Come Seek the Lord

Peaceful Waters

Come to Me, you weary;
Come to Me and find rest.
Take My Yoke upon you;
Come and know peace and gentleness.

For why do you still labor,
Weighed down with pain and guilt and care,
Oppressed and crushed down under
A load you cannot bear?

Come seek the Lord, you afflicted;
Seek Him while He may be found.
Today is the day of salvation,
When grace and mercy have come down.

Come to Me, you thirsty;
Come to Me and drink.
Though you have no money;
Come and buy and eat.

For why do you spend money
For that which is not bread
And squander all your wages
On empty things instead?

Come seek the Lord, you hungry;
In Him is fullness of delight;
Abundance overflowing
To immeasurable depth and height.

Come to Me, you wayward;
Lost in the darkness and the strife.
My Word will guide your footsteps,
For I am the way, the truth, the life.

For why do you still wander
Down pathways that lead to sin and death,
Forsaking the One who made you,
Who gives you each day your life and breath?

Come seek the Lord, you wanderer,
Seeking to satisfy your soul.
In Him is joy beyond all measure,
For He alone can make you whole.

And come seek the Lord, you hungry;
In Him is fullness of delight;
Abundance overflowing
To immeasurable depth and height.

Yes, come seek the Lord, you afflicted;
Seek Him while He may be found.
Today is the day of salvation,
When grace and mercy have come down.

Come to Me, you weary;
Come to Me and find rest.

Words and Music ©2008 Kenneth A Puls

This worship song is based on Isaiah 55:1 and Matthew 11:28.

Read more about how this song came to be written. And download free PDF lead sheet, chord chart, and recording of the song from the Morning Service at Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, Florida on Sunday, November 2, 2014.

 

Lessons from the Psalm Inscriptions: Titles of Designation

The Servant of the Lord

Lessons from the Psalm Inscriptions
In Leading God’s People in Prayer and Praise

Titles of Designation

Many of the psalms suggest by their language that they began as individual expressions of devotion that came out of a personal experience. In time these psalms became corporate prayers voiced by the whole congregation who could relate to common experiences. The use of the first person and the numerous accounts of events in the personal lives of the psalmists, make it clear that the majority of the psalms were originally private prayers. The transition of these prayers from private devotional poetry to public congregational song is preserved in the psalm inscriptions that denote the source or the destination of the psalm.

About half of the 337 inscriptions fit into the category of designation. These are titles using the Hebrew preposition  לֹ. They can denote the author(s) of the psalm, the recipient(s) of the psalm, or in some places, to whom the psalm is dedicated. Having specific names attached to the psalms provides a personal connection and historical context that can be helpful in understanding the words.

Of David (ascribed to David)

Almost half of the psalms (73) are attributed to David; most of these are in Books I and II of the Psalter. The connection of the psalms with the heading of David to events in David’s life supports the interpretation of the inscription as denoting authorship. The extended title of Psalm 18, for example, makes it clear that David is the author: “Ascribed To David, Which he spoke to Yahweh the words of this song on the day that Yahweh delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.”

To the Servant of Yahweh

Two psalms (18 and 36), along with the designation to David, also contain the phrase to the Servant of Yahweh, which most likely is a further description of David. David is often called in Scripture a servant of the LORD. [1] The NKJV and ESV translate the phrases together as “A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD.”

Of Solomon

David’s son, Solomon is credited with only two psalms (72 and 127). This is striking given the testimony of 1 Kings 4:32 that Solomon spoke 3,000 proverbs and composed 1005 songs. Psalm 72 is an appropriate prayer for a king known for his wisdom. It begins: “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice! (72:1-2, ESV).” Although this psalm is attributed to Solomon, the final verse reads: “The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.” This may suggest that the psalm was actually composed by David with reference to or for his son, Solomon.

Psalm 127 is also a fitting psalm for Solomon. It concerns the building of the Temple, a task that fell to Solomon during his reign. This psalm begins: “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Psalm 127 is one of the Songs of the Ascents, sung by the people as they made their way to worship in Jerusalem at the annual festivals.

Of Asaph

Psalm 50 and a collection of eleven psalms (73–83) that begins Book III in the Psalter are attributed to Asaph. Asaph was one of three Levites, along with Heman and Jeduthun, appointed by David to lead the music in the tabernacle in the worship of God. [2] The poetry of the psalms ascribed to Asaph reflects the heart of one whose life was focused on the worship of God in Jerusalem. Psalm 50:2 says: “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.” In Psalm 73 Asaph contemplates the apparent prosperity of the wicked and is perplexed until he goes “into the sanctuary of God” and in the context of worship and serving God begins to understand their end. In Psalm 74:2 he prays for God’s people gathered for worship:

Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old,
which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage!
Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.

Psalm 76 begins:

In Judah God is known;
his name is great in Israel.
His abode has been established in Salem,
his dwelling place in Zion.

Ascribed to the Sons of Korah

Eleven psalms are attributed to the sons of Korah (Psalm 42, 44–49, 84, 85, 87, 88). Korah was the son of Kohath of the tribe of Levi (1 Chronicles 6:22). The psalms ascribed to the sons of Korah may include music they composed as well as music they gathered into a collection for worship. According to 2 Chronicles 6:33–38, Heman, one of David’s three chief musicians, was a descendent of Korah. [3] This Heman, a Levite, should be distinguished from another biblical poet of the same name, Heman the Ezrahite.

