When I was a boy growing up in Scotland, we regularly sang and memorized many of the Psalms at school. Learning from the Psalms forms a framework for understanding who God is so that when we read passages like “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” or “Come into his presence with singing!” or “Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (which are from Psalm 100), we have greater insight into what these words truly mean.
The Psalms are rich with history and offer a window back into the Old Testament practice of singing them in the temple. These ancient poems, put to music, were part of synagogue worship when the Lord Jesus was a teenager. The Psalms formed the lyrics to the songs Jesus sang, the prayers He prayed, and even the final cry He called out from the cross.
When we follow the pattern that Jesus gave us by singing and praying from the Psalms, we gain a sense of our roots and can see ourselves at the end of the long lineage of God’s people. It’s a tradition that unites us with a great chorus of witnesses from throughout the generations who are also heading toward that day when we’ll form one voice with angels around the throne.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
There is great joy in singing these songs with a loud voice when we gather in worship. Regardless of the quality of our tone, our singing is evidence of a Spirit-filled life. When the love of God fills our hearts, that love pours out through song, and our participation is a matter of spiritual importance. If you ever find yourself reluctant to sing out with strong measure, let me encourage you to consider the invitation found in the first verse of Psalm 100 and to be bold in your praise by worshipping the Lord with gladness in the awareness that He alone is God and He alone is good.
Incidentally, I find it tremendously helpful to read from the Psalms when I read the newspaper these days. It helps both before and after so that I maintain a sense of balance when it’s hard to make sense of all that is happening around me. If you read a Psalm a day, it will take you 150 days, which, if you start now, will about take you to your summer vacation. If you live in a climate like here in Cleveland, where these winter months are cold and dark, the Psalms offer an abundance of warmth and light for the soul.