Jesus Christ in the Psalms
Singing Jesus’ Name
Singing Christ’s Name
Singing Jesus Christ’s Name
Rev. Travis Fentiman
Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)
Do We Sing Jesus Christ’s Name in the Psalter?
The Psalter has often been valued less than it should as a manual for sung praise because it is claimed that we do not sing Jesus Christ’s personal name in it. This requirement for singing divine praise, be it noted, is nowhere found in the Bible as a requirement for worship-song, but is a production of man’s ingenuity.
This claim also happens to be false; we do sing Jesus Christ’s personal name throughout the Psalter, which will be thoroughly demonstrated. But before we show this, it should be noted that throughout the Psalter we constantly and fully sing of Christ’s person. Our Savior said: ‘All things must be fulfilled, which were written… in the psalms, concerning Me.’ (Lk. 24:44)
Jesus Christ in the Psalms
Jesus Christ is the crown jewel held forth in the diadem of the psalter. In Ps. 40:6-11 we sing (or rather, Christ’s Spirit sings through us, Ps. 22:22; 40:9-10; Phil. 2:13) of his coming into the world (a passage similar to the first chapter of John). His incarnation as the second Adam is typified in Ps. 8. His earthly ministry is shown forth in the whole of Ps. 1, 16:1-8; 22:22-25; 35 and the whole of Ps. 118.
The Psalter, far beyond any other place in Scripture, is where we find Christ’s inmost thoughts and heart laid bare: We find his delight in the Lord and love for his Word in Ps. 119. We see Him trusting in his Father in Ps. 121. We find Him as the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief, pouring out his complaint in Ps. 88 and 120. We commune in Christ’s sufferings, betrayal and death in Ps. 22:1-22; 69 & 109.
We see the ‘Holy One’ rising from the grave in Ps. 16:9-1; 17:13-15; 49:7-20 & 118:22-24. Christ’s ascension to heaven and sitting at the right hand of God is perhaps nowhere more fully described in the Scripture than in Ps. 15, 24, 68:16-20 and 110. We sing and rejoice in the hope of his Second Coming in Ps. 96 & 98.
Christ’s deity is explicitly asserted in Ps. 45:2,6 & 110:1 (the latter being a pillar for the doctrine in the New Testament). We sing of Jesus our Prophet in Ps. 40:7-10 & 90, as Priest in Ps. 40:6-8; 51; 110:4; 133 and as King in Ps. 20; 21 & 101. We find Christ extending the tent pegs of his Kingdom in Ps. 110:5-7 and ruling over the nations in Ps. 2; 22:26-31 & 66. Ps. 67 & 72 describe the blessings of his spiritual kingdom in the earth.
We also find Christ as our Shepherd in Ps. 23 and 80, our Husband in Ps. 45, our Rock and Captain of Salvation in Ps. 18, our Teacher in Ps. 25:4-6, our Judge in Ps. 26, our Counselor in Ps. 16:7, our Redeemer and Strength in Ps. 19:14, our Light in Ps. 27:1, our Glory in Ps. 3:3 and our Righteousness in Ps. 4:1.
His work of atonement is typified under the animal sacrifices in the Psalter (Ps. 51; 116:17; 118:27-29 and many other places). The sweet smell of incense shows the acceptance of our prayers in Christ (Ps. 66:15; 141:2), in whom God is well pleased (Mt. 3:17). The spiritual joy of his kingdom is found sweetly exemplified in the ceremonial music of the Temple administration (Ps. 150, etc.). The Tabernacle and Temple were pictures of Christ’s body and our hiding ourselves in Him (Ps. 27:5-6; 31:20; 61:4), who is our Fortress (144:2).
Where Christ is not so apparent in some psalms, yet we see in the penitent psalmist Christ’s Spirit living in him, and he (and us) receiving the hope and benefits of Christ’s pardon and mercies (Ps. 32; 130).
