Results tagged “psalms” from Reformation21 Blog

Psalm 19 and human flourishing

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Human flourishing

"Human flourishing" is a cultural catchphrase that can be overheard in the hallways of corporate America and in the institutions of public and private education. In recent days, human flourishing has served as a warrant for doctrinal and moral-theological revision in the church as well. Due to its widespread usage across our culture, its susceptibility to multiple meanings, and its role in theological revision, some Christians have begun to disparage the language of human flourishing. I think this is the wrong tactic to take. 

The church has a stake in human flourishing. The challenge for the church is to define and promote human flourishing (which we might otherwise describe as human well-being, human happiness) in accordance with biblical teaching, to present and commend its alternative approach to human flourishing in the face of competing cultural visions, and to embody human flourishing in the presence of God amid a culture of death and destruction. Christian theology has a role to play in assisting the church to meet this challenge.

Christian theology has a lot to say about human flourishing. Following the instruction of Holy Scripture, Christian theology instructs us about human flourishing by instructing us about human nature and about human nature's relationship to law and gospel.

We may appreciate the true character of human flourishing by looking at Psalm 19.

Nature's flourishing

According to Psalm 19, nature flourishes when it fulfills its God-glorifying aim by following its God-given course. Nature's aim is to glorify God. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (19.1). Nature glorifies God by running the course given to it by God. The "circuit" of the sun's rising and setting is the "course" that it runs (19.5-6). 

Psalm 19 portrays nature's flourishing by personifying nature as something capable of happiness and joy. The sun runs its course "with joy," "like a bridegroom leaving its chamber" and "like a strong man" running his race. Note well: Nature's flourishing is internal to its course and its aim. Happiness is not something that comes in addition to nature's fulfillment of its divine calling. Happiness comes within nature's fulfillment of its divine calling.

Wendell Berry's poem, "The Law That Marries All Things," eloquently captures this reality:

1.
The cloud is free only
to go with the wind.
The rain is free
only in falling.

The water is free only
in its gathering together,

in its downward courses,
in its rising into the air.

2.
In law is rest
if you love the law,
if you enter, singing, into it
as water in its descent.

3.
Or song is truest law,
and you must enter singing;
it has no other entrance.

It is the great chorus
of parts. The only outlawry
is in division.

4.
Whatever is singing
is found, awaiting the return
of whatever is lost.

5.
Meet us in the air
over the water,
sing the swallows.

Meet me, meet me,
the redbird sings,
here here here here.

The law and human flourishing

What is true of nature in general is true of human nature in particular. 

Because it reflects God's design for human nature, the law of God directs human nature to wholeness and happiness. 

The law promotes human wholeness (19.7-8):

The law revives the soul.

The law makes wise the mind.

The law rejoices the heart.

The law enlightens the eyes.

The law promotes human pleasure and happiness (19.10):

The law is more desirable than gold.

The law is sweeter than honey.

The law directs us to live according to our design, according to our nature. When we live according to our design, we are happy and whole. What is true of nature more broadly is true of human nature more specifically: Happiness and wholeness are internal to God's design for us.

C. S. Lewis illustrates the point well (HT Melissa Kruger):

God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on himself. He himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

The law promotes human wholeness and human flourishing because it directs us to God, the "lovely source of true delight." The problem, of course, is that we are sinners, antinomians at heart. Sin thus thwarts the law's happiness-promoting ends. Sin is the sworn enemy of human flourishing. 

Furthermore, in humanity's sinful and distorted state, the law becomes our enemy as well. The law declares us guilty. The law consigns us to Satan's dominion. The law shuts our mouth and sentences us to death (Gen 3.8-24). In such a situation, the law cannot help us. The law cannot restore us to the path of happiness, the path that directs our lives to the glory of God.

The gospel and human flourishing

The psalmist harbors no Pollyannaish optimism about our fallen human nature before God's law. Instead he casts himself wholly upon the mercy of God. 

The law declares us guilty; the psalmist begs God: "Declare me innocent from hidden faults" (19.12). The law consigns us to Satan's dominion; the psalmist begs God: "Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!" (19.13). The law shuts our mouth and sentences us to death; the psalmist desires to praise the Lord in the land of the living: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer" (19.14). 

In the gospel, God answers the psalmist's pleas for mercy. Through the mission of God's incarnate Son and the outpouring of God's Spirit, God's grace restores and perfects human nature. 

