How the Psalms Teach Us to Sing

Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!

Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.—Psalm 96

The Good News We Proclaim

God’s people have always been a singing people. There must be a robust expression of our testimony to his grace, something not just seen in our lives but heard from our voices. The Psalms teach us why singing is important, showing us what to sing about, each song like a diamond revealing the many facets of God’s character. Worship comes as a response to the revelation of God, and he has revealed himself to us in different ways. In Psalm 96, he is Creator, he is King, he is Judge. This final characteristic is the central cadence as we are called to rejoice in the perfect reign of God as the Judge of all heaven and earth.

The world is moving toward a time of judgment that will bring joy or terror, relief or dread, depending on the condition of our hearts. Judgment may not be something we are quick to celebrate in worship, but it is an attribute the psalmist David does not hesitate to exalt. We cannot understand God’s love and grace without understanding his justice. And once we are secure in his grace, we are free to rejoice in his justice.

In Revelation, John mourns when it seems no one is worthy to open the scrolls of judgment. One of the elders replies, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah . . . has conquered, so that he can open the scroll” (Rev. 5:5). John’s vision exemplifies how only Christ is worthy, for only he is able to bring ultimate justice to the earth; it is his sacrifice that accomplishes reconciliation between us and God.

All who have believed in Christ have been clothed in his righteousness. They no longer face condemnation. Every tear of injustice and scar of affliction finds its healing and hope in him. This is an incredible revelation of grace that stirs our hearts to worship. This is the good news we must sing about before the nations where people are bound by many physical and spiritual chains. Judgment belongs to the Lord, and he will make things right. We cannot place our hope in other things to “fix” the world, nor do we despair about the world’s current condition, for we know that when he comes, “he comes to judge the earth” (Ps. 96:13).

The Psalms teach us why singing is important, showing us what to sing about.

Are you singing words that bear the comfort and challenge of both God’s justice and his grace to your heart and those around you? Are you choosing each day, by grace, to live in the joy and the readiness his return inspires, joining with the seas, fields, and forests to long for the perfect harmony of God and for his creation to be restored?

This article is an excerpt from the ESV Women’s Study Bible.

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The Psalms, ESV

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