Of Heman, the Ezrahite

Psalm 88 presents a difficulty in that it contains a double inscription. It is called both “a Song a Psalm of the Sons of Korah” and “a Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite.” If Heman, the descendant of Korah, is meant here as the author, the difficulty is solved; but the phrase the Ezrahite presents a problem in that it appears to refer to another biblical character named Heman related to Ethan the Ezrahite (1 Kings 4:31 and 1 Chronicles 2:6). This Heman was a descendant of Judah known for his wisdom. If this inscription to Heman, the descendant of Judah, denotes him as author, then the additional inscription to the sons of Korah likely means that the song was also included in a collection that the sons of Korah compiled for worship.

Of Ethan, the Ezrahite

One Psalm in the Psalter, Psalm 89, is attributed to Ethan, the Ezrahite. At least three men in Scripture have the name Ethan, causing some confusion as to who is meant in this inscription. Jeduthun, one of David’s appointed musicians, is called Ethan in 1 Chronicles 6:44 and 15:17, but the clarification in the title, the Ezrahite, makes it clear that he is not the one intended here. One other Levite, referred to in 1 Chronicles 6:42, is also called Ethan. The Ethan denoted in the title, however, is a wiseman of the tribe of Judah, related to Heman mentioned above (1 Kings 4:31 and 1 Chronicles 2:6).

Of Moses, the man of God

Book IV opens with “A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.” This prayer in Psalm 90 is the only psalm attributed to the great prophet and leader of Israel. Moses is certainly portrayed in Scripture as skilled in music. In the first song of praise recorded in the canon of Scripture, he leads the children of Israel in singing “The Song of Moses,” celebrating God’s victory over the Egyptians (Exodus 15 1-18). In Deuteronomy 31:19 God commands Moses:

Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel.

Deuteronomy 31:30 declares that Moses obeyed the Lord and taught Israel the song recorded in Deuteronomy 32:1–43. Another prayer of Moses is recorded in Deuteronomy 33 where he blesses the tribes of Israel. The introduction to this prayer is similar to the title of Psalm 90 in that Moses is called in both places “the man of God.”

To the Chief Musician

The heading to the chief musician appears in 55 psalms. [4] The inscription consists of the preposition  לֹ  meaning to or for, the definite article (the) and a Piel (intensive stem) participle from the verb natsach. In the Qal (active stem) the verb means to shine or to be pre-eminent. In the Piel (intensive stem) it means to lead, to direct or to supervise.

The inscription to the chief musician denotes the recipient of the music. These are songs that were specifically designated by David and others to be given to the Temple musicians and used in the gathered worship of God’s people. The KJV and NKJV translate the inscription as to the Chief Musician; the NAS has for the Choir Director; the ESV has to the Choirmaster; and the NIV reads for the Director of Music. The NRSV has simply to the Leader, ignoring the association of the term to music.

To Jeduthun

Jeduthun was one of the chief musicians appointed by David and also one of the king’s seers. [5] He is called Ethan twice in 1 Chronicles, but should not be confused with the other men in the Bible named Ethan mentioned above. His name appears in the headings to three psalms that likely denote him as the recipient (specifying a particular chief musician) rather than the author: Psalm 39 and 62 (both psalms of David) and Psalm 77 (ascribed to Asaph).

Conclusion

The titles of designation offer some helpful insights into the composition of music for worship in the Old Testament.

    1. There is a connection made in many psalms between song-writer and lyrics. The inscriptions remind us that songs are often written in the crucible of personal experience, even painful and trying experience. We will explore this further in the discussion on titles of explanation.
    2. The personal connection between psalm and song-writer is apparent as well in the language of many of the psalms. There is a precedent in Scripture for voicing prayers and songs in first-person (“I” and “me”) even in a corporate setting. Unlike the conventional wisdom of those in our day who discourage the use of first-person in congregational music, those who wrote and compiled the Old Testament psalms did not see a need to change the wording of “I’ and “me” to “we” and “us.” Even in gathered worship, as we lift our voices together, we can express individual cries and praises of the heart.
    3. The titles of designation highlight the ministry of individuals (and groups of individuals) who compose, compile and lead music for worship. They are a reminder that we should be grateful and pray for song-writers, musicians and worship leaders in the church. Pray that God would continue to raise up in every age and in every place those who would invest their musical gifts for the benefit of God’s people.

Notes:

[1] See 1 Samuel 23:10; 25:39; 2 Samuel 3:18; 7:5, 8, 20, 26; 24:10; 1 Kings 8:25, 66; 2 Kings 8:19; 1 Chronicles 17:4, 7, 24; 2 Chronicles 6:16, 17, 42; Ezekiel 34:24.
[2] 1 Chronicles 15:16–19; 16:4–7; 25:1–9; 2 Chronicles 5:11–14; 35:15.
[3] See also 1 Chronicles 15:17, 19; 16:41; 25:5; 2 Chronicles 5:12; 35:15.
[4] Psalm 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 31, 36, 39, 40, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 49, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 75, 76, 77, 80, 81, 84, 85, 109, 139, 140.
[5] 1 Chronicles 16:37–42; 25:1–7; 2 Chronicles 5:12; 35:15.

