True Worship

Mankind was born with an inbred desire to praise and worship someone or something. We either praise and worship the one true God or we will create our own man-made idols.

Habakkuk 3:19b NIV

‘For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.’

In an earlier study, we noted that Habakkuk appeared to be involved in leading worship. Here in this verse, he refers to ‘my stringed instruments.’


  • How does your church worship the Lord each Sunday?
    • Do you sing a selection of hymns played on an organ?
    • Are there hymns and songs played on an organ and or a piano?
    • Perhaps you attend a more lively church with a band comprising piano, keyboard, guitars and drums etc? What instruments are used?

Some people believe the only true worship instrument is the pipe organ. But did you know that there was a huge outcry when the organ was first introduced into a church service? The Scots labelled the instrument as a “kist o’ whistles” – a derogatory name with kist meaning coffin. Many believed it was an instrument of the devil.

Today there are those who believe the guitar should not be played in church, and as for drums? Well, really!


Doesn’t this seem strange in the light of the fact that the Bible reveals Old Testament worshipers used a variety of musical instruments?

“Praise God with trumpets and all kinds of harps.
Praise him with tambourines and dancing, with stringed instruments and woodwinds.
Praise God with cymbals, with clashing cymbals.” (Psalms 150: 3-5 CEV)

They also used the shofar (from a ram’s horn, especially the kudu!), bells, lyres, small drums, flutes etc.

A modern-day Habakkuk would almost certainly use an electric guitar and a keyboard!


Here in our own city of Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth), from time to time the well-known South African conductor, Richard Cox, leads a service of worship called ‘Songs of Praise’. Pre-Covid, believers packed the large auditorium to join in a great time of praise and worship. A large orchestra and choir comprising choir members from local churches accompanied the singing.

I don’t believe the Lord is choosy about which instruments we use in worship. After all, he gave mankind the ability to design these numerous musical instruments. God’s main concern is the state of our hearts, whether we are truly worshipping Him or merely singing songs.

Shirley and I once attended an amazing service of worship in a rural African church where their only instrument was the Bible! The congregants danced as they sang lustily, clapping the palms of their hands on their Bibles in time to the rhythm. What a wonderful time of truly God-inspired worship that was! 


On the outskirts of the village of Sychar in Samaria, Jesus got into conversation with an adulterous woman. Jesus pinpointed that she had five previous husbands and was not married to the man she was living with. The lady tried to change the subject.

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.  Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”  

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:19-24 NIV)

She attempted to enter into a debate as to the correct venue for worship. Jesus in effect said the venue is not  important, it’s who you worship and how you worship that is really important – “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

True worship is God centred, Spirit orchestrated, and focused on the truth about Jesus.

On YouTube recently there have been several clips claiming that some of the lively songs of praise and worship sung in many of our churches are theologically inaccurate. That the songwriters are in effect teaching false doctrine which is more man centred than God-glorifying. Jesus said,”.. . .the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth...”


This is not really surprising in the light of the temptations Jesus received in the wilderness after his baptism by John the Baptist.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:1,2)

The English word ‘temptation’ comes from the Greek PETRASMOS and can also mean ‘testing.’

It was truly a time of testing for Jesus. After fasting for forty days Jesus was hungry and Satan tempted him to meet His physical need miraculously and thus prove himself to be the Son of God. Jesus replied, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.‘” (Matthew 4:4)

In His weakened condition, Satan continued to attempt Jesus to question his own identity by taking him to the highest point of the temple – “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down,” for surely God will send his angels to save you.” Jesus again resisted the temptation by quoting God’s Word, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.‘” (Matthew 4:7).


But now we come to the real crux of the three temptations.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.‘” (Matthew 4:8-10)

Satan hates seeing Christians worshipping the one true God through Jesus Christ the Son. He will do all he can to undermine such worship. Even if it involves getting us to sing words which don’t truly praise and glorify God. We need to be very careful that we are worshipping the Lord our God and not allowing Satan to distract us.


David, himself a musician, had a lot to say about our praise and worship of God. “I will praise the LORD God with a song and a thankful heart.” (Psalm 69:30 CEV)

  • Is your worship truly heartfelt?
  • Does your worship flow from your heart or do you simply sing songs?

Paul’s advice to believers is, “When you meet together, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as you praise the Lord with all your heart.” ( Ephesians 5:19 CEV)

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you whether you are offering true worship and to teach you how to present God with true worship through Christ His Son.
Then join in with this congregation as they sing a true song of worship. See what instruments you can identify. 


