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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Rediscovering the Indescribable Beauty and Depth of Psalm Singing!


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Excerpts from Rediscovering the Psalms by Joe Holland

Psalm singing is experiencing a renaissance. A national worship conference being held this year is entitled "Rediscovering the Psalms". Websites are providing resources for people who would like to learn more about psalm singing. Churches are making strategic plans to train their members in psalm singing. Blogs and internet bulletin boards buzz with excitement over the Psalter. It is undeniable that the church is waking up to that which once marked it--the passionate singing of psalms. I am a child of this movement...

...First, what benefits should you expect from psalm singing?


When you sing psalms you literally sing the Bible. 

The hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" is a moving meditation on the cross of Christ. No hymn matches "For All the Saints" in its contemplation on the communion of the saints. But neither of these hymns are the actual words of the Bible. They are reflections on it. Forgetting for a moment that we are not singing the psalms in Hebrew, we are still singing the very words of God. The versification, themes, and content of the psalms are the inspired word of God for his church in every age. When you sing a psalm you sing the Bible.

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When you sing the psalms you interact with a wealth of theology. 

Martin Luther said of the Psalter, "that it might well be entitled a Little Bible, wherein everything contained in the entire Bible is beautifully and briefly comprehended." The 150 psalms cover the span of theology. To learn the psalms is not just to learn a specific topic of theology. It is to learn about every area of theology. Anthropology, theology proper, a theology of Scripture, Christology, soteriology, eccleisiology, and eschatology are all covered in the Psalter. Take for example Psalm 19 and its two part contemplation of God's revelation in creation and in the Bible. Or consider John Calvin's observation of God's attributes in Psalm 145, "in which the sum of all his powers is so precisely reckoned up that nothing would seem to have been omitted." The psalms provide a thorough exposure to the fullness of theology.


When you sing the psalms you are memorizing Scripture. 

An important part of Christian maturity is the ability to recall passages of Scripture at need. Educational circles have long advocated the use of music to aid memorization. Music has a way of impressing truth into the mind in ways that reading alone cannot. This is no accident; it is the providential hand of our Creator God. He wants you to memorize his word and has provided a mnemonic for easy memory--the Psalter as Scripture set to music.


When you sing the psalms you guard against heresy. 

Andrew Fletcher said, "Let me write a country's songs, and I care not who writes its laws." He was on to something. Songs drive information deep into our hearts. However, this power can be used for ill means. As long as the church has existed, songs have been used to inculcate heresy. There is an assumption that if you can sing it then it must be true. How shall we guard against sung-heresy? Sing psalms.


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When you sing the psalms you engage a collection of songs that address the full range of human emotions. 

Godly anger, heart-wrenching sorrow, dark depression, effulgent joy, honest questioning, and exuberant praise are just a sampling of the emotional range covered by the psalms. Most churches sense the burden of teaching their people how to think. Very few consider their responsibility to teach their people how to feel. Christians do not struggle with feeling. Feeling just happens. But our feelings must be trained by the gospel as much as our minds must. The psalms serve as the class room of our affections.


When you sing the psalms you praise the person and work of Jesus Christ. 

One of the most ignorant statements a Christian can make against psalm singing is, "I don't sing psalms because they aren't about Jesus." Too many evangelicals--having unwittingly drunk deep of the Marcionite heresy--have ceased to see the Old Testament, and especially the psalms, as a masterpiece of redemptive history telling in types, shadows, and rituals the person and work of Jesus Christ. 

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When the earliest Christians wanted to sing praise to God for the redemption wrought by Jesus' atoning death they turned to the psalms. It is sheer biblical ignorance and chronological snobbery to assume we can write better songs about Jesus than are provided in the psalms through the lens of the New Testament. To sing the psalms is to sing of the person and work of Christ.


When you sing the psalms you are training for spiritual warfare. 

As my Peruvian friend insisted, the psalms are militant. They are filled with images of war, divine conquest, and righteous triumph. Are those themes no longer needed in our day? As we watch men leave the church in droves dismayed at the feminization of worship is their no need for masculine, militant spirituality? As we watch Satan and his legions pillage congregations and hold Christians captive in doubts and error do we not need songs of war? J. C. Ryle understood this crucial element of Christian worship when he said, "true Christianity is the fight of faith." What songs will the armies of God sing to steel courage and embolden spiritual warfare? When we sing the psalms we sing the songs of war against sin, the world, and the devil.


When you sing the psalms you are engaging the communion of saints. 

The psalms were composed over a certain period in Israelite history. But they are not relics. They have been sung by the covenant people of God in each successive generation up to today. They will be sung until Christ's return. This touches on the doctrine of the communion of the saints. There is a solidarity in Christ for all who have been bought by his blood. That solidarity extends across cultures and generations. The psalms are rooted in the covenant identity of all God's chosen race. To sing them is to confess the communion of saints.





2 comments:

  1. Dear Kinuko,

    How are you? I have been off the grid for quite sometime due to various reasons, including health.
    I love this article. Psalms are so profound. A few years back, I was told that psalms can also be used like a pray-through guide. I love psalms. These days, when everything to seem fall apart.Life has been hard. Psalms have kept me going.
    Irina

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  2. Dearest Irina,
    Hello, dear. I have been hearing about you through Sanae who loves you and cares for you like your flesh and blood. Yess, Irina, you are absolutely right. We can pray Psalms, too. It contains not only praise and adoration but also human agony, sorrow and innermost lamentation. When I am in the bottom, downcast and afraid, I listen to the simple Psalmody with closed eyes. When we don't have power to pray nor even talk, the gentle Holy Spirit brings soul-soothing Psalm Words into our wounded hearts. Irina, I thank God for your being. In the midst of trials and difficulties, you have been trying your very best to trust Him and to LIVE to God, which, itself is a testimony to hundreds of people around you. with love, trust and high respect, Kinuko

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