This series is based on a seminar paper for “Special Research in Church Music” at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (May 1995).

See a Table of Contents for this series: Lessons from the Psalm Inscriptions

(Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV) ©2001 by Crossway)

A View of Immanuel’s Land

Then I saw in my dream, that on the morrow he got up to go forward; but they desired him to stay till the next day also; and then, said they, we will, if the day be clear, show you the Delectable Mountains, which, they said, would yet further add to his comfort, because they were nearer the desired haven than the place where at present he was; so he consented and stayed.

When the morning was up, they had him to the top of the house, and bid him look south; so he did: and behold, at a great distance, he saw a most pleasant mountainous country, beautified with woods, vineyards, fruits of all sorts, flowers also, with springs and fountains, very delectable to behold. Then he asked the name of the country. They said it was Immanuel’s Land; and it is as common, said they, as this hill is, to and for all the pilgrims. And when you come there from here, they said, you may see to the gate of the Celestial City, as the shepherds that live there will make appear.

When Christian awakes the next morning at Palace Beautiful, he prepares to continue on his journey. He had found refuge as night was approaching; had engaged in gospel conversations with Discretion, Piety, Prudence and Charity; had enjoyed a refreshing meal, peaceful rest, and needed instruction; and he had seen the provisions of the King for battle in the armory. Now, as he is ready to depart, he is once again encouraged to stay. There is yet more to see and more benefits to receive.

A View of Immanuel's LandChristian wisely consents and stays. The next day he is taken up to an observation point on the roof of the palace. There, as the day is clear, he sees at a great distance “a most pleasant mountainous country, beautified with woods, vineyards, fruits of all sorts, flowers also, with springs and fountains, very delectable to behold.” So what are these mountains that Bunyan vividly describes and how can they add to Christian’s comfort? As noted earlier, Palace Beautiful, Christian’s present location, represents the church from the vantage point of new believer who has not yet matured in faith. The Delectable Mountains that Christian sees in the distance (he will arrive at these mountains later in his journey), represent the church from the vantage point of a more mature believer.

The mountains are a fruitful and beautiful place. They are in Immanuel’s Land, meaning they belong to Christ, whose name is Immanuel, “God with Us” (Isaiah 7:17; Matthew 1:23). Later the shepherds will tell Christian that the Mountains are within sight of His city. It is in Immanuel’s Land where our hearts are filled with joy and delight in our King. We long to know Him and see Him and be with Him. Bunyan draws his imagery from Isaiah:

He will dwell on high;
His place of defense will be the fortress of rocks;
Bread will be given him,
His water will be sure.
Your eyes will see the King in His beauty;
They will see the land that is very far off.
(Isaiah 33:16-17)

The hymn The Sands of Time Are Sinking by Anne Ross Cousin based on the letters of Samuel Rutherford, offers a glorious depiction of this land. Here are but a few of the 19 verses of the hymn:

4. The King there in His beauty,
With-out a veil is seen:
It were a well-spent journey,
Though seven deaths lay between:
The Lamb, with His fair army,
Doth on Mount Zion stand;
And glory—glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

5. Oh! Christ He is the fountain,
The deep sweet well of Love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted,
More deep I’ll drink above:
There, to an ocean fullness,
His mercy doth expand,
And glory—glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

17. The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory,
But on my King of Grace—
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His pierced hand:
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel’s land.

At Palace Beautiful Christian sees the beauty and lushness of the mountains, though he himself is still a great distance away. He is yet young in the faith, but can see the promise and hope of fruit ahead. One of the great advantages a new believer has in belonging to a healthy church is interaction with and encouragement from more mature believers. It is comforting to see the testimony of those who are walking with the Lord and have done so for many years. It is a blessing to see their fruitful lives and love for God.

There are some important lessons here for us as we enjoy the benefits of belonging to a local church.

1) When in the fellowship of God’s people, we should, as Christian did, consent and stay longer. We are too often eager to be on our way when it would be more profitable for us to linger awhile. Much of the ministry of the church takes place in personal encounters and conversations: words of encouragement, words of admonishment, praying together, sharing needs, meeting needs, taking time to invest in each others’ lives. We miss this when we pass by those around us and fail to connect with others.

2) We must learn to value and seek out those in the church who are older and more mature in the faith. They have much to offer. They are closer to their journey’s end. Their faith has been tested over time and has borne fruit. Their testimony can strengthen us. Their wisdom, counsel and prayers can help us. Their love for Christ can stir our own. We need older brothers and sisters in the faith who can disciple us and encourage us to continue on. They are an important part of God’ provision for us in the church as we progress in our pilgrimage.

