Question #4: Why would you want to sing the Psalms since you can never sing the name of Jesus?

Question #4: Why would you want to sing the Psalms since you can never sing the name of Jesus?

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11 responses to “Question #4: Why would you want to sing the Psalms since you can never sing the name of Jesus?

  1. Believe it or not, this is one of the most common arguments against EP. I’ve heard it from several Reformed people who should know better. The Psalms are all about Christ, they were written for Him and by Him. Our Lord Himself taught us that He is to be found in the Psalms in Luke 24:44-45, “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures…” If you don’t see Christ in the Psalms, perhaps the problem lies within your own heart? Pray that Christ Himself will enable you to understand the Scriptures.

    Rather than being depressed that such a silly question is so commonly used by modern Christians, let us find encouragement in such an obvious opportunity to speak of Christ.

    There are many good responses written to this question. I will post as many as I can find.

  2. From William Romaine, The Exclusive Claims of David’s Psalms, p117.

    “The Book of Psalms is no less adapted to our situation and times than it was to the situation of Israelites, and the times of their national existence.”
    “There is no part of Scripture which brings the Saviour more fully to view than the Book of Psalms. The Psalms exhibit him, in his person, character, offices, and work. The assertion, is not conjectural: it is not supported by any fanciful interpretation of the Psalms, not by fallible authority, but by an inspired application of inspired language. When the Apostle of the Gentiles would teach the Hebrews the superiority of Christ to all angels—that he is “God over all, blessed for ever,” the object of worship in heaven and on earth, he appeals almost exclusively to the Book of Psalms. Of seven quotations, in the first chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, from the Old Testament, six are from the Psalms of David; and some have supposed that the seventh is from the same book. To show the necessary subserviency of the incarnation of Christ to the work of redemption, he refers to the Book of Psalms, in three cases out of four.”

    “If a full and perspicuous exhibition of the person and work, the trials and triumphs of the Captain of salvation, should recommend a collection of songs to the attention of Christians—if it argue their adaptation to the Christian church, as the matter of her praise, that recommendation belongs to the Book of Psalms in a preeminent degree. The preceding references may serve, in some measure, to remove the impression which would seem to have been made upon the minds of some, that an exhibition of the peculiarities of a typical dispensation is the most prominent feature of the Songs of Zion. The peculiarities of those Songs are the peculiarities of the everlasting covenant, and of the divine life.”

    “The subject of the Psalms, as a display of him who is all our salvation and all our desire, has, however, only been touched. Instead of proceeding from Psalm to Psalm, for the purpose of pointing out the Redeemer, brought forth directly or indirectly in almost all, (which would be tedious, though not otherwise difficult,) we shall take the more expeditious, and perhaps more profitable plan of laying down a general rule, by which it may with great facility be discovered when Christ is either the speaker or the object contemplated in any given Psalm. This rule is one taught by the Apostles, Peter and Paul: it is one which they united in employing in the interpretation of the language of the Psalms: it is one which, by consequence, is sanctioned by the Spirit. It is the Spirit’s rule for the legitimate exposition of his own words. Simplicity is its recommendation. The rule is this: When an expression is used in one of the Psalms, which is not true of the writer when the first person is used, nor of the apparent object contemplated by the writer, when the second or third person is used, it may safely be taken for granted that Jesus Christ, in the former case, is the speaker; in the latter, that he is addressed or spoken of.”

    “When the Book of Psalms is read in the light of Evangelists and Apostles, Christ will be found set forth in it very fully. If we look for a collection of Hymns or Psalms, or Spiritual Songs bringing the Saviour more fully, than he is brought to view in the Songs of Zion, we shall look in vain. To expect another exhibiting him with unerring correctness would be even more vain, if possible.”

  3. Here is a blog post by Iain Campbell on this subject.

  4. From Objections to the Exclusive Use of the Psalms in Worship by James A Grier, from The Psalms in Worship, ed. by John McNaugher

    “Third. It is said the name of Jesus does not appear in the Psalter. This is shown to be essentially incorrect, in that He is there called the Anointed, the Son, the Shepherd, and by various other names is personally distinguished. His work and mission are fully set forth, and everywhere He is viewed as the God of salvation, or the Saviour of men. It is a strange smallness in argument which insists on five vocal sounds, “Jesus, Saviour,” as being necessary to a satisfactory psalmody, when all the fullness of their meaning is displayed in the Book which is refused. Many names of the Saviour are there, and an inspired delineation of His saving work, but these are counted valueless unless a certain vocable, meaning no more, is there found. What is Jesus, the Man of Nazareth, except He be Messiah, discharging the mission of salvation? For what is He Messiah but to save? Why is He revealed as Son but to present Him as Saviour? For what purpose is He presented as Shepherd except to show His care for His people in salvation? And so I might proceed. There is a feebleness of sentimentalism about the character that can haggle over the need of a shadow where there is all the substance which nothing but the tonic of the Psalms themselves can cure.”

