What is the greatest worship instrument? Perhaps you think of traditional worship instruments. Maybe you think of bells or organs. Bells were first known to have been used in a church around A.D. 560. The first pipe organs in churches began to appear around A.D. 800. As they grew larger, they were called the “king of instruments” because of their huge range of tones and versatility.
Perhaps you think of classical instruments. Maybe an orchestra comes to mind. You picture a violin, cellos, violas, percussion, timpani, trombones and French horns. Between the 11th to the 14th centuries instrumental music started to appear in the Western church. In the 15th century, instruments besides the organ were used. In the 16th century string instruments and wind instruments were refined and more common in larger churches. Cathedrals began to have large orchestras.
Perhaps you think of really ancient worship instruments. Maybe your mind goes all the way back to Old Testament times. A verse such as 2 Samuel 6:5 might come to mind, which lists ancient instruments. It says “David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, lyres (ten stringed) tambourines (an ancient drum), sistrums (a shaker or rattle of some sort) and
cymbals”. Sometimes the ram’s horn, trumpets, lutes (like guitar), pipes (like oboe or clarinet) and flutes are added to similar lists (1 Samuel 10:5; 1Chronicle 13:8; 15:1, 28; Psalm 81:2-3;92:3; 150:3-5).
Or maybe you think of modern instruments. Does a fine Taylor acoustic guitar come to mind? Is it digital synthesizers you picture? Say a Kurzweil PC88MX? Or is it a Fender bass or Les Paul that you imagine. What about a Pearl drum set? And don’t forget the multi channel mixer.
Or maybe you have enough Scottish and Presbyterian blood in you to favor the great Highland pipes. Your blood stirs when you hear Amazing Grace or some other hymn played out in a worship service.
What is the greatest worship instrument? While I believe all of these can be legitimately used for worship, none of these fills the bill for the greatest worship instrument. I contend that the greatest worship instrument is the human voice – your voice. The one you bring to corporate worship each week. Unbuilt by human hands, it is the worship instrument that God himself crafted.
According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, the human voice was the first musical instrument. It is the instrument within. The source of sound in human singing is
produced by a vibration of the vocal cords. These cords are caused to vibrate by air from the lungs that moves through the windpipe passing over them. This produces resonance in the column of air. The mouth and throat then make possible alteration of vowel sound and pitch.
Okay, away from the science of it all. The voice is in expression of the human heart. When
it sounds in worship it fills the air with praise to God. Sure, for some of us it may not sing as tunefully as others. It may simply be a “joyful noise” that you make each week.
But all of us can voice adoration in song. That simple act of singing God’s worth with
your own voice is actually more significant than any other instrument in the room, whatever they happen to be.
If you are like me, you like to hear different instruments in worship. But in our love of any other instrument, be it organ, guitar or pipes, let’s not forget the ultimate instrument that each of us has and brings to worship each week. And let’s not sit back and let others play while our great instrument remains silent. Instead, let us “sing and make music in (our) hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5.19,20)
In his book Unceasing Worship, Harold Best talked about why singing and music would and should always be the choice art-form for corporate worship, because of music’s unique ability to wed text with its art-form. Part of his sub-argument, if I remember correctly, was discussing the human voice’s unique ability to both intone and shape actual words–an ability which no other instrument has. To date, we’ve been unable to create an instrument which can replicate the flexibility and expression of the human voice. Great post!
great observation….. loved it. Voice, singing is telling a story often…… 2/3rds of the world can not read, or choose not to learn that way. Singing most ofter tells a story of love, a story of adoration or even sorry and distress. I think, Satan was the first choir director in heaven and thought the focus was “on Him” perhaps. Your connection of vocal with the heart…. a good one. Can have a pure heart or a messed up one…..what comes out perhaps tells.
“The Sacred Harp,” a shape-note songbook, was a close runner-up to the Bible in much of America for a century or more. The music had some quirky features: many open fifths, many pentatonic tunes, some modal tunes, the melody was usually in the tenor voice, which could be sung by male or female singers. And it was unaccompanied, using only “the sacred harp,” the human voice.