If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

Praise and Worship

What comes to mind when you see the words, the sound of music?

The movie ‘The Sound of Music’ in which Julie Andrews starred, made an amazing impact worldwide.  More than fifty years on it still has a warm effect on many who view it.

The Power of Music

Music has a profound effect on one. It has the power to lift us out of depression. Its rhythm soon gets one’s feet a-tapping.

According to the Newport Academy, music has a direct impact on areas of the brain related to our emotions. It is further believed that changes in music can directly influence our reactions—for instance, if a new instrument is introduced, or there is a change in pitch, volume, or tempo.

Photo by Alena Darmel from Pexels

The above picture reminds me of a Britain’s Got Talent semi-final concert that Shirl and I watched a week or so ago on TV, in which a father and son team got through to the final. It was a delightful episode, featuring wonderful chemistry between the dad and his boy.

Praying to Music

The third chapter of Habakkuk opens with Habakkuk’s prayer accompanied by a musical instrument.

Habakkuk 3:1 NIrV

‘This is a prayer of the prophet Habakkuk. It is on shigionoth….’

Habakkuk chapter 3 has been described as “a Psalm Blessing for God’s faithful acts of deliverance in the past and hope for deliverance in the future.” (Commentary by Bob Utley)

  • Have you attended a service where a musical background is used as part of the service?

In the services that Shirl and I attend, the pastor often comes up to the rostrum during the singing of a song of praise and prays while a musical instrument continues to play softly in the background. It is beautiful.

Music on a Shigionoth

Habakkuk prayed using a Shigionoth. I knew you were going to ask that! I had to look it up.

“The word denotes a lyrical poem composed under strong mental emotion; a song of impassioned imagination accompanied with suitable music.” (Illustrated Bible Dictionary by M G Easton)

The Easy English Commentary states, “The book ends with a psalm (a song with music)! Habakkuk may have worked with one of the music groups in the temple in Jerusalem. He tells them what music to use, and what *musical instruments,” (verses 1 and 19).

  • What comes to your mind as you focus on Habakkuk 3 verse 1?

It should not seem strange to us that the verse refers to a sung prayer. We often sing what we know as the Lord’s Prayer. Many of our hymns and worship songs are based on the words of the Psalms, many of which are themselves in the form of a prayer.

In the 1960s, many passages of scripture—particularly the Psalms, were set to music and sung in churches that had come under the influence of the Charismatic Movement.

  • Are you more conservative and prefer the good old traditional hymns?
  • How do you react to the ‘new’ songs that seem to be replacing those great hymns?
  • How do you feel about traditional hymns set to new melodies or rhythms? 

Several of the psalms actually encourage worshipers to sing new songs to the Lord (Psalms 33:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1)

“Tell the whole world to sing a new song to the Lord! Tell those who sail the ocean and those who live far away to join in the praise.”(Isaiah 42:10 CEV)

A Joyful Noise

In the last session, we focussed on the need to come into God’s presence in an attitude of humility and reverence. Here in this verse, the emphasis is our need to praise God, to vocalise our appreciation for whom He is and what He has done.

Many are afraid to sing out because they have not been blessed with a good musical tone. Praise God! That doesn’t worry Him. He just wants your praise. 

Did you know that seven psalms recorded in the King James Version of the Bible encourage us to make a joyful noise to the Lord? Several other translations encourage us to praise God with shouts of joy.

Noisy Worship?

This brings to mind the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa. This proved to be a unique experience for those who attended the matches or watched the games on TV. Not only were they part of a huge cheering crowd, but the African element introduced the constant noise of the vuvuzela.

The vuvuzela is a plastic brightly coloured horn. When blown its sound is like a hunting horn, but when blown by a stadium of football fans it sounds more like a trumpeting elephant.

Image of Vuvuzela by M W from Pixabay

The psalms certainly indicate that Old Testament Temple worship was surely a noisy affair. When one considers the variety of musical instruments mentioned in some of the psalms accompanied by a loud singing crowd the din must have been audible from miles away.

Songs and Instruments  of Praise

The following psalm encourages joyful worship:

Shout praises to the LORD, everyone on this earth.
Be joyful and sing as you come in to worship the LORD!
Be thankful and praise the LORD as you enter his temple.
The LORD is good! His love and faithfulness will last forever. (Psalm 100:1,2,4,5 CEV)                        

In addition in Psalm 150, we have a list of some of the instruments used in the Temple worship: trumpets, all kinds of harps, tambourines, stringed instruments and woodwinds, cymbals and clashing cymbals. (Verses1-6 CEV) 

A shofar, a musical horn made out of a ram’s horn, was also used and is still used for Jewish religious gatherings. 

