Let’s pray that something of the original spirit of the psalms enters our worship. I believe the psalms provide a challenge to our worship. Let’s look at them for a moment. There are many relevant references but a few must be sufficient.
Yes, they do speak of being still before God and waiting for Him in silence. They do speak of the awe of God’s majesty.
But a large number of psalms have more to say about exultant praise e.g. 9:1-2 “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart… I will be glad and exult in Thee.” Psalm 68:3. “But let the righteous be joyful let them exult before God, let them be full with joy.” In other psalms we are challenged to delight in the Lord and long for the Lord. Does all this describe our worship?
Then we might notice the ways in which they expressed their worship. They would shout for joy even with loud shouts e.g. 47:1 “Shout to God with loud songs of joy,” 89:15”Blessed are the people who know the festal shout.” Or, and this should encourage the non-singers, “Make a joyful noise to God…” (66:l). In addition they would clap their hands (47:1 “Clap your hands, all peoples.”) or lift them up in praise and prayer (134:2 “Lift up your hands to the Holy Place, and bless the Lord.”) What a glorious thing it must have been to join in such freely expressed worship!
But they also enlisted the aid of a variety of musical instruments. How about this selection for a modern service? Look at Psalm 150. There was the ten-stringed harp, the lyre and the lute (stringed instruments). There was the trimbrel (a form of tambourine), the cymbals, the pipe and the trumpet.
Often all these elements would combine in a procession eg.68:24-26 “… the singers in front, the minstrels last, between them maidens playing timbrels.” And such was their joy that sometimes they could only express it in spontaneous dancing (e.g. 149:3 “Let them praise his name with dancing.”) What a remarkable experience all this must have been.
The Old Testament folk were not so ‘sophisticated’ as we are. It seems they knew how to worship with their bodies as well as their spirits. What about our worship? Does it display such spontaneous joy, such exultation so freely expressed? Do we also experience awe and wonder in worship? Why not let the God who inspired the psalms inspire us?
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction