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Sing a Psalm of Joy

Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The psalmist addresses the people of Israel at an annual festival celebrating their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. He begins with a call to joyful celebration (st. 1) and praise of the LORD (st. 2), remembering God's saving answer to the people's cry in bondage and God's test of their faith in the wilderness (st. 3). As
 
God's spokesperson, the psalmist calls Israel once again to be faithful to the LORD and to reject all false gods (st. 4). In remembering the Exodus, Israel is reminded of its own unfaithfulness in the wilderness and how God dealt with them. The LORD, who brought them out of Egypt and who has supplied all their needs, will surely bless the people if they wholly trust in him (st. 5). God's great desire is for the people to obey and trust him, so that they may enjoy his protection and abundant blessings (st. 6-7). In singing this psalm we too need to respond obediently to God's call. In the post-exilic temple liturgy this psalm was sung during the morning sacrifice on the fifth day of the week. Marie J. Post versified Psalm 81 in 1984 for the Psalter Hymnal.
 
Psalms for All Seasons added the suggestion to read the exhortation of the Lord from Ps. 81:6-16 or a reading of the Law, followed by st. 3 written by Martin Tel.
 
Bert Polman, Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

It is vitally important that worshipers understand the role of God’s law among us. God gives his law to us, not so that we can earn his favor by full obedience, for even those converted to God cannot obey this law perfectly. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 44, Question and Answer 114 says, “In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience.” Instead, says Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 2, Question and Answer 3, through this law “we come to know [our] misery.” 
 
Yet in their new life of gratitude, God’s children “with all seriousness of purpose, do begin to live according to all, not only some, of God’s commandments” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 44, Question and Answer 114). They measure their good works of gratitude as “those which are done out of true faith, conform to God’s law, and are done for God’s glory” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 33, Question and Answer 91). 
 
In other words, though Christ has fulfilled the law for us, “The truth and substance of these things remain for us in Jesus Christ…[and] we continue to use the witnesses drawn from the law and prophets to confirm us in the gospel and to regulate our lives with full integrity for the glory of God according to the will of God” (Belgic Confession, Article 25). Therefore, the Ten Commandments with explanation are included in the third section, “gratitude,” (Lord’s Days 34-44) of Heidelberg Catechism.
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Sing a Psalm of Joy

Additional Prayers

Pour out your Spirit’s power upon your people, O God,
until we humble ourselves, seek your face, and turn from wicked ways.
Revive your church and heal our land.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

“A Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving”
To you, O God, to you we lift our hearts to toast your grace. You brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty arm. You pulled your people through wilderness and exile. You sent your Son to die and to rise from the grave in a second exodus. With praise and thanksgiving we turn to you, O God. To you we lift our hearts to toast your grace. We pray in our Savior’s name. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.
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Sing a Psalm of Joy

Tune Information

Name
GENEVAN 81
Key
C Major
Meter
5.6.5.5.5.6

Recordings

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Sing a Psalm of Joy

Hymn Story/Background

In Psalm 81, the psalmist addresses the people of Israel at an annual festival celebrating their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. He begins with a call to joyful celebration (st. 1) and praise of the LORD (st. 2), remembering God's saving answer to the people's cry in bondage and God's test of their faith in the wilderness (st. 4). As God's spokesperson, the psalmist calls Israel once again to be faithful to the LORD and to reject all false gods (st. 5). In remembering the Exodus, Israel is reminded of its own unfaithfulness in the wilderness and how God dealt with them. The LORD, who brought them out of Egypt and who has supplied all their needs, will surely bless the people if they wholly trust in him (st. 5). God's great desire is for the people to obey and trust him, so that they may enjoy his protection and abundant blessings (st. 7-8).
 
In singing this psalm we too need to respond obediently to God's call. In the post-exilic temple liturgy this psalm was sung during the morning sacrifice on the fifth day of the week. Marie J. Post versified Psalm 81 in 1984 for the 1987 Psalter Hymnal. Martin Tel added stanza 3 to offer an alternative pairing of this Psalm with a reading of part of the Ten Commandments.
 