  5. From Eulogies on the Psalms by TH Hanna, from The Psalms in Worship, ed. by John McNaugher

    “Good Dr. Watts by his own Hymn-Book, so he tells us, tried to “make David talk like a Christian.” How gratuitous his efforts were, let these unprejudiced witnesses tell. Says Adam Clarke, LL. D. : “I know nothing like the Book of Psalms. It contains all the lengths, breadths, depths, and heights of Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dispensations.” Bishop Horsley says : “There is not a page of this Book of the Psalms in which the pious reader will not find his Saviour, if he read with a view of finding Him.” Delitzsch remarks : “There is nothing which comes to light in the New Testament which does not already exist in germ in the Psalms.” Augustine gave it as his conviction : “The voice of Christ and His Church is well-nigh the only voice to be heard in the Psalms.” The Bishop of Derry (Dr. Alexander) beautifully says : “The Golden Key of the Psalter lies in the pierced hand.” Tholuck makes this sweeping assertion : “Whatever truths or praises can be spoken or sung of the wisdom, eternity, omnipotence, holiness, justice, and mercy of God are expressed in the Psalms.” While Professor Moulton, of the University of Chicago, testifies thus : “The change from Judaism to Christianity is immense, but it is a change that has had no influence on the Book of Psalms. The modern Christian turns to it as naturally as the ancient Hebrew.” Surely, David talks pretty much like a Christian already.”

  6. From Objections to the Exclusive Use of the Psalms in Worship by J Know Montgomery, from The Psalms in Worship, ed. by John McNaugher

    “The objection that the Psalms are not definitely Christian amounts to a denial of the presence of Christ in them. But he who offers such an objection must be pitiably ignorant of the Psalter. Jesus Christ in His person and work, in His divine dignity and humiliation, sufferings and death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, is the great subject of the Psalms, and was evidently so understood to be by the early Christians. Bishop Alexander, in his “Witness of the Psalms to Christ,” tells us, as a result of a careful examination, that reference is made to the Book of Psalms, either by quotation or otherwise, in no fewer than 286 passages in the New Testament. It is inconceivable that the Spirit would have made such use of the Psalms in the New Testament if they are not definitely Christian, and it is a noteworthy fact that the life of the Early Church seemed to be steeped in the Psalms.

    But it is especially objected that the name of Jesus is lacking. The name of God does not appear in the Book of Esther, but he is blind who cannot see the hand of God in that book of providence. Jesus is in the Psalms, though He is not yet called by that name. He is there as Saviour, set forth fully in His threefold office of prophet, priest, and king. He is there as shepherd, feeding, leading, and protecting His people. Says one, “I am persuaded that the Psalms are nothing else so much as they are just the outpourings of the soul of the man Christ Jesus ; all the humiliations, trials, persecutions, sorrows, and agonies of His life are uttered here ; all the praise and joys and triumphs of His redemptive work are here given a voice and words.” “There is not,” says Bishop Horsley, “a page in this Book of Psalms in which the pious reader will not find his Saviour, if he reads with a view of finding Him.” “We are in these Psalms,” says another, “brought, as it were, into His closet, are made the witnesses of His secret devotions, and are enabled to see even the inward workings of His heart.” An eminent writer (Dr. Alexander) has said, “The golden key of the Psalter lies in a pierced hand.” “

  7. From Christ in the Psalms by Robert McWatty Russell, from The Psalms in Worship, ed. by John McNaugher

    “Much has been said about the absence of Christ from the Psalms, and the need, therefore, of songs presenting Him. There is much that is tender and seemingly commendable in this desire for fuller statement as to Christ’s person and work in our songs; but when we find that in our Saviour’s time the failure to see Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures was because of blindness, we may ask whether modern failure to find Him in the Psalms may not be attributable to the same cause. Our Lord certainly found the Psalms filled with references to Himself. He quotes David’s words from the Psalter to show that David called Him Lord, and that therefore He was more than David’s Son. In the quiet of the Upper Room with His disciples, in those precious hours after His resurrection, He emphasized His place in the thought of the whole Old Testament, saying, “These are My words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me.” There follows the declaration, “Then opened He their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures; and He said unto them, ‘ Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name unto all nations.’ ” “

