Monthly Archives: March 2014

Psalm 118

Psalm 118, which our class took up on March 23, is (possibly excepting Psalm 22) the psalm most associated with Holy Week. It’s the psalm shouted by the crowds as Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. It’s the psalm quoted by Jesus following the Parable of the Tenants, which he tells in the temple courts the next day, and again when he mourns for Jerusalem. Since it is the concluding psalm in the Egyptian Hallel, it is likely part of the hymn Jesus and his disciples sang after the Last Supper.

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:42-43)

The Revised Common Lectionary assigns Psalm 118 to Palm Sunday and to Easter in all three years (and on the 2nd Sunday in Easter in Year C).

Psalm 118 was originally a processional psalm; the different sections may have been sung at different places along the way to the temple. The opening is a call for praise (vv. 1-4) followed by testimony about the Lord’s deliverance from enemies (vv. 5-13). Aside from the first two verses, the lectionary ignores this part of the psalm. (Psalm Sunday uses vv. 1-2, 19-29; Easter uses vv. 1-2, 14-24.)

After more testimony about the Lord saving the psalmist from death (vv. 14-18), the psalm calls for the “gates of righteousness” to be opened (presumably as the procession reaches the temple gates). The final part of the psalm contains its most famous verses: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (v. 22), “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (v. 24); and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (v. 26).

The only full versification of Psalm 118 in recent CRC hymnals is “Give Thanks to God for All His Goodness” (PFAS #118H/LUYH #196/PH87 #118), which was written for the gray Psalter Hymnal by Stanley Wiersma and set to GENEVAN 98/118 (the only tune used for two psalms in that hymnal). Each line ends with “Your love forever is the same!” The versification is very concise; stanza two covers 10 verses. A sample is here.

The remaining hymns in PFAS and LUYH ignore the first 13 verses of the psalm.

“The Right Hand of God” (PFAS 118F) is inspired by vv. 14-15 (“The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: ‘The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!’”).

The right hand of God is writing in our land,
writing with power and with love,
our conflicts and our fears,
our triumphs and our tears
are recorded by the right hand of God.

Subsequent verses have God’s hand pointing, striking and healing.  The tune is LA MANO DE DIOS.

“The Glorious Gates of Righteousness” (PFAS #118A/PH87 #179/PH57 #234) is a versification of vv. 19-29 from the 1912 Psalter. It’s one of only five psalm settings to appear in all three Psalter Hymnals but not in Lift Up Your Hearts. It is set to ZERAH.

The glorious gates of righteousness
throw open unto me,
and I will come to them with praise
and enter thankfully,
and I will come to them with praise
and enter thankfully.

Four of the hymns in PFAS are derived from v. 24, reportedly the most shared (on social media) Bible verse of 2013. The verse probably refers to Passover or the Exodus from Egypt, not “today.”

The most familiar to us was “This Is the Day” (PFAS #118K/PH87 #241), which is one of the notable psalm settings from the gray Psalter Hymnal that was omitted from Lift Up Your Hearts.  The version in the Psalter Hymnal has three Trinitarian verses: “This is the day that the Lord has made…,” “This is the day that he rose again,” and “This is the day when the Spirit came….” (The three days in the three verses are Passover, Easter and Pentecost.) The version in PFAS has stanzas 2 & 3 based on vv. 24 & 28 of Psalm 118: “Open to us the gates of God…” and “You are our God, we will praise your name….” The tune is here.

“This Is the Day the Lord Hath Made” (PFAS #118E) is a paraphrase of part of the psalm by Isaac Watts and set to NUN DANKET ALL’ UND BRINGET EHR’.

This is the day the Lord hath made;
the hours are all God’s own.
Let heaven rejoice; let earth be glad,
and praise surround the throne.

“This Is the Day the Lord Has Made” (PFAS #118D) is another paraphrase of the last part of the psalm in 7/8 time. One of our class member described is as “interesting, but not unsingable.”

“Psallite Deo/This Is the Day” (PFAS #118C) is a Taizé hymn with a simple congregational refrain (“This is the day the Lord has made! Alleluia, alleluia!”) and a solo part. A sample is here. A related Taizé hymn is “Surrexit Christus/The Lord is Risen” (PFAS #118J).

Psalms for All Seasons includes four responsorial settings. “Hail and Hosanna!” (PFAS #118B/LUYH #147/SNC #146) is a three-part canon. It is set to vv. 19-29 in PFAS and LUYH and vv. 1-4 & 14-29 in Sing! A New Creation. According to the performance notes: “This setting is most appropriate when using the psalm in the context of a Palm Sunday celebration or during the season of Advent.”

“This Is the Day the Lord Has Made” (PFAS #118G) is another responsorial refrain with vv. 1-2 & 14-29 as the text. The alternative is “Celtic Alleluia” (PFAS #118G-alt) which is also found in Lift Up Your Hearts (#198) without the Psalm 118 text and in Sing! A New Creation (#148) as the refrain of a longer hymn (“Now He Is Living, the Christ”).

The final responsorial setting is “Jesus Is Risen and We Shall Arise” (PFAS #118I) (called “A Paraphrase for Easter”) with The Message paraphrase of vv. 14-24 as the text. The refrain is the refrain of “Alleluia! Jesus Is Risen” (LUYH #205), which is set to EARTH AND ALL STARS.

The blue Psalter Hymnal includes two additional Psalm 118 settings: “O Praise the Lord, for He Is Good” (PH57 #232) and “Let All Exalt Jehovah’s Goodness” (PH57 #233). We didn’t sing either of these.

(This is the  22nd post in my continuing series on the Psalms for All Seasons Sunday school class I co-teach with Andrew Friend. Each week we sing psalm settings from Psalms for All Seasons, Lift Up Your Hearts, and other CRC hymnals. Previous posts is the series focused on Psalm 121, Psalm 122Psalms 2/99Psalm 72Psalm 95Psalm 147,  Psalm 112,  Psalm 29,  Psalm 40Psalm 23Psalm 27Psalm 130Psalm 15Psalm 51,  Psalm 6Psalm 32,  Psalm 143,  Psalms 38/102Psalm 31Psalm 116Psalm 16, and Psalm 22.)

Psalm 22

(Here’s the 21st post in my continuing series on the Psalms for All Seasons Sunday school class I co-teach with Andrew Friend. Each week we sing psalm settings from Psalms for All Seasons, Lift Up Your Hearts, and other CRC hymnals. Previous posts is the series focused on Psalm 121, Psalm 122Psalms 2/99Psalm 72Psalm 95Psalm 147,  Psalm 112,  Psalm 29,  Psalm 40Psalm 23Psalm 27Psalm 130Psalm 15Psalm 51,  Psalm 6Psalm 32,  Psalm 143,  Psalms 38/102Psalm 31Psalm 116, and Psalm 16. On March 16, our class took up Psalm 22.)

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).… And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matthew 27:45-46, 50)

The first line of Psalm 22 are the only words that Mark and Matthew report Jesus speaking from the cross, shortly before his death. They have come to stand for the abandonment Jesus felt during the cruxifiction, but also point ahead to the rest of the psalm (which Jesus may also have recited), which looks forward not just to personal salvation from death but to all the ends of the earth, even generations still unborn, worshiping the Lord.

The first 18 verses detail the psalmist’s dire circumstances: abandoned by the very same God who had saved our ancestors (vv. 1-5) and had protected the psalmist since birth (vv. 9-11), abandoned by other people (vv. 6-8), surrounded by enemies and near death (vv. 12-18). Features from the psalmist’s description of his distress, e.g., enemies casting lots for his garments, correspond to details of the cruxifiction.

Then the psalm takes a turn with a prayer for deliverance (vv. 19-21) and a response to that deliverance in which the psalmist calls the people to worship (vv. 22-26) and looks forward to God’s worldwide reign (vv. 27-31). If the CRC hymnals are any indication, this final section of the psalm is more popular with songwriters  than the earlier parts of the psalm.

The Revised Common Lectionary designates Psalm 22 for Good Friday during all three years (as well as three more three more Lord’s Days in Year B and one in Year C).

“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” (PFAS #22A) is the only hymn in Psalms for All Seasons based the first section of the psalm. The refrain is the title of the hymn. The four stanzas are based on vv. 7-8; 16-17; 18-19; and 22-23. It seems better suited for for choral than congregational singing. A sample is here. According to the performance notes, “The paraphrase here offers a compelling interpretation of the psalm in the voice of Christ, making it ideal for use on Good Friday.”

