Multi-versed for a Reason – Some Choruses, a Pep-talk, and an Offering, part 13 of 20

Is this fair? Most Sunday morning music sung today is catchy, entertaining, and likeable—a reflection of pop-culture. But generally speaking, it lacks content, depth, and musical complexity; it really is a Christianized version of pop-music. “So what?” someone may say. Well, does the Scripture tell us what to sing?

It is hard (impossible?) to argue that we shouldn’t be singing psalms. Psalm-singing is commanded as part of New Testament worship (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). The actual language is to sing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”. There is debate whether this is referencing three different kinds or types of songs. Some believe, however, they are just synonyms or interchangeable words for canonical psalms (the inspired 150 in our Bibles). No matter one’s take on those two texts, though, it is unarguable; we are commanded to sing, at the very least, some psalms.

Some get around this by saying: “We do. Most of the choruses we sing are taken directly from the Psalms.” This is probably true, but it generally is just a verse or two. Paul Jones comments: “It is insufficient to sing a chorus based on a psalm verse and ignore the reasons the psalm gives for worshiping God. Such reasons should be recalled…to be properly contextualized and purposeful.”

It’s like going to the local “Fork and Pork” buffet place; ignoring the salad and entrée lines and heading straight for the dessert. Most praise songs head for the “sugar”. “As the Deer” is a good example. Many of us have sung it for years. “As the deer panteth for the water, So my soul longeth after You”. That’s taken directly from Psalm 42:1. But if we stop there (as the chorus does), we neglect the reason behind that opening verse. For deeper in the psalm, we discover why the psalmist “panteth” and “longeth”: His “tears have been my food day and night” (verse 3); He “used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God” (verse 4)—implying he does not anymore; His “soul is downcast within me” (verse 6); He says “all Your [God’s] waves and breakers have swept over me” (verse 6).

In other words, the psalmist is not doing well—he’s really struggling. But it is that very point that makes his cry to God in verse 1 all the more impressive and instructive. “The psalmist goes to God,” we note to ourselves, “that’s what he does when his world is crashing in, maybe we should, too?” But you would never know he was struggling, if all you sing is the first verse, which in isolation gives the impression he is a spiritual “five-point buck” who just wants to spend more time with God. When in reality, though, his chest is heaving and his mouth is paste; for he fears God has “forgotten me” (verse 9).

The point being that the psalms are multi-versed for a reason. And we lose some of their weightiness when we pick and choose a verse here and there. Why not just sing the whole thing? Which gets back to the original point; we would do well to sing psalms on Sunday morning What about hymns? And are all choruses (praise songs) so simple and void of content they don’t belong? That’s our tease for next time.

Pastor Rich Hamlin
January 27, 2011

1 comment

  1. I don’t think there is any better music than the music we sing in our church. From the choir’s initial glorious sounds to every word and note we sing, I am worshiping an ALL MIGHTY GOD who deserves all our praises and songs.

    Some of the songs we sing I have known since I was in 3rd grade going to Dishman First Baptist Church in Spokane, WA. Some of the songs I don’t even have to look at the hymnal ’cause I know the words by heart.

    I also love to hear my wife practice these songs each week!

    Thanks for your very insightful and meaningful words on this subject. You don’t even know how much Cindy and I feel blessed by your being our pastor and your family being there supporting you.

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