My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

17 October 2005

Good morning

I hope your Monday is going well. This past weekend I was part of a visitation team to the Sycamore RP Church in Kokomo, IN; a visitation team is sort of like an elder visitation for a whole church. It was, without reservation, a greatly encouraging time. Every church goes through dark times, but this just isn't that time for this congregation. God is clearly working a spirit of love among them, a love of husbands for wives and respect of wives for husbands, a depth of holiness among the youth that I believe is uncommon, a love for the preaching of the Word and worship.

Plus, we got to hear Barry preach on Sunday. He is working through a series on the Psalms in the life of Christ ("Heart Songs of the Savior"). The basic premise is that Psalms were first written to be the songs of the coming Savior. We sing them secondarily, we sing them through Christ, united to the Savior whose songs they are.

He preached on the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the frightening passage where Jesus promises that He will turn many away on the last day. He says, "Depart from me, you workers of wickedness", which is a quote either from Psalm 6:8 or 119:115.

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This brings me to my desire to follow up a couple of points from my last post on psalmody.
  • Some will argue against exclusive psalmody because of the current trend in protestant and even reformed churches against psalmody. There are indeed many Godly men and women who have studied the issue and come down on the side of hymnody. A couple responses: while there is some power to this argument, it is a distant, secondary concern compared to "what sayeth the Scriptures?"

    But this is not to deny the importance of the interpretation of the church - fact is, if we are going to count up exclusive psalmists vs. non-exclusivists, we will learn that the impression that the church has always favored hymnody is a false impression. This is to say, if we are going to count up the heavy hitters of church history, even within the reformed branch, exclusive psalmists take the day. Far more Godly men and women throughout the history of the church have seen and practiced the Scriptural call to sing the songs of the Savior.

  • Another rebuttal to psalmody is the argument that there are Scriptural examples of non-Psalms being sung in the worship of the church, after the closing of the book of Psalms (I highlight this point, because I believe there were non-Psalms sung in the worship of God's people before the book of Psalms was closed).

    This argument I simply disagree with; the examples (that I can find or have heard) of such songs fall into a couple categories. The first category is simply poetic praise, which we in turn mistakenly assume must have been sung in worship. Mary's magnificat falls into this category, but I would ask the reader to note that Luke 1:46 clearly says that Mary said these things, she did not sing them. The second category is passages like Philippians 2 and 1 Timothy 3:16; in these passages and others, Paul's writing takes on a far more poetic tone, and many commentators have thought he was either (1) writing a new hymn, or (2) quoting a hymn currently sung by the church. There is simply no evidence to support either of those interpretations of Paul's poetic passages. In fact, there is greater internal evidence to show that Paul was simply plumbing the depths of his own vocabulary and writing abilities to attempt to express heavenly truths in their glorious beauty.

  • Finally, I'd like to simply point again to Pastor York's comments on Sunday morning, that the Psalms are the songs of Christ. They express the heart of the Son toward the Father, they reveal the heart of our Savior like no other passages in Scripture, they were what He grew up singing, they were what His mother sang to Him when He was a baby, they were what He used to debate with the leaders in the temple at the age of 8, at many important points in His ministry they were what He used to teach and prophesy. Even Christ, the very Word of God, never felt a need to compose new hymns for worship, never felt He was missing out, because He had the complete manual of praise already recorded. Two applications:

    If the Psalms were good enough for the Lord of lords and King of kings, how can we say or believe or practice anything different?

    By abandoning exclusive psalmody, the church has lost the most significant way the Scriptures give us to learn of the heart of our King. We have many of the facts of Christ's life recorded for us, but His spiritual biography, so to speak, is in the Psalter. And when we sing those songs - for they are meant to be sung, not just read - we're singing as those united to the Savior whose words they are; our hearts, not just our minds, are instructed in the passion, pains, and love of the Savior. This simply cannot be accomplished through the words of men.
Happy singing!

1 comment:

Alicia said...

AMEN! Great points.

Another argument I've heard is "yes, the Psalms point to Christ...but it's not enough for me to sing the Psalms which were written before Christ." There is basically a need for man-written praise songs to appropriately sing praise to Christ, songs that where written after Christ.

It's interesting to see churches that embrace the WCF but don't apply the regulative principle of worship.