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Whatsoever Is Not Commanded Is Forbidden

By Bill Lockwood

religion, articles, christianity

David, son of Jesse, had been anointed king of Israel, announced by God as the rightful, divinely appointed successor to failing king Saul (1 Sam. 31; 2 Sam. 1). David was brought by he Lord's instruction to Hebron in Judah where he was publicly acclaimed as king in the room of Saul. Abner, cousin of Saul and the king's chief of staff, desired however to follow dynastic Eastern customs by appointing one of Saul's sons, Ishbosheth, as king. He was probably not without his personal reasons as well since he was Saul's cousin. Ishbosheth was therefore crowned king at the eastern township of Mahanaim (2 Sam. 2:8­9). However, God's choice for successor to Saul was David, consequently, by the Lord's providence the house of Saul crumbled while David's throne was consolidated in Hebron. Consider the following as related to these events:

First, David was content to allow God to implement his own desires by his own providential oversight. It had been God's own design that David be appointed head of Israel, nevertheless David:

Attested his unqualified submission to the guidance of God ... not only by not returning to Judah till he had received permission from the Lord, but also by the fact that after the tribe of Judah had acknowledged him as king, he did not go to war with Ishbosheth, but contended himself with resisting the attack made upon him by the supporters of the house of Saul ([2 Sam. 2:12ff], Keil and Delitsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, pp. 292­93).

Compare this to Sarah's lack of faith in the promise of God when upon one occasion she sought to bring to pass God's intention regarding a son by giving Hagar to her husband Abraham that he might father a child by her (Gen. 16:3­5). David's kindly disposition is also seen in the fact that his first formal act as king was the commendation of the men of Jabesh­gilead for rescuing the impaled bodies of Saul and his sons from the walls of Beth­shan where they had been exposed to Philistine ridicule. They had demonstrated, according to David, "kindness to the Lord's anointed." This can hardly be construed as a mere political maneuver on his part since even David himself, while a fugitive from Saul's impassioned jealousy, had so respected the king.

David's Appointment as King Eliminated All Others

Second, the appointment of Ishbosheth by the northern tribes as a rival king to David was an open violation of God's commands though, in fact, the Lord had never specifically forbidden it. Since David was selected, God eliminated all other candidates from the throne. Thus:

The promotion of Ishbosheth as king was not only a continuation of the hostility of Saul towards David, but also an open act of rebellion against Jehovah, who had rejected Saul and chosen David prince over Israel, and who had given such distinct proofs of this election in the eyes of the whole nation, that even Saul had been convinced of the appointment of David to be his successor to the throne (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, pp. 292-93).

It is also instructive that even Abner himself, who orchestrated the kingship of Ishbosheth (2 Sam. 3:8), recognized and admitted the fact that God's chosen king was actually David. "Jehovah hath spoken of David saying, By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel" (2 Sam. 3:18) was Abner's confession.

This brings to mind the principle found in Scripture that "when men do as a religious service, what they are not commanded to do, it is rejected" (M.C.. Kurfees, The Instrumental Music Question, by Foy E. Wallace, p. 9). So it has always been. Offering instrumental music in worship to God is open rebellion to God since it is a construction of worship after man's heart, not God's desire.

Jesus observed of the Jews who washed hands as a religious service, "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." He spoke of the scribes and Pharisees of his day who 1) were worshiping God; 2) were offering vain worship in that they offered that which God had not commanded; 3) the matter of hand washing was a very small matter as far as appearance­sake is concerned, but it was sinful because it was not authorized.

Likewise, the masses today 1) offer mechanical instrumental music in worship to God; 2) their worship is vain, and therefore rejected because, as was the elevation of Ishbosheth, they are offering that which God has not sanctioned; 3) the matter of mechanical instruments of music seems to be, as is construed by defenders, a very small matter. "Surely God will not damn anyone for simply playing a piano while he/she sings praises," I have heard quipped. No, neither did our Lord reject men simply upon the basis that they preferred to clean their hands. But it is a disposition to presume to add to God's selected offerings which falls under the Lord's strictures.

Here is a fact, then, that should be thoroughly and indelibly impressed upon every heart, that according to Jesus, an act, such as washing the hands, which is wholly sinless outside of religious service is, nevertheless, sinful when performed in religious service in the absence of any command of God. Hence, although engaged in worshiping God, men may, at the same time, be under the condemnation of Jesus, because they are doing that which is ordered by man, and not by the Lord, which Jesus says is vain worship (Matt. 15:8­9).

John L. Girardeau, professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in South Carolina, put it this way over 100 years ago:

A divine warrant is necessary for every element of doctrine, government, and worship in the church; that is, whatsoever in the spheres is not commanded in the Scriptures, either expressly or by good and necessary consequence from their statements, is forbidden.

Worship presented at the altar of man­made religion by means of mechanical instruments of music is in violation of the divine warrant in the same sense that those who appointed Ishbosheth king acted in rebellion against God. When God elected David to be king, though he never expressly forbade any other from being crowned, he implicitly forbade it. When our Lord Jesus Christ appointed singing (Eph. 5:19) to be offered as music in worship, he forbade the offering of instrumental music to God in worship. To utilize it in worship in the absence of divine warrant is to act in rebellion to divine authority.


Published April 1996