Thanks to Tom Cammenga for the inspiring article with his memories from our Psalter.
How interesting that in some instances his memories parallel mine! This is due, in part, to our common heritage in our primary and secondary education at Hope Protestant Reformed School and Covenant Christian High School.
How true it is that what we learn in our youth stays with us the rest of our life.
The appreciation of music is one of the great benefits of a biblically based, Reformed education. A biblical basis is taught in the area of music at all age levels. We have a rich heritage in our Psalter and the memorization of these psalms brings even richer meaning and comfort as we progress on our pilgrim’s journey.
The blessing of these songs we have learned pick at our heartstrings as we hear them in church and home, programs, weddings and funerals. Words cannot express the life-long blessing of learning good Reformed music in the home and school.
The Christian soldier is built up through the means of soul food. The music of the world doesn’t have this effect—it serves to arouse the sensual and worldly—however, Christian music feeds the soul and lifts us up to our heavenly Father on the wings of song. The theme of preaching and teaching is that it must have God and his Word as the center. In the larger sphere of school and home we are not limited to the Psalms because there is much music based on God’s Word. For example, did you know that the Messiah contains over 50 direct quotes from the Bible? Many hymns are based on scripture passages and are Reformed and scriptural. We need wisdom to pick and chose and have a responsibility to instruct our children to make wise choices in these areas.
However, “Psalm singing is a Reformed heritage, rooted in the desire to be faithful to the Holy Scriptures.” (Psalm Singing by Rev. J. Kortering) The following is a quote from John Calvin in defense of exclusive psalmody in divine worship:
“Wherefore, although we look far and wide and search on every hand, we shall not find better songs nor songs better suited to that end than the Psalms of David which the Holy Spirit made and uttered through him. And for this reason, when we sing them we may be certain that God puts the words, in our mouths as if himself sang in us to exalt his glory.”
Here are a few of my own personal memories from our beloved “Psalm” book.
#10 Is special to me because it was the first Psalter my piano teacher had me learn to play. Later in life, I learned to appreciate the beautiful message of God’s grace to his people.
#32 The association with this Psalter is mainly from the funerals of loved ones. We sang it at the funeral of my sister, brother, father and mother. The last verse is so meaningful. As we stand at the graveside and know that one day we will see his glorious face and view the glories that our loved ones are experiencing right now.
#67 The Psalter has several renditions of Psalm 25. They are all beautiful; however, this is my personal favorite. God’s promises are sure—“Grace and truth shall mark the way where the Lord his own will lead…” We cling to that promise in the hills and valleys of our life.
#73 The title of this Psalter “The Confidence of Faith” tells us this is an encouraging song to sing in times of discouragement. “Be strong, nor be thy heart dismayed…Yea trust and never fear.”
#83 Confession of sin is an essential part of our walk with the Lord. This Psalter is a paraphrase of Psalm 32 written by David. How blest are we when we know our sin is covered before Jehovah God because of the blood of the Lamb. Indeed, it thrills our heart to glorify our God with songs of salvation.
#100 If my memory serves me correctly, this was a favorite of my childhood pastor, Rev. Gerrit Vos. The title is the secret of tranquility—resting in the Lord with quiet trust.
#134 This Psalter speaks to me of the Sabbath and how we honor it. As a picture of the eternal Sabbath we go to God’s house and are fed from the green pastures of his Word.
An important element of that is also our fellowship with believers of like faith. We will do this is perfection in heaven—of which the Sabbath is a picture.
#75 Another “Sunday Psalter” that I love. It’s appropriate for all seven days to bless our God who “Holds our soul in life and upholds us in the strife.” How we need this reassurance in the church service on Sunday and every day as we carry out our life’s calling.
#187 This is an all-time favorite tune—it’s also the tune to a favorite hymn “Abide With Me.” The melody has a beautiful tenor and high tenor line that is gorgeous. The words speak of God’s attributes of lovingkindness and tender mercy. These attributes should be our also through the Holy Spirit that lives in our heart. The mark of a believer is that he demonstrates these attributes of his heavenly Father.
