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Worship in the Psalms


"Worship in the Psalms"

August 13 2011

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The gospel, as portrayed in the Psalms, prepares the reader to recognize the character of God as seen in Christ.  Psalm 106:6 - 8 is just one case in point:  “We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.  Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked Him at the sea, even at the Red Sea.  Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power to be known.”  It is precisely this – our genetic pre-disposition to forget God’s mercies – which makes the Psalms so necessary.  God created music as a powerful tool to plant His regenerating Word in our hearts and minds.
The book of Psalms is made up of a collection of religious verses, sung or recited in both Jewish and Christian worship services.  The Psalms are poems written out of the experiences of humans in their walk with God. These poems were put to music to be sung both corporately and individually. Originally, psalms were accompanied with musical instruments. These poems reflect almost every phase of human emotion and circumstance.
Taken together, the 150 Psalms virtually express the full range of a believer’s religious faith and experience.  Some of the Psalms address temptations, trials, sufferings, and the depths of despair.  The majority of the Psalms are about mountaintop experiences that elicit praise and the worship of God as Ruler, Lord and Savior.
The Psalms formed part of the religious worship of the early Christian Church.  The New Testament records 116 direct quotations from the Psalms.  Both verse and rhythm were, at times, used for theological teaching.  Members taught and admonished one another in the form of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16). 
 According to Wuest's Word Studies From the Greek New Testament,  psalmos (psalms) means primarily a musical accompaniment of humnos (hymns), and of praises to God.  Spiritual songs are also included in this category, whether or not they are accompanied by musical instruments.  “It was quite possible for the same song to be at once a psalm, hymn, and a spiritual song.”
The “hymn” was that part of the Hallel consisting of Psalms 113-118.  Here the verb itself is rendered “to sing praises” or “praise,” Acts 16:25; Heb 2:12. The Psalms are called, in general, “hymns,” by Philo; Josephus calls them “songs and hymns” (Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W. (1996). Vol. 2Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (316). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson).
The “Hallel” was recited at the three great national feasts—Passover, Pentecost and Day of Atonement.
The poems in the Book of Psalms were produced by various authors.  About two-thirds (73) of the whole collection have been ascribed to David.  Peter and John (Acts 4:25) credit David with writing the second psalm, one of 48 psalms that are anonymous.
There were inspired poets other than David who in successive generations contributed to the sacred collection.  Psalms 39, 62, and 77 are from David and Asaph and addressed to Jeduthun, to be sung in his choir.  Psalms 50 and 73–83 are addressed to Asaph, as the master of his own choir, to be sung in the worship of God.  The “sons of Korah,” formed a leading part of the Kohathite singers (2 Chronicles 20:19) and were entrusted with arranging and singing of Psalms 42, 44–49, 84, 85, 87, and 88.  Psalm 72 is ascribed to Solomon.  The 90th  psalm is attributed to Moses.  The Ezrahites, Heman and Ethan, are credited with writing the 88th and the 89th respectively.  The whole collection of Psalms extends over a period of a thousand years, ending about the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (see “Psalms” in Easton, M. (1996), Easton's Bible Dictionary).
In addition to all of the above, the Psalms reveal Christ’s emotions, His mental anguish, His faith and His mighty triumphs over His enemies.  A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner presented Christ from the Psalms.  Waggoner wrote: “David was a prophet (Acts 2:29, 30), and many of his psalms, even when he used the first person, refer to Christ.  We know that Jesus ‘came unto his own, and his own received him not’ (John 1:11), and John further says of Jesus, that ‘neither did his brethren believe in him.’ John 7:5.  This was in exact fulfillment of the prophetic utterance of David: ‘I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children’ (Psalm 69:8)” (E J Waggoner, Prophetic Lights, (1889), p. 16; also The [English] Present Truth” vol. 8, June 2, 1892).
And again: “The Psalms as a whole are the words of Christ” (EJ Waggoner, “The [English] Present Truth”  vol. 13, November 4, 1897).  “[T]he Psalms, to say nothing of the rest of the Bible, are full of Christ” (Ibid., September 9, 1897).
In his series on righteousness by faith Jones, likewise, wrote of Christ in the Psalms:  “It is impossible to touch the whole 150 Psalms in detail in one lesson or in a dozen lessons; yet in a sense we can touch the whole 150 by so touching a few as to show the one great secret of the whole number, and that secret is Christ.  We shall take some of the Psalms of which God Himself has made the application to Christ so that there can be no possible doubt that that Psalm refers to Christ” (A.T. Jones, “The Third Angels Message, No. 15,” The General Conference Bulletin, February 18, 1895, p. 299)
“In all points it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, and He is our brother in the nearest blood relationship. We are now to study another phase of this great subject: First in the Psalms--Christ in the Psalms--that we may see how entirely the Psalms mean Christ and that the one whose experience is recorded there is Christ” (Ibid.).
Jones wrote that the “time is coming soon, when Christ in the midst of the church will lead the singing.  Remember, this is Christ speaking in these quotations.  ‘And again, I will put my trust in him.’ This is Christ speaking—through the Psalms” (Ibid., No. 12, Feb. 18, 1895, p. 220).
When Jesus leads the singing, it will be when the people He has redeemed from every nation, tribe, and language, and people are gathered together to worship God in heaven. They will sing a new Psalm at that time.  It is “the song of Moses … and the song of the Lamb” (Revelation 15:3).  Not unlike the Old Testament Psalter, this song will reflect phases of the experiences, emotions and circumstances of their redemption (see Psalm 107 for an example). 
Let us worship Him now; then forever in eternity!

--Jerry Finneman