The ancient Jews largely understood that the psalms they sung were full of the Messiah. See the 70 or so portions of the psalms that they interpreted Messianically in Edersheim’s Life and Times, App. 9. To view the shadow, benefits and Spirit of Christ in every psalm, meditatively peruse Andrew Bonar’s commentary, Christ and his Church in the Book of Psalms (1859).
Just as the old commandment of loving one another (Lev. 19:18; 1 Jn. 2:7-11) was made new with greater light and preeminence by Jesus’ coming and example (Jn 13:1,34-35; 15:12-13; 1 Jn. 2:7-11), so the types and figures of Christ under the intricately detailed ceremonies of these ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ of the Psalter (see the titles to Ps. 3, 5, 17, 29, 38, 44, 53-54, 60, 66, 75, 82, etc. and the Heidelblog) are gloriously illumined and made spiritually new¹ to us in displaying Christ and the fullness of his work more fully and preeminently than, perhaps, any other book in the Bible.
¹ See Bushell’s analysis of singing a ‘new song’ to the Lord in the Psalter: ‘New Songs’, 7 paragraphs, from his The Songs of Zion (1993)
Hymns often portray Christ in one or two ways; God is a better Artist: He paints layer upon layer in depths of profound, poetic complexity beyond human wisdom. We see Christ typified in Psalm 23 as:
(1) the LORD (1 Cor. 1:30-31),
(2) our Shepherd (Jn. 10:11),
(3) who provides for us (Mt. 15:32-37),
(4) who restores our soul (Lk. 22:32) and
(5) sends his Spirit to comfort us (Jn. 15:26).
(6) He is the Way of Righteousness (Jn. 14:6; 1 Jn. 2:1),
(7) for whom’s name sake all is done (Jn. 16:23).
(8) He is the ideal man (1 Cor. 15:45),
(9) who slept in peaceful faith (Mt. 8:24-26),
(10) who walked through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 22 & 88) and
(11) feared no evil (Mt. 10:28).
(12) He is Immanuel, God-with-us (Mt. 1:23),
(13) who protects us with his rod and staff (Ps. 2:9-12; Acts 9:2-4).
(14) He is the one whom the showbread table represented (Ex. 25:23-30),
(15) who was prepared a table in the presence of his enemies (Ps. 40:7,9; Jn.13:18).
(16) He is the Anointed One (Acts 10:38)
(17) whose cup now runs over at God’s right hand (Ps. 16:10-11).
(18) Goodness and mercy follow Him (Ps. 53:10,12; Rom. 8:32),
(19) who is the ‘kindness and love of God our Savior toward man’ (Titus 3:4).
(20) His days will never end (Isa. 53:10),
(21) who is the house of the Lord (Jn. 2:21; Ps. 27:5) and
(22) who dwells forever in the house of the Lord in heaven (Ps. 15) and
(23) dwells with us (Jn. 1:14; 14:23).
So far from darkening Christ in the psalms, the poignant and poetic Old Testament figures in New Testament light speak a thousand words more than any literal narrative could. In the fullness of New Testament clarity, the book of Revelation describes Jesus not by literal syllables, but under the figure of ‘the Lamb’ (Rev. 5:6; 7:17, etc., c.f. Jn. 1:36).
Truly, these ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ are the Word of Christ (Col. 3:16), not only being the inspired songs of Christ, the Word of God, but they are bursting full of Christ through the seams.
‘The voice of Christ and His Church is well-nigh
the only voice to be heard in the Psalms.’
Thus, in the psalter we sing the inspired songs of Christ which Christ sung (Mt. 26:30; Lk. 4:16), they being full of Christ, Christ singing with us (Zeph. 3:17) as we sing by Christ’s Spirit and help in Christ’s presence (Ps. 22:22; 40:9-10; Phil. 2:13), in legal and spiritual union to Christ, for Christ’s will to be done on earth (Ps. 72:19), as we sing to Christ, ‘the Lord’ (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16-17).
