The Case for Christian Psalms

The Case for Christian Psalms

As demonstrated in Scripture and throughout the history of the church, Christian Psalms have occupied a precious place in the praise of God’s people. They “exemplify the Reformed doxological tradition at its best.” There is great value in continuing to sing these classics as they exalt the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and coming again of our Savior.

One of the most encouraging recent developments in the worship of Reformed and Presbyterian churches is the revival of congregational Psalm singing. The introduction of quality Psalters, including The Trinity Psalter (Crown and Covenant, 1994), Sing Psalms (Free Church of Scotland, 2003), The Book of Psalms for Worship (Crown and Covenant, 2010), and The ARP Psalter with Bible Songs (Crown and Covenant, 2011) presented pastors, elders, and church musicians with an array of options to supplement offerings from traditional hymnals. The popular Trinity Psalter Hymnal (Crown and Covenant, 2018) combines the best of Christian hymnody with excellent settings of every Psalm in one convenient volume, leading even more congregations to join the chorus of those “singing the Lord’s song” (Ps. 137:4). Yet, as more churches include metrical Psalms in their worship, there is one form of praise that we cannot afford to neglect: The Christian Psalm.

Christian Psalms are singable settings of biblical Psalms that are embroidered with the beauty of the gospel. What we see promised in the types and shadows of David’s pen (along with the other psalmists), is fulfilled and brought into the light through the composing and singing of Christian Psalms. Sometimes, these versions are rather close to what we read in the Hebrew Psalter. Others are more like meditations or paraphrases that act as responses to the words of the biblical Psalms in light of Christ’s glorious work of redemption. Alongside of Psalms in their more natural sense, we should also include Christian Psalms in our worship because they are biblical, historical, and doxological.

Christian Psalms are Biblical

In Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Not only do we hear echoes from Hannah’s song (1 Sam. 2:1-10), according to Leland and Philip Ryken, “Mary borrows liberally from the language of the Psalms….to sing a new song of praise to her God as the Savior of the poor and humble.”[1] We find similar connections to the Psalms in the songs of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79) and Simeon (Luke 2:29-32).[2] In addition, the canticles celebrating the conquering Lamb in Revelation 4, 5, 7, 11, 15, and 19 are replete with references to the Psalms. Notice, for instance, in Rev. 7:15-17, the multiple allusions to the Hebrew Psalter that point to the abundant blessings flowing from David’s greater Son:

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