Christian will soon learn the value of the vantage point he now has at Palace Beautiful. In a short time he will be languishing through valleys and dark places where the view is not pleasant or clear. He will need to remember the heights that lie before him and keep the glory of his King in view to encourage him to press on and not lose heart.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2014 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Into the Armory

The next day they took him and had him into the armory, where they showed him all manner of furniture, which their Lord had provided for pilgrims, as sword, shield, helmet, breastplate, ALL-PRAYER, and shoes that would not wear out. And there was here enough of this to harness out as many men for the service of their Lord as there be stars in the heaven for multitude.

They also showed him some of the engines with which some of his servants had done wonderful things. They showed him Moses’ rod; the hammer and nail with which Jael slew Sisera; the pitchers, trumpets, and lamps too, with which Gideon put to flight the armies of Midian. Then they showed him the ox’s goad wherewith Shamgar slew six hundred men. They showed him also the jaw-bone with which Samson did such mighty feats. They showed him, moreover, the sling and stone with which David slew Goliath of Gath; and the sword, also, with which their Lord will kill the Man of Sin, in the day that he shall rise up to the prey. They showed him, besides, many excellent things, with which Christian was much delighted. This done, they went to their rest again.

Armory at House BeautifulAs Christian continues his tour of Palace Beautiful, the family takes him into the armory. Here Christian sees vast weapons of warfare and notable armaments from past and future conflicts. Learning to wear the armor and wield the weapons provided by his Lord will be crucial for Christian to successfully complete his journey.

The presence of the armory at Palace Beautiful highlights an important reality. Living the Christian life is a battle. We must daily fight against temptation and sin. We have an enemy of our souls who desires to keep us from our intended destination. Christian learned this lesson earlier in his pilgrimage while he was at the House of the Interpreter. He was shown a Stately Palace and watched as a valiant man fought past enemies to gain entrance. Like the valiant man, we must resist the enemy, “fight the good fight of faith” and “lay hold of eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:12).

Christian saw something else in the lesson at the Interpreter’s House. The valiant man was equipped and prepared for battle. Before he rushed the door of the Stately Palace, he drew his Sword and put on his Helmet. Now at Palace Beautiful Christian sees how his King fits His servants for battle. We are not capable of resisting the enemy in our own strength and resources. On our own we will fail and fall. But God has provided in Christ all we need to fight this battle.

Bunyan’s description of our weapons for war points us again to the Word of God. In Ephesians 6 Paul explains the armor of God that we must put on to stand firm against sin and Satan.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Paul draws these weapons of spiritual warfare from the Old Testament. He uses words and phrase from passages that speak of Christ, the coming Messiah and Redeemer. Paul helps us make an important connection: the armor we need to engage in spiritual warfare is Christ Himself.

The prophet Isaiah describes Jesus as “a Rod from the stem of Jesse” and “a Branch” that grows “out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1). We read in 11:5 “Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.”

In chapter 59 Isaiah testifies: “The Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save” (59:1). When God sees the failings and sufferings of Israel, He Himself raises up a champion for justice and truth.

He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
(Isaiah 59:16)

Isaiah describes how this Warrior is clothed:

For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,
And was clad with zeal as a cloak.
(Isaiah 59:17)

There is a Redeemer who “will come to Zion” (59:20). This is the Redeemer we need. We need to put on His truth as our belt. We need dressed in His righteousness as our breastplate. We need His salvation as our helmet. We need faith in Him to shield and protect us. We need to devote ourselves to prayer in His name. We need to take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” the very weapon the Savior used against the devil when he was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11). And we need feet prepared to carry His gospel to the ends of the earth.

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
(Isaiah 52:7)

The provisions that God has given us in Christ will never wear out or run short. There is no end to the supply of what we need to fight the spiritual battles of this life. There is an abundance to the strength and might of Christ in the gospel that will clad “as many men for the service of their Lord as there be stars in the heaven for multitude.”

In the armory Christian sees the testimony of God’s provision reaching back through history. He marvels at some of the unusual weapons supplied by God in the Old Testament. He sees the rod of Moses (Exodus 4:1-5, 17, 20; 7:8-12), the hammer and nail used by Jael to slay Sisera (Judges 4:21), the pitchers, trumpets and lamps used by Gideon to scatter the armies of Midian (Judges 7:19-22), the oxgoad used by Shamgar to kill six hundred men (Judges 3:31), the jaw-bone of a donkey used by Samson to kill a thousand men (Judges 15:15), and the sling and stone used by David to slay the giant Goliath of Gath (1 Samuel 17:40).

Christian also sees the sword by which the Lord will bring judgment upon the nations. The apostle John describes the scene in Revelation 19:

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:11-16).

The armory underscores our need to be watchful and courageous in our pilgrimage. And it reminds us that we cannot and must not engage this battle in our own strength. We need the might and power only God can provide in Christ. Spiritual warfare calls for spiritual weapons.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

We must fight this battle daily, walking in the light of the gospel and living together for Christ in the church.

But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him” (1 Thessalonians 5:8-10).

Christian will soon discover the value of the armaments supplied by His King. To reach his journey’s end, he must first descend into the Valley of Humiliation. There he will face his fiercest foe.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2014 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Instruction at Palace Beautiful

So in the morning they all got up; and, after some more discourse, they told him that he should not depart till they had shown him the rarities of that place. And first they had him into the study, where they showed him records of the greatest antiquity; in which, as I remember my dream, they showed him first the pedigree of the Lord of the hill, that He was the Son of the Ancient of Days, and came by that eternal generation. Here also was more fully recorded the acts that He had done, and the names of many hundreds that He had taken into his service; and how He had placed them in such habitations that could neither by length of days, nor decays of nature, be dissolved.

