The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Sing to the Lord a new song

Psalms come alive most fully when we make them our own

Toward the center of the Psalter (Psalms 95-100), as well as at the end (Psalms 145-150), we find a montage of praise. Twelve months ago when I began this series, my musician husband said to me, “Surely you plan to write about the importance of music, of singing the praises of God. Whatever else the psalms are about, they are about this.” And indeed, he is correct.

The psalms are never so powerful as when they are set to music. Most of us remember best the psalms we have sung as a choir anthem or those we sing in worship. Everyone familiar with morning prayer knows Psalm 95:1-7, beginning: “O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” We’ve become familiar with Psalm 100 by singing “All People That on Earth Do Dwell” (Lutheran Book of Worship, 245), and we best know Psalm 98 through its paraphrase in “Joy to the World.” As we enter the Advent and Christmas seasons, we’re reminded of how important singing such praise is to our waiting—and to our rejoicing.

Psalms 95-100 form their own book of songs. Praise is the compelling invitation of each of these. They bid us joyfully raise our voices and play our instruments in thanksgiving (95:1, 5; 96:1-3; 97:12; 98:1,4-6; 100:1). They bid us worship and bend the knee (95:6; 96:9; 99:9; 100:2-3). Indeed, we are to join in with the praise of all the Earth (Psalms 96:1; 97:1; 100:1), even with the sea and the floods (98:7-8).

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Embracing diversity