Psalm 33:1-12 – A Primer on Worship and Praise

WorshipAfter a brief respite for Thanksgiving, I return to Psalm 33 to share a devotional thought on this great hymn of worship and praise from a sermon I preached Sunday morning, November 29, 2015.

Psalm 33:1-5 – “Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright.
2  Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.
3  Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.
4  For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth.

Psalm 33 is a primer, an elementary study in and portrait of congregational worship and praise. 

Rather than an emphasis on personal and private devotions, the verbs in this psalm are plural indicating the participation of a corporate body in worship.  The worship leader calls the congregation to worship in the opening verses of the psalm (33:1-3), followed by the choir and musicians who lead the congregation in worship (33:4-19).  The psalm concludes with a doxology that affirms the faith of the nation.

ccmWorship in American churches has evolved into something that gives little thought or reverence to a God Who is holy and to be feared and reverenced.  Worship has become an activity more akin to a secular rock music concert than a solemn, spiritual activity of adoring hearts and humble souls.   Sadly, the focus of “worship” has become a question of what is satisfying to the participant and pleasing to the audience, rather than what honors the God of Heaven.  Rather than active participants in worship, the church in America has relegated its membership to the status of an audience that watches, rather than engages in worship and praise.

Psalm 33:1 reminds us it is the duty of the redeemed to rejoice in the LORD.

Psalm 33:1 – “Rejoice [sing; shout for joy] in the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal God], O ye righteous [just; lawful; innocent; blameless]: for praise is comely [beautiful; suitable; fitting] for the upright [righteous; right].

Music has been an important part of praise and worship for God’s people down through the ages. 

Moses led the children of Israel in a song unto the Lord after they crossed the Red Sea and witnessed the destruction of Pharaoh’s army (Exodus 15:1).  Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, led the women of Israel in a song of praise on the same occasion (Exodus 15:20-21). David, author of many of the psalms, worshipped the LORD playing musical instruments when the Ark of the Covenant arrived at Mt. Zion (2 Samuel 6:5).   When the foundation was laid for rebuilding the Temple we read, they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD” (Ezra 3:11).   When the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem was complete, the walls were dedicated “with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps” (Nehemiah 12:27).  Christ concluded His Last Supper with His disciples by singing a hymn (Mark 14:26) and Paul and Silas, beaten and imprisoned for their faith, “prayed and sang praises unto God” (Acts 16:25).sing

We find four fundamental elements of worship music in Psalm 33:2-4.

The first element of worship music is enthusiastic singing (33:2),

Psalm 33:2 – “Praise [give thanks] the LORD with harp [lyre]: sing [praise; sing praise] unto Him with the psaltery [lute; like a guitar] and an instrument of ten strings [ten string instrument].”e

The congregation was encouraged to “Praise the Lord” in a song of thanksgiving and praise. Musicians accompanied the singing on various instruments that included string and wind instruments [“a loud noise” indicates instruments we would identify as brass and woodwind instruments].

Psalm 33:3 – “Sing unto Him a new [fresh] song; play [make music] skillfully [well; pleasing; beautiful] with a loud noise [shout; i.e. like the sound of a trumpet].”

The second element of worship music is a new song (33:3).  Rather than resisting new songs in favor of the old and the familiar, the people enjoyed singing new psalms inspired by the spiritual growth and experience of their authors who rejoiced in their growing knowledge and understanding of God’s grace, mercy and faithfulness.brass

A third element of worship music is the musicians were to “play skillfully with a loud noise” (33:3b). Musicians were to offer the LORD their best requiring dedicated training and disciplined practice.

The fourth element of worship music is the lyrics of the songs were to be scripturally sound, in harmony with the Word of God and His works.

Psalm 33:4 – “For the word [spoken word; discourse] of the LORD is right [righteous; straight; just]; and all His works [acts; labor; deeds] are done in truth [faith; faithfulness; honesty].”

The Word of God is the standard by which words and lyrics of worship songs is to be judged.  Knowing God’s works are never in conflict with His divine character, music themes must be faithful and true to God’s Word.

My friend, it is my contention there is a lot of Christian Contemporary “7-Eleven” choruses [phrases that consist of 7 words and are repeated 11 times] and songs that fall short of the “Truth Test”.

Hymns and songs employed in worship are to be held to the same standard as the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.  Choir music and special music should never teach lies or false doctrine.   Hymns and songs of praise should be held to the same “Truth” test as sermons and Bible teaching.  The next time you are tempted to become robotic in singing the “little ditty” choruses that have become so popular in the last two decades, think about what you are singing and ask two questions:

1) What are the words and music of the song teaching me regarding God’s character?

2) Are the words and music faithful to God’s character and true to His Word?

 I will follow this devotional challenge from Psalm 33 with an examination of that psalm tomorrow.

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith