The Power of Psalmody
I have recently repented of the sin of not singing Psalms. I have been in control of the music at two separate churches and have never led the people of God in singing Psalms. I have started to bring them into our regular worship set lists at church. They have benefited our congregation in more ways than one.
One of the interesting ways the Psalms have blessed me is by providing a new and interesting argument for what is falsely called “replacement theology.” The idea that believers (a.k.a. The Church) are now the true people of God rather than a pure ethnic people is supported by the fact that God commands Gentile believers to sing the Psalms.
This supports the position because the Psalms are filled with language for Israel. As we began singing through them, I noticed how often I was singing about Israel, but more than that, singing as if I belonged to Israel: and the thing is, I do.
To sing the Psalms will force one to identify as Israel, as Jacob, as part of God’s people. It will force one to claim the history of Patriarch’s as one’s own. Thus, when God has Gentiles sing the Psalms, He is inviting them to sing as Israel.
Gentiles Sing the Psalms
Before showing some examples of the kinds of things to which I refer, let me first establish my case that Gentiles must sing the Psalms.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.Ephesians 5:18-19
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.Colossians 3:16
Here we have Paul twice commanded two separate churches to sing Psalms as part of their music ministry in church. In fact, exclusive psalmody advocates argue that all three categories are actually referring only to the Psalms. I reject that position, but if true, it only strengthens my case here. Regardless, Paul commands us to sing “Psalms.”
Who is it being commanded to sing the Psalms, specifically? Colossae and Ephesus were both Gentile cities. It is safe to assume a large portion of these churches contained Gentile believers. Additionally, Ephesians has a large portion of the book dedicated to Jew-Gentile relations, and the Gentile portion is addressed specifically (Eph. 2:11). Therefore, we know the church in Ephesus had many Gentiles.
The last thing to note of importance is that neither of these books are specified to a Jewish audience in the introduction. Both are written to the broader category of the Saints, the faithful in Christ Jesus.
So as it stands, Gentile believers need to be singing Psalms. What then will Psalm singing require we Gentiles to confess?
A Sample of Psalms
This small portion of Psalms could be much longer. Almost anytime the Psalms address Israel, Jacob, or God’s people, my point is supported. This is only a small sample of the kinds of things Gentiles could not appropriately sing if dispensationalism were true.
I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!Psalm 22:22-23
This is the Psalm Jesus quotes on the cross and is one of the most regularly cited Psalms in the New Testament. Truly, it would be a shame not sing this Psalm. Yet, what does it require from Gentiles? It identifies us as belonging in the congregation, it identifies as us “brothers” with the Jewish author, and it identifies us as descendants of Jacob and Israel.
Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God.Psalm 50:7
To sing Psalm 50 is to identify as Israel, as belonging to God’s “people.”
O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. The Lord has remembered us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; he will bless those who fear the Lord, both the small and the great.Psalm 115:9-13
When a Christian congregation sings this psalm to one another, they will end up referring to each other as belonging to the houses of Aaron and Israel. We must call each other Israelites to sing this psalm.
Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds.Psalm 149:1-5
Here, Gentile singers refer to themselves as children of Zion, as Israel, calling God their King.
When Paul called Gentiles to sing these Psalms, did he do so knowing they would have to engage in dishonesty? From a dispensational perspective, Paul is asking Gentiles to lie in worship. Did Paul know this? Did Paul intend for us to sing these Psalms but to have all Gentile singers stop singing when Israel is identified? Did Paul not know a majority of the Psalms are from Israelites, about Israel, to Israel?
Clearly Paul was more than aware of this reality. But Paul knows that believers are spiritual Israel, we are the true people of God, in blessed covenant community with Him. We are Israel; we have been grafted into Israel. The church is now the sheep of God’s pasture. That is why the Psalms belong to us.