God's grace doesn't accept us "just as we are." To do so would be to consign us to a life of perpetual misery. While we were without strength before God's law, Christ died for us (Rom 5.6). When we were ungodly, God justified us freely, apart from our good works (Rom 4.4-5). But the God who justifies fallen human beings through the gospel also restores and perfects human nature through the gospel. The Lord, our rock and redeemer, not only declares us innocent of our faults. He also keeps us back from presumptuous sins and doesn't let them rule over us; he also opens our lips that our mouths may proclaim his praise. He glorifies himself by making us "fully alive" (Irenaeus).

Grace heals our misery and ministers happiness by instructing us how and empowering us to be human again. The gospel teaches us how to walk in God's law and how to live for God's glory through union with Jesus Christ. In Christ the old and miserable man is crucified and the new man--the flourishing man--is reborn by the renewing power of the Spirit of life. "God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Rom 8.3-4).

As the law is fulfilled in us--through the Son by the Spirit--human nature is put back on the path ("who walk...") of human flourishing to the glory of God.  

ISIS and the Imprecatory Psalms

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The recent execution of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya by the murderous Islamic group ISIS has prompted appropriate and helpful Christian reflections (see here and here). But one question I have yet to see asked is, "Is it time now to pray the imprecatory Psalms?"

I hear a frequent refrain in Reformed and evangelical circles that Christians should pray the imprecatory Psalms (i.e., those that invoke God's curse on particular enemies and plead for their imminent destruction; e.g., Ps 58:6-11, 68:21-23, 69:23-29, 109:5-19; 137:7-9) only against those enemies of God who manifest prolonged, high-handed rebellion against him and commit atrocities against his people (surely ISIS fits the bill). Related to this understanding, I also hear that Jesus' ethic of "love your enemy" is the Christian's default mode in prayer, but the imprecatory Psalms are the "nuclear option"--they are to be launched only after careful consideration of the occasion and self-assessment of proper motives, but launched nonetheless when necessary: If Bob the accountant steals your stapler, "Pray for those who persecute you" (Matt 5:44); but if Abu Bakr and his minions torch your home, "Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime" (Ps 58:8)!

John Day, for example, argues that "[i]n circumstances of sustained injustice, hardened enmity, and gross oppression, it has always been appropriate for a believer to utter imprecations against enemies or to appeal for the onslaught of divine vengeance. In certain instances today, appeals to God for his curse or vengeance are fitting" (Crying for Justice, 15-16). Another writer puts it even more bluntly, "Do you ask God to destroy His enemies today as He has in the past? Do you who are pastors instruct your people in this kind of prayer? Surely you must if you pray in line with God's Word and His promises for the future." (James E. Adams, War Psalms of the Prince of Peace, 59; emphasis in original).

In my view, such lines of reasoning fail to situate the imprecatory Psalms properly within the theocratic context of Israel in which they were written, a context which is, itself, typological of the eschatological kingdom of God to come. Just as the Levitical priests were to execute anyone who arrogantly intruded into the tabernacle complex (Num 3:38), and just as Christ will do in redemptive triumph over his enemies throughout the earth he came to redeem (Rom 16:20; Rev 19:20-21), the Davidic king and his people could pray (and sing) these Psalms as an expression of their obedient desire for God to sanctify his holy land and his chosen people by destroying his and their enemies in their own day, enemies who had specific names and faces (cf. Ps 35:4, 41:9-10).

Christians today, however, do not live in a holy realm (yet), but sojourn in a world that is not their home (Phil 3:20; Heb 4:11). This means that, by God's ordaining, Christians, who themselves were once God's enemies (Rom 5:10), are surrounded by those who are his enemies now, enemies who will hate them (Matt 10:22; Luke 21:17; John 15:19) and will do them harm (Matt 5:10-12; John 16:2). The final judgment typologically meted out in Israel's context (and expressed in the imprecatory Psalms) is yet to come for today's Christians. Through this "day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2; cf. Heb 4:7) between Christ's first and second coming, no matter how horrendous the assaults on Christians may be, the marching orders for Christians includes having fellowship in Christ's sufferings (2 Cor 1:5; Col 1:24), a fellowship that should subdue every vestige of our impatience for visible eschatological triumph today: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them" (Rom 12:14).

