My wife and I have begun the practice of singing Psalms together in the morning. We’re using the RPCNA Psalter, and we’re starting at the beginning, planning on going from Psalm 1 all the way to Psalm 150. It’s a great way to move us to praise the Lord and also to be in his word together.
As we sang Psalm 2, I couldn’t help but think about the lack of Psalm-singing in most churches today, even Reformed and Presbyterian ones. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not an advocate of exclusive psalmody. I do not find the exegetical arguments for exclusively singing the 150 Psalms in worship compelling. I believe we should write new music in praise to the Lord.
But nonetheless, I do think there are good reasons to sing the Psalms in public and private worship, not least of which is that Scripture tells us to sing psalms (Col. 3, et al). I don’t believe it intends to restrict us to the 150 Psalms, but we surely ought not do less than sing the Psalms.
But there are some other good reasons for singing the Psalms:
(1) When we exclusively sing non-canonical songs, we tend to focus only on certain themes. I.e., how many songs are about God’s love in comparison with other attributes? Do we cover the full range of doctrine (and even emotions) in our songs today? I suspect that we don’t even get close, particularly in songs of more recent times. By singing songs that God himself provided, we certainly get a better rounded look at who God is, and subsequently, we praise him for who he is.
Now some would probably want to use what I just said to support exclusive psalmody. But I don’t think it has to support that case. It can instead drive us to both sing the psalms and let the Scriptures (the Psalms in particular) guide us in writing new music as well.
(2) Singing Psalms helps us remember Scripture better. How many people can’t quote a single memorized verse of Scripture but can sing flawlessly all the latest tunes on his or her iPod? If we were to sing Scripture together regularly, we would likely find that we’d remember Scripture better too. I don’t know that this should necessarily replace memorizing Scripture, but it would definitely help us in that endeavor.
As an example of what I’m talking about, consider the text from the metrical version of Psalm 2 that we just sang:
Why do Gentile nations rage,
And their useless plots design;
Kings of earth in schemes engage,
Rulers are in league combined.
They speak out against the Lord;
His Messiah they defy:
“Let us break their chains and cords,
Let us cast them off,” they cry.
He who sits in the heaven laughs,
For the Lord views them with scorn.
He will speak to them in wrath,
And in anger He will warn:
“Yet according to my wil,
I have set my king to reign;
And on Zion’s holy hill,
My anointed will remain.”
“I the Lord’s decree make known;
This is what he had to say:
He declared, ‘You are my Son;
I have brought you forth this day.
Ask of me and you I’ll make
Heir to earth and nations all.
Them with iron rod you’ll break,
Smashing them in pieces small.’”
Therefore kings now heed this word:
Earthly judges, come and hear.
Reverent worship give the Lord;
With your joy mix trembling fear.
Honor him, his wrath to turn,
Lest you perish in your stride.
For his anger soon may burn.
Blessed are all who in him hide.
Sadly, there are not many modern hymns or songs that cover a similar array of ideas as Psalm 2 does. But perhaps the only way to see songs with deeper themes appearing in larger quantities (there are a few) is to go back to the Psalms and to sing with with deep appreciation for what God has provided to us in his word.Read More