Category Archives: Articles on Hymnody

Tozer on great Christian poetry

Tozer on great Christian poetry

In the preface to his Christian Book of Mystical Verse, A. W. Tozer writes, The hymns and poems found in here are mystical in that they are God-oriented; they begin with God, embrace the worshipping soul and return to God again. And they cover the full spectrum of religious feeling: fear, hope, penitence, aspiration, the longing… Continue Reading

The New Song

The New Song

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Sing to the Lord a New Song You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

In Psalm 96, David emphasized, through various poetic devices, the necessity of singing confidently about the Lord’s reign, even though it is not yet a present reality. He wants us to sing this way because in so doing, it shapes our hearts. A recognition and acknowledgment of the realities of Christ’s future reign causes us… Continue Reading

Parallelism in Psalm 96

Parallelism in Psalm 96

This entry is part 8 of 9 in the series Sing to the Lord a New Song You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Last week we looked at several aspects of how various poetic devices were used in Psalm 96 to shape the content and form the singer and listener. Many of these poetic devices are still used in poetry and hymnody today. The most common poetic device in Hebrew poetry is parallelism, which has been captured in… Continue Reading

May a Baptist (or any other Protestant) sing Catholic hymns?

May a Baptist (or any other Protestant) sing Catholic hymns?

A critic recently approached me about our hymnal and rebuked us for (among other things) including hymns written by Catholics in our hymnal. It is no secret that we include Catholic and Orthodox hymn texts. For example, we include the very ancient Te Deum (“Holy God, We Praise Thy Name”). We include works by or attributed to… Continue Reading

How Singing Forms Us

How Singing Forms Us

This entry is part 6 of 9 in the series Sing to the Lord a New Song You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

We have seen thus far that good hymns help us to express the affections of our hearts in response to God’s character and works, which brings him great glory he deserves, and that this kind of expression in public is a great witness to the unbelieving world. But there is a second reason that we… Continue Reading

Singing as a Response and Witness

Singing as a Response and Witness

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series Sing to the Lord a New Song You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Psalm 96 is a call to sing, and it gives us clear explanation of why we are supposed to sing. As we have already seen, the very structure of the psalm gives both calls to sing and reasons for that singing. So what, then, are the reasons David gives for singing to the Lord? Worthiness… Continue Reading

Singing: Response to Who God Is and What He Has Done

Singing: Response to Who God Is and What He Has Done

This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series Sing to the Lord a New Song You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

We are studying Psalm 96 in an attempt to answer the question, Why sing? Last week we saw that the unique power of singing is that it helps us to express affections of the heart in ways that would not be possible if we didn’t have song. Song gives us a language for the expression… Continue Reading

Two Views on Christ’s Invitation

Two Views on Christ’s Invitation

Below are two works of Christian imagination. Both attempt to depict what it means for Christ to invite sinners to Himself, and how sinners should understand themselves. On closer examination, however, they are nearly opposite in meaning. We do not see the same Christ, the same Gospel and the same dilemma of the sinner in… Continue Reading

An Enthronement Psalm

An Enthronement Psalm

This entry is part 2 of 9 in the series Sing to the Lord a New Song You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Psalm 96 was placed by the editors of the psalms in a series that are unified by a common poetic genre and theme. Psalms 93–100 are often referred to as “Enthronement Psalms,” since their central message is affirmation of God’s kingly reign over all things. This psalm in particular is an Enthronement Psalm directly connected… Continue Reading

Sing to the Lord a New Song

Sing to the Lord a New Song

This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series Sing to the Lord a New Song You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

It has always been a characteristic of God’s people that they are a singing people. This was Paul’s admonition when he commanded Christians in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 to sing. Early church father John Chrysostom emphasized the power of singing when he said, “Nothing so arouses the soul, gives it wings, sets it free… Continue Reading

What is a “traditional hymn”?

What is a “traditional hymn”?

A friend recently asked how I would define a “traditional hymn” in contrast to a “contemporary worship song,” so I thought I’d post my response here as well: The difference has nothing to do with when the song was written, which is why I actually don’t like “traditional” or “contemporary” as modifiers. I prefer to… Continue Reading

Aus Tiefer Not – “Out of the Depths”

Aus Tiefer Not – “Out of the Depths”

This entry is part 13 of 13 in the series Out of the Depths You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

For most of church history, singing songs of repentance was part of regular, weekly corporate worship, a practice with precedent in Psalms like Psalm 130. During the Reformation in particular, men like Martin Luther wrote songs of repentance, one of which is a paraphrase of Psalm 130. “Aus Tiefer Not”—“Out of the Depths”—was Luther’s German… Continue Reading

The Tradition of Singing Songs of Repentance

The Tradition of Singing Songs of Repentance

This entry is part 12 of 13 in the series Out of the Depths You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

We are coming to the end of our study of Psalm 130. Last week we saw that when you’re living in a state of unconfessed sin, or you are taking the grace and forgiveness of God for granted, a song of repentance may be just what you need to shake you out of your lethargy.… Continue Reading

A plea for singing hymns in family worship

A plea for singing hymns in family worship

It’s no secret that people sing much less than they used to. Generally, as a culture, we listen to a lot of music, but make very little. We leave music making to professionals. And this is to our loss as a society. In Wiser than Despair, Quentin Faulkner asks us to “Consider … the disappearance of community singing (whether… Continue Reading

Why We Sing Repentance

Why We Sing Repentance

This entry is part 10 of 13 in the series Out of the Depths You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Psalm 130, a corporate song of repentance, has shown us the power of art to both tell us what true repentance should be like and also show us artistically through use of metaphors, and repetition, careful word choice, and names for God. And this is why we sing. We sing not only to say right things, although… Continue Reading

Twelfth Hymn of Christmas: Behold, the Great Creator

Twelfth Hymn of Christmas: Behold, the Great Creator

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

“Behold, the Great Creator,” written by Thomas Pestel in 1539, juxtaposes the mystery of the Creator of all who made himself “a house of clay.” The tune, THIS ENDRIS NYGHT, is a beautiful English carol from the 15th century. Behold, the great Creator makes Himself a house of clay, a robe of virgin flesh He takes… Continue Reading

Eleventh Hymn of Christmas: Christians, Awake!

Eleventh Hymn of Christmas: Christians, Awake!

This entry is part 11 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

A lesser known Christmas hymn, “Christians, Awake!” retells the Luke 2 story in a powerful and vivid way. Medical doctor John Byrom wrote this text in 1749 simply as a devotional poem. The tune, YORKSHIRE, by John Wainwright, perfectly captures the exuberance of the text and the subject matter. Christians, awake! Salute the happy morn… Continue Reading

Tenth Hymn of Christmas: See Amid the Winter’s Snow

Tenth Hymn of Christmas: See Amid the Winter’s Snow

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Like Rosetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter,” Edward Caswall metaphorically connects the cold of winter to the condition of the earth at Jesus’s birth. He wrote “See Amid the Winter’s Snow” in 1858, a retelling of Luke 2 with some powerfully imagery like “Lo, within a manger lies He who built the starry skies.” See, amid… Continue Reading

Ninth Hymn of Christmas: All My Heart This Night Rejoices

Ninth Hymn of Christmas: All My Heart This Night Rejoices

This entry is part 9 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Written by German pastor Johann Gerhardt in 1653 and translated into English in 1858 by Catherine Winkworth, “All My Heart This Night Rejoices” explores the great value of the incarnation. Most poignantly, “He becomes the Lamb that taken sin away and for aye full atonement maketh.” All my heart this night rejoices as I hear… Continue Reading