So may we pray the imprecatory Psalms today? No, in the sense that Christians today may not pray the imprecatory Psalms with outstretched finger, identifying enemies who do them harm and praying for their imminent physical and eternal destruction. Christians may, however, even must (cf. Matt 6:10), pray these Psalms more generally with their eyes on heaven, from whence their public vindication will come (Heb 9:28) at the hands of the One risen from the dead, who will judge the earth (2 Thess 1:6-8). Until that Day comes, our more immediate and particular prayer must be for God to restrain or convert the enemies we encounter (Luke 6:27-28; Rom 12:20; 1 Pet 3:9). 

It is right to declare and desire God's righteous judgment on the persistently unrepentant, whoever they turn out to be (cf. Gal 1:8-9; Mark 11:14). It is also right to call for and support the civil authorities' forceful intervention to stop gross injustices, if necessary by waging just war (Rom 13:4). But the spiritual judgment we should pray for God to apply to our specific enemies today is the judgment he has already applied to Christ on the cross, that even those who ruthlessly execute the Lord's people might turn and rejoice with us at the saving mercy of God (1 Cor 15:9-10; Gal 1:13). After all, such infinite grace is what saves anyone, including you and me.

Psalm 107: "Oh give thanks to God our Saviour"

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8 7. 8 7. D (Hyfrydol)
Psalm 107
Oh give thanks to God our Saviour
For his mercy rich and free;
Sing his praise who find his favour,
Rescued from the enemy.
Every land gives up his chosen,
Gathered up from east and west;
North and south send forth his people,
Each redeemed and fully blessed.

Fainting souls without a city,
Thirst and hunger pierce each breast;
Sheep who need the Shepherd's pity,
Weak and weary, needing rest.
When their cry goes up to heaven,
When they seek the God of grace,
He delivers them, and leads them
Forth to a blest dwelling place.

Lost souls sit in death's cold shadow:
Chains, afflictions, bind them tight.
Once they scorned the Lord of glory,
Now they quake before his might.
When such souls cry out to Jesus
Darkness brightens, chains will break:
Death's cold shadow holds no longer
Those redeemed for Jesus' sake.

Fools, afflicted in transgression,
Soon arrive at death's dark gate.
Bowed beneath guilt's harsh oppression,
Hopeless, lost, for death they wait.
Seek the God who rules in heaven,
To the Lord your cries increase;
He will save from dire destruction,
Give souls healing, grant them peace.

Those who go upon the ocean
There behold God's mighty hand.
When he raises storms and terrors,
Who before his power can stand?
Turn to Christ and plead his favour,
His word calms the mounting waves;
Find your refuge in the Saviour
Who from every terror saves.

See the increase of the righteous,
How God sets the poor on high!
Therefore bless him, sing his praises,
All his glories magnify.
Thank the Lord for all his goodness,
Poured upon us like a flood;
Understand his lovingkindness,
Ransoming by Jesus' blood.
Jeremy Walker

See other hymns and psalms.

Psalm 21: "The king shall have joy in your might"

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8 8. 8 8. D (Cleveland)
Psalm 21
The king shall have joy in your might,
And in your salvation rejoice;
You gave him his heart's true delight,
And heard the request of his voice;
You met him with blessings untold,
And set a gold crown on his head;
His days rolling on from of old;
He asked, you gave life from the dead.

His glory is great when you save,
Enrobed in divine majesty;
He smiles at the blessings you gave,
Your face he rejoices to see.
In all things he trusts in the Lord,
And nothing his faith shall erode;
He rests in the truth of your word,
In mercies so freely bestowed.

Your hand shall your enemies find,
Your wisdom their plot overthrows;
To fire and to judgment consigned -
A terrible end for your foes.
But you are exalted on high,
Before you your enemies cower;
And none can your purpose defy:
We'll sing to the praise of your power.
Jeremy Walker

See other hymns and psalms.

Psalm 150: "Oh come and praise the Lord"

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6 6. 6 6 (St. Cecilia)
Psalm 150
Oh come and praise the Lord,
Praise in his sanctuary;
Come, praise him in the heavens,
On earth with bended knee.

Give praises for his deeds,
And reach for fitting words,
Enlarge your hearts to hymn
The glories of the Lord.

With heart and hand and voice,
Praise him both loud and long;
Give to the triune God,
The praises of your song.

So let us praise the Lord
As long as he gives breath;
Then praise him better yet
Beyond the gates of death.
Jeremy Walker

See other hymns and psalms.

