One of the most encouraging recent developments in the worship of Reformed and Presbyterian churches is the revival of congregational Psalm singing. The introduction of quality Psalters, including The Trinity Psalter (Crown and Covenant, 1994), Sing Psalms (Free Church of Scotland, 2003), The Book of Psalms for Worship (Crown and Covenant, 2010), and The ARP Psalter with Bible Songs (Crown and Covenant, 2011) presented pastors, elders, and church musicians with an array of options to supplement offerings from traditional hymnals. The popular Trinity Psalter Hymnal (Crown and Covenant, 2018) combines the best of Christian hymnody with excellent settings of every Psalm in one convenient volume, leading even more congregations to join the chorus of those “singing the Lord’s song” (Ps. 137:4). Yet, as more churches include metrical Psalms in their worship, there is one form of praise that we cannot afford to neglect: The Christian Psalm.
Christian Psalms are singable settings of biblical Psalms that are embroidered with the beauty of the gospel. What we see promised in the types and shadows of David’s pen (along with the other psalmists), is fulfilled and brought into the light through the composing and singing of Christian Psalms. Sometimes, these versions are rather close to what we read in the Hebrew Psalter. Others are more like meditations or paraphrases that act as responses to the words of the biblical Psalms in light of Christ’s glorious work of redemption. Alongside of Psalms in their more natural sense, we should also include Christian Psalms in our worship because they are biblical, historical, and doxological.
Christian Psalms are Biblical
In Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Not only do we hear echoes from Hannah’s song (1 Sam. 2:1-10), according to Leland and Philip Ryken, “Mary borrows liberally from the language of the Psalms….to sing a new song of praise to her God as the Savior of the poor and humble.” We find similar connections to the Psalms in the songs of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79) and Simeon (Luke 2:29-32). In addition, the canticles celebrating the conquering Lamb in Revelation 4, 5, 7, 11, 15, and 19 are replete with references to the Psalms. Notice, for instance, in Rev. 7:15-17, the multiple allusions to the Hebrew Psalter that point to the abundant blessings flowing from David’s greater Son:
15 Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple (Ps. 134:1);
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence (Ps. 27:1, Ps. 91:1)
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat (Ps. 121:5, 6).
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water (Ps. 23:1-3),
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Christian Psalms are Historical
Building on the songs of praise found in both testaments, the Odes of Solomon (circa AD 70), which may be one of the earliest collections of Christian praise, take the basic structure of canonical Psalms and adorn them with glorious, but subtle, images of Christ and His gospel. Though not as prominent during the later Patristic and Medieval eras, Christian Psalms burst back onto the scene during the dawning of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther leads the way with excellent versions of Psalms 12, 14, 67, 124, 128, and 130. Without question, Luther’s signature contribution to Protestant praise is his Christian meditation on Psalm 46, “A Mighty Fortress Is our God” (1526). How stirring on Reformation Day, or any time, to sing of “that Word above all earthly powers…Christ Jesus…Lord Sabaoth,” Satan’s conqueror whose “kingdom is forever!” He truly is our “refuge and strength!” (Ps. 46:1).
The golden age of the Christian Psalm arises during the 18h Century with the publication of Isaac Watts’ Psalms of David Imitated: In the Language of the New Testament in 1719. Watts, widely considered “the father of the English hymn,” produced simple, yet luminous, Christ-exalting versions of Psalms 72 (“Jesus Shall Reign”), 90 (“Our God, Our Help in Ages Past”), 98 (“Joy to the World!”), 117 (“From All that Dwell Below the Skies”), and 118 (“This is the Day the Lord Has Made”). In total, he penned 338 Christian Psalms! Other hymnwriters followed Watts in composing Christian Psalms, including Charles Wesley, John Newton, James Montgomery, and Horatius Bonar. After studying these and drawing on my musical background, I have tried my hand at producing fresh Christian Psalms for my congregation.
Christian Psalms are Doxological
As demonstrated in Scripture and throughout the history of the church, Christian Psalms have occupied a precious place in the praise of God’s people. They “exemplify the Reformed doxological tradition at its best.”  There is great value in continuing to sing these classics as they exalt the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and coming again of our Savior. What could be better than bringing “honor and glory and blessing” to the worthy “Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 5:9-12)? By adorning the jewels of the gospel onto the beautiful fabric of the canonical Psalms, we glorify the Triune God in rehearsing the Father’s promises, singing of their fulfilment in His Son, and practicing for the Day of Christ’s coming. On that glorious day, we will join with the full multitude of the elect in a renewed version of Psalm 45:
Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and His Bride has made herself ready (Rev. 19:6-8).
Let us continue to compose and sing these biblical, historical, and doxological Psalms as we await the coming of the Bridegroom.
Editor’s Note: Over the next several weeks, the GRN blog will feature select reflections on psalms and hymns. These reflections are written by GRN General Council members and other friends from across the Presbyterian Church in America. May they inspire you and your churches to take up psalm-singing and renew your vigor in singing “to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19).
 The Literary Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 1537.
 Hughes Oliphant Old, Guides to the Reformed Tradition: Worship (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1984), 44.
 Harris, Rendell J. The Odes and Psalms of Solomon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911), 20.
 Hughes Oliphint Old, Guides to the Reformed Tradition: Worship, 48.
 For any who are interested, I have a collection entitled Christian Psalms for the 21st Century: A Collection of “New” Psalms set to Familiar Hymn Tunes that I am happy to share.
 Hughes Oliphint Old, Guides to the Reformed Tradition: Worship, 55.