A sanctuary fills. The worship ministry leads the congregation, the Spirit moves, and hearts are prepared to hear a message from God’s Word. Then, the Scripture is spoken as it was intended to be. This is the usual flow of a modern worship service. When a church encounters the Psalms, however, such and order of service would be backward.
This is the one book of the Bible in which the lyricist does not have to adapt the text to fit music. Rather, music must be crafted that is appropriate for the text. Because the original purpose for many of the Psalms was corporate singing, the lyrics are the Scripture text! Moreover, these gripping texts serve incredible prophetic purposes. You can see the Spirit working through David’s musical background (1 Sam. 16, 2 Sam. 5) and through his experiences as a shepherd (Psa 23), warrior (1 Sam 17), and father (2 Sam 15) to deliver messages from God that were simultaneously immediate and futuristic.
David may not have realized it, but when he described the use of a hyssop plant in his gut-wrenching Psalm of repentance (Psa 51), he foreshadowed Jesus on the cross (Jhn 19:29). When he wrote Psalm 34 in thanking God for his deliverance from Abimelech, he foreshadowed Jesus’s crucifixion 300 years before the Roman Empire would develop crucifixion as we understand it today. You see, the Psalms were written for modern readers and singers just as much as they were for their original recipients. Today, we may observe a rich historical timeline of Psalms prophecies fulfilled and place our faith in the Messiah of Whom they foretold.
So, it is vital that musical renderings of the Psalms reflect their original intent. Imprecatory Psalms should be put to heavy metal. Psalms of lament should be in minor key. In the exact same way that it would be theologically inaccurate of a pastor to nonchalantly and dispassionately mumble the words of 1 Corinthians 15:57, it is theologically inaccurate to sing the text of Psalm 95 as though it were a funeral dirge!
We have arranged 3 of the Psalms for worship and have done so with regard to their original intent and context. We worked with Tommy Walker, Mike Harland, and Chamel Evans to provide a teaching video on the story behind each Psalm. These are all free at the link below. Furthermore, you can sign up to win free copies of the Explore the Bible 6 week study of the Psalms (including the 3 with worship arrangements) for your worship ministry or choir (up to 50 copies).
How does one properly speak the words of the Psalms in accordance with their original intent? One sings. So, take your worship ministry through the Psalms with Explore the Bible. Sing.
The sanctuary fills. The pastor gives a sermon from the Psalms, the Spirit moves, and hearts are prepared to sing. Then, the Psalm is sung as it was intended to be. When the Psalms are the message, the sermon is preparatory.
Tim Aagard says
“The worship ministry leads the congregation, the Spirit moves, and hearts are prepared to hear a message from God’s Word”. This is tradition. It does not reflect what the NT says about the work of the Spirit. Eph. 5:19. “Don’t be drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit. Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs…” Here we find the Spirit desires every believer to be a worship leader in the gathering. The gathering is not driven from a platform by an expert. Every believer speaks in “one another” or mutual interaction, reciprocal expressions, two way communication. What an amazing dynamic of God to display psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Singing is connected with speaking. The speaking is why we want to sing this song and what we learned from singing the song. This is all ignored with the platform driven dynamic.
Every believer participation demands every believer is preparing all week, singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs all week as they work and live. (I would add this includes the participation of children. They are capable of being “filled with the Spirit. I have seen it.) This 24/7 worship is shut down by platform, expert driven forms.
It could be this simple text confuses the traditional pew sittter and pulpit talker. How could this be? It should not be surprising to us that what God has instructed supersedes our human preferences or understanding. It should not surprise us that this dynamic must be walked by faith, not by sight. What do you think about this simple, direct instruction? Can you interact?
Jesse Campbell says
Hi, Tim. I agree. The opening lines of the post describe exactly what happens every week in worship services across the country – a tradition as you rightly describe it. The rest of the post describes how the Psalms, with their unique place in Scripture as passages intended for singing, blur the lines between the musical “portion” of the typical service with the sermon itself. So, when properly handling the Psalms, the musical portion is the message. There’s nothing here to contradict Ephesians 5, or to endorse an expert platform approach. Rather, it is an invitation to make use of the musical arrangements we’ve made with 3 of the Psalms. God bless you and your ministry, brother.
Tim Aagard says
The article presumes the “Spirit moves” as a result of “the worship ministry leads the congregation”. The writer presumes this is what the Bible teaches and does not correct it. I corrected it with Eph. 5:19. I could have added Col. 3:16. ” Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Again, it is the congregation driving the speaking and singing in “one another” orientation rather than being led from a platform by one person. Only one person preparing to lead falls far short of God’s desire for EVERY believer to prepare to lead in speaking and singing. The richness of God’s design is trashed by our traditions. We enjoy a trash version of worship compared to the “word of Christ dwelling richly” and “in all wisdom”. Will you let your current experience trump the revelation of God?
Bruce Howell says