Then they read to him some of the worthy acts that some of His servants had done: as, how they had “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”

They then read again, in another part of the records of the house, where it was showed how willing their Lord was to receive into His favor any, even any, though they in time past had offered great affronts to his person and proceedings. Here also were several other histories of many other famous things, of all which Christian had a view; as of things both ancient and modern; together with prophecies and predictions of things that have their certain accomplishment, both to the dread and amazement of enemies, and the comfort and solace of pilgrims.

Instruction at Palace BeautifulAfter a restful night in the chamber of Peace, Christian awakes to discover more of the joys of Palace Beautiful. Before Christian departs to continue his journey, the members of the household desire him to see “the rarities of that place” (the valuables and treasures of the house). They take him first into the study. The study represents the preaching and teaching ministry of the church and the “records of the greatest antiquity” are the Word of God.

Scripture is a true treasure to pilgrims.

I rejoice at Your word
As one who finds great treasure.
(Psalm 119:162)

The study of Scripture is vital to the life of a pilgrim. Christian learned this lesson earlier in his pilgrimage when he spent time at the House of the Interpreter (Bunyan’s depiction of the Bible and the Spirit’s work to illumine the Bible to our understanding). At the Interpreter’s House Christian was also encouraged to stay longer and not depart until he had seen and learned valuable lessons that would serve him on his journey.

In the study at Palace Beautiful Christian sits under the instruction of God’s Word. He hears the message of the gospel: who Jesus is, what He has done, and why that matters.

Jesus is the Son of the Ancient of Days, a reference to Daniel 7:

I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
(Daniel 7:13)

He is the only begotten of the Father, who has come to rescue sinners from death and give them everlasting life.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

In Christ God has “qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Colossians 1:12). In Christ “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13).

It is Christ who is preeminent in all things and Head of the church.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence (Colossians 1:15-18).

As the instruction at Palace Beautiful continues, the family reads from the book of Hebrews. Christian is comforted by the testimonies of God’s people who walked by faith and believed God’s Word.

And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth (Hebrews 11:32-38).

And Christian hears again the marvelous invitation of the gospel. God has grace and mercy for sinners because of Christ.

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11).

Jesus welcomes and is willing to receive all who come to Him for life and forgiveness!

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out (John 6:37).

This is the good news of the gospel. God has grace in abundance. The Gospel of grace in Christ Jesus is the treasure cherished at Palace Beautiful. It is the message of hope and salvation we proclaim. The Gospel is a unique treasure. We are made richer by sharing it. May we ever walk in its light by faith and freely share it with all who will hear and come.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2014 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Lessons from the Psalm Inscriptions: Introduction

To the Chief Musician

Lessons from the Psalm Inscriptions
In Leading God’s People in Prayer and Praise

Introduction: Why Consider the Psalm Inscriptions?

The psalms are a rich source of devotion and worship. Throughout history they have taught God’s people how to sing and pray and praise. They lifted the voice of Israel in worship through the Old Testament, comprising the songbook of the Temple. The psalms spoke of Christ and prepared the way for His coming (Luke 24:44). They are mentioned first among the music of the church in the New Testament (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16). We are exhorted to sing them in light of their full expression and fulfillment in Christ. The psalms teach us how and what to sing, as our hearts are drawn out and our affections are raised in the presence and power of God. They are a treasure for the Christian and we should turn to them often.

Many of the psalms include inscriptions, headings that appear at the beginning, added when the Psalter was complied and the psalms were ordered for use in worship in the Temple. The Book of Psalms is divided into five sections, each ending with a doxology: I (1-41), II (42-72), III (73-89), IV (90-106), V (107-150). [1] The majority of the psalm titles appear in the first two books as indicated in the following table:

Psalms Titles Chart

As noted in the table above, some of the psalms have more than one inscription. In the entirety of the 150 Psalms there are a total of 337 inscriptions attached to the beginning of 116 of the psalms. Many of the headings were likely fixed to the psalms by the authors. Others may have been added at a later time as the psalms were gathered into collections and finally put into their present form. The headings were attached to the individual psalms to add explanation and clarity as the psalms became part of the corporate worship of Israel. These inscriptions offer insight as we sing the psalms and embrace them as our own expressions of worship.

Unfortunately the psalm inscriptions tend to be overlooked in the study of the psalms. The rich theological content and poetic beauty in the psalms themselves have held the interest of scholars and theologians, but the headings are often subject to mere cursory mentions.

There are several possible reasons for this:

  1. The inscriptions are considered to be secondary additions to the psalms and of limited value.
  2. The inscriptions focus more on musical matters and are of less interest to theologians and commentators than the rich texts of the psalms themselves.
  3. The inscriptions remain the subject of a wide array of speculation.

