Why I Love the Psalms

Dear Reader,

If you came to visit our church, the one thing you would most notice (if you don’t come from another Reformed Prsebyterian church) is that we sing the Psalms accapella. We have a book called Psalms for Singing (I think; there was just a new edition and I can’t keep up). It is all 150 psalms from the biblical book of Psalms set to music. Some Psalms are divided up; some have more than one version. The theological explantion of why we do this is here. It is a mouthful. I can try and give a simpler explanation at some point if anyone asks.

But there are others who can handle the theology behind it better. My topic today is why I love singing the Psalms. I didn’t initially. I was very wary of joining this weird church with its strange music. I am not a musical person (my sister says I am tone-deaf) and being faced with a whole new set of songs and people singing parts and all without instruments, well, it seemed overwhelming. But over time, I have come to appreciate singing God’s Word. Obviously, there is a lot of variety in what is out there these days. I am going to speak mainly about hymns but I think the same arguments could apply to popular praise music too. 

There are some great hymns out there. Some are written by great men of the church. Some contain deep theology that really gets to me. Some have good music. Some may not. Some have what I consider bad theology. I bet we all have hymns we like and don’t like. What I consider wrong in one may not bother you. You may not like another one that bothers me. So should we sing hymns that someone finds theologically offensive? Or do we start eliminating everybody’s least favorite? What are we left with?

When you sing the Psalms, you are singing God’s Word. It is like when you read the Bible. If there is something you don’t like, you are not allowed to throw it out. If there is a problem with what you are reading, then you need to look at yourself, not the text. It is the same with Psalms. They are not dependent upon your opinion or mine as to which are worthy. They have been chosen by God. To me hymns are like Christian literature. There is some great stuff out there. There are some books that really make me think. But even a writer I really admire, I know he is fallible. Somewhere in his writings there is something wrong. It is great to read the works of a Calvin or Jonathan Edwards or C.S. Lewis. I highly recommend them. We may even quote them in sermons or study them in Sunday school. But we do not preach from their books but however great they are, they pale in comparison to the God’s Word, the Bible. It is the same with hymns. Some are great. Others aren’t. None of them are God’s Word. The Psalms are. When it comes to corporate worship on Sunday morning, that is what I want to be singing.

I love that my kids are learning the Psalms. Kids pick these things up quickly and I think my 10 year old may have more Psalms memorized than I do. I have been very bad about giving my kids biblical memory verses in homeschool. But, you know what? They get them in church every time we sing. Because musc has a power over people that just reading something doesn’t. Music seeps into us. How many times have you had a song going through your head that you just couldn’t shake? And how come those always seem to be the most annoying songs? But what if we spent more time listening to good music? What would go through our heads then? What if it were God’s Word? If you sing it, it really gets in your mind and heart.

The timelessness of the Psalms also aappeals to me. They run the spectrum of emotions. And those emotions can be very raw and real. And when we sing them, we may be singing (albeit in a different language) songs that have been sung by God’s people, in their joy or sorrow, for 3000 years. How can you beat that?


17 responses to this post.

  1. […] reasons and I think the Common Room post above sums them up nicely. As I did in my post on psalm-singing though, I am just going to tell you now why I prefer a capella singing in church. What it boils […]


  2. We are also acapella Pslam singers! I think we might be twins seperated at birth as I was also raised RC and am tone deaf…..but I make a joyful noise!
    We use the Scottish metrical version which is also not perfect ( replying to a couple of the posts I have read on Psalm here all in one go.) We are often critisised because we have not updated and still use the old language but frankly, I do think the translations are more accurate and the language is beautiful. I am not however studied in Hebrew so am only comparing to our English version.
    As one not taught from the scriptures in childhood I also love that I have been able to absorb much of God’s Word and doctrine through singing and learning the Psalms.


    • Ruby,
      Unfortunately, I think psalm-singers are rarer than people with type 1. You have made my day. I started this blog thinking, “I read blogs on diabetes and blogs by Christian homeschoolers, but there is nothing that combines everything for me.” So now I have found one more reformed Christian dealing with type 1 in the world.
      I personally do not mind antiquated language in the psalter. I can understand the argument thta it makes it harder for alot of others though. We have some African refugess who attend our chuch and they have enough problems just understanding English without it being old English they never will hear spoken. However, the most important thing to me is to render the biblical text accurately and unfortunately I am not sure our new psalter does that well.
      I read the story of your children’s births on your blog. It is amazing. My daughter with diabetes currently says she doens’t want to get married or have kids but I have hopes that she will change her mind (she is only 8 now). It is always encouraging to read about adults with type 1 who are doing well and especially women who have kids.


  3. […] we sing only the psalms (i.e. not hymns or praise choruses) and that a capella. [See more on that here.] And I believe that many of the psalms may have originally been sung responsively so I have no […]


  4. […] that Psalm 150 does this with the phrase “Praise the Lord.” (See the benefit of singing the Psalms? He knows many of them now without forced memorization.) So we looked it up and here is what we […]


  5. […] family has been singing through the Psalter in family worship (for more on psalm-singing see this post). We recently finished Psalm 81. I really loved the B version so I was looking it up in the […]


  6. […] pulpit. There is a lot for the ears: God’s Word, the prayers of His people, and of course the psalms. When I tell people we sing psalms a capella, I think they usually imagine something quite weak and […]


  7. […] Bible time– this includes prayer, possibly singing a psalm, and some sort of Bible study. We have a few resources we are going to use here. One is a guide […]


  8. […] These ways of glorifying God are verbal, and I don’t think we will disagree about them much (though we could debate the right way to praise God, but that is another post). […]


  9. […] have tackled a psalm or since I have posted about it here. But the other week we studied Psalm 16. We don’t sing hymns, so we don’t do hymn study; we do psalms instead. For a little refresher on how we approach […]


  10. […] in which two friends discussed hymns that get sung at their churches. One of them knows I am a psalm-singer; I don’t think the other does. They talked about how they loved some of the old hymns. How […]


  11. […] course as someone who studied biblical Hebrew and sings the Psalms in worship, I am not unbiased, but I love this quote. It reminds us that there is so much we can learn about […]


  12. […] one to which my church adheres. Practically speaking, what you would notice about my church is that we sing only the Psalms and we do so a cappella. Though depending on what background you come from, you might notice the […]


  13. […] next speaks of hymn singing. We do not do hymns around here but sing only Psalms in worship. I am not very musical myself (a vast understatement) but my husband leads us in Psalm-singing as […]


  14. […] from the style of music one prefers in one’s church (we only sing Psalms and that a capella in ours, btw), there is the issue of who we aim the worship service towards. […]


  15. […] recommends hymn study but since we do not sing hymns, this never made much sense for our family. We do, however, sing the Psalms and so I have in the past attempted Psalm studies with my kids. My goal is to get back into doing […]


  16. […] want to keep reading it so I dropped it. We also listened to the lecture on The Bay Psalm Book. We are already pretty familiar with Psalters so there was really nothing to read […]


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