I’ve been reading through Forgotten Songs: Reclaiming the Psalms for Christian Worship this summer. It is a collection of far ranging essays from a conference held at Union University a few years back. Definitely worth picking up.
Douglas Bond in his chapter “Biblical Poetry in a Postbiblical, Postpoetry World” finishes with 7 reasons we need the psalms today. I commend them to you (in paraphrase) below:
1. The Psalms are the fountain of lives of prayer. We pray poorly and infrequently in large part because we are so unfamiliar with the content and eloquence of the psalms.
2. The Psalms keep in perfect harmony both joy and fear in worship. For example the first stanza of psalm 100 calls us to “make a joyful noise to the Lord,” then goes on to regulate and inform that joy with high, sobering truths about God’s power. It is in relishing both sides of this tension that keeps our worship from many of the follies of either stoic traditionalism or unreflective contemporaneity.
3. The Psalms free us from our slavery to the here and now. Spending time in the psalms, whether in private or public devotions, helps keep us from the folly of the moment, the tyranny of the latest thing, the exhausting work of chasing the newest worship hit. The psalms nurtured the faith and worship of Jesus and we would do good to worship them too.
4. The Psalms marshall our imagination in the service of God. The Psalms are the language of prayer and praise yet most of our days are full of tweets, sound bites, and news clips. We need a consistent place to go to have our language formed in the concerns of God…so that we can enter into his courts full of the posture and awe due his name. The psalms are this.
5. The Psalms give us theological discernment. The Psalms help us measure what is worthy and what is not. “Psalm poetry is the God-ordained means of keeping every generation enthralled with the surpassing splendor of biblical truth.”
6. Recovering the Psalms in our worship and life will raise the bar for all new worship poetry in every age. Amen. The psalms are an encyclopedia of poetic forms and devices in the service of God.
7. Singing the Psalms unites us with the vast throng of worshippers throughout the ages. The psalms are God-given sung praise that transcends all barriers. Psalm poetry is for all time, the ultimate multicultural poetry for “all people that on earth do dwell.”
Here are a few links from around Cardiphonia for exploring the psalms.
Contemporary Psalms for Worship – some of our favorite retuned and modern psalm versions.
Psalms for All Seasons – excellent new psalter with tons of varieties of sung psalmody