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
People who see me are scornful,
sneering at me, and tossing their heads.
“His trust was in God, let God save him.
come to the aid of his own special friend.”

A majority of the Psalm 22 hymns are based on the final triumphant section of the psalm. Three of these are in Psalms for All Seasons, include two great hymns from the 1912 Psalter.

“Amid the Thronging Worshipers” (PFAS #22E/LUYH #551/PH87 #239/PH57 #37) is a versification vv. 22-28 set to BOVINA. (A sample is here.) “The Ends of All the Earth” (PFAS #22G/LUYH #594/PH87 #542/PH57 #36) is a versification of vv. 27-31 set to VISION. (A sample is here.) These two songs are in the select 18 psalm hymns that appear in all three Psalter Hymnals and Lift Up Your Hearts with the same tune. (No other psalm has more than one setting on this list.) Either of these would be appropriate as an opening hymn for almost any service.

The ends of all the earth shall hear
And turn unto the Lord in fear;
All kindreds of the earth shall own
And worship him as God alone.
All earth to him her homage brings,
The Lord of lords, the King of kings.

“In the Presence of Your People” (PFAS #22F/PH87 #160) was written by Brent Chambers in the style of Jewish dance music. The first verse, which appears in the gray Psalter Hymnal,  is based on Psalm 22:3, 22 and Psalm 145:7. Bert Polman wrote stanzas 2-3 based on Psalm 22:3, 23-28. However, these rejected by the hymn’s copyright holders for the gray Psalter Hymnal and they first appear in Songs for LIFE, the CRC’s 1994 children’s song book. A sample is here. My daughters, Lydia and Chloe, who attended class today (the children’s classes were cancelled), said this was their favorite song of all we sang.

Two other hymns based on the conclusion of the psalm (both from the 1912 Psalter) can be found in the Psalter Hymnals. The blue Psalter Hymnal contains “All Ye That Fear Jehovah’s Name” (PH57 #35). The gray Psalter Hymnal includes “Come, All Who Fear the Lord God” (PH87 #240). (This is first instance I’ve noticed of a hymn from the 1912 Psalter appearing in the gray Psalter Hymnal despite being left out of the blue Psalter Hymnal.) “Come, All Who Fear the Lord God” is a good hymn, but doesn’t compare to “Amid the Thronging Worshipers” or “The Ends of All the Earth.” (We had so many hymns to choose from today that we didn’t sing “All Ye That Fear Jehovah’s Name.”)

Two full versifications of Psalm 22 from the Psalter Hymnals are left out of the new CRC hymnals. The blue Psalter Hymnal’s full versification is the 11-stanza “My God, My God, I Cry to Thee” (PH57 #34), which is from the 1912 Psalter (and wasn’t sung by us).  The gray Psalter Hymnal replaces this with “My God! My God!” a 10-stanza versification by Calvin Seerveld set to MALDWYN. Seerveld did an excellent job of turning the psalm into vivid rhyming couplets.

My God! O my God! Have you left me alone?
Why have you forsaken me, deaf to my groan?
I cry to you daily and plead late at night,
but you do not answer or pity my plight.

The responsorial setting in Psalms for All Seasons is “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” (PFAS #22D). The alternative is “All the Ends of the Earth Shall Remember” (PFAS #22D-alt).

Sing! A New Creation includes another responsorial setting (of vv. 1-11 & 22-31) using the first two lines of “What Wondrous Love” (SNC #142). An updated version of this appears in Psalms for All Seasons and Lift Up Your Hearts, titled “Psalm 22:1-11, 22-29: A Scripted Reading” (PFAS #22C/LUYH #165). It uses four sung responses, which are the openings of the four stanzas of “What Wondrous Love.”

Lift Up Your Hearts places this setting opposite the full version of “What Wondrous Love” (LUYH #164/PH87 #379), which is designated as a Psalm 22 hymn.

Psalms for All Seasons also includes a chant, “Lord, Why Have You Forsaken Me” (PFAS #22B), that covers vv. 1-11 and 23-31. The first part is sung in union is a minor key, the second part in four-part harmony in major mode. A sample is here.