Singing Jesus’s Name
We often sing of ‘salvation’ in the psalms. The Hebrew word for salvation is ישועה yeshua, which, transliterated into Greek, is Ιησους, or ‘Jesus’.
(Yeshua, or ‘Joshua’, see Heb. 4:8, is the shortened form of Yehoshua, or ‘Jehoshua’, which is an abbreviated form of ‘YHWH is Salvation’, or ‘YHWH saves’. See Thayer, Greek Lexicon, p. 300, et al.)
Thus, ‘his name [is] Jesus: for He shall save his people from their sins.’ (Mt. 1:21)
Yeshua (Jesus) can also be translated as ‘deliverance’, ‘rescue’, ‘safety’, ‘welfare’ and ‘victory’ (c.f. B.D.B., Hebrew Lexicon, p. 447). Hence we sing Jesus’ name translated into English under these terms 43 times in the Psalms. For all of the instances, see Wigram, Hebrew Concordance, pp. 575 (the English is the K.J.V.). Thus we sing in the 1650 Scottish Psalter Buy:
That I, in Zion’s daughters’ gates,
. may all thy praise advance;
And that I may rejoice always
. in thy deliverance [Jesus].
O sing a new song to the Lord,
. for wonders He hath done:
His right hand and his holy arm
. Him victory [Jesus] hath won.
The Lord God his salvation [Jesus]
. hath caused to be known;
His justice in the heathen’s sight
. He openly hath shown.
Let thy strong hand make help to me:
. thy precepts are my choice.
I longed for thy salvation [Jesus], Lord,
. and in thy law rejoice.
Another closely related Hebrew word ישע yesha, from the same root as Yeshua, is translated by all the same English terms (B.D.B., Lexicon, p. 447). It is used 20 times in the psalter. For all of the instances, see Wigram, Concordance, pp. 577-8.
The verbal form of Jesus’ name, ישע yasha, is translated as ‘to save’, ‘give victory to’, ‘to deliver’ and ‘to make wide, spacious’ (B.D.B., p. 446). We sing the verbal form of Jesus’ name 57 times in the psalter (Wigram, p. 576).
Upon the Lord, who worthy is
. of praises, will I cry;
And then shall I preserved be
. safe [Jesus’d] from mine enemy.
Thy countenance to shine do Thou
. upon thy servant make:
Unto me give salvation [Jesus me],
. for thy great mercies’ sake.
They did forget the mighty God,
. that had their savior [Jesus] been,
By whom such great things brought to pass
. they had in Egypt seen.
While not all of the instances of the Hebrew speaking of salvation are Messianic, nor could properly be translated as ‘Jesus’, or refer to Him, yet all of them are either typological or related in one way or another to Jesus. If Jesus (‘Salvation’) had not been determined before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8) to be sent into the world for our salvation, there would be no spiritual salvation of any kind in the world whatsoever. Such Old Testament prefigurings of deliverance are only due to Jesus procuring and bringing salvation into the world.
‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.’ (Acts 4:12)
We sing Jesus’ name from the Hebrew a total of 120 times in the Psalter. Most of the instances that the King James Version and the 1650 Scottish Psalter speak of ‘salvation’, ‘to save’ and related terms, are the name of Jesus in Hebrew.
Singing Christ’s Name
‘Christ’, of course, is not Jesus’ last name, but means (in Greek) Messiah (Mt. 16:16; Jn. 1:25, 41). Messiah in Hebrew is משיח Meshiach, which means, and is usually translated as, ‘anointed one’ (B.D.B., p. 603), meaning the one set apart and specially blessed for a divine purpose. We sing of the Lord’s ‘anointed’ in the Psalms 10 times (Wigram, p. 769, the English given is from the K.J.V.):
2:2 ‘against the Lord, and against his anointed’
18:50 ‘showeth mercy to his anointed’
20:6 ‘the Lord saveth his anointed’
28:8 ‘the saving strength of his anointed’
84:9 ‘look upon the face of thine anointed’
89:38 ‘hast been wroth with thine anointed’
89:51 ‘the footsteps of thine anointed’
105:15 ‘Touch not mine anointed’
132:10 ‘turn not away the face of thine anointed’
132:17 ‘I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed’
Most of these references speak directly of Messiah (Christ), or are figures of Him under the shadow of the psalmist or God’s saints. Thus the 1912 Psalter Buy interprets Ps. 2:1-2:
Wherefore do the nations rage,
. and the people vainly dream
That in triumph they can wage war
. against the King supreme?
