The Joy of Rediscovering God’s Hymnbook

That is the title of a helpful booklet authored by Frank Smith of Presbyterian Scholars Press. Smith believes that God’s hymnbook is actually the Book of Psalms, and he wants to introduce Psalm singing to contemporary congregations. There are six chapters in the booklet:

  1. Psalm-Singing through the Ages
  2. Metrical Psalmody
  3. Overcoming Obstacles and Objections
  4. Selecting the Right Psalter
  5. Getting Started
  6. Resources
If you are not familiar with Psalm singing, the opening chapter might surprise you regarding how common it was throughout history. In chapter three, “Overcoming Obstacles and Objections,” Smith examines typical questions about Psalm singing such as the difficulty of the tunes, singing from the Old Testament, and whether Psalm singing will seem “weird” to visitors. In the following chapters he also provides helpful suggestions regarding the various Psalters that are available, as well as practical tips on getting started. He concludes with a bibliography that covers various topics such as the Regulative Principle of Worship, “exclusive psalmody,” and A Cappella singing.

The booklet is available directly from Presbyterian Scholars Press (address: 5830 Millstone Drive, Cumming, Georgia 30028; email:, but you can also purchase it online from Reformation Heritage Books for only $4: The Joy of Rediscovering God’s Hymnbook: How to Introduce the Psalter into Congregational Worship. Dr. Joel Beeke provided the following endorsement:

“The Joy of Rediscovering God’s Hymnbook is a 101 primer on the ‘how to’ and the benefits of psalm singing. Frank Smith’s little book assists the church in understanding the history, principles, and possibilities for growing its psalm-singing commitment.”


Singing the Psalms on Ascension Day

David T. Koyzis:

Today the church recalls the ascension of Christ to heaven, where he sits at the right hand of God the Father. In the liturgies for this day, the assigned psalm is often Psalm 47: “God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. 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!” Here is the Genevan tune for this psalm, sung in French:

[Note: Take a moment and listen to Psalm 47. It is beautiful, even if you cannot understand French!]

Tim Keller: Long Distance Spirituality

That is the title of an article by Tim Keller in the recent Redeemer Newsletter from May 2010. Here is what Keller says about the importance of a patient endurance in reading the Scriptures, in particular the Psalms:

The one hundredth time through the Psalms or the Proverbs will yield astonishingly sweet, comforting, and convicting insights, because the more you know the Bible as a whole the more sense its particular parts make. And the more you know your own heart the more you know how to work on it, how to move past your discouragement, your peevishness, and your self-pity. But it takes years of relentless discipline. It is similar to how it takes years of practice to enjoy the power of playing the piano beautifully, but what we are talking about goes beyond even that in complexity and depth.

When it comes to the spiritual disciplines, don’t be a sprinter. Be a long-distance runner.

Good advice. Read the whole article here.

Psalm Presentation Booklet

I had several requests for the booklet that I used during my Psalm presentation. You can download the pdf here. It is the 16 page document from which I created the booklet. The metrical Psalms used and the page references are from the 1650 Scottish Psalter produced by the Trinitarian Bible Society and sold at Crown and Covenant.

Other Resources:

Introducing Psalm Singing to Your Church (Audio)

My presentation on Psalm singing last week at Union University’s Psalm Project is now online. You can download the audio here. The audio starts after I gave my brief introduction, so I am already into the body of the presentation. You will also hear me referencing a booklet that everyone received. If you want it, leave a comment or contact me via the contact form. Hopefully it will be of assistance to you and help in the recovery of Psalm singing.

The Use of the Psalms in Worship

One of the topics I covered in my presentation was the use of the Psalms in worship and how that can bring a coherence to worship. For example, if we are going to sing Psalm 103, then we can utilize it in worship this way:

Call to Worship: Psalm 103:19-22

The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Confession of Sin (Responsive Reading): Psalm 103:8-14

Leader: The LORD is compassionate and merciful,
People: Slow to anger and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
He does not repay us according to our iniquities.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
So the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

Promise of Forgiveness: Psalm 103:11-12

For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm of Thanksgiving: Psalm 103 [Tune: Coronation]

O thou my soul, bless God the Lord; and all that in me is
Be stir-red up his holy name to magnify and bless.
Be stir-red up his holy name to magnify and bless.

Bless, O my soul, the Lord thy God, and not forgetful be
Of all his gracious benefits he hath bestow’d on thee.
Of all his gracious benefits he hath bestow’d on thee.

All thine iniquities who doth most graciously forgive:
Who thy diseases all and pains doth heal, and thee relieve.
Who thy diseases all and pains doth heal, and thee relieve.

Union University Psalm Project (My Presentation)

Tomorrow I will be at Union University in Jackson, TN, to give a presentation on singing the Psalms in a contemporary congregation. Ray Van Neste and I have humorously titled it, “How I Introduced Psalm singing to my church without getting fired.” This is no reflection on my church. They are great, and they love the Psalms (at least I think they do). Instead, it is about how dangerous it is to introduce something old in many contemporary congregations in the midst of so-called “worship wars.” I have to wrap things up tonight, so I might post a few thoughts from the presentation. If you are in the area, stop by. It will be at 3 pm at the Grant Center on Union’s Campus.

