Why Christians Should Love the History of Israel

Good Morning,

This is the last in a series of four (that was supposed to be two) on the ARP and the advantages/blessings of psalm singing. We’ve covered why the psalms are worthy to be sung, the mercies present in singing them corporately, and how psalms teach us uniquely about the person and work of Jesus Christ. Today we are going to bring each of these together in the peace and comfort of why God would have us to continue to sing these words of praise in all areas of adoration, whether that be private, family, or public worship.

Sit tight as we do a little bit of background to get us going.

As we’ve noted before the singing of the psalms was the universal practice of the Christian Church for most of its history. While there has been evidence of some hymns being written, they were almost completely absent from the life of the people of God until the Protestant Reformation. Only then do we see their adoption and regular inclusion in Lutheran, Anabaptist, and other circles. Whenever the psalms were replaced it became rather normal for the position of the church to be exclusive hymnody rather than the other way around. This has especially been the case in a lot of places in the ARP, and if you talk to more mature members who have lived through this change they can testify to it. The only examples of where the hymns did not overwhelm the psalms were in congregations where there was a concerted effort to maintain the faithful singing of God’s word in God’s house, even if/when hymns were added to the regular life of the church. What were the reasons for that interest in retaining the use of the psalms?

While you can point to places where the psalms continued to be sung in faithfulness to confessional and biblical history, some of it could also be said to be just plain-old “that’s what we’ve always done”. There is a lot of truth to the old adage that traditions that do not teach the why of their tradition are guaranteed to lose them in a generation, or at least forget the reasons for their initial inclusion. Where that had been the normal mode of operations there must be a re-engaging with the Biblical teaching on psalm singing, just like we have needed to do in other areas of the Christian life, like the Trinity or the Divinity of Christ. If we wish to not re-invent the wheel every generation it is important that we use the means God has given to us to reaffirm our love of the truth.

The ordinary ways are what give life to the regular activities of the Church. When Paul calls on the people at Ephesus and Colosse to sing the Psalms in order that the word of Christ might dwell within us richly he is speaking of the same notion that Moses seeks for the Israelites to know in Deuteronomy 6:20-21, which says:

“When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son: ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand…”

We see the utility of this exact thing in Psalm 90:1-2, “LORD, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” The very nature of the Triune God is laid out for us to repeat generation after generation in the same way our forefathers in the faith understood it. When our sons and daughters ask us about Creation we need not only go to Genesis 1, but Psalms like #90 and #19, among many others.

“Never Forget” has been a common refrain after each successive tragedy over the past twenty-three years. What is it that we are meant to not forget? The pain, the anguish, the cost, etc… Well, if you are a member of the tribe of Asher in 870 B.C. and some prophet from the LORD is reminding you of what Jehovah has done for you and why He will bring judgment upon you soon for your iniquity it would be helpful to know who this God is and why you are in covenant with Him. Unfortunately for you, guess what? Jeroboam took up all the ancient landmarks and has changed worship to such a degree that it is highly likely that you don’t know your own history. The priests sing the songs of Ba’al rather than the songs of the Redeemer.

Now we don’t need to be so dramatic about it, but the story has a point. Why do the psalms play such an important role in the life of the Reformed church? Because they are the story of our people. Every culture known to man has folk songs that were primarily written to teach the youngin’s why it mattered that they were born with their identity. They needed to inculcate from the very beginning the nature of culture. For Christians our relationship with the past is different, which rather than downplaying the importance of the songs of Israel instead increases it. As adopted members of the kingdom we come a little late to the party and it is even more true for us to “catch up” and learn the ways of the people to whom we have been grafted in. We need not become Jewish for sure, no one supporting the singing of the psalms thinks that, however, there is certainly a comforting call to Sing the Songs of Zion as members of the household who know the history of the home. It’s one the beauties about the Biblical testimonies of the psalms. Because remember, the Psalms are Christian praise, even when they were written by David and Asaph. They sung them to the Messiah.

In closing, we’ve touched on one last argument for why the ARP church, whether it be Bethany or your home church, or your church not in the ARP should sing the psalms. What I hope this brief series on the psalms has done for you, if nothing else, has engaged your mind and soul to see why we historically sang these songs, and why we should major in them again, not for old times sake, but because we love the words which brought joy and thanksgiving to Christians, from the days of Moses to the days of Earl Linderman.

Here’s one more word:

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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