It’s the final week of my Psalms study –
Week 1 HERE – What is Worship?
Week 2 HERE – Who Do We Worship?
Week 3 HERE – Music to Fit the Emotion
Week 4 HERE – Praise, Thank Bless, Vocabulary of the Psalms
Week 5 HERE – Worship In Times of Grief
Week 6 HERE – Worship in Times of Joy
Week 7 – The Music of The Psalms
Psalm 42:1 – As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. (A maskil of the Sons of Korah)
This Week’s Reading: Psalms 42-49
“They are glad and rejoice (Psalm 9:2). Their fingers itch for the harp (43:4), for the lute and the harp—wake up, lute and harp! (57:8); let’s have a song, bring the tambourine, bring the “merry harp with the lute”, we’re going to sing merrily and make a cheerful noise (81:1, 2). Noise, you may well say. Mere music is not enough. Let everyone, even the benighted gentiles, clap their hands (47:1). Let us have clashing cymbals, not only well tuned, but loud, and dances too (150:5). Let even the remote islands (all islands were remote, for the Jews were no sailors) share the exultation (97:1).” (C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms)
I love that paragraph above written by C.S. Lewis. And as a musician, here’s what I love about the psalms the most – all the music! Since I’m a piano player and not a singer (trust me…nope), music is a huge part of my life. I took lessons from the time I was 7 until after my first year of college. I’ve always played the piano in accompanying choirs, soloists, bands, and at church. I listen to music almost constantly. My kids aren’t in sports, they’re in music lessons. If we all practice at the same time – we have a guitar, drums, violin and piano adding to the cacophony!
Because I’m comfortable at the piano, I feel like the times I sit and play songs I am familiar with are times I can relax and have time to pray and think things over. But if we go back to our original definition of praise, it means to publicly acknowledge the name of God. That’s why I love the times I can sing in praise to Him with other believers. This happens at church, of course! Whether I’m sitting in the congregation or playing the keyboard, I am worshipping God with those around me. We are acknowledging His name.
My other favorite time of weekly worship is when my kids and I help out at an after school Bible Club. It’s held for refugee children who have recently moved to our city. Last week there were 28 kids from about four different countries. They cheered when the leader took out his guitar and we sang “Pharaoh, Pharaoh” loud and strong (it’s their favorite).
Do you sing or play an instrument? What is your favorite time or place you gather to worship with fellow believers? Remember, it doesn’t have to be a church setting necessarily!
Music can be found in the psalms in many different places and in many different forms.
Let’s look at a few:
- Names of Tunes: In the headings of the psalms, you may see a note “to be sung to the tune of…” Although we no longer know those exact tunes or how they sound, these headings do affirm the fact that these were songs to be sung. (I wish we had those tunes available, don’t you? But maybe we don’t so that the melodies and instrumentation could change with the passing of time and they didn’t become our idolized focus??)
- Instruments: The lyre, ten-stringed instrument, the lute, voices and the tambourine are all instruments included in the psalms as instruments used to praise God. The tambourine – or timbrel – was an instrument used in both secular and spiritual music and was associated with dance.
- Selah: The definition of the word selah is not known for sure, but most think it has the idea of a pause. In music, it would be the pause before a transition to the next verse or the next part. The word itself is not read out loud.
Sometimes when I’m shopping, I hear a song from the ‘80s come on over the speakers…and surprisingly, I can remember almost all the words. Have you found things easier to memorize once you put them to music? Even though we have lost the tunes to the psalms, we can understand and relate to why these poems to God were originally sung and played on instruments – because through sharing these words of praise, grief, penitence and rejoicing with the community of believers, we are able to remember what God has done. Resting on the past truths of what God has done, we can have faith and hope in the future. In the psalms, praise is always directed toward God.
I love the story of the sons of Korah mentioned in the psalms – a people redeemed from the past and singing praise to God.
You can see their name in the title of Psalm 42, and we find more information about this family in Numbers 16: “Their ancestor, Korah, of the tribe of Levi, led at least 250 of Israel’s most important leaders in one of the worst rebellions against Moses and God during the Exodus.”23 God punished Korah’s “coalition by causing the earth to split open and swallow them.”
The family of Korah survived, however, and now – years later – they were part of the Levite tribe that took over the worship music for Israel. We have 11 of their psalms collected together and I love reading the words to these songs, knowing that they were written by rebels against God who are now following God and praising His name.
The fact is, we were all once rebels against God – while our stories might not be as dramatic as a family swallowed up by the earth! – our stories are ones of sinners who have come to faith in Christ. Rebels redeemed and returning in praise to the God who saved us!
Psalm 47:6-7 – Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!
These verses from Psalm 47 are beautiful reminders of why the righteous would want to praise the Lord. Even if you are not musical, may you be encouraged by the words of poetry and music in Psalms. And may we all continue to desire to come to the Lord with our praise, our grief and our thanksgiving. Thank you for joining me in reading more about the Psalms over the past few weeks!
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.