Remembering that believers are to keep the Word in their hearts (Deut 30:13, Ps 119:11, and others) implies that it has been written there. To write it there effectively, rendering it available for recall by the Spirit when need be, requires effort on our part – consistent effort. That effort is greatly facilitated if the means involves rejoicing in the Word, particularly corporately.
In the past I had read of, and heart from some Reformed Presbyterian acquaintances, about the singing of the psalms in their services, usually in place of hymns or contemporary worship songs. In most of these cases it also involved singing without instrumental accompaniment.
I have to admit that I was not taken with the idea, as I dearly love singing the old hymns with traditional accompaniment. I also quite enjoy many (but not all) of the more contemporary worship songs. More significantly, I could not imagine singing most of the Psalms as written in our translations. This was especially true of the more literal translations that I feel are most accurate. It simply wouldn’t work.
Then some time ago, on a Reformed blog that I follow, one of the fellows was extolling the virtues of singing the Psalms using the Scottish Psalter of 1850. He listed numerous reasons, but the overwhelming impression that grabbed my attention was two fold : great biblical theology and great devotional character.
As we as believers yearn to draw close to the Lord, His Word is the most direct and clearly biblical route. He has recorded His thoughts in readable form in the Word. When we think those thoughts while reading it, we are thinking God’s very thoughts in the form that He provided them for us, and in the form that He intended. Therefor, when we sing the Psalms we are raising our voices in His very thoughts. What a wonderful prospect!
As for the mode of singing, I do not personally see any problem in instrumentation, with the clear provision that the accompaniment not overshadow the singing and that there be not even the hint of a transition from worship toward performance (a huge problem in the contemporary church IMO). With that in mind, accompaniment which allows God’s people to sing together more easily and enjoyably, especially the more musically challenged, is a wonderful boon.
Now to the words of the Psalms. Those that put the Psalms into metrical format (either Scottish or Geneva Psalters) realized that the original words were metered to fit Hebrew. That simply does work in English. Further, we have many traditional hymns tunes that are well know and loved, from which to form a musical base. The metrical arrangement to fit the English language and existing tune structure were the key which I was missing when I dismissed the singing of the Psalms. The blog articles and examples which I read opened my eyes to this possibility.
I tested this out with a like minded group of believers. We found that singing from the Psalter, for the reasons cited above related to the Lord’s thoughts, was convicting and wonderful.
In this age of new worship songs and modes, it would nice to see a resurgence of the Psalter.
One humorous note – the grammar for the Psalter can make some of the lines sound very much like they were written by Yoda. It can be amusing.