Why should we use the Psalms? Here are three reasons for pulling the pin from the Psalter grenade.
1. Psalms are spiritual.
Knowing, speaking, and, yes, singing Psalms is spiritual. That is, it is an evidence that the Holy Spirit is controlling us. Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers,
do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart (Ephesians 5:18–19)
A drunk man may get loud and rowdy and sing his songs off key for the entire bar. He can’t keep it to himself. A man filled with the Holy Spirit can’t keep it to himself either. According to the verses above, a spiritual man will be focused on others and inspired Psalms are part of his vocabulary. Spirit-filled men speak in ψαλμοῖς (psalmois)—many Old Testament psalms, in ὕμνοις (hymnois)—many hymns with religious content, and in ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς (odais pneumatikais)—many songs having to do with the divine spirit. Psalms aren’t the only way we can encourage each other, as if we were playing a party game where we could only speak in lines from Psalms. But lines from Psalms are the only inspired song lyrics we have.
The psalmists were not writing to believers who were filled with the Spirit, but Paul told believers who were filled with the Spirit that the Psalms were appropriate subject matter. Paul also gave this exhortation to a congregation of mostly Gentile believers. He expected that the Spirit would translate the prayers and praises of one nation into many tongues.
2. Psalms are biblical.
This was one of those observations that, once I heard it, I’ve not been able to forget it. The letters of Paul to the Ephesians and Colossians are similar but each contains some distinct emphases. In Colossians 3:16 we see almost the same results of Ephesians 5:18-19 but from a different cause.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
Biblical people, the kind we most certainly want to be, are stocked with Scripture and, in particular, the Psalms.
Psalm 1, a psalm about delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on it day and night, introduces 149 more psalms, 149 more songs. It does not head the list of 149 more doctrinal bullet points. A melody set to meter would enable meditation and enhance memory. It might even be enjoyable. Songs help us delight more. When we get a song stuck in our head, is that not part of what it means to mediate day and night?
3. Psalms are vital.
Our English word “vital” comes from the Latin vita = life; so it describes something that is absolutely necessary, indispensable to the continuance of life. Vital signs are life’s minimum. God’s Word is vital for life, so says the introduction to the Psalter itself: Psalm 1.
Blessed is the man
[whose] delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
The law of the Lord is to be delighted in, and there are few better ways to do that than singing. Psalm-love encourages us to be planted for sake of life, even when the culture waters dry up around us. For the thirsty, my attempt to explain Psalm 1 is here.
The end for the meditator is that in all that he does, he prospers. The picture returns to the man, not just the tree. There is a solidity, a sweetness, a sap to his life rooted in God’s Word. And note that the contrast is not with a shallow-rooted, brown-branched, barren tree. The contrast is with a hollow husk of chaff. The chaff is dead. But our hearts should be alive with the sound of Psalms.
ESV – And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
NAS – And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
This verse comes in the middle of what is probably my favorite paragraph (verses 12-17) in Colossians. The point of the paragraph is the idea of “putting on” Christian virtues after “putting off” sin in verses 5-11, and this exhortation in verse 14 reveals the crown of Christian virtues: love, along with its result: unity.
This was it. Here was the key to unity–love.
But we’ll all heard about love before. Sometimes we’re so saturated with talk of love that we become “love sick.” So what I thought I’d do is just give you a grocery list of ways to destroy unity. In fact, were going to look at eleven ways to destroy, ruin, and undermine, unity. These are sure fire ways to guarantee a miserable, gloomy, blithering year in Junior High (and for that matter, the rest of your life). These are some practical suggestions for having no unity when you’re walking with others between classes or hanging out during lunch or at soccer practice or spending time together on the weekends.
As a preemptive footnote, I realize this is long. No one is making you read it. But if you are patient you might find benefit in it.
1. Be Impatient
A person who is impatient has a tendency to be quickly irritated or provoked. Generally this happens when you are inconvenienced or taken advantage of by another person. Impatient people are easily upset and annoyed by others. It doesn’t take much to get them bent out of shape. They are regularly put in a bad mood by someone else.
By no means should you be pleasant or good humored or cheerful when something doesn’t go your way or doesn’t happen when you want it to. When someone promises to do something, hold them to a standard you wouldn’t expect to live up to yourself. Be impatient.
Of course impatience destroys unity because we won’t tolerate someone who can’t keep up with our expectations or who is weaker or slower or imperfect. If they mess up–they’re out. If they can’t keep up–don’t wait for them to catch up.
2. Be Unkind
A person who is unkind is inconsiderate and harsh. Proper unkindness can range from being callous to purposefully cruel, from being inconsiderate to downright mean-spirited and hurtful.
Of course, girls seem to know how to do this naturally. We call it being catty, that is, deliberately hurtful in their attitude or speech. I’m regularly amazed at the female’s ability to be just downright cruel and mean. That’s the way to go for the destruction of unity.
Guys, on the other hand, are generally more direct and hostile, they are unfriendly or just pick on someone for the sake of picking on someone. We just punch people we don’t like in the head. Hitting others in the head is generally a good way to communicate that we don’t care about being kind to them.
Please do not go out of your way to be nice to someone else, especially someone else who doesn’t deserve it. Don’t serve others, don’t be gracious to others, don’t be generous. Be unkind.
Unkindness destroys unity by not letting people in the circle we don’t like.
3. Be Jealous
A person who is jealous envies or covets or desires what someone else has. This can lead to resentfulness and long term grudge holding. Being jealous means having intense negative feelings toward another’s achievements or success. If someone has something or gets praise that we should have got, we better let everyone know about. If another person is more popular than you, do whatever it takes to knock them off their pedestal.
