Psalms 95; 100: Use of the Psalms in Worship
We read and sing the Psalms in our church service. You remember that there were musicians in charge of the music in the temple in Jerusalem, and choirs of singers who took part in the services with the priests. Especially they sang the Psalms, sometimes answering back and forth, the priest and the choir, or one choir and another. Notice how many Psalms, like Ps. 95 and 100, tell us to sing unto the Lord. Can you find in Ps. 95 a sentence that we use in the church service?
After the Lords ascension, His disciples went out to preach His Gospel and founded churches in many cities. Paul especially took long journeys and formed churches in far-off countries. They all had their services and learned to sing the Psalms. Paul especially charged them to be filled with the Spirit; "speaking to yourselves in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) And always in the Christian churches the Psalms have been read and sung.
Here is our own Book of Worship. See if you can find in it any Psalms. Yes, all the Psalms are here. There is music with each one: "chants" they are called so that the Psalms can be sung. Are there any Psalms and chants in our Sunday-school song-book, the Hosanna?
For many years in many languages people have read and sung the Psalms, not only by themselves at home, but in the public worship. We may think of three ways in which the singing helps. It helps us to express our reverent and grateful feelings. It helps us to speak the words together. It helps us to remember the words. If we can sing them, we are more sure not to forget them. We all can help the church worship by learning to sing the Psalms and hymns, and singing them heartily and reverently.
A few more thoughts may interest you older children. In regard to the temple worship, keep in mind three times when much was done for the development of the temple services and music: First, when the temple was built and the services began in the time of Solomon. Second, in the time of Hezekiah. (2 Chron. 29:25, 30) And third, in the time of Ezra, and Nehemiah after the return from Babylon. (Ezra 7:7: Neh. 8) What indication do we have in the titles of the Psalms that they were to be sung? There is the common inscription "To the chief musician," the frequent mention of Korah and Asaph, leaders of the music, and many musical instructions as to accompaniment, etc.
If you have seen the Psalms in the Church of England or the Episcopal Prayer-book, you have noticed that the translation is different from the one that is familiar to us. It is an old translation made in 1540, which was so much used and loved by the people that when a new translation of the Bible (our present Authorized Version) was made and came into use in 1611, and even when the Prayer-book was revised in 1661, the Psalms in the Prayer-book were not changed but were kept in the old form and are still kept in the old form. It shows how people love the Psalms as they heard them as children and have sung them all their lives.
The Psalms have been much sung in the New Church. At one time, few hymns were used, and most of the singing in the services was of Psalms. With careful teaching and careful practice, our young people can learn to sing the Psalms with expression, and they can be a most beautiful and most effective part of our worship.
A reason which has led people of the New Church to sing the Psalms in their worship is our teaching that reverent reading and singing of the words of Scripture is a means of association with heaven. Angels who are near to us when we read the Scripture perceive the deeper spiritual and celestial meanings of the Lord's Word. This is a delight to them and reacts upon us with a. sense of holiness in what we read. This association does not depend on our understanding the spiritual meaning of what we read, but is effected when we read the letter reverently and when it is read with children. Read on this subject, S. 62-69. Read especially in S. 108 the account of the delight perceived by certain spirits and angels from the singing of Psalms of David by worshipers in Abyssinia.
Two Psalms are suggested for study, 95 and 100. Both call upon us to sing unto the Lord. What is the spiritual meaning of this call? Suppose we have no voice and cannot sing? Songs spiritually are the heart's affections going forth to the Lord, whether expressed by the voice or in works of service. Such are the songs of heaven. The charge to sing unto the Lord, made so often in the Psalms, should make us realize that the worship which the Lord loves is not only of the head but also of the heart. (A. 8261; E. 612; R. 279)
Read on in Ps. 95 and notice the pair of lines in each of the first seven verses. Why these pairs of lines? (S. 80-90) Can we see the meaning of the two lines in verse 6, which we use in our service as the invitation to prayer? The words in the second line are more expressive of affection. The first line is the call to worship with humble mind, and the second line is the call to worship with humble heart. (A. 5323; E. 365) We can remember this when the invitation to prayer is used in church.
In Ps. 95:7 is the beautiful picture of ourselves as the Lord's Sheep. You can recognize "people" in that verse as a more intellectual term (very often contrasted with "nation"), and "sheep" as a term very expressive of loving dependence. Turning to Ps. 100, we find the same double expression in verse 3, and the same beautiful picture of ourselves as the Lord's sheep. In Ps. 100, the appeal to worship the Lord with the heartís affections is strong in the first three verses, and the appeal to more thoughtful devotion in the last two verses. This is the explanation of the Psalm in Prophets and Psalms: "Celebration of the Lord, that He is to be worshiped from the heart because He is the former of the church, verses 1-3; that He is to be approached through the truths of the Word and acknowledged, verses 4, 5."