Christ His Son a scoff they make,
. and the rulers plotting say,
‘Their dominion let us break,
. let us cast their yoke away.’
In the 1650 Scottish Psalter Buy we sing:
Lord God of hosts, my prayer hear;
. O Jacob’s God, give ear.
See God our shield, look on the face
. of thine anointed [Christ] dear.
The scornings of the people all,
. who strong and mighty are.
Wherewith thy raging enemies
. reproached, O Lord, think on;
Wherewith they have reproached the steps
. of thine anointed one [Christ].
All blessing to the Lord our God
. let be ascribed then:
For evermore so let it be.
. Amen, yea, and amen.
We sing Christ’s name, as a verb, ‘to anoint’ (B.D.B., p. 602), two times in the Psalms (Wigram, p. 768). One is Ps. 89:20, speaking of David as a type of David’s Lord: ‘with my holy oil have I anointed [Christed] him’. The other reference is even more significant. The wedding psalm, Ps. 45, is explicitly Messianic, and calls the Messiah, the central figure of the psalm, ‘God’. Verses 5-6:
‘Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under Thee. Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.’
The following verse, v. 7, speaking of the Messiah, says:
‘thy God hath anointed [Messiahed, or Christed] Thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.’
Thus, the delivering King coming to save and marry God’s people would be God, the anointed Messiah.
While not all of the references to anointing in the psalter directly have to do with Christ, yet, without his anointing (Isa. 11:1-5), there would be no other anointing offered and given among men (1 Jn. 2:27).
Almost every time the K.J.V. and the 1650 Scottish Psalter speak of ‘anoint’, it translates ‘Messiah’, or ‘Christ’, in the Hebrew (Ps. 2:6; 23:5 & 92:10 are the exceptions).
Singing Jesus Christ’s Name
Not only do we sing of the names of Jesus and Christ in the Psalter, but we also sing of them together in the Psalter in 3 verses. David is held forth as a picture of the One greater than David in Ps. 18:50:
‘Great deliverance [yeshua, Jesus] giveth He to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed [Messiah], to David, and to his seed for evermore.’
Ps. 20 is striking. The coming Messiah is portrayed under the righteous Old Testament kings of Israel. In customary, poetic, Hebrew parallelism, Jesus is held forth as synonymous with God’s name in Verse 5:
‘We will rejoice in thy salvation [Jesus];
. and in the name of our God we will set up banners’
The English of verse 6 reads:
‘Now know I that the Lord saveth [Jesus] his anointed [Messiah]; He will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving [Jesus] strength of his right hand.’
In relation to the type of the Lord saving the Messiah, see the anti-type fulfilled in Heb. 5:7, which says that the Father would save Jesus in his death (not with respect to any sin in Jesus, but in Jesus committing his spirit unto the Father when expiring, Lk. 23:46). In relation to the second half of verse 6, note that the Messiah is given the title, ‘The Arm of the Lord’ in Isa. 53:1 in the Hebrew.
The word order of the Hebrew in Ps. 20:6 cannot be mistaken: ‘saves YHWH anointed-his’, or ‘Jesus YHWH’s Messiah’.
Ps. 28:8 is similar:
‘The Lord is their strength, and He is the saving [Jesus] strength of his anointed [Messiah].’
The Hebrew word order of the key phrase is: ‘Jesus his Messiah’.
