I love singing the Psalms.
I love the heritage that God has given to His people. I love the truth that the two dispensations – the old and new testaments – are in reality the one covenant of grace. I love the truth that God has revealed in the Psalms that, in simplicity, we may worship God in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24). That is why I love singing the Psalms. Even more so, I love singing the Psalms because God himself is the author and every scripture is “breathed-out” or, in other words, inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16). I love singing the Psalms because I become the instrument by which God sings through me. After all, who am I that God should reveal His truth through my mouth which by nature, overflows with vanity?
Though much of the richness of the Psalms can be mentioned, my one principle for loving the Psalms is in the fact that God Himself sings through the Psalms through his beloved saints who are purchased by the blood of Christ. To illustrate better, let us refer to Psalm 46 or Psalter 126.
Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalter 126 Stanza 5
Be still and know that I am God, O’er all exalted high;
The subject nations of the earth
My Name shall magnify.
Imagine if I were to write a song, and in my song, the lyrics go “Be still, and know that I am God”. You would not be mistaken to think that I committed blasphemy of the worst sort. Truly, how can a mere man write a song and claim to be God? Therefore, beyond doubt, it is certain that God himself is the author of the Psalms.
And, if claiming to be God through the composition of a song is so heinous a crime, how different is it if I were to sing it; even if the song is not mine? However, when we sing in Psalter 126, “Be still and know that I am God”, we need not fear for it was never me nor you singing in ourselves, but rather, God who sings through us.
God sings through us. Who are we, that the eternally transcendent God who is exalted above all creation and above the fairest of angels, should sing through us? I hope that we can see what a blessed gift we have been bestowed with. Not only can we, by His grace, worship Him, but we can also have Him sing through us. Who are we to represent the most high? Among the blessings of salvation, this also, did Christ merit for us; that we may be the instruments of God, even through singing.
Furthermore, God is zealous for His own glory (Isa 48:11). He knows how best to glorify Himself. He knows with what He is to be glorified with. Thus, God being the author of the Psalms would mean that the Psalms is God-centered and God-glorifying. Therefore, when we sing the Psalms, we need not worry about being off-centre, be it man-centred or otherwise. Psalm 46 declares that God will be glorified as it is written in verse 10, “…I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”
If we were to build up and encourage one another in the form of singing, truly, there can be nothing better than the Word of God itself. The hearers around us are built up when they hear the Word of God, though versified, through our mouths. It is no longer “God said…” but God saying, “I say…” through us, therefore take heed!
Apart from that which is mentioned, another reason why I love singing the Psalms for it makes explicit what most Christian songs lack — The destruction of the wicked. It may sound as if I am a vengeful and hateful person when the Lord commands us to love even our enemies that we may be the children of our Father which is in heaven (Matt 5:45). However, in connection with the previous point, it is not I but God who wills their destruction for their revolt against Him. This can be seen from
Ps 46:6,8 “The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.”
And also from the confessions:
Belgic Article 37, “…And therefore the consideration of this judgment, is justly terrible and dreadful to the wicked and ungodly, but most desirable and comfortable to the righteous and elect: because then their full deliverance shall be perfected, and there they shall receive the fruits of their labor and trouble which they have borne. Their innocence shall be known to all, and they shall see the terrible vengeance which God shall execute on the wicked, who most cruelly persecuted, oppressed and tormented them in this world; and who shall be convicted by the testimony of their own consciences, and being immortal, shall be tormented in that everlasting fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels…”
Canons of Dordt Head 2, Article 1 , ”God is not only supremely merciful, but also supremely just. And his justice requires (as he hath revealed himself in his Word), that our sins committed against his infinite majesty should be punished, not only with temporal, but with eternal punishment, both in body and soul; which we cannot escape, unless satisfaction be made to the justice of God.”
The Belgic Confession calls the judgement upon the wicked “most desirable and comfortable to the righteous and the elect”. The psalms repeatedly and emphatically spells out that the wicked shall be destroyed. Shall we then withhold from God what He desires to be worshipped with if He has mentioned in His appointed songbook regarding the destruction of the wicked?
Furthermore, in singing of the subduing of the wicked, we are singing of the activity of Christ in defeating His enemies as it is written in 1 Cor 15:25-27. Thus we sing:
Psalter 126 stanza 3
“The nations raged, the kingdoms moved,
But when His voice was heard
The troubled earth was stilled to peace
Before His mighty word.”
And Stanza 4,
“O come, behold what wondrous works
Jehovah’s hand has wrought;
Come, see what desolation great He on the earth has brought.”
Other reasons why Psalm 46 is dear to me:
1) Psalm 46 is a great comfort to the people of God. It starts and has its recurring theme: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
This is true for the saints when this Psalm was penned and it is also true for us today. How much vexation is there to our lives? How many are those that wish for our destruction and the losing of our souls? After all, there are one-third of the angels who have fallen who wishes for the fall of the elect and the church (Rev 12). Yet, God is our refuge and our strength though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. In connection with the previous point, we see also that the destruction of the wicked is part of the help which God renders to his people and thus is of great comfort, and thus is to be sung.
2) The covenant is spoken of.
Ps 46: 4-5 “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.”
The river, which is the Spirit of Christ that dwells in the church (cf 1 Cor 12:13-14), is the manifestation of the covenant which God establishes with His people. In parallel, the next verse states, “God is in the midst of her”. Thus when we sing this psalm, we are mindful that God tabernacles with His people and being His covenant friends, He helps us which brings us back to the previous point of this psalm’s recurring theme.
In conclusion, to me, singing the Psalms is not equal to singing any other Christian song. It is the highest honor that one can render to God and the greatest privilege given to us with respect to singing the praises of God. So the next time we sing psalter 126 or any other psalter, may we by faith, see the great privilege and be more than thrilled to sing the scriptures for when we do sing, truly, God sings through us.
Written by: Woon Tian Loong | Issue 10