GENEVAN 81 was first published in the 1562 edition of the Genevan Psalter; Dale Grotenhuis composed the harmonization in 1985. This bright tune in Ionian mode (major) has short phrases, two of which are repeated (AB, AC, CD), making it one of the simplest in the Genevan Psalter. For that reason, generations of Dutch children started their weekly school program of memorizing psalms with this one, beginning with the stanza that included "Open wide your mouth, surely I will fill it." The psalm should be sung with much energy, though the mood shifts between stanzas 6 and 7. 
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Marie (Tuinstra) Post (b. Jenison, MI, 1919; d. Grand Rapids, MI, 1990) versified this psalm in 1983 for the Psalter Hymnal 1987. While attending Dutch church services as a child, Post was first introduced to the Genevan psalms, which influenced her later writings. She attended Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she studied with Henry Zylstra. From 1940 to 1942 she taught at the Muskegon Christian Junior High School. For over thirty years Post wrote poetry for the Grand Rapids Press and various church periodicals. She gave many readings of her poetry in churches and schools and has been published in a number of journals and poetry anthologies. Two important collections of her poems are I Never Visited an Artist Before (1977) and the posthumous Sandals, Sails, and Saints (1993). A member of the 1987 Psalter Hymnal Revision Committee, Post was a significant contribu­tor to its array of original texts and paraphrases.
— Bert Polman

Martin Tel is the C. F. Seabrook Director of Music at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. He conducts the seminary choirs, teaches courses in church music, and administers the music for the daily seminary worship services. He served as senior editor of Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship (2012) and the editor for the Psalms in Lift Up Your Hearts. His love for music began in a dairy barn in rural Washington State, where he heard his father belt out psalms and hymns while milking the cows. Martin earned degrees in church music and theology from Dordt College, the University of Notre Dame, Calvin Theological Seminary, and the University of Kansas. He has served as minister of music in Christian Reformed, Reformed Church in America, and Presbyterian congregations. With his wife, Sharilyn, he is raising three children in Princeton.
 
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

The Genevan Psalter is the major gift of the Reformed branch of the Reformation to the song of the church. John Calvin (1509-1564) first experienced congregational singing of the psalms in Strasbourg when serving as a pastor of French exiles there, and when returning to Geneva in 1541 he finally persuaded the city council to permit congregational singing, which they had banned entirely under the influence of Ulrich Zwingli. Just two months after returning to Geneva, Calvin wrote in his Ecclesiastical Ordinances: "It will be good to introduce ecclesiastical songs, the better to incite the people to pray to and praise God. For a beginning the little children are to be taught; then with time all the church will be able to follow." Calvin set about overseeing the development of several metrical psalms with melodies, rather than the hymns, or chorales, of the Lutheran tradition, and also in contrast to the published psalters with texts only that followed in England and Scotland. The emerging Genevan Psalter was published in instalments until completed in 1562, including the 150 psalms, the Ten Commandments and the Song of Simeon. He employed the best French poets and composers to prepare metrical settings rather than continuing to chant the psalms, since poetry in meter was the popular form of the day—and also the choice for the Lutheran chorale.
 
The publication event was the largest in publishing history until then; twenty-four printers in Geneva alone, plus presses in Paris, Lyons, and elsewhere produced more than 27,000 copies in the first two years; more than 100,000 copies were available in over thirty editions. The Genevan Psalter was extremely popular, and almost immediately translated into Dutch, Hungarian, and German. Due to the intense persecution of the French Huguenots in the 16th century, the center of activity of the Reformed branch of the Reformation moved away from France and especially to the Netherlands, and from there to Indonesia, South Africa, and North America. The most recent translation (2004) of the entire psalter is into Japanese. The most recent English translation of the entire Genevan Psalter is available with melodies from the Canadian Reformed Book of Praise, available at http://www.canrc.org/?page=23 .
Calvin’s goal was to provide a distinct tune for every psalm, so that each psalm would have its own identity. Every tune would then bring to mind a particular psalm. The psalter didn’t quite reach this goal: it contains 125 different tunes. Today, only a few of those Genevan tunes are in wide use, among them the psalm tune most widely known around the world, often identified as OLD HUNDRETH, or simply, “The Doxology.” 
— Emily Brink

Dale Grotenhuis (b. Cedar Grove, WI, 1931; d. Jenison, Mi, August 17, 2012) was a member of the 1987 Psalter Hymnal 1987 Revision Committee, and was professor of music and director of choral music at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa, from 1960 until he retired in 1994 to concentrate on composition. Educated at Calvin College; Michigan State University, Lansing; and Ohio State University, Columbus; he combined teaching with composition throughout his career and was a widely published composer of choral music. He also directed the Dordt choir in a large number of recordings, including many psalm arrangements found in the 1959 edition of the Psalter Hymnal.
— Bert Polman
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