Psalm 63: "O God, my Strength, the early hour"

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L.M. (Wilton)
Psalm 63
O God, my Strength, the early hour
Of every day your praise shall claim.
My soul desires to taste your power,
And see the glory of your name.

Life's glories fade beside your love,
My lips and hands shall give you praise;
Blessings poured out from stores above
Bring sweet abundance all my days.

I think upon you in the night,
Rest in the shadow of your wing:
You are my help, my soul's delight,
And of your grace I gladly sing.

My soul will closely follow you;
Your hand upholds and comforts me.
My God shall bear me safely through,
I need not fear my enemy.

Soon shall be stopped the lying voice,
But I shall glory in your grace.
In God, my Strength, I shall rejoice,
All my delight to seek your face.
Jeremy Walker

See other hymns and psalms.

Singing in worship

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Now that the news has broken that my album - tentatively entitled Funkier Than You Think - may be hitting the market before long, I feel marginally better qualified to speak to the issue of the sung worship of the church.

The New Testament data with regard to singing in the worship of the church is, to put it bluntly, sparse. On the one hand, it seems strange that an issue which excited so little attention in the early church should be the sphere of so many of the worship wars which have erupted in recent years. On the other, perhaps it is precisely because the instruction is sparse and simple that we feel we have a right or even a need to develop our own principles and practice.

In this regard, it is strange how many of those who emphasise, even trumpet, their new covenant credentials in other areas are so quick to run to the Old Testament for a justification of the manner (as opposed to the matter) of worship. And, of course, for sung worship it is often very much a surface reading of the psalms, which immediately provide us with good reason for choirs and multiple instrumentation and a host of other options: after all, David had harps and lyres, didn't he? Q.E.D. Or, in fact, quod non erat demonstrandum. I do not deny that the Old Testament sheds much light on our principles of worship, and ought to be employed for that purpose, but I do not believe that it ought to be normative for its forms.

There are only a few passages which directly address the sung worship of the militant new covenant church gathered together in the presence of God:
"And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God." (Eph 5.18-21)

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Col 3.16)

"What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding." (1Cor 14.15)
I pass over James 5.13 - "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms" - because it seems to be primarily a private instruction, although it is interesting to compare it with the experience of Paul and Silas in prison (Acts 16.25). 1 Corinthians14.26 also suggests that psalms were in the mix in the Corinthian church, but is, perhaps, more incidental than the others. The simple and sweet narratives of the Lord's supper do not offer us much more. However, the clearest passages offer a few straightforward principles that we would do well to consider.

Firstly, the instrument to which the New Testament gives a clear priority, and on which it lays the greatest emphasis, is the human voice expressing the fullness of the heart. Whether or not you accept that this requires the positive and complete absence of musical instruments as accompaniment, I would suggest that it certainly puts them in their place, and the concern with the style and quality of the musicians that seems to dominate much of the discussion is seen to be simply inappropriate. At best, musical instruments ought to accompany the voice, guiding and supporting it, not competing with or drowning it. Given this, the use of musical instruments should probably be minimal, providing a platform for the voice, the primary instrument by which the saints of the New Testament praise the Lord.

Secondly, that instrument is to be played by every member of the congregation. Sung worship is essentially congregational. The light of nature may point toward, again, some kind of leadership, but there is nothing here of the individual or group, however formally or informally, isolated from the mass and pursuing something separate from or before them. Congregational worship helps to avoid any element of mere performance creeping in, no small blessing in an age in which music and singing are almost irrevocably linked with performance and show. Of course, the absence of a band or choir or soloist does not necessarily secure the ends intended. How many congregations are dominated and even crippled by people with powerful voices who sing without reference to anyone else around them, their timings, speed, and volume governed - it would seem - by their own spirit separate from others, or without any real awareness of what is happening, or even by the desire to be heard and to impress? A good voice, well and humbly employed, is a help to those of us who may not have such a gift from God and who sometimes feel that our contribution is "a joyful noise" but not much more. Individuals must bring their gifts within the body and for the purpose of serving the whole, not parading in front of them, ignorantly or otherwise. Edification will, in some instances, mean a proper and determined restraint in the employment of our gifts, as well as gusto in other cases. Families can assist in forming the pattern by singing in family worship, encouraging the children to make a cheerful and willing effort. Parents should set a good example, standing straight, opening their mouths and using their lungs, not mumbling themselves, nor allowing their children to slump and mutter through the singing.

