Singing to the Lord in Psalms

O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. Psalm 95:1, 2

Let us begin with a few thought-questions?

Do you enjoy singing?

How much do you sing?

What kind of songs do you sing? Psalms? Hymns? Secular songs?

In a similar vein, do you listen to music?

To what kind of music do you listen?

We are instructed in the passage we consider for this meditation to sing unto the Lord. We are to come into His presence. There we are to sing unto Him in praise and thanksgiving. Mention is made especially of psalms. We are to make a joyful noise before Him in psalms.

It is good that we meditate on this instruction. The singing and music that this word of God sets before us does not often receive the place it should in our lives. All too often the music that fills our lives is music that is not pleasing to the Lord and certainly not music we can sing before Him.

We must sing before the presence of the Lord.

And we must sing psalms.

Let us come before His presence!

To come before God’s presences is to stand before Him face to face and there to commune with Him.

We are able to come before the presence of God because He is Jehovah, the covenant God. He has established with us in Jesus Christ a most delightful relationship of friendship and fellowship. In that covenant we have the right at any time and from any place to come before His presence and commune with Him.

In the Old Testament, Israel came before the presence of the Lord especially in the tabernacle and later the temple. Although God is spirit and thus invisible, He represented Himself with the Ark of the Covenant that was in the Holy of Holies. This was the face or presence of the Lord. And there, above the mercy seat, the Lord met with Israel to commune with her (Ex. 25:22). When the Israelites gathered at the house of the Lord, they were before the face of the Lord. They communed with the Lord through the priest, who came before the presence of the Lord on behalf of the people with the blood of the altar and then blessed the people at the door on the Lord’s behalf.

Many things have changed since the time the Psalms were written. This is due to the fact that Jesus Christ has come and through His perfect work made atonement for sin, thus establishing the legal basis for the covenant. Because of Christ’s perfect work, the covenant is no longer limited to the physical descendants of Abraham but is now found among all nations, as many as belong to Jesus Christ. The signs of the covenant are different. Circumcision has given way to baptism. The Lord’s Supper replaces the Passover.

And so the way that we come before the presence of the Lord has also changed. The temple is no longer of any importance and is no longer the place where we come before the presence of the Lord. We come before the face of the Lord to commune with Him, first, in the official worship of the church. God has replaced the altar and the priest and the temple with the preaching of the Word and the sacraments. Through the Word and sacraments God proclaims the same gospel to us His covenant people as He did in the Old Testament temple. When we gather to hear the Word and receive the sacraments, we are come into the very presence of the Lord. In addition, we also come into the Lord’s presence when we gather for family worship in our homes. And we come before the Lord’s presence when as individuals we commune with God in prayer.

Let us come before His presence.

This call the psalmist gives to the church of all ages.

What a great privilege the Lord has given His covenant people.

What a delight to the Lord that His people come into His presence to commune with Him.

How foolish to neglect this privilege!

When we come into the presence of the Lord, we are to come with singing.

And the songs we are to sing are songs of praise and thanksgiving. Notice the instruction of the psalmist: “O come, let us sing unto the Lord.” The word “sing” means to sing praises. We are also instructed to come before His presence with thanksgiving. The word “thanksgiving” means songs of thanksgiving.

For what are we to thank and praise Him?

The psalmist answers this question when he tells us to make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.

We must think of a rocky cliff. Such rocks were places of refuge, safe places in which one could either hide from the enemy or from which one could easily defend himself. Here we have the phrase “rock of our salvation.” This explains more fully the idea of a rock. A rock of salvation is a rock in which or on which one finds salvation or deliverance from his enemies. It is a saving rock.

Certainly Jehovah had been a rock of salvation for Israel. The book of Hebrews (Heb. 4:7) attributes this psalm to David. The Lord had led David to deliver Israel from her enemies and secure peace in her borders. Certainly the Lord had been a rock of salvation for Israel.

Israel’s deliverance from her enemies through David pointed to a deeper deliverance and salvation—a salvation from sin and death and hell. Behind Israel’s enemies stood the devil, who sought to destroy the church spiritually by leading her back into the slavery of sin. This is the church’s real enemy. And so David, whom the Lord led to deliver Israel from her enemies, was a picture of the greater Savior, Jesus Christ, through whom the Lord rescues His people from the powers of darkness and sin. It is ultimately in Jesus Christ that God is the rock of our salvation.

The church must come before the Lord as the rock of her salvation with songs of praise and thanksgiving for His deliverance and salvation.

And for this purpose the Lord has given us the psalms. Psalms are songs of praise and thanksgiving. The word “psalm” means song of praise.

David calls the church of the Old Testament to use the psalms to sing praises and thanksgiving to the Lord. There is good reason for this. The psalms were given to the church by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They were written by various men of God—David, Solomon, Asaph, Moses, and others. But these men were moved by the Holy Spirit to compose these songs of praise for the edification of the church. They were given exactly so that the church could thank and praise the Lord through song. This certainly implies that we must also praise God in psalms.

There is a sad neglect of psalm-singing in the church world today. The psalms have been virtually replaced with hymns, many of which bring false teaching into the church.

We must sing the psalms.

We need not sing psalms exclusively. The Psalms are the songbook of the Old Testament church. With the coming of Christ, God has given us the fuller revelation of the New Testament. Certainly songs of praise and thanks to the Lord reflecting the fuller revelation of the New Testament are quite proper. And so we could properly include them in our worship as we come before the presence of our covenant God. But we must not neglect the inspired psalms in our singing. They are treasures that the Lord has given His church to praise and thank Him. How He delights to hear us praise and thank Him with the psalms.

Make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms!

The idea here is that we are to shout for joy with psalm-singing.

There must be joy in our heart as we sing. His joy must be the joy of salvation. It must be the joy we receive from the fact that the Lord is the rock of our salvation and we find ourselves standing on that rock.

This joy must be evident by the look on our faces as well as by the volume and vigor with which we sing.

We must cultivate this kind of singing in our churches, homes, and Christian schools. We must develop the talents God has given us for singing. We must develop opportunities to use these gifts. We must be a people who are daily in the presence of the Lord to sing His praises.

And we must be careful that our ability to come into the presence of the Lord to sing psalms is not destroyed by the songs of the world. The world has its songs that praise sin and the prince of darkness. We cannot sing songs in praise of sin and songs of praise to the Lord. It is either…or.

Let us take our stand on the rock of our salvation.

And let us sing psalms of praise and thanksgiving for the salvation that is ours in Jesus Christ.