Week 3 – Types of Worship
Psalm 89:1 – I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
This Week’s Reading: Psalms 89-93
My husband writes music and produces radio programs for a living. He gets instructions from clients as to what the music should sound like, i.e. for a radio program featuring a lively, upbeat speaker, he might do a quick, up-tempo rock song. For a devotional reading or spot with serious content matter, he may record himself playing the guitar with light synth behind it to convey the peace and calm of thoughtfulness. Differing moods require different sounds and tempos.
Just like my husband writing music for different “moods”, the Psalms includes different forms to express various emotions. Before we dig deeper into what kinds of Psalms there are, think of any of the Psalms you are familiar with – what emotions are expressed? ______________________________________________________
Types of Psalms
As you read through the Psalms, it is helpful to have an idea of what kind of psalm it is you are reading. Just as there are various genres of music, there are different forms of psalms. Here are the different types of psalms: “wisdom, confidence, individual laments, communal laments, pilgrimage, individual thanksgiving, communal thanksgiving, general praise, descriptive praise, imprecatory, indirectly messianic, explicitly messianic, enthronement.”9 Yes, it’s a long list, but it’s worth reading it to realize the magnitude of what the psalms encompass. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these types of Psalms.
Wisdom Psalms – these give direction or show how to live righteously. Psalm 73 is an example of a wisdom psalm, with Asaph telling how indignant he is that the wicked seem to prosper, but then Asaph goes to the “sanctuary of God” (vs. 17) and resets his thinking.
Lament Psalms – these psalms are the ones where the writer pours out his sadness and grief in a very honest way. Crying out to God from the depths of despair, he seeks God’s presence in his sorrow. Some lament psalms are written out of knowing the writer has sinned against God and he is asking for forgiveness. Psalm 5 is an example of a lament psalm. A lament Psalm can be an individual or communal prayer to God.
Praise Psalms – Thanks be unto God! These Psalms tell of rejoicing in who God is and what He has done. Praise to God for being present in the individual’s life and in the national life of Israel. Psalm 34 shows David praising God for delivering him from trouble.
Royal Psalms – These Psalms describe the Lord as King. Frequently you will see the phrase the Lord reigns. “The royal psalms often point forward to the coming rule of the savior King, the Lord Jesus.”10
Messianic Psalms – This category of psalms “have the Messiah in view throughout.”11 These psalms helped the Israelite’s keep in mind the promised coming of the Messiah. Read Psalm 110 and bear in mind this is a Messianic psalm. Did you know this psalm is quoted more in the New Testament than any other psalm? New Testament authors used phrases from this psalm to show how Jesus fulfilled these prophecies. Just as one example, check out verse 9 – and look for the phrase in 1 Cor. 15:24–28 and Phil. 2:9– 11.12 What specific phrase and prophecy does Jesus fulfill in these verses? __________________________________________________________
Psalms and Church Music
Think about songs or hymns of the faith you are familiar with from either your childhood or currently – these might be hymns or modern worship. Below are the categories of psalms we just looked at. Can you think of a song that would fit the genre or mood of these psalms? Write them on the line.
Wisdom Song: ____________________________________________________
Lament Song: _____________________________________________________
Praise Song: ______________________________________________________
Royal Song: ______________________________________________________
Messianic Song: __________________________________________________
Personally, I can’t read some of the Psalms without singing them because they have been put to music for modern church services! This week, during your devotional or prayer time or your commute to work, (or the shower??), sing or play, if you can, through the songs and think about the words and the emotions they celebrate.
9 Roger Ellsworth, Opening up Psalms, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), 19.
10 Radmacher, Nelson’s New Commentary, 644. 11 Ellsworth, Opening Up Psalms,181. 12 Ellsworth, Opening up Psalms, 183.