Thirdly, this suggests something about the musical style. The tunes to be employed must fall within the range of the congregation. I am not saying that it would be wrong to develop the capacity of the congregation in the praise of God, either in the range or style of the tunes, or our ability to sing them, but - if the whole congregation is to sing - then the range and structure of any particular tune ought to lend itself to the participation of everyone. To that end, principles of simplicity and freshness and tunefulness and memorization ought to be part of what governs the writing and singing of tunes.

Perhaps here it would be appropriate to point out that the tunes ought to be fitting to the words. There is nothing that grates more than a melody that is in overt conflict with the mood of the lyrics that are being sung. Again, the light of nature dictates that a more contemplative song needs a more contemplative tune; a song of overflowing joy ought to be sung to a tune, in a key, at a tempo, and with a volume that connects with its meaning; the mournful cry requires its own setting if the singing is to be in keeping with the substance. Again, the temptation of many congregations - especially those with larger numbers - to sing with abominable and often increasing slowness must be resisted; so must the instinct to dash through everything without giving opportunity for breath or thought. Lingering on notes, especially at the ends of verses, tends to have the effect of dragging everything out, so that each verse begins more slowly than the last, and every tune becomes a dirge by the time it has been finished. As Spurgeon once encouraged his congregation, "Dear friends, the devil sometimes makes you lag half a note behind the leader. Just try if you can't prevail over him to-night, and keep in proper time." If the lively hymns are sung to lively tunes in a lively style, then there is space for the more meditative and mournful contributions to adapt.

Of course, these passages also speak to the internal realities of our worshipful singing. So we find that the singing is to consist in "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs," the outflow of the word of Christ dwelling in us richly in all wisdom and the filling of the Spirit. Whether or not one agrees with the interpretation that will have these categories as three divisions of the psalter, it is immediately clear that the fundamental content of our songs ought to be Biblical truth. That does not mean that there is no space for personal experience (the pattern of the psalms alone would indicate otherwise), but that experience ought never to be divorced from the truth. The content of our songs should be drawn from and governed by Scripture in all its wealth.

But notice further that this truth is to be expressed in both its vertical and horizontal dimensions. By this I mean that our singing is in part directed toward God and in part toward men. Godward, you are "singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" and "singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Manward, you are "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" and "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." It would be wrong to draw too fine a distinction between these elements, insisting that every composition must fall into one or the other category, but - whether or not, or to what degree, these are blended - we must consider that we are singing to one another, bringing needed truth before one another's minds and hearts, and singing to the Lord, expressing all the realities of his being and doing, and the realities of our relationship to him. But notice the motives: the intention is not to impress God nor to entertain men, but to thank and adore the Lord and to instruct and exhort his people. These aims must be ever before us as we sing, or we will lose our way.

And, as with all new covenant worship, it must be worship in spirit and truth (Jn 4.24). Whatever that much controverted verse means, there is surely something of the same sense in the instruction to "be filled with the Spirit," "singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord," "singing with grace in your heart to the Lord." This speaks of a supernatural dimension and assistance, of spiritual sincerity, thoughtful participation and genuine engagement. It does not permit us to avoid the happy songs if we are ourselves sad, nor to balk at the sad songs if we are ourselves happy. We are told to enter into the spirit of what we might not ourselves be instinctively feeling: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep" (Rom 12.15). In so doing, we offer to others what they need, and perhaps dose ourselves with a necessary medicine: as John Wesley said to Methodist singers, "Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up and you will find a blessing."

Wesley went on:
Above all, sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this, attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve of here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.
Surely this is an instruction that every saint - regardless of their physical ability - can follow? Isaac Watts offers a similar sentiment by way of warning in his paraphrase of Psalm 47:

Rehearse his praise with awe profound,
Let knowledge lead the song,
Nor mock him with a solemn sound
Upon a thoughtless tongue.