Singing Psalm 29

Ray Van Neste posted a versification of Psalm 29 for the purpose of singing it to some well known tunes. The versification is from his friend and co-pastor Chad Davis. Below is the Psalm set to a 87.87.D meter. You can sing it to the following tunes: “Come Thou Fount,” “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken,” or “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us” (as well as other tunes with that meter).

Praise the Lord, O heavenly beings
Praise His glory and His might (v. 1)
Worship all His holy splendor
Give to Him what’s His by right. (v. 2)

For His voice o’er waters thunders,
Over many waters roars (v. 3)
Full of majesty and power
Is the voice of our great Lord. (v. 4)

That great voice has such deep power
Mighty cedars it can break (v. 5)
Like a calf or wild oxen
It can make this whole world shake. (v. 6)

This voice makes the wild to tremble (v.8)
From it flash forth fire and flame (v.7)
This Lord brings both life and judgment
In His house all praise His name (v.9)

O’er the flood our God is reigning
And His reign will never cease (v. 10)
May He give strength to His people
May He bless us with His peace (v. 11).

Don Whitney on the Psalms and Prayer

Speaking of the Psalms, Ray Van Neste reminds us that Don Whitney will be speaking at Union University next week:

As part of the ongoing Psalms Project here at Union Don Whitney will be with us Thursday April 23 for a seminar titled, “Turning the Words of Scripture into the Wings of Your Prayers: The Simple, Permanent Cure to Boring Repetition in Prayer.” He will focus on praying the Psalms.

Here is the schedule for the day. The cost is just $10 to cover the lunch.
Noon Lunch
12:30 Session I
2:00 Break/refreshments
2:30 Session II
4:00 Adjourn

The seminar will take place in Luther Hall on the Union campus.

To register you can contact Stacy Preston- or 731-661-5062.

Whitney will also preach in chapel Friday morning on “If God Is for Us, Who Is Against Us?” out of Rom. 8:31.

What are the “high places” in the church?

Kevin DeYoung is starting a series of posts on important areas that the church is missing by asking the question, “What will future generations be surprised to see that we missed?” He will be highlighting six areas that might be “high places” for the church. The first one is the lack of Psalm singing in the church.

This is something that also deeply concerns me. I have provided several resources on my blog for this, and in May I will be speaking at the Psalm Conference that Union University is hosting. My topic will be introducing the Psalms to a contemporary congregation. Here are some various resources:

Be sure to buy Terry Johnson’s Family Worship Book as a resource. It will introduce you to some basic Psalms and traditional hymns.

D. A. Carson Audio on Psalms

Here are four audio messages on the Psalms that D. A. Carson gave at the UCCF Staff Conference.

Psalm 1 mp3 >>>

Psalm 2 mp3 >>>

Psalm 40 mp3 >>>

Psalm 110 mp3 >>>

Here is the summary from Todd Shaffer:

Psalm 1 examines the contrast between good and evil. Psalm 2 examines the Davidic-Christologic typology. Psalm 40 is about God our deliverer, and …Psalm 110 examines the Melchizedek priesthood which puts together the place of the law of the Levitical priesthood in relation to the new priesthood of Jesus Christ.

About the Psalm 110, Shaffer also said, “This message in particular is stellar, and is one of the best messages I’ve listened to this year.”

[HT: Faith by Hearing]

Psalm 2: Why Do The Heathen Nations Vainly Rage?

At the BaylyBlog, Andrew Dionne explains that “the Good Shepherd Band of “Wake Up Sleepers,” Christ the Word’s Everlasting Word Band is pleased to join the musical reformation by releasing a track from its first EP due later this year.” One of the songs is a version of Psalm 2 from Calvin’s Genevan Psalter, which has been modernized and arranged by Douglas Wilson. You can hear and download it here. He further explains, “we enfolded the text into music and instruments appropriate to its forceful declaration of the wrath of God–a force rendered all the more striking by its contrast with the softness of most church music today.” Very interesting sound. Check it out.

How the Psalms should shape our hymns

Ray Van Neste:

On Friday we will have Douglas Bond author of numerous books, including the Crown & Covenant Trilogy, the Faith & Freedom Trilogy & Mr. Pipes Series. I have previously reviewed many of his books at my children’s literature blog. Mr. Bond will be speaking on the topic, “Biblical Poetry in a Post-Biblical, Post-Poetry World.” At 3pm Mr. Bond will continue the conversation by speaking further on how the Psalms should shape our hymns.

This will be at Union University in Jackson, TN. If you are near and have time, I am sure you will enjoy it.

Union University Psalms Project

Ray Van Neste has an update concerning the Psalms Project going on at Union University:

The Psalms Project got started in a wonderful way with Dr. John Witvliet yesterday. The audio should be available soon (you can check here). Dr. Witvliet made the point that the Psalms teach us the language we need to relate with God much as parents do as we teach oru children to say “Thank you,” “Please,” “Excuse me,” and “I am sorry.” We must learn to say these basic things (and they don’t come naturally!) in order to have decent human relationships. We also need to learn to say these things to God and the Psalms give us language for this. I really encourage you to listen to the audio.

Keep up with the audio. Ray explains that Craig Blaising will give a lecture Friday (2/20) on “The Psalms in Early Christian Worship.” Blaising is the co-author of the Ancient Christian Commentary Series volume on Psalms 1-50, and he will teach on praying the Psalms.