“And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. . . . And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city” (Gen. 11:1, 6-8).
The divine record of the confusing of the languages due to the purpose of building a city and a tower for making “a name” (Gen. 11:4) for themselves shows some interesting details about the power of a common language. The principles of this power can be seen in the importance of knowing the word of God and the blessings from it. Consider three principles of this power.
The Power of Understanding. The text specifically states concerning the confounding of the languages that its purpose was that “they may not understand one another’s speech” (Gen. 11:7). Understanding is an essential product of a common language. If one cannot understand what another is saying, then confusion arises and no edification. Moses wrote concerning the curses that would befall the nation if it disobeyed the Lord, “The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;” (Deut. 28:49). The nation of Israel would be held captive by more than the power of military might. They would be held captive by the power of a lack of understanding of what is being said around them. Anyone who has ever visited a place whose language is not his own native language knows how helpless one becomes if he does not know the language.
The Power of Unity. Having one language and one speech (cf. Gen. 11:1) was a means toward the unity of the people. Moses wrote of the Lord’s word, “Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language” (Gen. 11:6). Unity was achieved from understanding and conforming to that understanding. Consider the words of Paul about unity. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). While Paul is not specifically addressing a common language like Greek, English, etc., he is addressing the importance of a common communication that produces and maintains unity. Hence, the principle of holding to division of teachings can never produce a unity of people.
The Power of Utility. A common language was a tool that made useful the activities of men. Moses again wrote, “this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (Gen. 11:6). Clear communication produces a utilitarian effect. Consider how frustrating it is when a project is hindered by poor or ineffective communication. The construction of the city and tower ended with the scattering of the people to regions where they would hold to their own language. The miraculous power of speaking in the different tongues or languages brought about the understanding and unity of converts (cf. Acts 2:8-41). All languages become spirituality useful when in the one faith (cf. Eph. 4:5).
“Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom” (Prov. 18:1, KJV).
Another translation gives the wording, “He that separateth himself seeketh his own desire, and rageth against all sound wisdom” (Prov. 18:1, ASV). In addition, another translation gives the wording, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Prov. 18:1, ESV). It should be seen from this that the translation is difficult. Even commentaries differ on whether the passage is teaching a good principle like separating oneself from the world to seek the wisdom from God or is the passage teaching a bad principle like being aloof from God believing that he is smarter than the wisdom of God. When looking into the Hebrew text, the first word of the verse centers on desire. This same word is found in Genesis 3:6 with reference to how the woman desired the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Therefore, it appears that Proverbs 18:1 is indicating a prohibitive thought and not a pleasing one. Seeking to make oneself what he is not is a danger among men throughout time. Presumptuous pride personified in elitism is unbiblical and ugly to the core. Consider three matters that hold true with this selfish ambition.
Self-absorbed. The very next passage in Proverbs 18 states, “A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself” (Prov. 18:2). Another translation states, “A fool hath no delight in understanding, but only that his heart may reveal itself” (Prov. 18:2, ASV). There is no question that this passage is destructive in its import. The self-confident fool cares nothing for true understanding. He only delights to tell anyone who would listen all that he knows. He himself is his greatest topic of discussion. He would fit well in the “me-generation.” The whole world revolves around him and his feelings, wishes, thinking, etc. True biblical love is the opposite of this. Paul wrote of agape love, “charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” (1 Cor. 13:4) and “seeketh not her own” (1 Cor. 13:5).
Self-assessed. Solomon wrote further in Proverbs, “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him” (Prov. 18:17). Again, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand” (Prov. 19:21). The self-absorbed evaluate things according to their own eyes. Solomon wrote of the fool, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise” (Prov. 12:15). Faulty standards make for confusion and corruption. This type of person is illustrated in Luke 18:11-12.
Self-approved. Solomon wrote, “It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory” (Prov. 25:27). Again, “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Prov. 26:12). Paul warned of those in Corinth who evaluated things improperly and thus were not wise (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12). He closed the thought-provoking paragraph with the words, “For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” (2 Cor. 10:18). Elitism blinds and ultimately dooms the soul. May God help all to see such dangers and act wisely.
“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core” (Jude 11).
Whatever may be said of the three particulars given as warnings to these readers, such needs exploring by Christians since this is written in the New Testament for the “beloved” (Jude 3, 17, 20). This article will explore the last of the three in the “gainsaying” (Jude 3, KJV) or “rebellion” (Jude 3, ESV) of Korah, particularly as it relates to the question “What is to be believed about the adding of instrumental music with the singing in worship today?”
The Dissatisfaction with God’s Divine Arrangement. Moses wrote of the words of Korah and his associates, “And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord? And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face: And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even tomorrow the Lord will shew who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him” (Num. 16:3-5). While they challenged the authoritative positions of Moses and Aaron, Moses declares that God would show “whom he hath chosen” (Num. 16:5). This is a clear indication that God had authorized whom he had authorized and Korah and his companions were dissatisfied with it. Whenever anyone becomes dissatisfied with what God has chosen and revealed, the path down the road likened to the rebellion of Korah lies ahead.
