Can or Should God Be Worshiped Merely by Musical Instruments without the Words or Lyrics?
The breadth of Psalm 98 tells me that God can be and should be worshiped not just with voice or lyrics alone or with voice and instrument combined but also solely with instruments. Here are the words of the psalm:
1 O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory. 2 The LORD hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen. 3 He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. 4 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. 5 Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. 6 With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King. 7 Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. 8 Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together 9 Before the LORD; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.
In v. 1 the psalmist calls on his audience to sing a song to God for worthwhile reasons seen in vv. 2-3 and then at the end of v. 9. Everyone is called to praise God, Israel and the rest of the world (vv. 3-4). As we move through here, we can see that God is praised by more than just voice. For instance, in v. 7 the sea is called upon to roar. The sea sings to God in that unique way. And then the floods or streams clap (v. 8a), the hills be joyful together (v. 8b). This passage isn’t calling on people to find the sea or hills to accompany their voice. Each of these—voice, instruments, seas, or streams—separately can praise God.
Certain men allegorize these psalms based upon their New Testament priority. They spiritualize much of the content, leaving the New Testament as the only literal guidebook for worship. And the New Testament doesn’t mention instruments, so churches shouldn’t use them. However, in Ephesians 5:19, the term “making melody” (psallo) means “to pluck on a stringed instrument.” God wants psalms sung, so the psalms are still in play as songs to be sung. Both singing and making melody are to be presented to the Lord, but what about just the “making melody.” I believe Psalm 98 would say “yes.”
I would like to see great musical pieces composed and played for God, offered to Him as worship. It doesn’t have to be the music from a hymn that is sung. It can be music that on its own will praise the Lord. Music that communicates within the nature of the Lord can be used to worship Him. I believe an orchestra even without vocalists can and should play music to God. A soloist can and should play his instrument to the Lord. This justifies becoming a great musician for the Lord not just as accompaniment and with only songs that people may know the words. Great music can and should be written and then played to God. This would be a worthwhile project of a church.