Sunday, October 28, 2007

Let Them Sing Psalms!

I long for the ploughboy to sing them to himself as he follows the plow, the weaver to hum them to the tune of his shuttle, the traveler to beguile with them the dullness of his journey. ~Erasmus
I happen to love good hyms. John Newton's are my special favorites. But there is something about psalm-singing that tops even Watts, Bonar, and Newton. Maybe it is the knowledge that these psalms have been sung for millenia by people who love the Lord. The singing of psalms has always been a tool among His people used for comfort, blessing, and meditation.

There is a certain unity among the Lord's people to be felt when you sing the scriptures. True, our rhyme and meter of our psalters are of English-speaking man's invention, but the spirit of the words is a common thread that binds Christians and Messianic Jews through the ages to the living and inspired Word of God.

The French Huguenots found the Psalter to be an invaluable aid for keeping up their courage and strength in the midst of persecution. It was said by a Catholic bishop of the time that, "To know these Psalms by heart is, among the Huguenots, a sign of the communion to which they belong; and in the towns in which they are most numerous the airs may be heard coming from the mouths of artisans, and, in the country, from those of tillers of soil."

How wonderful it would be to dispel the worldly pollution in our homes, cities, and countrysides by the cheerful uplifting of our voices in psalm tunes! Wouldn't it be nice to take a stroll down your street and listen as your neighbors sang to the Lord with joy in their hearts? Perhaps though, it is your neighbors who need to hear your voice singing praises to the God of heaven and earth. What a witness this would be!

Think with me how much good is ours to accomplish by psalm-singing. Not only are we able to alleviate some of the cares of our day by getting our thoughts back onto the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2), but as we sing audibly, others who could be struggling with their own troubles may hear our words and be comforted by them.

The apostle Paul encourages us to "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 heart to the Lord." (Colossians 3:16) Singing the psalter is quite helpful for memorizing the Word and allowing it to dwell in your hearts. Many times in my Bible reading, when I come to a psalm I have sung before, I hear the tune coming to mind as I read over the passage. Then, instead of going away a forgetful hearer, the psalm is still with me in song as I go on with the business of the day.

What a treasure we have in our psalters! There was a time, before the Reformation (as many of you know), when the entire Word of God was kept from the common people. But did you remember that congregations of those days were only permitted to listen as members of the clergy sang chants in a language unfamiliar to all but those who sang it? It was not until the days of John Calvin that the scriptures were translated into singable verses with equally singable melodies and delivered into the hands and hearts of lay people. Then even children could have access to the psalms we still sing today.

How thankful we should be to have this continuing heritage of psalm-singing! We have such easy access to the Word of God, not just on paper, but set to music as well! I wonder if we recognize how blessed we are?

Here are a few sites you may wish to visit: Psalter has metrical versions of the Psalms, and piano accompaniment to some of them.

Killearn Free Church of Scotland has mp3s you can download for free. Beautiful a capella men's voices-- with a Scottish accent too! I made myself a CD of these guys.

I have this CD by the Scottish Philharmonic Singers. Very good.

Here is a page about the French/Genevan Psalter. Scroll down to view the psalms they have available.

Do you have any favorite psalm CDs? Does your church use a psalter? Which is your favorite psalm? Mine is 147.

This post is a part of the Reformation Day Symposium on Tim Challies's blog.