The objection may be put forth that we only sing of Jesus Christ’s name in the original language of the psalter and not in our own native language. This objection is as irrelevant as it is sad:
The verbalization of syllables for a given name is: different for every language, is far removed from the enunciation of syllables in the original language, and is largely arbitrary.
The designation ‘Jesus Christ’ is not actually English, but is simply a literal transcription of the Greek words Iesous Christos. Iesous is a transcription of the Hebrew Yeshua, and Christos is a translation of the Hebrew Meshiach.
In Scripture, the name of God often refers, not to any given set of syllables, but to God’s glory, attributes and fame (Mt. 1:21; Josh. 9:9; 1 Chron. 16:35; Ps. 8:1; Ps. 29:2; Ps. 72:19; Ps. 79:9; Ps. 102:15; Ps. 148:13; Isa. 42:8; Isa. 59:19; etc.). In the psalter we constantly sing of Jesus Christ’s glory, attributes and fame, that which He is known by (in any language), or, to put it in Biblical lingo: his name.
While in the three songs of the New Testament book of Revelation (5:9-10; 14:3; 15:3-4) Jesus is sung of and sung to, yet none of them call Him by his name ‘Jesus’ in the native language of the common people: Greek. Rather, in 15:3-4, He goes by the titles of Lord, God, Almighty and King (which titles and similar titles Isa. 9:6 says are Christ’s ‘name’), just as He does in the Psalms (e.g. Ps. 110:1; 45:6; 91:1 with Rev. 1:8 & Col. 3:3; Ps. 2:6; etc.).
While we are told in Scripture to pray in the name of Jesus (Jn. 16:23-26; Eph. 5:20; see W.C.F. 21.3 and Larger Catechism #178-181 which reproduces the Scriptural phraseology), we are to call upon the name of Jesus (1 Cor. 1:2), are exhorted in the name of Jesus (1 Cor. 1:10), and Jesus Christ’s name is sometimes mentioned in Scriptural prayers (often along with the Father and the Spirit), yet out of all of the prayers of the New Testament, none of them include the often repeated, three word phrase: ‘in Christ’s name’. The meaning of the Scriptural directive, rather, is to pray in the person and authority of Christ. While explicitly using such a phrase in prayer may be applicable, helpful, a strong, stated ground of our prayer before God, enticing his help (Larger Catechism #180), clearly the syllables ‘Jesus Christ’ are not a slavish, scriptural requirement of prayer (lest the apostles be uniformly in sin), or hence, of praise songs.
Mt. 28:19 says to perform baptism ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ Yet, this phraseology is nowhere used in all the baptisms of the New Testament. Rather, what we find is baptism being done expressly and only ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’ (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 19:5; etc.), the one phrase seemingly fulfilling the intended reality of the other (see Jn. 14:20 for a similar concept). The reason, in part, for this, no doubt, is that, while Christ, by delegated authority as the Mediator, heads up the administration of the Kingdom of God in the New Testament era (Isa. 53:10), and thus there is a special emphasis upon Him in the Church age and in our worship, yet, nonetheless, worship remains Trinitarian: to the Father, through Christ (who loves to give the glory to his Father, Jn. 17:1) and by the Holy Spirit.
Is the singing of the name of the Father and Holy Spirit in our native language a requirement of divine song as well? While the string of syllables ‘Father’ and ‘Holy Spirit’ are not found in the Psalter (or in Revelation’s songs), yet the concept, their persons, glory and attributes figure throughout the Psalter (for the Father: Ps. 10:14; 27:10; 103:13; for the Spirit: Ps. 51:11-12; 104:30; 106:33; 139:7; 143:10).
Singing of Jesus Christ under his translated names of Salvation and Anointed One, which convey the meaning of his name (Mt. 1:21; Mt. 16:16) and the fullness of his person and work, is much more a singing of his name than the arbitrary syllables: ‘gee-zus kri-st’. Many sing the syllables ‘Jesus Christ’ and yet are far from knowing Him; yet all those who sing of Him, under any name, who know the One of whom they sing (Jn. 17:3), are truly singing his name.
