By Jamie Harms
Summertime road trips are the best! As a kid, my family and I piled into the car for long trips with eager anticipation of the adventure awaiting us. For hours on end, we listened to Adventures in Odyssey, G.T. and The Halo Express, and Psalty the Singing Songbook with the psalms of my childhood. To this day, if you ask me to recite one of the verses they turned into songs, I can sing it for you. I sometimes have to sing it all the way through just to remember the reference, but the words are deeply ingrained in my heart and mind. I don’t think it is any coincidence that the psalms were created to be sung as a way of remembering the truths found in Scripture.
Singing psalms is not just something to do for one’s own benefit and remembrance. We find 150 psalms canonized in the Bible as a way to address the Lord in worship, and in doing so, to be drawn into a closer relationship with Him through His Spirit. Singing brings the biblical truths that we know in our heads and buries them deep in our hearts both individually and as a church community. As the Holy Spirit draws us in, we are comforted and reminded of the hope we have in Jesus. His Word gives us a gospel lens to view our circumstances, starting with reminders of who our God is and what He has done, provides us a model for repentance, and encourages us with the reconciliation and future hope that we have in Him.
Singing together is not an option as we see from Paul’s charge in Ephesians 5:18-20:
(Do) not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To be filled in the original Greek is passive, meaning it is done to us, and is also an imperative, meaning it is not optional but a command. Making melodies with thanksgiving to express who God is and what He has done brings Him glory and, through His Spirit, draws us closer to Him.
The beauty of the psalms is that they give us lyrics but also freedom to make melodies unto the Lord. Neither specific instruments nor melodies are called for with the psalms of the Old Testament. They do not have to be played on the harp and lyre or sung the same way as the apostle Paul and the early church sang them, for the Holy Spirit uses the psalms in our hearts and minds in a variety of ways. The biblical truths could be set in an orchestral oratorio like Handel’s Messiah or set to xylophone on a children’s music playlist. You can even set the psalms to your own music as a way to bring glory to our God. The point is not how we sing but to sing when we need to remind ourselves and others of the truths of our God.
As you go about your day, attend church out at the old Lone Pine property, or take off on your next family car adventure, consider adding some singing to it. A list below of some psalms put to modern music might give you a start as you draw near to our Savior as we await the day we can again draw near to each other.
- For straight up verses from the Psalms set to music, check out The Corner Room’s collection, including Psalms 23, and The Psalms Project with Psalms 1-38 recorded on four albums.
- Fernando Ortega has recorded several songs in similar fashion, including Oh God, You are My God based on Psalm 63 and Come, Let Us Worship from Psalm 95.
- Sandra McCracken’s folk rock album Psalms is a beautiful expression, especially of Psalms 42, 43, 62, 104, 113 and 119.
- A similar style can be found with Rain for Roots, which has produced several songs from the Psalms, including 19 and 90.
- Church of the City’s Land of the Living is a beautiful and timely worship song based on the promise of Psalm 27:13 that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
- Worship leaders Keith and Kristyn Getty have released many songs based on the Psalms, including the beautiful I Will Wait for You from Psalm 130.
- Shane & Shane has released Psalms, Psalms II and Psalms Live. As we prepare to study Psalm 139 this next week, consider listening to Far Too Wonderful.