The meanings of some of the terms and phrases found in the inscriptions are uncertain and elusive. Some of the mystery surrounding the inscriptions lies in a loss of knowledge of the practice and performance of music in the Temple. Even by the 3rd century BC, when the Septuagint (LXX) [2], the Greek translation of the Old Testament, was made, the titles were already regarded as ancient and many of the terms found in the titles were not understood. Some of the translations supplied by the LXX appear arbitrary and misinformed. Commentator Peter Craigie suggests that the poor translations of the psalm headings may “indicate a lack of musical or liturgical knowledge on the part of the translators, or the lack of equivalent or appropriate terminology in the Greek language.” [3] According to Idelsohn this lack of knowledge was exacerbated by the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem.

A short time after the destruction of the Temple the entire art of the instrumental music of the Levites fell into oblivion; and two generations later the sages lost all technical knowledge and all sense of the reality of that silenced music. [4]

Lack of musical knowledge has led some commentators to embrace many untenable theories concerning the meaning of the terms. Speaking of the commentators, Alfred Sendrey comments:

Whenever they were guided mainly by musical considerations, they were able, in most cases, to offer natural as well as logical interpretations. In other instances, they were bound to lose themselves in fruitless speculations, which necessarily ended in a blind alley. [5]

Though the precise meaning of many of the inscriptions remains a mystery, they are still a valuable aid in understanding the psalms. The psalm titles are part of the canon of Scripture. In the Hebrew (Masoretic) text they are included in (or as) the first verse of each psalm which has a title. They are therefore a part of God’s revelation and to some degree profitable for the people of God, especially to those concerned with serving God through music.

This series of posts will explore the psalm inscriptions under five categories.

I. DESIGNATION: Those titles using the Hebrew preposition לֹ lamed.  They can denote the author(s) of the psalm, the recipient(s) of the psalm, to whom the psalm is dedicated, or possibly whom the psalm is about.

II. DESCRIPTION: Titles that state the type of poetic genre or musical composition. [psalm, maschil, song, praise, prayer, testimony, michtam]

III. EXPLANATION: Titles that provide a historical connection for the psalm. They relate the circumstances surrounding the composition of the psalm.

IV. APPLICATION: Titles that indicate the liturgical, devotional or didactic use of the psalm. [For the Sabbath Day, To Bring Remembrance, Of the Ascents]

V. INTERPRETATION: Titles that explain how the psalm should be musically interpreted or performed. [On Flutes, With Stringed Instruments]

[Download a PDF list of Psalm Inscriptions highlighted by category]

The psalm inscriptions present an intriguing study for musicians and worship leaders. As we survey the inscriptions in upcoming posts, we will aim to answer three basic questions:

What do the inscriptions reveal about the use of poetry and music in the life and worship practices of ancient Israel?

Do the inscriptions have relevance for worship practices today?

What can the inscriptions teach us, especially in regard to composing, arranging and planning music for worship?

Notes:

[1] The Doxologies are found in 41:13, 72:18-19, 89:52, 106:48, and 150:1-6.
[2] The LXX was widely used during the time of Christ and is often quoted in the New Testament
[3] Peter C. Craigie, Psalm 1-50, Word Biblical Commentary, eds. David A. Hubbard, et al., vol. 19 (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1983), 33.
[4] Abraham Z. Idelsohn, Jewish Music: Its Historical Development (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1929; reprint, New York: Dover Publications, 1992), 19.
[5] Alfred Sendrey, Music in Ancient Israel (New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1969), 137. For a more thorough survey of suggested meanings for the psalm titles, see, 93-158.

This series is based on a seminar paper for “Special Research in Church Music” at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (May 1995).

See a Table of Contents for this series: Lessons from the Psalm Inscriptions

(Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV) ©2001 by Crossway)

Rest at Palace Beautiful

Thus they discoursed together till late at night; and after they had committed themselves to their Lord for protection, they betook themselves to rest. The Pilgrim they laid in a large upper chamber, whose window opened towards the sun-rising. The name of the chamber was Peace; where he slept till break of day, and then he awoke and sang:

“Where am I now? Is this the love and care
Of Jesus for the men that pilgrims are?
Thus to provide! That I should be forgiven!
And dwell already the next door to heaven!”

Following supper, Christian continues the conversation with the family at Palace Beautiful until late in the evening. The opportunities we have to fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ are precious and valuable. We should not rush through them or take them for granted, but savor the time we have together.

As the family prepares to sleep, they trust themselves to the Lord.

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4:8)

I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.
(Psalm 3:5)

Window of PeaceThe spacious upper chamber where Christian finds rest represents Christ. Its window opens to the rising sun. Jesus is the “sun of righteousness” who rises “with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2). He is the light of the world (Isaiah 60:1; John 8:12), the Dayspring who gives “light to those who sit in darkness” (Luke 1:78-79, Isaiah 9:2).

Christian’s bedchamber is called “Peace.”

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
(Isaiah 26:3)

Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). In Him we find rest for our souls; He tells us:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29).

Peace is a gift of Christ (John 14:27) and a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). And peace is a hallmark of Christ’s church. Most of the letters in the New Testament, written to encourage and instruct the churches, begin with a reference to peace: Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 3; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:2; 2 John 3; Jude 2; Revelation 1:4.