The Decision to Add Thus Challenging God’s Arrangement. Moses further explains their rebellion, “Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?” (Num. 16:9). Notice again the despising or taking lightly of what God had given them in the service. Again, “And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?” (Num. 16:10). Herein is the heart of the problem. They were safe in what God had authorized for them, but they wanted to add the priesthood as well. Here is a classic example of the warning, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). Going above that which is written (cf. 1 Cor. 4:6) is precisely the objection to adding instrumental music with the authorized music of singing (cf. Heb. 2:12).
The Determination to Follow Through While Having Been Warned. In spite of the warning, Moses was going to let God do the showing of who are holy and authorized to serve in the burning of incense (cf. Num. 16:6-19). God’s destruction of this rebellious group was a clear message “that these men have provoked the Lord” (Num. 16:30). Where is the Biblical authority for adding instrumental music to the singing (cf. Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16-17)? To add such without Biblical authority, being determined to have it anyway, is to equally provoke the Lord. Jude’s warning holds true to all generations.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).
These four verses are all one sentence in both the Greek and English texts. The major thought is in the words “Let this mind be in you” (Phil. 2:5). In other words, think like this. Jesus left heaven and became human doing the work of a servant to be obedient even to death on a cross. Such is the epitome of getting out of one’s comfort zone. This challenge is followed up with the words, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Therefore, the point of this section is having Jesus as the example, keep on obeying no matter what.
Continual obedience is tough. It means getting out of one’s comfort zone time and time again. Consider three areas of getting out of one’s comfort zone that some may not think about in the realm of serving like Christ.
Focusing on the Little Things. While there is a tendency for some to want to focus on activities that attract the eyes of men (cf. Matt. 6:1-18), Jesus would concentrate on things people would leave unnoticed. Jesus spoke up about a widow who gives two mites (cf. Mark 12:41-44). Jesus speaks up about people who do basic things for the “least of these my brethren” (Matt. 25:40). Jesus gave attention to little children where others would seek to hinder (cf. Mark 10:13-16). Jesus would wash the disciples’ feet where others would not serve (cf. John 13:4-17). Over and over Jesus pointed out small things as being important. One sheep among a hundred (cf. Luke 15:4), one coin among ten (cf. Luke 15:8), one penitent, prodigal son returning home (cf. Luke 15:12-24) all show that Jesus is concerned with the individual as much as for the whole world.
Friendly to New Faces. Here is an area where every congregation can improve. Anyone who travels knows what it is like to worship with a congregation where one is unknown. While all congregations have the words “everyone welcome,” such can be very hollow if actions do not back up those words. Jesus, while not a participant in sinful behavior (cf. 1 Peter 2:22) was a “friend of publicans and sinners” (Luke 7:34). Jesus befriended a woman from Samaria (cf. John 4:7-9). Jesus, as the greatest friend to all humanity, laid down his life for his friends (cf. John 15:13). Some people are very uncomfortable speaking to strangers, even fellow members of the church. All need to treat each other by the “golden rule” (cf. Matt. 7:12).
Facing Challenges Optimistically. Pessimism was not the mind of Christ. He said himself, “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). It is the rare person indeed who does not get “caught up” in the negative. One can get comfortable in “murmurings and disputings” (Phil. 2:14) fashioned by the world’s thinking and practice (cf. Phil 2:15). Developing great thinking habits (cf. Phil. 4:8) can create a positive mindset that benefits now and eternally.
“And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse” (Matt. 1:5).
The name of Ruth brings special thoughts to those who know the history of this great woman. While some would consider marriage to a Moabite something disagreeable (cf. Ruth 4:5-6), Boaz did not see her in such light. Prejudice can cause people to misinterpret God’s will for mankind. Ruth is an example of how an outsider became one of the great people of the line of Christ. Consider three lessons from her life.
Her Devotion. The name Ruth in Hebrew means friendship. There was not a better friend that Naomi had than Ruth. The first chapter of the book of Ruth finds her in distressing circumstances with the death of his husband (cf. Ruth 1:5). A “fair weather” friend would not have been like Ruth to Naomi when things looked as bleak as they did (cf. Ruth 1:3-13). While one of Naomi’s daughters-in- law, Orpah, returned to Moab (cf. Ruth 1:14), Ruth stayed with her as some might say “Through thick or thin.” Her well-known words, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:16-17) reveal her devotion. Her devotion led her to do what Boaz would later say, “The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust” (Ruth 2:12).
Her Diligence. When Ruth and Naomi came back to Israel it was the time of the barley harvest (cf. Ruth 1:22). Ruth happened to glean in the field belonging to Boaz (cf. Ruth 2:3). Her work ethic was not one of laziness or half-hearted effort. The text states, “so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house” (Ruth 2:7). The amount gleaned and beat out “was about an ephah or barley” (Ruth 2:17). She gleaned “unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law” (Ruth 2:23). After Naomi found out that Boaz was a near kinsman who might raise up descendants, Ruth was diligent to do what her mother-in-law told her to do (cf. Ruth 3:5-18). She had truly demonstrated to all that she was a “virtuous woman” (Ruth 3:11).
Her Destiny. This friend of the house of Elimelech would ultimately be in the family line of the Messiah. The promise to Abraham that of his seed “shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18) would ultimately have one originally from Moab in the genealogy (cf. Matt. 1:5). Ruth would be a blessing and also be blessed. Women from Israel would say to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him” (Ruth 4:14-15). Her biography could declare some of the great men of Israel to come through her. Truly, God brought about a greatness that started with one who overcame great obstacles.