Every now and then I get a call or email from my insurance agent. He wants to check in on me, make sure I’m still paying my bills and all that. But what I especially appreciate is he also wants to make sure that we’re taking advantage of the all the benefits of our insurance policies. Turns out you can have something that’s pretty good but not really realize and enjoy all the benefits. So it is with singing Psalms.
To be clear: this is not an air-tight argument for exclusive Psalmody. It’s not really about that at all. It seems to me that when we consider why we ought to sing God’s Word in worship, we tend to spend so much time on debating the question that we neglect the joy and benefits of actually doing so. So let’s skip the exegetical arguments for just today and consider some of the benefits of God’s gift of the Psalms.
- Accidental memorization of God’s Word – There are few more effective paths to memorization than singing. And there is nothing more worthy of memorization than God’s Word. Consider how easily we all learn the songs we listen to the most. Singing God’s Word regularly presses it deep into our memory, where it’s always ready to be used by the Holy Spirit. Few things make me happier than to see kids in our church singing Psalms without needing the words. Surely Satan trembles at this.
- Brutal honesty – As Carl Trueman asked several years ago in The Wages of Spin, “What can miserable Christians sing?” Because it’s inspired by God, the Psalms are able to be far more honest and searching and depressed and discouraged and angry and fearful than anything we would have the guts to write for God on our own. Singing Psalms means that everyone coming to worship will be able to express their heart to God in a way pleasing to Him. Singing Psalms reminds me God isn’t interested in me putting on a happy face and pretending things are fine when they aren’t. He can handle your miserable singing!
- Tangible unity with the worldwide church – Isn’t it an amazing thing to be at a concert and sing a famous song along with the artist and thousands of fans? It’s a moment of incredibly powerful community. Even better: every Sunday when we sing Psalms together, we are joining with the church of the past 3,000 years. Although Psalm-singing isn’t the majority practice right now, it certainly has been for most of church history. Singing Psalms is a way to deeply enjoy our Spiritual unity with every saint. Further, by singing Psalms, we’re giving ourselves to the one hymnal the church will ever be able to agree upon – if we’re serious about showing the unity of the people of God, this is one great way!
- Getting to know Jesus – This one takes the cake. God’s greatest blessing is the sending of His Son to be our Savior and Friend. What a blessing it is to read the gospels, seeing Jesus in action as he teaches and heals and dies and comes to life again! The gospels are the very best biographies ever written. But when we really want to know someone, we desire more than simply knowing about them. When we really want to know someone, we want to hear their thoughts, feel their emotions, get a sense of the deepest things of their heart. If the gospels show us all about Jesus, the Psalms open His heart to us. As Michael Lefebvre makes clear in Singing the Songs of Jesus, the Psalms are primarily Jesus’ songs and secondarily ours. Singing the Psalms is singing the heart poetry of our Savior, getting to know His miseries, joys and faith in the deepest possible way. Singing the Psalms means we don’t just sing to our Savior; we get to sing with Him.
What else would you add to the list? What benefits has God given you through the singing of His Word?