The Global Message of The Psalms

The Psalms are a resounding call for all God’s people and for all the world to sing! We are called to sing songs of confession and trust in God; to sing songs of thanksgiving and praise. The Psalms summon the global church to take up the cause of calling the world to join in such global and eternal songs of trust in, delight in, and worship of God for his magnificence—especially his magnificence displayed in his saving mercy.

Songs of Honest Lament

There is a surprising degree of honesty found in the prayers and songs of the Psalms. We find honest lament to God, with frequent repetition of questions such as “Why?” and “How long?” The psalmist asks in Psalm 42:9, “Why have you forgotten me?” Another psalm wonders, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (10:1; see also 88:14). “How long, O Lord?” is a frequent cry to God in the Psalms (see 6:3; 13:1; 79:5; 89:46).

Such prayers flow from desperately challenging situations, in which life feels overwhelming. Yet they also reflect the confident expectations of our honest cries to our compassionate and faithful God. The Lord invites his people worldwide to be boldly transparent before him—no masks, no pretense—even when the heart is breaking. He promises never to abandon those who belong to him.

Songs of Repentance and Trust

Songs of repentance are scattered throughout the Psalms. In such songs there are confessions of corporate sin—“Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness” (Ps. 106:6)—and individual songs of penitence (Psalms 6; 25; 32; 38; 51; 130; 143). These are not hopeless laments, but cries to a God who is a gracious deliverer (6:4), who deals with us according to his great love and mercy (51:1), and whose forgiveness flows from his goodness and not ours (130:3–4).

There is abundant reason to trust such a God for every good thing and in every situation (Psalm 23). To such a God we turn in times of great trouble, when we are at an utter loss in this fallen world. When enemies surround us and there is no one to help, God is our hope for deliverance (Psalm 22). Whether the desperate individual (Psalm 13) or the destitute community (Psalm 12) is in view, God is faithful to his promises. His steadfast love endures. He is worthy of our songs!

Songs of Thanksgiving and Praise

The Psalms are a divinely orchestrated hymnbook of thanksgiving and praise for God’s people. The covenant people of God return thanks to God for his wonderful deeds of deliverance, justice, and defense (Psalm 9), and for his favor and mercies (30:5, 7, 8, 10). All of this moves his people to burst into songs of joy and glad dancing (30:11–12).

In the Psalms, the people of God rejoice in all that God is and all that he has done. These songs of praise exalt God for his unsearchable greatness, his glorious splendor, and his awesome deeds (Ps. 145:3–6). He is worshiped as the King over all creation (93:1),the eternal King (10:16), the King of glory (24:8, 10), the King of all the earth (47:7), and the great King above all gods (95:3).

The Global Message of the Psalms

For all God’s people. The global message of the Psalms is that in light of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness there is a song to be sung by all God’s people everywhere—whatever their circumstances, whatever their emotions, whatever their adversity. The song to be sung will be of varied themes: lament, confession, repentance, thanksgiving, or praise to God. All of these, however, are songs of worship, expressing the universal experiences of God’s people. This is worship of God by the individual and the community, local and global, young and old (Ps. 148:12), now and forever (89:52). For a lost world filled with rebellion and sorrow, there is no greater remedy than a song that brings those who sing it to take refuge in God himself: a song for the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner, the sojourner, the widow, and the fatherless (146:7–9).

A new song. The message of the Psalms is a call to the whole world to “Sing a new song!” “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!” (Ps. 96:1). This is not a song of empty promises, but a song full of hope, a song exulting in the salvation of a covenant keeping and merciful God; not a song that fades, but an enduring, eternal song; a song of a God who lifts us out of mud and mire (69:2, 14).

Celebrating salvation. The book of Psalms opens with a picture of the two ways of life—the blessed and fruitful life of the one who delights in God, and the fleeting life of the wicked who (apart from God) stand condemned (Psalm 1). The world is called to set aside folly and to join in the life and song of the Redeemer, celebrating the salvation that is rooted in the sacrifice of the Savior (Psalm 22). This new song has been sung down through the ages; it continues today throughout the world; and it will one day be sung in the very throne room of God (Rev. 14:3).

Summoning the Nations

To the ends of the earth. The global church has a message for the world: join in this song! It is a celebration that will generate further praise—globally, generationally, and eternally. The church is to “declare his glory among the nations!” (Ps. 96:3). From Israel to the Christian church today to the global kingdom that will one day be known to the very ends of the earth, the redeemed of the Lord will come from every nation, tribe, people, and language, giving God thanks and celebrating his grace (Rev. 7:9).

For all nations. There is a message for the nations: “Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!” (Ps. 117:1). The Lord humbles the nations (9:5, 19, 20), but he extends to all an offer of mercy and grace. One day, the nations will become Christ’s inheritance (2:8). This song begins with us but it must not end with us. There is a glorious globalization of the worship of God that we are privileged to help advance. In Christ we have found fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (16:11). In turn we call the nations as well to be glad and sing for joy in him (67:4).

Fulfilled in Jesus. The love and mercy of God that forms the heart of the Psalms explodes onto history with the coming of Christ. It is in and through him that believers worldwide see God’s covenant faithfulness right before their eyes.

Spreading God’s glory. That glorious, global worship of God through Jesus Christ is not yet fully known or complete. Generating it is therefore our glad mission while on this earth. We will not rest till God’s glorious name is blessed forever and the whole earth is filled with his glory (Ps. 72:19).