name, like the name of the great men who are on the earth. 10 Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore, as previously,11 since the time that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel, and have caused you to rest from all your enemies. Also the Lord tells you that He will make you a house. 12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
It is necessary to note a very important point here: When David expressed his desire to build a house for God, he meant well (so also said the Lord in 2 Chron 6:8-9) but God’s response to David was this: “have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’”
The point that God wanted David to understand was that in the absence of God’s instruction, he was not authorised to build God’s house, even though it was a noble objective. One ought not to do anything for God without God’s authority – even if it might have been well-intended!
As Samuel said to King Saul many years earlier: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.” I Samuel 15:22
Note also the nature of the lack of authority:
It wasn’t that God had expressly or explicitly forbidden anyone to build His temple; it was that God had not given His permission to do so – God’s silence in that matter was not to be taken as “consent” to do what He had not explicitly or expressly forbidden. One is not authorized to act or speak presumptuously: Deut 18:20: “the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, …that prophet shall die.’ ”
According to the apostle Peter, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God…that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” I Peter 4:11 NKJV
One would not be speaking “as the oracles of God” when one presumes to speak on a matter for which God has not spoken or authorised. One speaks as an oracle of God only where God has spoken expressly on a matter, or God has authorised it as may be implied by God’s direct statements on a matter or by God-approved examples on a matter. Where God has NOT spoken on any matter pertaining to the things that God requires us to do to please Him, then in the absence of His authority (whether expressly stated or necessarily implied from direct statements or examples) such things ought NOT to be done. Just as God said to King David through the prophet Nathan: “Would you build a house for me to dwell in?” “Have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?” In other words, God asked King David whether God had ever asked anyone why a house was not built for Him to dwell in? It was a rhetorical question and the answer was that God had never asked anyone why a house was not built for Him. Since God had not asked for it, no one was authorised to presume to offer to build a house for God. We do not offer to God what He has not required. To do so, no matter how noble it may be, would be failing to honor or glorify Him (1 Pet 4:11; 1 Sam 15:22).
The Bible says that we are to walk by faith (Rom 1:17;2 Cor 5:7) and it tells us that faith comes from hearing God’s Word (Rom 10:17). Where God’s Word is silent on any matter then one cannot possibly be walking by faith when one decides to do that which God has not authorised or spoken. As an application: God has required believers to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16). He has expressly authorised or required the singing of psalms, hymns & spiritual songs as a means of “teaching & admonishing” one another. That requirement of “singing” is necessarily “acapella” (i.e without musical accompaniment) as it has its stated purpose of “teaching and admonishing” one another and hence the pre-requisite of “letting the word of Christ dwell in one richly”. It implies that only “singing” is authorised and that no other musical equivalents are authorised. So the early Christians did not introduce the Judaistic worship with instruments under the Old Testament (which was abolished on the cross – Col 2:14) into the Christian worship service. In the New Testament, God requires us to offer our singing as “fruits of our lips”: “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15 NKJV.
Just as God asked David, the question for us today is this: “Has God spoken to anyone in the New Testament to use instrumental music to worship Him?” The answer is “no”. Then why are believers today insisting in offering to Him “what they have devised in their own hearts” as Jeroboam did when he appointed priests from any tribe (and not exclusively from the tribe of the Levites) and when he changed the day of celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles from the 15th day of the seventh month to that of the eighth month! (1 Kings 12:33)? Jesus warned concerning worship that is in vain because it is not acceptable to God: “And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”(Matthew 15:9 ). Let’s worship God in spirit & in truth because God seeks such kind of worship: John 4:24.