  8. From The Devotional Use of the Psalms in Worship by Joseph Kyle, from The Psalms in Worship, ed. by John McNaugher

    “If one should make fairly allowable use of the key that Jesus Himself and Matthew and John and Peter and Paul employed in their interpretation of the Psalms, he might confidently undertake to find the Christ not only in every song, but in almost every stanza, of the Psalter. In the body of His flesh men failed to recognize the Son of God; so here as He is clothed in the garments of praise the human heart in many instances is too dull and slow to apprehend His presence; but He is here for all that. On account of failure to recognize this noteworthy characteristic of the Psalter Isaac Watts, in 1719, published a volume entitled The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament. As if the songs of the Spirit needed to be converted from law to grace! The commendation of Dr. Watts’ work, which Theodor Christlieb writes and Philip Schaff so willingly quotes, that his psalms have an “evangelical character,” that he “substitutes everywhere gospel for law,” and that where “the Psalmist speaks of sacrifice of bullocks and oxen he introduces the sacrifice of Christ,” has little weight when it is remembered that only twenty-one Psalms sing of service or of sacrifice in legal phrase in any sense or form or significance; that only thirty verses out of twenty-four hundred and forty-two in the Book of Psalms suggest in any wise the idea of sacrifice; that four of these thirty verses refer to idolatrous sacrifices, five others speak of legal sacrifice disparagingly as in itself of little or of no avail in God’s sight, and fifteen more use the language of the temple service exactly as Peter and Paul employ it in calling to Christian service; and that of the six verses remaining, five commend the bringing of animal sacrifice in general terms that are in keeping with the worship of the temple, which nevertheless admit and even suggest a thoroughly evangelical construction, while the one solitary strain that is left, — “Bind the sacrifice with cords even unto the horns of the altar,” is found in the verse next succeeding that which became the children’s choral in the temple courts as they welcomed Jesus Christ as David’s Son and Zion’s King, “Hosanna! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” In such a setting what is the need that Dr. Watts or any other should write into this stanza sentiment of “evangelical character.” “

  9. From A Correspondence on Psalmody by Rev. J.R. Lawson found here page 30
    “If the Psalms do not celebrate the name Jesus, they celebrate all that the name expresses. They celebrate Him in His Divinity as the Son of God — in His offices as Prophet, Priest and King — in His sufferings, resurrection, glorious ascension, and universal mediatorial dominion. The Psalms are full of Christ. There is no Book of the Old Testament so frequently quoted by the Redeemer and His apostles, and in every quotation the reference is to Him who saves His people from their sins. Is it not a puerile thing, then, to condemn the Psalms because they do not contain the name Jesus, whilst there is every thing to contemplate and admire which that name imports? What percentage of the hymns in common use celebrate the name Jesus? I have now before me the Scottish Hymnal, published by authority of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. I find 200 hymns in that collection. How many of these contain the name Jesus? Just 46 according to my numeration. That is to say — out of 200 hymns, “especially Christian,” there are 146 that make no mention of the name Jesus. Why do you not consign them to the Index Expurgatorius as unfit for a place in Christian hymnology?”

  10. I appreciate all you have said about Christ being in the Psalms and our need to understand this. In addition, isn’t it important to note Christ’s desire to sing about, and to, God the Father in the midst of the congregation? “For it was fitting that he (God the Father), for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation (Christ) perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin (God). That is why he (Christ) is not ashamed to call them (we who are sanctified) brothers, saying, ‘I will tell of your (the Father’s) name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise’. And again, ‘I will put my trust in him.’ And again, ‘Behold, I and the children God has given me'” (Hebrews 2:10-13). (Of course the author of Hebrews first quotes Psalm 22:22.)

    Also Romans 15:8,9—”For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.'”

    So I’m seeing that we are to exalt God the Son when we sing together, but surely must remember that the Son is all about speaking of the Father, and what he has done, in the congregation. We must be Trinitarian… maybe it’s partly because this has been forgotten or neglected that the idea of singing the Psalms is resisted? (Perhaps that was even Isaac Watts’ difficulty?!)

    Thank you for your website. It’s very informative, and I appreciate your desire to not let this issue disrupt the peace of a local body of believers—it has certainly become a far-removed and foreign issue, even among reformed believers.

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