If I have a complaint about the Psalm 22 settings in the two new CRC hymnals (PFAS & LUYH), it’s that they don’t provide a great hymn for congregational singing on Good Friday. Most of the settings ignore the section of the Psalm most relevant to the crucifixion, including the “scripted reading” that is in the Good Friday section of LUYH. The lectionary assigns all of the psalm to Good Friday, not just 1-11 & 22-29, so those missing verses are an odd lacuna in that reading. “Lord, Why Have You Forsaken Me” skips the same section as well.

Perennial Hymns, Part 1 (Psalms)

What hymns have appeared in each of the four main Christian Reformed hymnals—the 1943 (red) Psalter Hymnal, the 1957 (blue) Psalter Hymnal, the 1987 (gray) Psalter Hymnal and Lift Up Your Hearts?

I got thinking about this after stumbling upon the collection of worship resources put together for the 150th anniversary of the CRC in 2007. It lists 80 hymns that appeared in all three Psalter Hymnals with the same tune. Eleven of these hymns aren’t in Lift Up Your Hearts so I concluded that there are 69 hymns that have been in all four hymnals. However, I’ve since found some mistakes in this list.

I’m not sure what the correct number is yet, but there are 20 psalm settings that have appeared in all four hymnals with the same tune. All but one of these appeared first in the 1912 Psalter—although some had their tunes changed for the red Psalter Hymnal. (The exceptions that weren’t in the 1912 Psalter are “The Heavens Declare Your Glory” and “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah [Psalm 148].) All of these also appear in Psalms for All Seasons with the same tune with the exception of “God, Be Merciful to Me.” (An explanation of the different versions of that song is in my post on Psalm 51.)

Here are those 20 psalm settings (some with changed titles):

Psalm 8: “Lord, Our Lord, Thy Glorious Name” (PH34 #14/PH57 #13)/“Lord, Our Lord, Your Glorious Name” (PH87 #8/LUYH #500/PFAS #8B)—EVENING PRAISE

“The Heavens Declare Your Glory” (PH34 #31/PH57 #31/PH87 #429/LUYH #3/PFAS #19D)—FAITHFUL

Psalm 22: “Amid the Thronging Worshipers” (PH34 #40/PH57 #37/PH87 #239/LUYH #511/PFAS #22E)—BOVINA

Psalm 22: “The Ends of All the Earth Shall Hear” (PH34 #38/PH57 #36/PH87 #542/LUYH #594/PFAS #22G)—VISION**

Psalm 32: “How Blest is he Whose Trespass” (PH34 #61/PH57 #55)/How Blest Are They Whose Trespass (PH87 #32/LUYH #669/PFAS #32A)—RUTHERFORD

Psalm 51: “God, Be Merciful To Me” (PH34 #100/PH57 #94/PH87 #255/LUYH #623)—REDHEAD

Psalm 66: “Come All Ye People, Bless Our God” (PH34 #127/PH57 #120)/“Come, All You People, Praise Our God” (PH87 #242/LUYH #495/PFAS #66C)—ADOWA

Psalm 79: “Remember Not, O God” (PH34 #162/PH57 #152/PH87 #254/LUYH #632/PFAS #79B)—GORTON

Psalm 84: “O Lord of Hosts, How Lovely” (PH34 #169/PH57 #159)/“How Lovely Is Your Dwelling” (PH87 #234/LUYH #507/PFAS #84A)—ST. EDITH

Psalm 86: “Lord, My Petition Heed” (PH34 #174/PH57 #164/PH87 #243/LUYH #507/PFAS #84A)—MASON

Psalm 92: “It Is Good to Sing Your Praises” (PH34 #189/PH57 #180/PH87 #171/LUYH #513/PFAS #92A)—ELLESDIE

Psalm 95: “Now with Joyful Exultation” (PH34 #194/PH57 #184/PH87 #95/LUYH #512/PFAS #95D)—BEECHER

Psalm 103: “O Come, My Soul, Bless Thou the Lord” (PH34 #215/PH57 #204)/“O Come, My Soul, Sing Praise to God” (PH87 #6297/LUYH #672/PFAS #103B)

Psalm 108: “My Heart is Fixed, O God” (PH34 #232/PH57 #219)/“My Heart is Firmly Fixed” (PH87 #108/LUYH #734/PFAS #108A)—ST. THOMAS

Psalm 111: “O Give the Lord Whole-Hearted Praise” (PH34  #236/PH57 #222/PH87 #111/LUYH #502/PFAS #111A)—GERMANY

