At the conference I attended Friday and Saturday there was a worship leader, but rather an old-school one. We sang only hymns and were accompanied by only organ or in one case, with piano. While most of the hymns were traditional (by which I mean old) there were quite a few that were more modern. It was certainly different from the worship I have grown accustomed to and really hearkened back to my younger days when I attended a church that worshipped in that manner. Actually, I have to admit, I quite enjoyed it as a change of pace. While I do appreciate many modern worship songs, there is something pretty special about the hymns and about placing the focus on the words rather than on the music. And those Presbyterians can sing!
Before each song the worship leader said a few words about the hymn we were about to sing – often introducing the theme of the hymn and saying a few words about the author. At one point we sang a hymn penned by Isaac Watts and the leader said something that really stuck with me. The hymn was actually an interpretation of one of the Psalms, and I regret to say I do not recall which one. But what he said was something along the lines of “when we sing songs that we write ourselves, we express our thoughts to God, and that is great. But how much greater is it to sing the Psalms, where we express God’s thoughts to God.”
I have often thought lately of how God was gracious to give us 150 of His own songs, written by our Lord Himself, so we can praise and honor Him by them. And I believe the worship leader was right. While God delights in the words we write for Him as we seek to honor Him and seek to express our understanding of who He is, how much more pleasing it must be when we express Him as He has perfectly revealed Himself to us.
Now don’t get me wrong. I do not mean to minimize hymns or worship songs. Rather I seek to elevate the Psalms – the songs God Himself gave to us.