Shofar image by faherneit451 from Pixabay

Revelation records that at the second coming of our Lord. He will stand on Mt Zion and the sound coming from heaven will be like, ‘a roaring flood or loud thunder or even like the music of harps. And a new song will be sung in front of God’s throne…” (Revelation 14:1-3 CEV)                                                                                                  

Revelation reveals that heaven reverberates with worshipful praise. What prevents you from joining in uninhibited worship of our amazing loving God?

Spend some time thanking God for the priviledge of being able to communicate with him How about joining in this new song which is becoming well known, and worship the Lord now?


If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

Stones will burst forth in praise

In order to continue the sequence of verses in Habakkuk, this session is an adaptation of a study that we did earlier this year to fit in with the message of Easter.

Image by D.William from Pixabay – Biblical words added from Daniel 5:25

Habakkuk 2:11 ASV

“For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.”

A Wall of Stones and Timber

Isn’t this a strange concept? Stones calling out of a wall? And beams replying?

Habakkuk was creating a picture for us of the ancient practice of building walls with three layers of stone followed by a layer of timber.

“The inner courtyard of the temple had walls made out of three layers of cut stones with one layer of cedar beams.” (1 Kings 6:36)

So these words related to the walls of Babylon which were most likely constructed in this way.

Often, buildings erected in this way were made from material gained from conquered nations. The walls and timbers of Babylon were the product of hard labour by Israeli slaves. Habakkuk is describing the stones and the timber as witnesses to the cruelty of the Babylonian conquerors.

A Wall Gives a Message

  • Can you recall an occasion in the Bible when this happened?

A wall cried out when God condemned Belshazzar. While he and his courtiers were feasting, God wrote the words, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” across the wall. Belshazzar called Daniel to interpret the words.

His interpretation was, ‘God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.’ (Daniel 5:1,26-28 NIV)

God used a wall.

Let’s look at some other objects God used in Scripture.

Stones Echo Praise

On what we refer to as Palm Sunday. Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on the back of a donkey in fulfilment of the prophecy of Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9). There the crowd welcomed Him, chanting,

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

But the Pharisees took exception to this and demanded, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” So Jesus responded with that familiar phrase,

I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:38-40)

The reaction of the crowds to the coming of the “Son of David…the king who comes in the name of the Lord” was one of uninhibited, spontaneous praise. 

God welcomes spontaneous, sincere praise.

  • How spontaneous is your praise of God? At home? In your church?
  • How much is your praise held back by what others might think?

All Nature Praises 

The only ones who were not infected by the joy of the occasion were the conservative, ritualistic religious leaders. They did not approve of this behaviour. It was to them that Jesus said, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.

Jesus, the Son of God welcomed their behaviour and made it abundantly clear that if mankind chose to remain silent, nature would burst forth into praise. 

  • Have you noticed how the psalms speak of nature participating in praising God?

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music.” (Psalm 98:4)

“Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy.” (Psalm 98:8) 

Again in Isaiah, we read:

“Tell the heavens and the earth to celebrate and sing; command every mountain to join in the song.” (Isaiah 49:13 CEV)

 “..the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12)

Uninhibited Praise

On that wonderful day in Jerusalem, Jesus’ disciples, the crowd, and the children were uninhibited in their praise. They allowed themselves the freedom to release their emotions. After they waved palm branches, they placed them on the road to form a carpet.

They did the same with their outer garments, then they shouted out words of praise. Even the children got caught up in the spirit of praise.

This annoyed the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They demanded, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

Jesus simply responded, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Psalm 100:2 NIV Share on X

A Greater Reason to Praise 

You and I have even more reason to praise the Lord. True praise and worship is the overflow of the love and respect that we have for Jesus and for what He has done. It is an expression of the joy that He has brought into our lives.

    Jesus said, “I tell you, if (my disciples do not praise me) the stones will cry out.”

Are we going to be outdone by nature? Nature can but praise Jesus for its creation. We praise Jesus that mankind is the highlight of creation. We praise that we have become a new creation through faith in our Saviour.

Make a point each day in your quiet time to first praise God for something He has done for you during the last 24 hours, before bringing any requests to Him.


If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout our time together.