#200 is a favorite from my youngest years. In my mind’s eye I see my mother going up and down the keyboard when she played it and I wanted to learn how to do that! School children love to sing and march around the room to this tune. Also the tune to Onward Christian Soldiers, we are reminded of how we are soldiers in the Lord’s army and our Lord has dominion over all and is the King of kings. Our Psalter version is written a little “high” for many voices; this is easily remedied by playing the tune from a hymn book where it’s usually found in E-flat major which brings it down a half step and makes it easier to sing.
#204 Another personal favorite—the tune is beautiful and the words speak of God’s goodness. We have such comfort knowing that God holds our hand and is our refuge.
#222 The Psalms of praise and worship are favorites as well. The title is “Summons to Joyful Worship” and is a favorite to use in the prelude before the service.
#248 This was a favorite of our class as a young student. It speaks of God as our abode. What a beautiful picture that God covers us with his wings. This song is a good one to memorize so its words will come easily to us in times of trouble or persecution.
#263 The comment is made that the Psalter is lacking Christmas songs. This rendition of Psalm 98 is about our Redeemer. It doesn’t mention a babe in a manger but a Savior who has brought salvation. These are glad tidings indeed! And that’s the story of Christmas.
#306 The music is grand—the message even grander! We stand before the grandeur of a mighty God who reigns over all and on whom we rely every hour and every minute of every day of our lives. Recently, an arrangement of this Psalter has been a popular postlude after a wedding ceremony. The message is very appropriate as a couple starts down life’s pathway together.
#311 This psalm is fitting for offertory and worship—reminding us that all we have belongs to God and we are but stewards. As saints, our very lives are living sacrifices to God.
#345 In my youth, we sang this song in the Hudsonville PR Church when a serviceman would be leaving for deployment at wartime. It was and is a poignant reminder that God is our unsleeping guardian. What a timeless message that he will keep us safe whatever the future holds.
#349 Here we have another beautiful song to begin a prelude or a worship service. It speaks again of our love for the Lord’s house and to pray for Zion’s peace. To have peace in the church we need to walk humbly with our God and esteem others higher than ourselves. This is only possible through God’s own grace.
#359 My 3rd grade teacher taught us this song speaking of covenant blessings found in the children that God is pleased to give. How true that there is no greater joy than to see your children and grandchildren stalwart in the faith and walking in his truth.
#383 My apologies to Tom for duplicating one of his favorites. This is very special to me because my handicapped sister loved to sing it. I remember her singing “My life in all it’s perfect plan was ordered ere my days began.” That was her life’s testimony. She is now singing in glory. It taught me that all of God’s covenant children have a very special place in the hearts and homes of their loved ones.
#384 Several of our Psalter numbers have two tunes. This one is distinctive because both tunes are so beautiful and appropriate for the words. Who of us hasn’t felt God’s hand lead us to the right way when in the path of sin we stray? “Search me O Lord, and know my heart” is our prayer.
#406 This is another “Christmas” Psalter! The tune is Christmas and it is written by George Frederick Handel. The reference to various instruments reminds us to cultivate musical talents in our young children. The best time to develop talent is when one is young; and this skill will last a life-time. Parents and children be diligent in developing music talents.
#411 This doxology is beautiful. Psalm 150 again speaks of our praise to God through song and instruments. Clearly, music “plays” an important role in our life of thanksgiving.
#426 This Dutch Psalm was rendered at an all-school program given by Hope Protestant Reformed School. Once a year, we would make our annual trek downtown to practice in the big First PR Church. This was a highlight of the year and the teachers worked long and hard to teach us the songs and verses. The church would be almost full to capacity. There would be friends and loved ones looking from three sides from the balcony and the auditorium. We would be admonished to stand quietly when we stood up from the folding seats. This was a lesson in dignity that was expected in the Lord’s house. We would wait expectantly in the basement to take our turn and then for the Grand Finale the entire school would sing together. This song of love to God from Psalm 116 was sung whole-heartedly and brought tears to the eyes of many. It was a little picture of the beauty of heaven. I am filled with gratitude for all these precious songs that were committed to memory in my youth.
To God be all the glory.