It was right there in my Bible, this whole time. How could I have missed it?
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in PSALMS and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing PSALMS. (James 5:13)
“…but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in PSALMS and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord… (Ephesians 5:18-19)
Wait. Did the Word of God just tell me to sing the Psalms? Not just read them and study them, but… sing them?
Up until about two years ago, the thought that I could (let alone should) sing the songbook of Scripture had never crossed my mind.
But one day, we sang Psalm 23 in our church service, and everything changed. I began to wonder: why don’t we do this more often? Are there people and churches out there that do sing them regularly?
It occurred to me that the Church has been singing the psalms in worship since the days of King David. But now, in recent centuries, fewer and fewer churches are singing them. And many of us had never even heard of the practice! Why?
As I studied, Facebook became a platform for meeting brothers and sisters in Christ who practiced psalm-singing daily, as part of their worship. I learned about whole denominations of the church that either exclusively sang psalms, or included them in their worship with manmade hymns. I decided to give it a try.
So I used a free online psalter (the Scottish Metrical Psalter) and ordered one as well (the Book of Psalms for Singing). Every day, as I did my private worship, I sang a psalm.
It transformed my life.
I’m not being over-dramatic. Something happened to me as I began to sing God’s Word. The Lord opened my eyes to seeing Christ in every psalm. I beheld depths of His glory I’d never witnessed before. The Word became richer, fuller. My experiential knowledge of God grew and grew. I realized I was singing with my Savior, as He told the great story of His sacrificial life–His incarnation, passion, resurrection, ascension. It was no longer about noticing a couple of messianic passages. I dove deep and explored the nature of Christ–truths that can only be discovered in the Psalms.
You may be thinking, “But aren’t the Psalms in the Old Testament? Before Christ came?” Yes. That’s what’s so marvelous! It is incredible to see Jesus’ nature and works revealed prophetically, hundreds of years before He was born in Bethlehem. What better confirmation of God’s sovereignty and omniscience over all of history!
Let me give you some examples. Here are just a select few passages from the Psalms (there are many, many more) that show us Christ. I included the ones that the NT explicitly applies to Jesus, but there are more that are implicitly referenced as well.
His Sonship and relationship with the Father, along with His sovereignty (referenced in Acts 4:25-28)
Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed…
“I will declare the decree:
The Lord has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession. […]
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. (Psalm 2:7-8, 12)
His crucifixion/passion/sacrificial death (referenced in Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34, and several others):
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Why are You so far from helping Me,
And from the words of My groaning?
For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me. (Psalm 22:1, 16-17
Notice how, in that psalm, Jesus speaks in the first person. We are singing with Him and understanding His suffering from His perspective!
His hope that the Father would raise Him from the dead and restore Him to glory (referenced in Acts 2:25-32 and Acts 13:34-37):
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:9-11)
It’s hard not to post them all, but you can check out this chart for another, fuller list.
It is clear that the psalms are about Christ. But why sing them instead of just singing hymns written by men?
I believe they are supreme for singing in worship–the best songs we can offer to the Lord. Here are ten reasons:
The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver (Ps. 119:72).How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Ps. 119:103)Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold (Ps. 119:127).The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever:the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold:sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.Moreover by them is thy servant warned:and in keeping of them there is great reward. (Ps. 19:9-11)
In Part 2, we will cover how to sing the psalms. Stay tuned!