Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
Psalm 105:4-6 (ESV)
As one of the “historical psalms,” Psalm 105 recounts God’s faithfulness to his covenant people Israel from the days of Abraham up through the exodus from Egypt. Along the way, the psalmist pauses to praise God for his power and glory, and urges his readers to do the same. The selections from the Psalter Hymnal under discussion today are based on this glorious historical psalm.
209, “Unto the Lord Lift Thankful Voices”
This Genevan setting is based on only an excerpt of Psalm 105. After paraphrasing the first nine verses, the text skips the majority of the psalm to end with vv. 44, 45. Written in 1931 by Samuel Brondsema, likely a member of the CRC himself, this setting constitutes a very free paraphrase, with some verses of the psalm completely rewritten. While the main theme of the Scripture is preserved, some of the original meaning is clouded in the versification. For example—
(1) Unto the Lord lift thankful voices,
Come, worship while your soul rejoices;
Make known His doings far and near
That peoples all His Name may fear,
And tell, in many a joyful lay,
Of all His wonders day by day.
It seems to me that language like “peoples all” and “many a joyful lay” does more to confuse the singers than edify them. Hopefully this text will be given at least a minor rewrite if it is to appear in our new Psalter Hymnal. Given the growing number of good psalm versifications, however, I doubt this version will ever be seriously considered for inclusion.
The tune, from the 1562 Genevan Psalter, is a fitting one for Psalm 105—as the Psalter Hymnal notes above the music, it is especially joyful when sung in unison. Many different harmonizations for this tune exist, and I’m not sure this one is the best. As alternates, consider the versions in either the 1934 or 1987 Psalter Hymnal. If you don’t have access to either of these songbooks, you could also view the harmonization used in the Canadian Reformed Book of Praise, available as a free PDF from GenevanPsalter.com.
210, “O Praise the Lord, His Deeds Make Known”
Although this text appears in the 1912 Psalter, this setting has a few modifications that are unique to our Psalter Hymnal. In the old Psalter, this text was set in nineteen C.M. verses, whereas in our hymnbook, the text has been doubled up to create ten C.M.D. stanzas. That is, there are fewer stanzas in the Psalter Hymnal, but each one is twice as long.
The text is more like a paraphrase than a literal setting, yet it still follows the form of Psalm 105 fairly closely. The language is easy enough to understand that it is comparable to the ESV text in many places. In fact, two lines in the fourth stanza differ from the ESV in the addition of only one word, “own.”
Touch not Mine own anointed ones,
Nor do My prophets harm.
Unfortunately, the structure of this versification makes the list of plagues in Psalm 105:28-36 nearly impossible to include. Yet without stopping to mention each plague, the versifiers’ summary of this section is excellent:
(7) In darkness they were taught to fear
God’s great and holy Name;
On man and beast, on vine and field,
His awful judgment came.
The only drawback in this setting is that to avoid ending half-way through a stanza, Psalm 105:3, 4 are repeated at the end of the tenth verse. This relocates the final command to “Praise the LORD!” from the end of the song, but the central theme of the psalm remains unaltered. Despite such tiny imperfections, the text is certainly worthy of a place in our songbook.
Ever since hearing a Celtic jig version of this tune, SPOHR, I’ve never been able to take it quite seriously. That’s just a matter of personal taste though; objectively, the melody of this tune flows nicely and should be easily sung by any congregation familiar with it. The only alteration a careful organist might want to make is midway through the third line—the rhythm of a quarter note followed by two sixteenth notes might be changed to even eighths for a better flow. And if for some reason SPOHR isn’t a desirable choice for your congregation, alternate double-common-meter (C.M.D.) tunes abound.
In a congregational setting, singing Psalm 105 might be a very fitting addition to special occasions like a church’s commemoration service or a profession of faith. Recounting God’s faithfulness through the years should constitute an especially joyful part of the Christian’s praise.
Let songs of praise to Him ascend,
And hallelujahs without end!