Psalm 112: “How Blessed the Man Who Fears the Lord” (PH34 #237/PH57 #223)/“How Blest Are Those Who Fear the LORD” (PH87 #112/LUYH #301/PFAS #112A/HFW #8)—MELCOMBE

Psalm 130: “From Out the Depths I Cry, O Lord, to Thee” (PH34 #287/PH57 #273)/“Out of the Depths I Cry to You on High” (PH87 #256/LUYH #655/PFAS #130C—SANDON

Psalm 145: “I Will Extol Thee, O My God” (PH34 #314/PH57 #298)/“I Will Extol You, O My God” (PH87 #185/LUYH #561/PFAS #145E)—NOEL

Psalm 146: “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah” (PH34 #318/PH57 #301)/ “Praise the LORD, Sing Hallelujah” (PH87 #146/LUYH #518/PFAS #146D)—RIPLEY

Psalm 148: “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah” (PH34 #321/PH57 #304)/“Praise, the LORD, Sing Hallelujah” (PH87 #188/LUYH #6/PFAS #148C)


Two psalm settings were in all three Psalter Hymnals, but appear in Lift Up Your Hearts with new tunes:

Psalm 76: “God Is Known Among His People” (PH34 #152/PH57 #144/PH87 #76)—TEMPLE BORO/“God Is Known Among His People” (LUYH #284/PFAS #76A)—LAUDA ANIMA

Psalm 149: “O Praise Ye the Lord” (PH34 #323/PH57 #306)/“Sing Praise to the Lord” (PH87 #149)—HANOVER/““Sing Praise to the Lord” (LUYH #566/PFAS #149B)—LAUDATE DOMINUM

Six psalm settings were in all three Psalter Hymnals but aren’t in Lift Up Your Hearts. Four of these appear in Psalms for All Seasons:

Psalm 104: “My Soul, Bless the Lord!” (PH34 #218/PH57 #206)/“You Spirit, O LORD, Makes Life to Abound” (PH87 #104)/“My Soul, Praise the LORD!” (PFAS #104E)—HOUGHTON (PFAS uses HANOVER)

Psalm 118: “The Glorious Gates of RIghteousness” (PH34 #248/PH57 #234/PH87 #179/PFAS #118)—ZERAH

Psalm 135: “Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim” (PH34 #298/PH57 #282/PH87 #181/PFAS #135A)—CREATION

Psalm 136: “Give Thanks to God, For Good Is He” (PH34 #300/PH57 #284/PH87 #182/PFAS #136E—CONSTANCE

The other two don’t appear in either of the new hymnals:

Psalm 73: “God Loveth the Righteous” (PH34 #145/PH57 #136)/“God Loves All the Righteous” (PH87 #73)—SANKEY

Psalm 133: “How Good and Pleasant Is the Sight” (PH34 #293/PH57 #278/PH87 #514)

Psalm 16

(Here’s the 21st post in my continuing series on the Psalms for All Seasons Sunday school class I co-teach with Andrew Friend. Each week we sing psalm settings from Psalms for All Seasons, Lift Up Your Hearts, and other CRC hymnals. Previous posts is the series focused on Psalm 121, Psalm 122Psalms 2/99Psalm 72Psalm 95Psalm 147,  Psalm 112,  Psalm 29,  Psalm 40Psalm 23Psalm 27Psalm 130Psalm 15Psalm 51,  Psalm 6Psalm 32,  Psalm 143,  Psalms 38/102, Psalm 31, and Psalm 116. On March 9, our class took up Psalm 16.)

“Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge,” begins Psalm 16, and then the psalmist meditates on what it means to take refuge in God—what God has done for him and what response he owes to God.

In the middle section of the psalm (vv. 5-8), the psalmist reflects on the inheritance, counsel, and security God has provided him. In the final section (vv. 9-11), the psalmist rejoices that God has saved his life:

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

In response, the psalmist vows to serve only the Lord, and not to “run after other gods.” The opening section (vv. 2-4), with its contrast between the Lord and other gods, parallels the contrast between life and death in the closing.

Although the original author (David is credited in the superscription) seems to be expressing thanks for salvation from near death, a long Christian tradition, dating back to Peter and Paul, views the psalm as a messianic prophecy. This understanding of Psalm 16 is the central argument in in Peter’s Pentecost address. After quoting vv. 8-11, he tells the crowd:

“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.

