I am convinced that we, as the church of God, should sing the Psalms in corporate worship. In this blog, I will not build a case for an exclusive Psalmody position, but do some interacting with the two main arguments I’ve heard against it over the years.
First, I have been told by very well meaning Presbyterian elders that when we sing the Psalms we are singing about a generic Christ (who happens to be Jesus), but not Jesus himself. While I do not really see the reasoning here, those I spoke to had much zeal to sing the name of Jesus, and did not think the Psalms were a place they could do so.
I am not persuaded by such reasoning, because the Psalms are a rich source of information on the Messiah, and the Messiah is Jesus. Indeed, we look to the many Messianic Psalms (2, 8, 16, 22, 40, 41, 45, 68, 69, 78, 97, 102, 110, 118) to see much about our Lord in the book of Psalms. Further, the Psalms are full of the titles of Christ: Messiah, Anointed One, Son of God. Lastly, Matthew 1:21 says “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” So even the name Jesus refers to his saving work, and the Psalms are filled with references to the salvation that we have in Christ.
The second thing that I’ve often heard is that God doesn’t care how we worship him, but only cares about the inclinations of our hearts. In my baptist days, this was a powerful argument. I was always told that the only thing God cares about is sincerity. In the touchy-feely society in which we live, it was a relief to know that as long as I meant it, then God was satisfied with me. Ugh… that kind of thinking has greatly hindered evangelicalism. This immediately makes me thankful for the regulative principle.
So, does God care how we worship him? Well, if we take Scripture seriously, he absolutely does. In Exodus 32 we see that the children of Israel wanted to spice up their worship by adding a golden calf to their liturgy. They were not using this idol to worship foreign gods, but the Lord, “…who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (v. 4). How did God repay these men who just wanted to make worship a little more interesting? First he had the faithful kill those who worshiped the idol (v. 27), then he sent a plague (v. 35).
Then, if you look at Leviticus 10:1 you will see, “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.” Nothing overly malicious here, they just decided to change things up a little. What did God think about their sincerity? In verse 2, “And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.” God killed them for a little unauthorized fire? But, what about the intentions of their hearts?
Now again, this post is not to argue for the exclusive Psalmody position, but just to address two of the most common arguments I’ve heard against it. Certainly, Christ, his titles, and his saving work are all through the Psalms. And God isn’t nearly so interested in our sincerity as we may have been led to believe.