The Psalms have always been central to a thriving church. And I would argue that the congregation that sets the Psalms aside is a church that will soon find herself in loveless mediocrity.
The five books that make up the Book of Psalms were central to temple and synagogue worship before Christ came and continued as the central book of congregation singing and in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the early church (Tertullian, Apology, 39.16. c. 160-225 AD).
In later church history, periods of renewal and revival such as the Puritan era along with the Hebrides and Welsh revivals also saw a re-institution of the Psalms as central to the life and worship of God’s people.
There is no neutrality in music. In point of fact, there is no neutrality anywhere. And so, music matters. The songs we sing matter. They set the rhythm of our lives, for good or for ill.
Whether it be rock ‘n roll (a euphemism for sex), or the songs of Moses, the songs we move to take us to where those songs intend for us to go. Either to God or Lady Gaga.
Of Christ, To Christ, About Christ
Given that the Psalms are the Logos of God, the very Word of God, we should not be surprised to find that Jesus Christ is the central figure to whom the Psalms point.
We see this in the Psalms themselves (in some places easier than others) and we see it confirmed in the New Testament by Jesus and His Apostles.
Not only are the Psalms the most read book of the Bible, but it’s also the one Jesus quotes most often (at least 11 times). It’s also the most quoted book for the Apostles and the most quoted over all in the New Testament (at least 68 times).
When it came to the identity of Christ, ” What do you think of the Christ?, whose Son is He?” (Matthew 22:42), Jesus pointed to Psalm 110:1. If you want to learn who Jesus Christ is, turn to the Psalms.
The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet. (Matthew 22:44)
When it came time for the Messiah to suffer, how did He express His anguish? He spoke the words of David in Psalm 22:1, who it turns out was echoing the cry of the Saviour,
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)
When it came to the resurrected glory of the Lord, where did the Apostles go for a witness (Acts 13:35–36)? They went to the Psalms,
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:10-11)
And so throughout the New Testament Jesus repeatedly moves us to understand Him by fixing our gaze on the Psalms.
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Singing Along with Jesus
Given Jesus’ pre-eminence in history (Col 1:17-18) and the one who is at the centre of all creation, we should not be surprised to find Him at the centre of the Psalms as either,
- The one who speaks (Psalm 22:1)
- The one spoken to (Psalm 68:18)
- The one spoken of (Psalm 23:1)
If the Psalms speak to us about our human condition, it is because they first speak of Jesus Christ, the God-Man.
If the Psalms seem to resonate with every conceivable emotion and of our longing, love and loathing (and they do), it is because we are made in the image of the one who sang them first. Jesus, the Son of Man. Jesus, the eternal Son of God.
The Psalms are the songs of the Saviour. They are the music of God your Maker.
In them, you will hear the very voice of the Son of Man. You will hear and feel His strength, His suffering, His justice, His longing, His love for you and His joy.
The man who immerses himself in the Psalms with his eyes and ears open, and learns to sing along with his Saviour, is unlikely to stray far from his Lord.
And so the Bible calls us to make the Psalms our daily bread (Ephesians 5:19-20). Memorise them.
Make it your ambition to find Christ singing in the Psalms. Learn to give thanks as He gave thanks: To mourn as He mourned and to rejoice as you see Him rejoicing in the Psalms.
And let His songs set the rhythm for your life.