Paul quotes verse 10 in his address in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13) and makes the same argument as Peter.

Presumably for this reason the Revised Common Lectionary assigns the psalm to Easter Vigil in all three years as well as the 2nd Sunday of Easter in Year A and ordinary time Lord’s Days in Years B & C.

Psalms for All Seasons includes three hymn settings of Psalm 16.  (Andrew was out of town so Char was our accompanist for the morning.)

“When in the Night I Meditate” (PFAS #16A/PH57 #22) is from the 1912 Psalter and is set to MAITLAND. (A sample is here.) It is a loose versification of vv. 7-11. Here is stanza 1 (based on v. 7: “I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.”):

When in the night I meditate
On mercies multiplied,
My grateful heart inspires my tongue
To bless the Lord, my Guide.

MAITLAND is reminiscent of “Precious Lord, Take my Hand” (LUYH #464/PH87 #493), which was derived from it.

“Harbor My Heart” (PFAS #16B) is a modern hymn based on the psalm. (A sample is here.) If we used it in a service, we would likely have a soloist sing the verses and the congregation the refrain. Here is the refrain:

Harbor of my heart,
I take refuge in you,
preserve me, O God!
My joy is in you alone.

The final setting in Psalm for All Seasons is “Protect Me, God; I Trust in You” (PFAS #16C/LUYH #411/PH87 #16). (A recording of the first stanza is here.) It is one of very favorite psalm settings from the gray Psalter Hymnal and I was happy to see that it made the cut for Lift Up Your Hearts. It was written for the 1973 Anglican hymnal Psalm Praise.

“Protect Me, God; I Trust in You” is a very concise versification of the entire psalm. For instance, verse 4 (“Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such godsor take up their names on my lips.”) is versified as “but pagan ways I will not share.” Each of the five stanzas is followed by the refrain, “Protect me, God: I trust in you.” Here is stanza 3 (based on vv. 4-5):

LORD God, you are my food and drink;
my work for you is joy indeed;
glad is the heritage that’s mine.

The refrain of “Protect Me, God; I Trust in You” (PFAS #26D/SNC #155) is the responsorial setting. [The alternate responsorial refrain is “My Heart it Glad and My Spirit Rejoices” (PFAS #16D-alt).]

In addition to “When in the Night, I Meditate,” the blue Psalter Hymnal has two other settings, both with lyrics from  the 1912 Psalter. “O God, Preserve Me” (PH57 #16) is a versification of vv. 1-6. “To Thee, O Lord, I Fly” (PH57 #23) is a loose versification of most of the psalm.

Psalm 116

(Here’s the 20th post in my continuing series on the Psalms for All Seasons Sunday school class I co-teach with Andrew Friend. Each week we sing psalm settings from Psalms for All Seasons, Lift Up Your Hearts, and other CRC hymnals. Previous posts is the series focused on Psalm 121, Psalm 122Psalms 2/99Psalm 72Psalm 95Psalm 147,  Psalm 112,  Psalm 29,  Psalm 40Psalm 23Psalm 27Psalm 130Psalm 15Psalm 51,  Psalm 6Psalm 32,  Psalm 143,  Psalms 38/102, and Psalm 31. On March 2, our class took up Psalm 116.)

Psalm 116 is the only place in the Psalter, indeed the entire Bible, where anyone declares, “I love the Lord.”

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

The psalm is part of the Egyptian Hallel, Psalms 113-118, which is sung during the Passover meal (113-114 before the meal; Psalm 115-118 after it). Thus, it is probably part of the hymn Jesus and his disciples sang after the Last Supper (Mark 14:26).

Psalm 114 is the only psalm in that collection to make direct reference to the Exodus, but Psalm 116, a song of individual thanksgiving, is the psalmist’s response to the Lord’s rescue from a dire-situation—an Exodus-like experience.

The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!”

The Lord responds by not just saving the psalmist’s life, but also rescuing him from sadness and from missteps in his walk with the Lord.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.

The psalmist thus responds not just with love, but with public worship: twice the psalmist promises to “pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.” Remembering escape from near death leads the psalmist to look forward to the inevitability of his death and that even then the Lord will be with him.

Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful servants.

