(1) Sing for joy to Yahweh, you righteous! Praise from the upright (is) beautiful. (2) Give thanks to Yahweh with the lyre. Make music to him on the ten-stringed harp. (3) Sing to him a new song. Play skillfully with a shout of joy, (4) for the Word of the Lord is upright, and all his work (is done) in faithfulness. (5) He loves righteousness and justice. The earth is full of Yahweh’s steadfast love.
Three words, apart from the name of Yahweh, are repeated in this opening segment of the psalm: “sing...righteous...upright.” First, we should consider the two pairings of “righteous” and “upright.” The initial occurrence of each word (vs. 1) refers to those who offer praise to Yahweh. Only the “righteous” and the “upright” are worthy of worshiping him. Later these two words are used to describe Yahweh himself. His Word is upright (vs. 4), and he loves righteousness (vs. 5).
We should take note of the synonyms for worship (vss. 1, 2, & 3) including the imperative “sing” which begins both verses 1 & 3: “sing for joy...praise...give thanks...make music...sing...play skillfully...shout of joy.” We should also note the synonyms used to describe Yahweh (vss. 4 & 5): “upright...faithfulness... righteousness...justice...steadfast love.” One more pattern regarding the direction of our worship should be noted: “to Yahweh” (vs. 1), “to Yahweh” and “to him” (vs. 2), and “to him” (vs. 3). Our worship should be centered on God alone.
I. How we should praise Yahweh (1-3)
- with songs of praise from the upright (1)
- with new songs played skillfully and sung loudly (2 & 3)
II. Why we should praise Yahweh (4 & 5)
- because Yahweh’s word and work are upright and faithful (4)
- because Yahweh is a God of justice and love (5)
Our response for all that Yahweh has done for us should be expressed in an outpouring of joyous worship.
Psalm 33:1-3 constitutes a “musician’s mandate,” one of the most important passages in the entire Bible to help us understand the role of music in worship. First, we see the WHY and the WHO (vs. 1). WHY do music? Because it is commanded by Yahweh (the verbal imperative, “Sing!”) and because it is beautiful or fitting for the worshiper. WHO (and to WHOM)? Those who are righteous, because of their relationship with Yahweh, are to offer their songs to him as an expression of joyful praise.
HOW are we to do the music we offer to Yahweh? These verses provide at least three answers. First, our music is to be done joyfully and loudly (“shout of joy” in vss. 1 & 3). Next, the use of instruments including the lyre and the harp (vs. 2) is encouraged. Finally, the words “play skillfully” imply a level of excellence that requires training and rehearsals (vs. 3).
WHAT are we to sing in praise of Yahweh? We are commanded to “sing a new song” (vs. 3). This means that we are to be constantly creating new tunes and new ways of expressing our worship. It also means that whenever we use older songs that are familiar to us we should sing them in new and fresh ways so that our praise never grows stale or routine. Our great God is worthy of our best efforts when it comes to music.
One further implication should be mentioned. No one is exempt from singing to the Lord, not even those who think themselves incapable of carrying a tune. Anyone who has a voice to speak has a voice to sing no matter how awful they may think they sound. In worship all who take part are to “sing for joy to the Lord.” If we find ourselves worrying about what others think about the sound we are making, we should remember that we are not singing for them. Our worship is to be directed to Yahweh and is for his glory alone.