This is the time when it is appropriate to mock others behind their back. Be jealous.
Jealousy destroys unity by keeping others out of our circle to punish them for having what we should have or wish we had.
4. Be Boastful
A person who is boastful is always heaping praise on himself. This is the braggart, the cocky, full of himself, walking-with-swagger bighead. Boasting is showing excessive pride and self-satisfaction in one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities. It’s actually trying to make others jealous. Jealousy pulls others down, bragging builds us up.
Throw a parade in your honor. Have a party just to talk about your greatness. Be boastful.
Being boastful destroys unity by setting ourselves up as most important. It keeps us at the top of a very short list where there just isn’t room for anyone else. We don’t need them anyway–we’re cool enough.
5. Be Conceited
A person who is conceited is proud, but maybe just in their heart. They are full of themselves too, puffed up with an exaggerated view of themselves, self-centered and snobby. They are too big for their own britches.
Don’t ever consider for a moment that you are not perfect or that you haven’t arrived. Don’t show any kind of humility. Make sure you believe that you are the best. This is especially important for those of you who are more quiet and who might not be comfortable boasting in public about how great you are. If nothing else you can be kind of smug on the inside. Be conceited.
Just like bragging, being conceited destroys unity by putting ourselves up on the pedestal, and even if we don’t talk about our greatness we still expect others to recognize us as great. And if they don’t? They’re not included.
6. Be Rude
A person who is rude behaves disgracefully or discourteously; they are offensively impolite and inappropriate. This is the person who is always trying to bring shame or disgrace on someone else. Instead of building others up they are tearing others down. They can’t be trusted. They are insulting and abusive.
Don’t spend time thinking about someone else’s needs or their feelings or their sensitivities. Don’t think about how to care for others or even how to act politely. Be rude.
Rudeness destroys unity by never worrying about whether someone is left out of the circle in the first place.
7. Be Selfish
In a lot of ways this characteristic motivates most of the others. A person who is selfish lacks consideration of others; they are primarily concerned with their own profit or pleasure. They are self-absorbed, self-obsessed, wrapped up in themselves, thoughtless, looking out for number one.
Don’t ever let anyone think that you could be happy unless they do what you want. Be selfish.
Selfishness destroys unity because it makes it seem like we’re the only ones who are important anyway. Who cares about anybody else? Don’t seek to serve anyone but yourself. That will keep your circle pretty small.
8. Be Irritable
This is somewhat related to the first point–being impatient and easily annoyed–but it goes a bit further. A person who is irritable is easily provoked to anger. They have a tendency to be grouchy, moody, crabby, cranky, and with a short fuse.
When someone does even the slightest thing to you, get mad, immediately, and let them know it. Don’t hold back. Don’t wait for it to get better. Defend yourself, no one else will do it. Retaliate. Be irritable.
And being irritable or angry helps to push others away. There won’t be any unity if everybody is mad at everybody else.
9. Be Bitter
A person who is bitter is resentful because someone treated them bad of they feel like they didn’t get what they deserved. Bitter people are usually sour and spiteful. They are always taking to account the wrongs people have done to them.
Keep a list of everything that everyone has ever done wrong to you, no matter how insignificant or small it was. Keep track of other people’s sins and never let them forget it. Punish them by acting cold or gossiping about them or anything that will let them know just how awful they were. Be bitter.
Oh, before I forget, let me encourage you to be just as petty and small about this as possible. I’ve found that really tends to erode any chance for unity.
Like anger, bitterness will keep you away from everyone else. There won’t be any unity because no one will deserve to be united to you.
10. Be Immoral
A person who is immoral doesn’t conform to or accept standards of morality–right and wrong. Perhaps a little stronger is the word “perverse.” We normally apply that in terms of sexual immorality, but the basic definition is “showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences.”
When I suggest being immoral, I mean go for it. This will be sure to break whatever unity might be there. Scoff at your parents and encourage others to do the same. When you hear some juicy tidbit about somebody else, it doesn’t matter if it’s accurate or not, make sure you pass it on to everyone who’ll listen. Do wrong yourself and encourage others to do the same. Be immoral.
Immorality or perverseness destroys unity by eroding any genuine foundation for unity. If there isn’t anything solid, any truth, if it is just all lies and half-truths then there is nothing to stand on.
11. Be Cynical
A cynical person is always doubtful and distrusting. They typically are concerned only with themselves and making themselves look good. They are suspicious, not open, pessimistic and negative. So never trust anyone and never let anyone trust you.
Just curl up by yourself in the corner far away from everybody. Even if things could be good, don’t get your hopes up, it probably won’t last. No one else is going to stick with it, you might as well not either. Be cynical.
So being cynical and pessimistic will destroy unity by negativity.
To sum up, If you want to make sure that there is no unity, no harmony, no getting along with each other, just commit to being impatient, unkind, jealous, boastful, proud, selfish, irritable, bitter, immoral, and cynical.
Well why do I mention these eleven things as unity destroyers? Some of these overlap one another and certainly there are other ways to bring disunity. The reason is because all eleven of these sarcastic encouragements are the opposite of LOVE! And love is the perfect bond of unity. Note the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
You probably recognize the contradictions for the first nine obviously, and then “be immoral” goes with all of verse six and “be cynical” opposes all of verse seven. So if you can just not love, you won’t have any bond or harmony. Without love there will be no perfect unity. In order to destroy unity all you have to do is not love.
But there is one (large) problem with not loving. If you don’t love, you don’t know God. 1 John 4:7-8 makes it clear that love is the normal Christian behavior. Disunity is anti-love and therefore anti-Christian. How dare we claim to know God and not be unified. When we destroy unity we destroy our testimony, our assurance, and potentially destroy our brothers.