Watts brings us back to the matter of truth and understanding, and so guides us again toward a blending of some of these concerns. If we are to sing in the way just described, we must heed Paul's conclusion: "I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding" (1Cor 14.15). Spiritual reality does not suspend or bypass the mental faculty, and our singing - if it is to pass this test - must be coherent and intelligible. It is in this way that we enter most readily into the glorious truths of which we sing. This requirement does not mean that our songs must be childish or unintelligent. Words should be clear and accurate both in their meaning (if the poetry or the vocabulary require explanation, this is usually easily done) and their vocalization, so that they can be understood - after all, how can you instruct your brother if he cannot tell what he is hearing? I would suggest that it does mean avoiding what is unnecessarily archaic or abstruse in our language, especially in environments where there may be many visitors, or a number of people who are not singing in their first language. At the same time, our sole concern is not horizontal, and it is perfectly appropriate to use accurate and rich expressions of praise to God that may require explanation to those unfamiliar with them. In addition, part of the teaching we offer on the horizontal plane may also require further explanation at times. To borrow a pithy thought from Machen, and apply it in a slightly different way: "I am by no means ready to relinquish the advantages of a precise terminology in summarizing Bible truth. In religion as well as in other spheres a precise terminology is mentally economical in the end; it repays amply the slight effort for the mastery of it" (What is Faith? [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991], 162-3).

It seems to me that simplicity is of the essence of our worship, allowing the spiritual substance to be expressed with sincerity and without distraction. As I have commented to our own congregation, imagine a situation in which the church is being persecuted. The secret police have learned that following the people who leave their homes with pianos on flatbed trucks on Sunday mornings is usually quite a productive train of enquiry, no less so those who carry violin or guitar cases. Perhaps it is too great a risk even to carry a Bible. Therefore, taking all necessary precautions, the believers meet at a pre-appointed place in the misty dawn, perhaps under a gospel oak as they did in days not so long ago. The saints gather swiftly and silently and with much prayer for their safety. There the appointed preacher arrives, and after prayer asks one of the saints to recite from memory the portion from which he intends to preach. He then expounds the passage, making its appropriate applications. The saints softly sing a couple of psalms or hymns together, ones easily memorized and readily learned. In a nearby stream a new convert is baptized, changing swiftly out of wet clothes, and then the Lord's supper is celebrated by the saints breaking bread and passing around wine. Before they depart they sing again, their voices muted but intense. Before long, the service is over, and the believers melt away into the growing day, leaving in various directions and small groups so as to arouse no suspicion.

What more is required? I am not saying that this is the ideal, or that anything different would be inherently sinful, but I do contend that absolutely nothing is lacking to make this pleasing to the Lord.

While much more might be said, I hope that these few thoughts will at least stimulate us to consider once again and more carefully, the hows, whys and wherefores of our sung worship, lifting up heart and voice in the right way and for the right reason, glorifying God and doing good to men as we sing a new song to the Lord.

Psalm 16: "In you, O Lord, I put my trust"

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L.M. (Rockingham)
Psalm 16
In you, O Lord, I put my trust;
Preserve me in my time of need,
I lie before you in the dust,
And have no goodness there to plead.

Among the saints on earth I reap
Pleasures exceeding all below;
This is the company I keep,
These are the truest friends I know.

Let others choose the stuff of earth,
And worship empty idol thrones;
My riches spring from heavenly birth,
Through Jesus who for sin atones.

I bless the Lord who counsel gives,
And in the darkness grants me light;
I stand near him who ever lives,
Secure and happy in his might.

My heart will therefore gladly sing,
Possessed of an eternal joy:
In life and death with Christ my King,
A bond that nothing can destroy.

You show your saints the path of life,
Great joy with you whom we adore;
An end to every grief and strife
At your right hand forevermore.
Jeremy Walker

See other hymns and psalms.

Psalm 1: "How greatly favoured is the man"

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C.M. (Beatitudo)
Psalm 1
How greatly favoured is the man
Who, by the grace of God,
Walks not in step with sinful men,
Nor treads the sinner's road.

The seat of mockers holds no joy:
All wickedness is spurned
By them whose love is for the law,
Who righteousness have learned.

God's precepts are their first delight,
His statutes are their joy,
And constantly his holy Word
Their thoughts and lips employ.

Thus fed by everflowing streams
The blessed ones take root,
And in their season, pruned and fed,
Each brings forth heavenly fruit.

No foul disease is in their leaf,
No famine do they know;
In meditating day and night
God's saints forever grow.

The wicked cannot claim the same
For when the wind comes up
Like chaff they will be swept away:
They drink a bitter cup.

They cannot stand before the Lord
At judgement's awful hour;
They will not stand among the saints
Who praise God's saving power.

In all these things the Lord is just,
His knowledge is complete.
The righteous and the wicked both
Their proper end shall meet.
Jeremy Walker

See other hymns and psalms.