2 Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! 3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! 4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! 5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! (Psalm 150:2–5, NKJV)
The question is posed, “Why shouldn’t we use instrumental music to worship God today? After all, they were used by Israel in the Old Testament.” Yes, they were. Scripture says king Hezekiah “stationed Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, they were commanded “according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the Lord by His prophets” (2 Chronicles 29:25). But, we do not live under the authority of the old covenant. We hear and follow Christ for our approved worship, not Moses and the prophets (Matthew 17:1-5; Hebrews 1:1-2). We would not think of binding the Levitical rituals of worship, including animal sacrifices, today. Yet, king Hezekiah did along with the instruments he set in place (2 Chronicles 29:26-36). If Hezekiah’s trumpets and stringed instruments are allowed in worship today, then so are his animal sacrifices and associated offerings. We are content with the musical worship Christ revealed and approved in the new covenant. It repeatedly says to sing praises to God, but never to play praises (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). That’s enough.
11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:11–13, NKJV)
The fleshly circumcision that identified Israel as God’s covenant people was an operation performed “in the flesh by hands” (v. 11). Removing the foreskin was a foreshadowing of the “circumcision of Christ,” which is “the putting off of the body of the sins of flesh” – the operation God performs when a sinner is “buried with Him (Christ, jrp) in baptism” (Colossians 2:11-12). Baptism is an action of faith in the power of God that saves the sinner and raises him or her to spiritual life in Christ (Colossians 2:12). Whether you are a Jew or Gentile in the flesh does not matter. In this gospel age, one is not a child of God until the circumcision of Christ occurs in the heart, as the sinner is buried with Christ in baptism and God forgives his or her sins by the blood of Christ (Colossians 2:13). That is when the sinner rises from spiritual death to walk in newness of life.
11 “Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” (Genesis 9:11–15, NKJV)
God keeps His word. Always. The rainbow in the clouds reminds us of the covenant God made with humanity, to never again destroy the world with a flood. We know skeptic scoffs at the notion of a worldwide flood. But, recall they also scoffed at Jesus on the cross (Matthew 27:39-44). Such mockery does not deter us (2 Peter 3:5-7). Also, please notice that God established His covenant with Noah and his descendants. That covenant was unconditional. Today, God’s covenant (the new covenant of Christ, Hebrews 8:6-13), contains conditions we must meet to obtain its blessings of salvation (Acts 10:34-35). Meeting God’s conditions is not a negotiation, nor is it earning the blessing. God is Sovereign, and has established His covenant. God says He will bless us when we obey Him. God keeps His word. Always.
46 “How long, LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire? 47 Remember how short my time is; For what futility have You created all the children of men? 48 What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?” (Psalm 89:46–48, NKJV)
Yes, none of us will escape death. Long before 19th-century Australian poet Francis Duggan penned “Death the Great Equalizer,” the preacher Solomon wrote a similar, inspired refrain (Ecclesiastes 9:2-3). The imminence of death drove the psalmist to beg God to act with swiftness and remember His covenant with David, and remove the reproaches that had befallen Israel because of her sins. God did just that, by sending His Son, Jesus Christ (Luke 1:67-79). We are compelled to get right with God by knowing the reality of death, and the truth that God keeps His covenant. The covenant of Christ offers mercy to sinners who believe, repent and obey the Son (Matthew 11:28-30; Mark 16:15-16). But, it also contains the warning of sure wrath against those who “do not obey the truth” (Romans 2:8). Death is certain. Your money, fame, popularity, pleasure, or anything else of this world, will prevent your death. Thank God, Jesus overcame death (Revelation 1:18). He will save you, if you will come to Him (Acts 4:12).
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—” (Hebrews 8:7–8, NKJV)
We are not under the Old Testament law today. The first covenant (the Sinai covenant God commanded Israel) “made nothing perfect” (Heb. 7:19). That is, the law given through Moses, with all its animal sacrifices and offerings, could not “take away sins” (Heb. 10:1-4). In this sense, it was weak and unprofitable (Heb. 7:18). This was not the law’s fault, for it was not designed to be the sinner’s mean of justification and redemption. If it were, then Jesus died in vain (Gal. 2:21). The law (first covenant) was a “tutor” to bring sinners to Christ, to be “justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). It was added to the Abrahamic promise “because of transgressions” (Gal. 3:17-19). The first covenant exposed the sinfulness of sin, and by doing so, turned men to God for divine mercy (Rom. 3:20; 7:13; 11:30-31). Now, Christ has mediated a “better covenant,” established on “better promises” (Heb. 8:6). The new covenant (the New Testament) dispenses merciful forgiveness and an eternal inheritance (Heb. 8:12). Here is a fundamental reason why we are not under the Old Testament law. It was a shadow of what has now been accomplished in Jesus Christ. It has passed away (Heb. 10:1; 8:13).
12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12–13, NKJV)
The Gentiles were not in a covenant relationship with God through the Law of Moses. Only Israel was under that law, and were the people of the covenant (Deut. 5:2-3). That is why Paul speaks of the Gentiles as “having no hope and without God in the world” (v. 12). This is an apt description of the spiritual status of all who are lost in sin: Aliens, without God, without hope, and without an inheritance (see Eph. 2:1-3). But, “in Christ Jesus” all that changes. In Christ, one has a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3). In Christ, the sinner is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Through faith in Christ Jesus, lost sinners are saved, and become children of God (Gal. 3:26; 4:5-7). The alien sinner comes into a saved relationship with God by putting on Christ, which occurs when the sinner is “baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:27). The blood of Christ – His death for our sins – makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God (Eph. 2:16). It washes away our sins when we are baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; Acts 22:16). No longer live without God and without hope. By faith, be baptized into Christ and be saved. “Why are you waiting?” (Acts 22:16)
I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman? (Job 31:1, NKJV)
Sin begins in the heart. For example, Jesus said “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). We must guard and condition our hearts to refuse sin immediately. To do so, Job made an agreement with his eyes (himself) not to gaze intently upon a young woman. He pledged not to look lustfully upon a woman. Job’s protection against the lust of the eyes was to refuse to closely examination a woman’s form. We must fix our eyes on Jesus in order to be pure in heart (Heb. 12:2). We live in a provocative world that is intent on drawing our eyes away from Jesus. Make an agreement with your eyes not to indulge in lustful looking, for such is of the world and not of God (1 Jno. 2:16).