Comprehensive Praise: some notes from Psalm 150

Psalm 150 is a fitting, yet fascinating, conclusion to the book of psalms. The psalms are prayer-songs that were often used within the corporate, and private, worship of the people of Israel. Psalm 150 concludes the entire psalter with a comprehensive picture of worship. Here are some thoughts that leap out to me about worship from this psalm.

Worship is God-Centered
The beginning word of the psalm is simple: ‘Hallelujah’, which means, ‘Praise the Lord.’ The theme and tone of this psalm, something which sums up the entire book of psalms, is God-directed praise. This word, ‘hallelujah’, sets our compass to true north. Here at the beginning of this psalm, yet at the end of the entire psalter, we remember that God is the center-point and anchor for our lives and worship. As the often-used phrase says, we remember that worship is not about me but about God.

The Intersection of the Mundane and the Holy
Next, we are told to center our worship of God in God’s sanctuary or tabernacle and the heavens or the firmament of the sky. The psalmist reminds us that worship is simultaneously about us drawing near in a Read More »

God’s Multifaceted Word (Psalm 119)

In my own daily times of Scripture reading and prayer, I’ve been meditating on Psalm 119. Psalm 119 is the longest of the Psalms by far with 176 verses. This psalm is an extended reflection on the delight and power of God’s word, structured as an acrostic poem with one stanza for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

In reading through the psalm, I have been impressed by the expansive catalog of the diverse characteristics of God’s word that it provides. When I read through Psalm 119, I feel like I am getting a multifaceted look at the word of God that is enlightening, stretching, and encouraging.

At the risk of being simplistic, I am offering a brief list below of at least some of the facets of God’s word that are seen in Psalm 119. I’d encourage you to read through the list and, when one statement jumps out at you, to open your Bible to Psalm 119, read that verse, and then ponder the words for the day. There is so much here in Read More »

David Taylor on the Psalms at #fantastical

Here is my final note post from David Crowder’s Fantastical Church Music Conference in Waco, TX, last week. This is from a break-out session with David Taylor entitled, “Singing the Ever-Renewing But Not Necessarily Straightforward New Song.” David is a PhD candidate at Duke and the author of For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts.

“It may indeed be said that the purpose of the Psalms is to turn the soul into a sort of burning bush.” – Stanley Jaki, Praying the Psalms

“I Know the Lord’s My Shepherd” – contemporary rendering of Psalm 23 to the tune of “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” – unfitting

What does it mean to ‘be fitting’ with the text, music, congregational singing and setting

How do we think about the “fittingness” of new songs for congregational worship?

Three distinct meanings in the Psalter for the phrase “new song” with examples from current song writers

Criteria for selection of ‘new songs’ that are fitting:

  • Could my home church do this song?
  • Could the average person sing this (they might need to be taught it)?

Phrase “new song” found in the Psalter:Read More »

You Can’t Take It With You…Can You?

Human beings, despite their wealth, do not endure;
They are like the beasts that perish.
Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
When the splendor of their houses increases;
For they will take nothing with them when they die,
Their splendor will not descend with them
Psalm 49:12, 16-17

The Sons of Korah, who penned this psalm, offer pointed words of wisdom about wealth, possessions, and human life. Looking around, it is all too easy to envy the wealth of others; to wish that I had what they had or could do what they can do. In the economic system of our society, which is built upon the principles of consumerism and buying-power, one’s identity and status is so often equated with what you have or can do based on wealth.

But in Psalm 49, a number of helpful reminders are offered. First off, wealth does not change the reality that we will die just like any other animal. While this may seem insulting or even rude, the statement made in verse 12 is ultimately true. We will die. Don’t ignore it or trick yourself into believing otherwise. Whether you are rich or poor, wise or foolish, our bodies will fail us and we will exhale a final breath some day.

A second reminder we find here in Psalm 49 is that wealth cannot be brought with us into the grave. Not only are we all going to die, but the wealth – or poverty, for that matter – that we accumulate on this side of the grave cannot come into the grave with us. Now, we all know stories of people who cram endless possessions or unique items into their caskets with them. We find it amusing and laugh because of the novelty of it, but also because we know it is a vain attempt at keeping the treasures of this life with us in death. The only help extra baggage in a coffin offers to a dead body is giving it a little extra weight to help bring it into the ground faster.

I’m reminded of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler, who struggled with following Christ because of his wealth. Jesus told His disciples: “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God” (Mark 10:23).