David's Harp But Not His Psalm - by Prof. K. Schilder

This passage, originally entitled Wel Davids luit, niet Davids lied, is from volume one of Om Woord en Kerk, a collection of Dr. K. Schilder's sermons and articles. The translation is by J. H. Visscher.

Woe to those . . .who sing idle songs and like David invent for themselves instruments of music . . . but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
Amos 6:4-6

LyrePeople who only have a song and not the lute, a psalm but not the harp, the content but not the form, pure thoughts but no pure sounds, are poor. And they are also responsible for their poverty, for God's people can only be poor if they have refused the riches which God offers them.

But there is yet one thing that is poorer than poverty. That is death. And people who have the lute but not the song, the harp but not the psalm, the form but not the content, the pure sounds but not the fine, pure thoughts, are no longer poor, but dead.

And thus, the children of Joseph were poor, in their ruin, when they, in exile, hung their harps on the willows by the waters of Babylon (Ps. 137:1-2). For they missed the harp, the harp of David. But yet the song, the psalm of David was heard again . . . If I forget you, 0 Jerusalem! .. . (Ps. 137:5).

But the ones at ease in Zion, whom Amos addresses, were dead. They had not taken over the entire heritage from David. From David's inheritance they did take over the lute, the harp, the pure sound, the music, the art; but they missed his song, his psalm, his sacred thought, his godliness. And then the result was terrible.

The harp, the lyre, the music is never without contents; they are always based upon ideas. And when David's thoughts had faded in the hearts of Israel's children, they could no longer pray like David, no longer confess like David, no longer cry out for mercy like David, no longer glorify God through song as David did.

Sure, they kept David's harp; the art was still there; but instead of David's psalms, this generation sang idle songs; the sacred music was replaced by dance music, the instrument that David had invented came into the hands of strange, profane persons and the "worldly" songs overpowered David's sacred art.

For David sings, prays, and trembles about Israel's sin and God's justice. But these harpists and lute-players are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph and do not weep about the sin of Israel.

In every worldly tune that Amos' contemporaries played, there was an accusation concerning the sin of those who had given up David's harp because David's thoughts had faded in their minds.

Electric GuitarSimilarly, for us, worldly music is still always an accusation. 0 church, you have given up the music, the art, out of your own hands. You gave David's harp a vacation because David's thoughts stood still with you.

And at the same time, Amos comes to us saying: every Davidic song seeks a beautiful form, a beautiful sound, also in worship — just like David sought. But if the form excites and enthralls you, where is your content?

You, who search for a new form, or you, who stubbornly hold on to the old form, where are the thoughts of David in you? Where is your distress concerning Israel's sin?

Only he who knows David's thoughts may reach out for his harp in order to do with the strings what is good in his eyes. Keep your thoughts pure and let your heart be like that of the man after God's own heart; then your song, your art-form will come up as spontaneously and will always remain as fresh as David's.

Reformation of the lyre begins with the conversion of the heart — to the God of David. But also—even though you should leave David's harp unchanged in its old form, but no longer think David's thoughts, behold, then also you, who swear by David's harp, have become a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal, (I Cor. 13:1).