Height and Depth: How the Psalms Shape our Worship
Evan Jarms

God created music with the remarkable ability to engage our whole beings. The speed of a song can affect your heartbeat. Song lyrics engage your imagination and intellect. Musical notes are made of physical vibrations. Songs, quite literally, make us feel things.

These effects can be polarizing. Each of us experiences music in different ways, and the songs we love are often tied to our deepest emotions. So, it’s no surprise that song selection is one of the trickiest conversations in worship ministry, prompting the question: what kinds of songs should we sing? Should our songs be fast or slow? Loud or soft? Reverent or exciting? As you can imagine, few congregations completely agree on these questions.

Thankfully, right in the center of the Bible, God included a songbook. While the Psalms do not prescribe the exact style, instrumentation, or tempo of our church music, they do offer some insights as to the kind of worship God expects from His people. At one moment, the Psalms are bursting with raucous excitement and celebration, the next they are dark, bleak, and heavy with lament and confession. The contrast is shocking, but very intentional. And, if we’re honest, we are all familiar with this range of emotions. Our lives are full of both highs and lows; joys and sorrows.

Just take a moment to observe the people who gather for worship on Sunday morning. You’ll see a family of five bustling in a few minutes late; a squirrelly toddler running through the aisles; a business owner stressed about payroll; an elderly widow who’s just grateful to be with her church family; a new believer singing joyfully in worship; a middle school boy who would rather be sleeping; a newly engaged couple with their hands raised high; and a quiet, middle-aged couple, still processing the shock of a recent cancer diagnosis. Tired, excited, bored, distracted, weeping, rejoicing—the Psalms offer something for all of us to sing.

The Psalms give us language for the entire emotional spectrum, and if we let them shape our worship, we can prepare our hearts for the highs and lows of the Christian life. Here are a few songs we will be singing this summer to help us express the height and depth of emotions found in the Psalms:

New Songs This Summer

Here are a few songs we will be singing this summer to help us express the height and depth of emotions found in the Psalms.

Graves Into Gardens
“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” - Psalm 9:1

Throughout the Psalms, we see a theme of remembrance. The Israelites gathered to remember what God had done for them—how He brought them out of Egypt; how He parted the Red Sea; how He gave them victory over their enemies. Graves Into Gardens picks up on this same theme. As we sing, we look back at the mighty works of God, and exalt Him for all His wondrous deeds.

He Will Hold Me Fast
“Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” - 3:1, 3 Psalms

In Psalm 3, we find King David at one of his lowest points. His own son, Absalom, has turned the kingdom against him. But when David has nowhere else to turn, he turns to God. He Will Hold Me Fast teaches us to trust, like David, that when we face our greatest fears, Christ will keep us secure.

Sooner Count the Stars
“Great Is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.” – Psalm 145:3

Sooner Count the Stars contemplates the unsearchable nature of God. God’s greatness is beyond comparison, beyond description, beyond measurement of any kind. All of our imagery, all of our poetry and metaphors fall short of the praise Christ deserves. Yet, our infinite God calls his finite creatures to worship him, and sing for joy of all he’s done.

Jesus Is Better
“Because he has set his heart on me, I will deliver him; I will protect him because he knows my name.” – Psalm 91:14

The world his full of false saviors that promise us comfort and fulfillment. But no product, achievement, or earthly possession will ever provide us the security that God gives. So, we declare that Jesus is better. He is better than any comfort, any victory, anything the world has to offer. And when everything is crumbling around us, he alone will keep us secure.

I can’t wait to spend time in the Psalms together. We will find that the Psalter influences more than just our emotions, but also our theology, poetry, physical expressions, and much more. As we gather for worship, may we be enriched and transformed by the songs of scripture.


Evan Jarms
Gathered Worship Pastor