Paul exhorts us, as we fellowship and walk together in the church, to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). The peace and unity we share in household of God is a demonstration of the power of gospel. It is a miracle of grace that God can take diverse and sinful people and make us one in Christ. It is Jesus Himself who is our peace, who rescues us from sin and selfishness and unites us together as His people for His glory. Paul explains:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2:13-18).

It is Jesus who cares and loves us. He is our Savior and Redeemer. It is He who brings us near to God and near to one another in the family of God. As with Christian in Bunyan’s story, this truth should stir our hearts with joy and song.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2014 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Supper at Palace Beautiful

Now I saw in my dream, that thus they sat talking together until supper was ready. So when they had made ready, they sat down to meat. Now the table was furnished “with fat things, and with wine that was well refined.” And all their talk at the table was about the Lord of the hill; as, namely, about what He had done, and wherefore He did what He did, and why He had built that house. And by what they said, I perceived that He had been a great warrior, and had fought with and slain “him that had the power of death,” but not without great danger to Himself, which made me love Him the more.

For, as they said, and as I believe (said Christian), He did it with the loss of much blood; but that which put glory of grace into all He did, was, that He did it out of pure love to His country. And besides, there were some of them of the household that said they had been and spoke with him since He did die on the cross; and they have attested that they had it from His own lips, that He is such a lover of poor pilgrims, that the like is not to be found from the east to the west.

They, moreover, gave an instance of what they affirmed, and that was, he had stripped Himself of His glory, that He might do this for the poor; and that they heard Him say and affirm, “that He would not dwell in the mountain of Zion alone.” They said, moreover, that He had made many pilgrims princes, though by nature they were beggars born, and their original had been the dunghill.

Supper at House BeautifulAfter Prudence, Piety and Charity question Christian and examine his life and testimony, the family comes together for a meal. From its earliest days the church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). The meal at Palace Beautiful represents the fellowship that believers share together in Christ, especially in the regular observance of the Lord’s Supper.

The table displays God’s abundant provision for us in Christ. It is described as rich and sumptuous, “furnished with fat things, and with wine that was well refined.” Bunyan draws his imagery from Isaiah:

And in this mountain
The LORD of hosts will make for all people
A feast of choice pieces,
A feast of wines on the lees,
Of fat things full of marrow,
Of well-refined wines on the lees.
(Isaiah 25:6)

The conversation at the table centers on Christ, “the Lord of the Hill.” It is all about the gospel: who Jesus is, what He has done, and why that matters. Bunyan highlights several truths of the gospel from Scripture in his description:

It is in Jesus, coming to save us, where we see the glory of God’s grace displayed:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Jesus is the Master Builder of Palace Beautiful (Matthew 16:18) and its Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). He is the Great Warrior who took on flesh and stood in our place, defeating death and triumphing over the evil one.

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Hebrews 2:14-15).

At the supper we are reminded that it is Jesus who redeemed us by His shed blood and broken body on the cross.

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19-20).

It is Jesus who brings us near to God.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13).

We have the testimony of Paul and others of the household of faith who saw Jesus raised from the dead that this gospel is true:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

It is the testimony of those gathered at the table that our Savior is “a lover of poor pilgrims.” Christ “loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). The Apostle John records:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end (John 13:1).

Christ is building His church “and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The success of His mission is assured. He will “not dwell in the mountain of Zion alone.”

For God will save Zion
And build the cities of Judah,
That they may dwell there and possess it.
(Psalms 69:35)

He is able to raise up a beggar to be a prince.

He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory.
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S,
And He has set the world upon them.
(1 Samuel 2:8)

He raises the poor out of the dust,
And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,
That He may seat him with princes—
With the princes of His people.
(Psalm 113:7-8)

At every point in Bunyan’s description of the supper at Palace Beautiful our attention is drawn to Christ. Jesus is at the heart of the love and joy we share together in the church. Our fellowship is in Him (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:3). It is He who rescues us from sin and makes us sons and daughters of His Kingdom. Our lives display the power of His gospel as trophies of His grace and mercy. The table reminds us that we never get beyond our need for the gospel. We need to keep it on our lips and ringing in our ears. It is Jesus we remember as we proclaim His death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:25-26).

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2014 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Come You Thirsty, Come to Christ

The Featured Song for August is a hymn based on Jeremiah 2:13 and Psalm 36. There is nothing more satisfying in life than coming to God, the “Fountain of Living Waters.” All other pursuits will prove empty and dry in comparison.

Check out the lyric video on youtube:

And download the music from bandcamp:

Click here to download lyrics and free sheet music: including song sheet, chord chart and music arranged for classical guitar.

—Ken Puls

 

Worship Piano and Forte

Worship Piano and Forte

Scripture compels us to “Shout to God will loud songs of joy” (Psalm 47:1). But when we lift our voices and play our instruments in praise to God, how loud is too loud? Especially in venues that benefit from amplification and sound systems, is there a right sound level for music in worship? There are many opinions and preferences in our day. Some like the volume turned up; others want it kept at a minimum.

