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I believe my first childhood experience of singing material from the psalms was probably the old praise chorus, “Let God Arise.”

Let God arise and His enemies be scattered
Let God arise and His enemies be scattered
Let God arise and His enemies be scattered
Let God, let God arise

Singing one half of Psalm 68:1 hardly qualifies as psalm-singing, but it was a former Oneness Pentecostal congregation who was singing a lot of songs from the Integrity Hosanna tapes of the mid-1980s.

In recent months, however, given my affiliation with various groups who sing music from Indelible Grace, I went on IG’s website and read an article by Kevin Twit, in which he recommended several hymnals and psalters.  Now, hymnals?  I was familiar with those.  So I collected them… Hart’s Hymns, Gadsby’s Hymns, Village Hymns for Social Worship, Trinity Hymnal, Our Own Hymn-book by Spurgeon himself, Christ in Song by Schaff, etc.  But a psalter?  So I ordered what I consider to be the best of the poetry psalters that doesn’t leave the reader in a cloud regarding what’s actually being said, The Psalter, 1912.  I also acquired the Scottish Psalter of 1650, the Trinity Psalter and The Book of Psalms for Singing.  As I’ve been reading the RCL daily readings, instead of reading most of the psalms, I’ve been singing them from these paraphrases and I can tell you it makes a difference.

The exercise is three-fold.  As a worship leader, I am always looking for new texts (or at least texts new to the congregation) which can be sung by them in response to a Scripture reading.  This is a great way to do that.  Secondly, I find that as I sing the words, I take more time to process the words rather than speed-reading them, as I do read silently very quickly.  Thirdly, I’m able to work on my skill of sight-singing with these hymn tunes contained therein.  I don’t ALWAYS use the recommended hymn-tune; sometimes I opt for one I already know that fits the metre, but more often than not, I try to sight-sing the tune on the page.

Here’s a good example:  Psalm 104, selected verses.  If you know the tune to “O Worship The King” (called “Lyons”…tunes have their own names apart from their hymn text designations), you can sing this one:

My soul, bless the Lord!  Lord God, You are great!
With honor arrayed, majestic in state,
You cover Yourself with a garment of light
And stretch out the sky as a curtain by night.

The beams of Your courts in waters You laid;
On wings of the wind Your pathway You made.
The clouds are Your chariot; the winds do Your will
The flames and the lightnings Your pleasure fulfill.

To hold waters fast, You set up their bound
Lest turning again they cover the ground
You make springs gush forth in the valleys below
And cause rushing streams between mountains to flow.

So man brings forth food by working the earth
And wine that he grows, his heart fills with mirth;
To make his face shine he extracts fragrant oil
And finds bread that strengthens his heart for his toil.

How many works, Lord, in wisdom You’ve made!
How full on the earth, Your riches displayed!
Out younder the ocean, how great and how wide,
Where small and great creatures unnumbered abide!

I’ll sing to the Lord as long as I live
Sing praise to my God while life He will give
My thought about Him will sweet pleasures afford
For I am rejoicing each day in the Lord.

Consumed from the earth let sinners then be
The wicked in life no more let us see
And now, O my soul, blessing give to the Lord
Let glad Hallelujahs ring, O praise the Lord!

There are actually a bunch of stanzas I left out.  All of them can be found in The Book of Psalms for Singing or in The Trinity Psalter.  I sang all seventeen of them this morning.  I know, I’m a little crazy.  The nice thing about TBOPFS is that it has more than one tune for each section of stanzas…long psalms it divides up and breaks monotony by having multiple tunes as the psalm proceeds.  But the Trinity Psalter is more compact and I think the hymn tunes recommended are more likely to be known by the congregations which use the book, since many of them can be be found in the Trinity Hymnal.

In any event, singing psalms have very much enlivened my time with the Lord in the past few weeks.  I find I am much more likely to be mindful of Jesus as I go through my day if I have sung psalms in the morning and I sleep better if I have sung them at night, not because it’s music, but because I’ve dwelled on the words of Scripture in doing so.  I recently called Scripture the plumb-line on a friend’s blog and I think that’s true.  If I place my emotions under the reality of Scripture, they can work FOR me rather than GOVERN me in my worship.  Of course, if my emotions govern me, then I can’t worship God for who He is or what He has done or is doing.  But if they are in subjection to me, then I can use them in my worship of God, worshipping Him with my whole heart and being.

I’m no psalms-only advocate by any stretch.  I do, however, see much value in this practice and would commend it to all my other worshipping brothers and sisters, especially those leading worship for congregations.  Even if you never introduce a single psalm into the setlist, I think you’ll approach singing to God differently if your mind is informed by the psalms.  And you just might find a text you like and compose a tune to teach to your congregation so that their singing becomes worship in spirit…AND truth in a way new to you and the congregation you serve.

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