This verse makes the psalm appropriate for a funeral, while a reference to “the cup of salvation” suggests its possible use during communion.

The Revised Common Lectionary assigned Psalm 116 to Maundy Thursday in all three years as well as the 3rd Sunday in Easter in Year A and a pair of ordinary time Sundays in Years A & B.

Psalms for All Seasons and Lift Up Your Hearts have five Psalm 116 songs between them.

“I Love You, LORD, for You Have Heard My Voice” (PFAS #116A/LUYH #735/PH87 #116/HFW #9) is a full (unrhymed) versification by Helen Otte set to GENEVAN 116 for the gray Psalter Hymnal. (The song is titled “I Love the LORD, for He Has Heard My Voice” in the gray Psalter Hymnal. Third-person pronouns are changed to second-person throughout for the new CRC hymnals.) According to the Psalter Hymnal Handbook, “This Mixolydian tune is one of the simplest, finest, and most loved of the Genevan repertoire.”

I love you, LORD, for you have heard my voice.
You turned to me and heard my cry for mercy.
Anguished by death and overcome by sorrow,
I turned in my distress to you in prayer.

“What Shall I Render to the Lord” (PFAS #116B/LUYH #871/PH87 #178/PH57 #230) is “one of the most loved from the 1912 Psalter” (says the Psalter Hymnal Handbook). It is a versification of the second half of the psalm (vv. 12-19). It was set to WALLACE in the 1912 Psalter and blue Psalter Hymnal, but was changed to ROCKINGHAM for the gray Psalter Hymnal. (Our class disagreed about which was the better tune.)

What shall I render to the LORD
for all his benefits to me?
How shall my life, by grace restored,
give worthy thanks, O LORD, to thee?

[ROCKINGHAM is also used for “O Christ, You Wept When Grief Was Raw” (LUYH #467), “Commit Your Way to God the Lord” (PFAS #37A/LUYH #840), “Let God, Who Called the Worlds to Be” (SNC #60), and “That Night, at Table” (SNT #156).]

“I Love the Lord; He Heard My Cry” (PFAS #116C/LUYH #439/SNC #227) has lyrics based on vv. 1-2 by Isaac Watts set  to an Afro-American spiritual tune. Richard Smallwood composed the current version.

I love the Lord; he heard my cry
and pitied every groan.
Long as I live and troubles rise,
I’ll hasten to his throne.

The first line of the Watt’s song is the Psalm 116 responsorial “I Love the Lord, Who Heard My Cry” (PFAS #116D/LUYH #152/SNC #226). (PFAS changed “He” to “who” in the first line; LUYH & SNC keep the “who.”) Psalms for All Seasons includes only vv. 1-9 & 12-19; the other two hymnals include the entire psalm.

The fourth and final Psalm 116 hymn in PFAS is “I Will Walk in the Presence of God” (PFAS #116E).  A fragment from the hymn is also given as an alternative responsorial setting.

I will walk in the presence of God.
I trusted when I felt afflicted,
I walk in the sight of the Lord,
and even in the face of death
I will walk in the presence of God.

Lift Up Your Hearts includes another Psalm 116 setting, “I Love the Lord” (LUYH #819), a beautiful 21st Century composition by Arnel Aquino. This was one of my favorites. Here is the refrain:

I love the Lord;
he is filled with compassion.
He turned to me on the day that I called.
From the snares of the dark,
O Lord, save my life, be my strength.

The blue Psalter Hymnal includes two more Psalm 116 settings: “I Love the Lord, the Fount of Life” (PH57 #228) is, like Otte’s versification, set to GENEVAN 116, but a wordier approach resulted in a hymn of 10 stanzas. (Otte’s has five).

“I Love the Lord, for My Request” (PH57 #229) is a versification of the first half of the psalm (vv. 1-11) set to CANONBURY, the tune of “Lord, Speak to Me that I May Speak” (LUYH #754/PH87 #528/PH57 #404).

Since he has freed mine eyes from tears
And kept my feet from evil ways
Redeemed from life’s distressing fears,
With Him I walk, and Him I praise.

