“I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” – Psalm 9:2b
We live in a time where the so-called praise song is a prominent part of the evangelical church worship service. How are we to assess such songs? What criteria should we use to determine the appropriateness of such songs in the life and practice of God’s people? I would like to suggest that we may find some key insights to inform us by examining the praise songs of ancient Israel. In particular, I would like to focus on Psalm 9 today.
We note in the heading of Psalm 9 that it is attributed to King David and is to be sung to a certain tune or by a certain choral group. The phrase Muth-labben is ambiguous but clearly a musical direction. We also find a second musical term at the end of verse 16, Higgaion selah, likely a pause or interlude for meditation. This psalm expresses a determination and commitment as evidenced in the “I will” statements:
“I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart.”
“I will tell of your all your wonders.”
“I will be glad and rejoice in you.”
“I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.”
The object of all of these affirmations is the person and the work of God. The praise song is theocentric not anthropocentric: (1) It begins with the attitude of the worshipper / singer to recognize the magnitude of God’s deliverance and provision; (2) It extols the wonders of God evidenced in creation, redemption, and providential care in daily life; (3) It is exclusive to God alone; (4) It expresses reverence, awe and wonder at so great a deliverance from the perils of this life. (5) It is missional. That is, it envisions song among all the nations who bow the knee and sing to God alone.
Dr. Keith Wells is the Chaplain for Canto Deo and also a Professor at Denver Seminary.