By Caleb Archer
Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs
For over 3,000 years, the people of God have sung from the book of Psalms, God’s hymnal. Psalms contains 150 inerrant songs, written for worship and our edification. These are songs written by God, for God. Yet, for the past one hundred and fifty years, Psalms have slowly faded from our hymn books and have been replaced by other songs—some written by Christians, and others written by…. well, non-Christians.
I once had a conversation with a man who said the Psalms are too burdensome and, you know, Jesus died, so they don’t matter anymore. Instead, he encouraged churches to sing songs from bands connected with the Word of Faith movement and others who don’t even believe in the Triune God! Sadly, this is not the first conversation like this I’ve had.
Not Quite Exclusive Psalmody
This is not an article debating whether or not we should only sing the Psalms; but I would much rather see churches embrace exclusive Psalmody than exclude the Psalms altogether. We have thrown out the songs of God and replaced them with slop fit to feed goats, not edify sheep. Okay, maybe that was harsh. We have replaced them with some really good songs… and a lot of really bad songs.
Reasons for Psalm-Singing
With so many hymns at our disposal, why sing Psalms?
Paul tells the churches of Ephesus and Colossae to sing Psalms (Col 3:16; Eph 5:19). God also commanded His people to sing His songs in the Old Testament!
Many places in Scripture, the people of God sing the Psalms to praise, worship, and thank God (Exodus 15:1, 2 Chronicles 5:13, 2 Chronicles 20:21, 2 Chronicles 29:30, Ezra 3:11, Psalm 98:4-6, Psalm 105:2). Sing hymns and songs, certainly, but do not neglect the first item on the list.
To Be Acquainted with Jesus is to Be Acquainted with the Psalms
The Psalms are quoted hundreds of times in the New Testament. Psalm 110:1 alone is quoted 5 times: “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”
Furthermore, when Jesus says, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me,” He wasn’t making those words up off the cuff. Jesus is quoting Psalm 22, and when you read it, you will find it is a detailed account of the anguish Christ suffered on your behalf.
When you begin singing the Psalms, you will be overwhelmed by the sheer wealth of wisdom the Psalter has to offer about our Lord Jesus Christ.
Memorize Scripture More Easily
One of the easiest ways to memorize large portions of anything is to sing it. My Greek professor encouraged us to sing the alphabet song to remember the greek letters. A quick internet search will provide you with songs to help you memorize almost anything: bones, elements, planets, and books of the Bible. Why not learn the Psalms by heart as you sing them?
I didn’t think this was possible until I began singing them in family worship and playing them as I commute. Now I know many long passages and am on track to learn many, many more through song.
Use the Psalms As They Are Meant to Be Used
I’ve often used the tools in my toolbox in ways they were not originally intended to be used. I’ve used a hammer to pull out a screw, and a screwdriver to drill a hole. I’m sure you’ve read the Psalms and perhaps even studied the Psalms. Some folks even pray through the Psalms. All of these are incredible uses of the book of Psalms, and I encourage every single one of them. Yet, Psalms are meant to be sung.
When you sing a Psalm, you are using it the way God intended! When you sing from the Psalter, you are singing from God’s song book, joining in with Christians who have done so for over 3,000 years!
Let the Psalms Stick in Your Head
I’m sure you love it when “It’s a Small World” or “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” gets stuck in your head. But think about this: If you begin to sing the Psalms and listen to the Psalms, they will certainly get stuck in your head! One day, after repeating them under my breath for five minutes, I realized the words “The man is blessed who does not walk as wicked men advise” from Psalm 1 were stuck in my head. When I realized this, instead of being annoyed, I was glad! It’s indescribably wonderful to have the very words of God on a loop in your mind!
Deuteronomy 11:19 says, “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.” In obedience to this command, lay the words in your heart and bind them on your hand. Let them be your joy. Listen to God’s words sung and sing them yourself in private, with your family, and in the midst of the assembly.