Judgment of volume is both objective and subjective. Objectively volume can be measured with a decibel meter and compared to standards. We certainly want to keep the volume within safe and acceptable ranges for hearing. Also the kind and number of instruments we use will affect the volume. A worship band will put out more sound than a single guitar. A pipe organ can soar to much higher levels than a piano. Subjectively, our judgment can be affected by familiarity and preference. We tend to turn up the volume on songs we know and songs we like. We turn down songs we don’t like. Perception also plays a role in our judgment of volume. A worship band playing at 90 dBA might seem loud to us, while a pipe organ playing at 95 dBA seems glorious.

So when does loud become too loud? While there is no one right level for every venue and every congregation, there are some principles that can help bring clarity to the question of sound levels.

These are five principles to follow in setting volume:

1. Clarity

The first priority is clarity, especially if our music is accompanying text. Aim to make the lyrics clear. In Colossians 3:16 Paul tells us to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” In the parallel verse, Ephesians 5:19, he speaks of “addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” Our music carries the Word of God as well as our response to the Word in prayer and praise. We must the deliver and respond to the Word in a way that people can comprehend what is being said. Always when music is joined to text, keep the vocals up in the mix so every word is understandable and able to be heard. In all elements of the service—preaching, praying, singing—aim to make the words clear.

2. Variation

Aim to vary the volume in the service, especially during the music. Don’t make every song loud, and don’t make every song soft. Vary the instrumentation as you are able: sometimes voices alone (no instruments), sometimes with only one or two instruments accompanying, and sometimes with a larger group of musicians. We see in Scripture a wide range of dynamics in worship. There are times for quiet and stillness:

For God alone my soul waits in silence
(Psalms 62:1a, 5a)

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him
(Psalms 37:7a)

Be still, and know that I am God
(Psalms 46:10a)

And there are times to sing aloud and shout for joy:

Sing aloud to God our strength;
shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
and let your saints shout for joy.
(Psalms 81:1)

And praise with loud clashing cymbals:

Praise him with sounding cymbals;
Praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
(Psalms 150:5 )

In Deuteronomy the people of God were told:

Keep silence and hear, O Israel: this day you have become the people of the LORD your God (Deuteronomy 27:9).

In 2 Chronicles:

They swore an oath to the LORD with a loud voice and with shouting and with trumpets and with horns (2 Chronicles 15:14).

At the dedication of Solomon’s temple “120 priests who were trumpeters” join with singers, cymbals and other musical instruments to “make themselves heard in unison” (2 Chronicles 5:12–14).

At the laying of the foundation of the temple in Ezra after the return from exile:

… the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away (Ezra 3:13).

And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away (Nehemiah 12:43).

In Heaven there is both silence and overwhelming sound:

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour (Revelation 8:1).

And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps (Revelation 14:2).

Even God Himself displays a range of dynamics:

The LORD your God is in your midst,
A Mighty One who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17)

Our worship should exemplify the full range of dynamics found in God’s Word.

3. Appropriateness

Along with variation, aim for appropriateness with volume. Be loud when you should be loud, and be soft when you should be soft. It is the worship leader’s responsibility to give direction for dynamics in the singing. There are times for restraint, times to pull back or not play at all. And there are times to soar, times to play as David did, with all our might (1 Chronicles 13:8).

The volume should make sense with what we are doing and saying in our music. Some songs require softness and gentleness. Others demand energy and loudness. Some can be sung either soft or loud depending on the moment. Music serves to emotionally express and interpret the text. We must be sensitive to and intentional with dynamics and musical texture so the music can serve the Word and not distract from it. Even in the same song, vary the dynamics. Take time to arrange the song in ways that will allow the music to convey and bring out the meaning of the words. Vary the instrumentation and harmonies to create dynamic contrast. Allow parts of the song to pull back and then build as makes sense with the words. Aim for appropriateness with the volume and instrumentation, so the music is fitting and not frustrating, helpful and not a hindrance.

4. Ministry

Aim to serve the congregation well. While you will not be able to suit everyone’s preference for every song regarding volume, remember you are there to help them voice their songs to God in worship. The church is gathered to give glory to God, not marvel at the sounds and riffs of the musicians. Set levels that will serve the church family—that will draw them in and encourage them to participate.

The music should be loud enough, even when soft, to be heard and to the support the singing of the whole church. Most of the time the music should be soft enough, even when loud, so the congregation can hear themselves singing.

5. Excellence

Finally, aim for excellence. Never substitute volume for preparedness and confidence. Volume (too soft or too loud) can certainly affect congregational singing. But volume isn’t the real killer of congregational participation, uncertainty with the musicians is. Be sure the musicians are well-prepared and the songs are arranged and presented well. Take time to practice and rehearse. Be sure everyone knows the songs and knows the arrangements, knows when to play and when not to play. As the musicians lead out with certainty—hearts and minds in tune to praise, the church family will follow. When the musicians seem unsure or unengaged themselves in worship, the people will hesitate and hold back. There are certainly times to bring loud praise to God, but at all times aim for excellence and give your best.

Sing to him a new song;
Play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
(Psalm 33:3)

Scripture quotations are from the Holy BIble, English Standard Version (ESV) ©2001 by Crossway.

Music and Resources for Worship