by Douglas Bond
1. If you wish you prayed better, with more heart, with words worthy of God, learn the psalms.
What is it we do so poorly in our Christian lives? Most of us would admit that we pray all too infrequently and badly at our best. This is true in large part because we are so unfamiliar with the content and eloquence of the psalms. The psalms are often prayers—inspired ones that ought to enrich, deepen, and inform our own praying.
2. We need the psalms today because they keep in perfect harmony both joy and fear in our worship.
The first stanza of Psalm 100 calls us to “make a joyful noise to the Lord,” then regulates and informs that joy in the second stanza with high, sobering truths about God’s power to create all things and to make a people for Himself. Joy and trembling are perfectly wedded in the psalms.
3. We need the psalms today because they help free us from our slavery to the here and now.
They can help keep us from the folly of the moment, the tyranny of the latest thing, the soul-killing bondage to the entertainment-driven fads of the fleeting present. Thoughtful Christians will not dismiss psalms as irrelevant for today, not to their taste, too difficult, too long, too complicated, or too old. When we give ear to these criticisms, our sung worship—be sure of it—will look and sound less and less like the psalms.
4. We live in an egalitarian age, where high-register things, especially words and language, are marginalized.
Thus, we need the majesty of the psalms to quicken our imaginations to enter God’s courts—a place into which we would never slouch or swagger untucked. Worship is the highest-register activity a human being can perform, and the content and tone of the psalms wonderfully regulate our attitude and posture in that worship.
5. The psalms give us theological discernment.
The psalms help us measure what is worthy and what is not. They help us reject vacuous praise—praise verbalized but without objective theological truth informing those words. We need to return to the inspired sung worship of the ancients because it adorns doctrinal truth and helps us see the loveliness of that truth. Psalm poetry is the God-ordained means of keeping every generation enthralled with the surpassing splendor of biblical truth.
6. Recovering psalm singing in our worship and life will raise the bar for all new worship poetry in every age.
Seek Christ in the psalms and then measure everything else by what you find there. When selecting and writings songs, we should ask, Is it psalm-like? An honest answer will enable you to rise above the inappropriate and tread on the high places of the earth.
7. Psalmody and classic hymnody serve to unite us with the vast throng of worshippers throughout the ages.
The psalms are God-given sung praise that transcends all barriers—ones of race, gender, ethnicity, and geography. Most importantly, the psalms free us from postmodernism’s all- preoccupying, all-excusing, obligatory barrier: personal taste. Psalm poetry is for all time, the ultimate multicultural poetry for “all people that on earth do dwell.”
“Sing to the Lord with joyful voice.” The God-breathed poetry of the psalms are not just for ancient Near Easterners, living long ago, in far-off lands, with goats bleating in time with the plucking of lyre strings. Psalms are for everyone—all people, in all ages, in all places, in all tongues. Sing to our Sovereign Lord with psalms, sing to our Creator, our Redeemer, with worthy hymns written in imitation of the richness and depth of the psalms. Why? Because God is good. “His truth endures to all generations.” And so must the psalms.
All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell,
Come ye before him and rejoice.
Know that the Lord is God indeed;
Without our aid he did us make:
We are his flock, he doth us feed,
And for his sheep he doth us take.
O enter then his gates with praise,
Approach with joy his courts unto:
Praise, laud, and bless his name always,
For it is seemly so to do.
For why? the Lord our God is good,
His mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.
Editor’s note: This is an adapted excerpt from Forgotten Songs: Reclaiming the Psalms for Christian Worship, edited by Ray Van Neste & Richard Wells.
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