If it be further pressed that many, or most, of the times that the words “salvation”, “deliverance”, etc., are used in the Psalms, that they could not properly be translated Jesus: this is to miss the intention of the original language and the Holy Spirit. Often in Scripture the reader is expected to pick up on poetic puns, especially with regard to names, which are not strict equivalent translations, but are close enough to convey the meaning (Gen. 4:25; 17:5; 19:22; 25:30; 41:51; 49:8; Mt. 2:23 with Isa. 11:1, etc.). How much more is this true when Jesus’ literal name pervades the Song Book that prophesies of Him?
Col. 3:16-17 says:
‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly… in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus..’
As singing ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ falls into the category of a ‘word or deed’, and immediately precedes ‘do[ing] all in the name of the Lord Jesus’, it is clear that, according to Scripture, Christians in the faith of Christ, singing the word of Christ dwelling in us richly, are singing ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus’.
Thus, singing in Jesus Christ’s ‘name’, according to Scripture, encompasses a much broader range of meaning than simply using the syllables thereof in our native language. Singing in Christ’s name includes being called by Jesus’ name, singing by faith in Jesus of Jesus, upon his merits, in spiritual and legal union to Him and doing it in the way God has set for us in his prescribed worship songs, including: using Jesus Christ’s Scriptural names and even, where it is an intended and appropriate translation, sometimes his name in our own native language in the Psalter. This is Biblical worship.
We sing of Jesus Christ’s name 132 times in 67 of the Psalms (45%).
(We sing his name 8 times in Ps. 18 (which is typical of Christ), 7 times in Ps. 119, 5 times in Ps. 20 & 106, 4 times in Ps. 44, 89 & 118, etc.)
This interestingly, is more than in most hymn-books. In the first 100 hymns of the Trinity Hymnal (ed. 1990), ‘Jesus’ is only mentioned 8 times, and that in only 4 of the hymns (4%). ‘Christ’ is elocuted 10 times in 8 hymns (8%), and ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’ are only used in the same hymn (though not together) in 1 hymn (1%).
Oh pray that God would lift the veil of blindness off the eyes of the Jews and Christians (2 Cor. 3:14) who do not see Jesus the Christ throughout the Psalter!
Christ our Song
In the Messianic passage of Isa. 12:2, the divine Messiah is called the believer’s ‘Song’:
‘Behold, God is my salvation [Jesus]; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation [Jesus].
In verses 14 & 15 of Psalm 118 (a Messianic psalm), we find Christ our Song tabernacling with us (see the Greek of Jn. 1:14), as we sing of Him, the Lord (as Christ is titled in Eph. 5:19-20; Col. 3:16-17):
‘The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation [Jesus]. The voice of rejoicing and salvation [Jesus] is in the tabernacles of the righteous.’
Yea, in Ps. 42:8, we sing of Immanuel, ‘God with us’ (Mt. 1:23), the Song of God, even ‘The Kindness and Love of God’ (see our Savior’s title in the Greek of Titus 3:4) in the poetic, coordinate parallel of the verse:
‘Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the day time,
. and in the night his song shall be with me…’
Our voice often goes under the poetic label of our ‘glory’ in the Psalms (Ps. 16:9; 57:8; 108:1; 149:5). Ps. 30:12 instances this:
‘To the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee…’
If we are to only glory in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:30-31) who is the Lord of Glory (Jm. 2:1), then Friend, take up the Song of God in the Psalter, and sing with your glory a sweet melody in the name of Jesus Christ!
O sing a new song to the Lord:
sing all the earth to God.
To God sing, bless his name, show still
his saving health [Jesus] abroad.
Among the heathen nations
his glory do declare;
And unto all the people show
his works that wondrous are.
The Westminster Assembly and Psalm Singing
The Puritans and Psalm Singing
Eulogistic Quotes on the Psalter
Musical Instruments in Worship
Offices of Christ: Prophet, Priest & King