Psalm 31

(Here’s the 19th post in my continuing series on the Psalms for All Seasons Sunday school class I co-teach with Andrew Friend. Each week we sing psalm settings from Psalms for All Seasons, Lift Up Your Hearts, and other CRC hymnals. Previous posts is the series focused on Psalm 121, Psalm 122Psalms 2/99Psalm 72Psalm 95Psalm 147,  Psalm 112,  Psalm 29,  Psalm 40Psalm 23Psalm 27Psalm 130Psalm 15Psalm 51,  Psalm 6Psalm 32,  Psalm 143, and Psalms 38/102. On February 23, our class took up Psalm 31.)

Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Psalm 31 is the lesser known of the two psalms Jesus quoted from the cross. While not as obviously connected to the crucifixion as Psalm 22, Psalm 31 expresses the psalmist’s trust in God in the middle of terrible hardship. The description of the psalmist’s dire situation comes in a lament at the center of the psalm.

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak. (vv. 9-10)

In other parts of the psalm, the psalmist expresses commitment to and trust in the Lord and asks for deliverance. The closing section of the psalm is a declaration of thanksgiving.

Praise be to the Lord,
for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.…

Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord. (vv. 21, 23-24)

The Revised Common Lectionary assigns sections of the psalm to the Psalm Sunday Liturgy of the Passion and to Holy Saturday in all three years and to three more Lord’s Days in Year A.

Psalms for All Seasons contains three Psalm 31 songs, none of which are full versifications or use traditional-sounding hymn tunes.

“I Give My Spirit” (PFAS #31A) has a mournful tune better suited for a chorale group than congregational singing. It has a short refrain (“Empty, broken, lifeless, I give my spirit, Lord”) and four stanzas based on vv. 1; 11-12; 14-15; and 16 & 24.

While the tune of “I Give My Spirit” captures the mood of the psalm’s dark sections, “You Are My Rock” (PFAS #31B) has a more upbeat melody and a refrain expressing trust in the Lord.

You are my rock. My life if in your hands.
You are my rock. I trust in you.

The three stanzas draw on 3-5; 10-11; and 18, 20 & 22.

“Haz resplandecer tu rostro/Make Your Face Shine” (PHFS 31D) has a Latin tune that strikes a balance between the moods of the other two. It has a simple refrain with no stanzas.

Make your face to shine upon your servant,
and in your loving kindness save me.
But as for me, I trust in you, O Lord.
I have said “You are my God.
My times are in your hand, O God.
You deliver me.

The responsorial setting is “My Times Are in Your Hands” (PFAS #31C/ LUYH #458/SNC #131), which is set to MARGARET. The text is vv. 1-5, 9-16 & 19-24, which includes all the sections called for by the lectionary. It is the only Psalm 31 setting in Lift Up Your Hearts, where it is followed by a “prayer in solidarity with the dying.”

My times are in your hands.
You strengthen me in strife.
My hope is in your Word.
Your love preserves my life.

Psalms for All Seasons also includes “A Litany for Good Friday” (PFAS #31) by John Witvliet that includes Hebrews 4:14-16. Its only connection to Psalm 31 is the response “into your hands I commit my spirit.”

The gray Psalter Hymnal Psalm 31 setting is “I Seek My Refuge in You, LORD” (PH87 #31). It’s another original versification by Marie Post set to COLERAINE, a 17th Century Irish tune, and another example of where the gray Psalter Hymnal would have been better served by keeping a setting from the blue Psalter Hymnal instead of creating a new one.

“How Great the Goodness Kept in Store” (PH57 #54), set to the Mozart-composed ARIEL, was the better of the two Psalm 31 settings in the blue Psalter Hymnal. It is based on vv. 19-24. One of our class members who grew up with the blue PH recalled singing that, but not the other Psalm 31 song, “In Thee, O Lord, I Put My Trust” (PH57 #53), which has 11 stanzas is set to NAOMI [tune of “Our Children, Lord, in Faith and Prayer” (LUYH #805/PH87 #270/PH57 #416)]. Both hymns have lyrics from the 1912 Psalter.

Frankly, our hymnals gave us fewer good options for this psalm than we’ve had in recent weeks, but we had some fun with some other hymnals, including a couple of old Dutch language hymnals and a 1912 Psalter owned by members of our congregation. Andrew played us the 1912 Psalter’s other Psalm 31 setting, “Defend Me Lord From Shame” (#82) and an old setting of OLD HUNDREDTH. Several guests, including Justin Struik, also enlivened the proceedings.