“Let Youth Praise Him!”

Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.

–Psalm 148:12,13 (ESV)

Most of us have a favorite songbook.  Whether it’s a particular hymnal, a collection of gospel music, or the Psalter Hymnal itself, we tend to gravitate toward the songs that remind us of our childhood.  I’ve acquired a sizable collection of old hymnals from various sources over the past few years, with titles such as The Reformed Press Hymnal, The Hymn Book, Tabernacle Hymns, Hymns for the Living Church, and Seth Parker’s Hymnal.  Frankly, most of these collections comprise weak, sentimental songs with only the most meager Scriptural content.

However, one of the books I “inherited” caught my eye.  I’d already heard it mentioned with love and fond reminiscence by several members of our congregation.  It’s a little red book with a blue and gold design on the cover.  Its title: Let Youth Praise Him!

Described as “A Hymnal for Christian Primary Schools, Sunday Schools, and Christian Homes,” Let Youth Praise Him! was published in 1949 by Eerdmans.  Its preface explains:

For many years the National Union of Christian Schools has felt the need of a distinctive hymnal for the primary and junior grades that would meet our standards of doctrinal soundness, with music adapted to children’s voices, and content within the range of children’s comprehension.

This little hymnal seeks to do just that—to provide simple but doctrinally sound songs for children.  To me, it seems that Let Youth Praise Him! does an excellent job in that regard.  It contains not only some classic children’s choruses like “He Loves Me Too,” “The Birds upon the Tree-tops,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “Oh, Be Careful,” and “Fishers of Men,” but also a solid collection of good hymns: “O Worship the King,” “This Is My Father’s World,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me,” and so on.  But what fascinates me the most is that Let Youth Praise Him! includes significant contributions from the psalms—for example, the following:

  • 1.  The Lord’s My Shepherd (Psalm 23; Psalter Hymnal 38)
  • 7.  God Is Our Refuge and our Strength (Psalm 46; PsH 84)
  • 9.  Thy Mercy and Thy Truth, O Lord (Psalm 36; PsH 62)
  • 27.  Blest Is He Who Loves God’s Precepts (Psalm 1; PsH 2)
  • 32.  How Shall the Young Direct Their Way? (Psalm 119; PsH 237)
  • 35.  Be Thou My Judge, O Righteous Lord (Psalm 26; PsH 47)
  • 37.  Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah (Psalm 148; PsH 304)
  • 47.  Hallelujah! Hallelujah! (Psalm 150; PsH 310)
  • 50.  Who, O Lord, with Thee Abiding (Psalm 15; PsH 20)
  • 107.  Ye Children, Come (Psalm 34; PsH 59)
  • 113.  Thy Promised Mercies Send to Me (Psalm 119; PsH 241)
  • 147.  Zion, Founded on the Mountains (Psalm 87; PsH 166)

Perhaps this psalm component is partially explained by the fact that Rev. H. J. Kuiper, long-time editor-in-chief of The Banner, compiler of the New Christian Hymnal, and chairman of the Psalter Hymnal Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, contributed to this songbook.  In any case, the collection presented in Let Youth Praise Him! is wonderful, and, I must add, unique.

As I ruminated on this songbook, a few questions popped into my head.  Why are the psalms so rarely seen (with the occasional exception of little choruses) among children’s songs?  Are they viewed as too lofty?  Too hard to sing?  Too complex for young minds to understand?

The psalms themselves offer a very different perspective.  Psalm 78:4 says, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”  In Psalm 119:9, David writes, “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to your word.”  And the author of Psalm 34 says in v. 11, “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.”  Even from such a small sample of verses, it is evident that the psalms were intended for young as well as for old.  Is it possible, then, that we are robbing the next generation if we fail to impart to them the timeless riches of these songs?

I’m not suggesting that every number in the Psalter Hymnal should be included in kids’ repertoire.  Some psalm-songs are much more suitable for children than others.  But if we’re primarily worried about which psalms to pick, we’re starting from the wrong place.  The psalms are meant to be sung by us and our children—so let’s be sure to use them in any way we can!

There are a multitude of practical means by which we can teach the psalms to the youth.  One example that often strikes me is Psalter Hymnal 104: “What Time I Am Afraid,” from Psalm 56.  Wouldn’t this serve as a perfect lullaby to teach toddlers?  Similar examples abound; all we must do is look for them.

Below, a children’s choir sings Psalm 144 from the 1912 Psalter.  Can our covenant youth learn and love the psalms?  Absolutely!

Questions for discussion:

  • How do you teach children the psalms in your church?
  • What songs from the Psalter Hymnal strike you as particularly child-friendly?  Are there any that you try to avoid?
  • How do you ensure that the children understand the words as they sing the psalms?
  • In what other ways might we provide our children with a musical environment that’s rich with psalms?

Why did the creators of Let Youth Praise Him! prioritize the inclusion of worthy Biblical songs?  They realized that the music of childhood creates a lasting impression on young minds.  Many of the songs we teach our children today will become the “old favorites” of the next generation.  The key question is this: Will we leave them something worth remembering?

–MRK

(Also see an earlier article entitled “The Young People’s Music,” dated July 5, 2012.)

The West Sayville CRC Sunday School in 1951

The West Sayville CRC Sunday School in 1951

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7 Responses to ““Let Youth Praise Him!””


  1. 1 Reita Julien September 7, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    This is a great book, Michael. I never could figure out why they let this one fade out. The Children’s Hymnbook and another one, I can’t think of the name right now, they are at my house in Mi., took the place of the “Let Youth…” Another one in the book is “Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord, Sing all ye people, gladly adore Him, Let the mountains tremble at His Word…” Other favorites when I was in school were, “The Ninety and Nine” and “Master, the tempest is Raging”. If I find used ones, I pass them on to Sunday School teachers.

    • 2 Michael Kearney September 7, 2012 at 2:43 pm

      At West Sayville we only have about 2 or 3 copies of Let Youth Praise Him!, but there are many others. Another one I have in mind is a little book with an even darker red cover, possibly titled “Sing Praises” or something like that. We have many copies of that one. I’m going to be at church tomorrow so I will find out and report back to you. But yes, LYPH does seem to have sadly faded into the sunset…

      I have often heard “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord” on Family Radio (back when they actually had good music and semi-good teaching) and LOVED it. “The Ninety and Nine” is another of my favorites. “Rejoice, for the LORD brings back His own!!!”

      –MRK

  2. 3 Villatoro September 7, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    man, the sunday school has shrunk quite a bit since then!

  3. 5 Betsy Ludwick September 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Oh, we sang out of it at Lake Worth Christian School! It was as important a book as any of our textbooks. One of my favorites was “How shall the young direct their ways?” Amongst others. The picture of the girls singing in the beginning of the book were Beth and Andrea Boss. They went to our church and school down there. I have 3 copies yet! So many of them I can sing by memory. When I began taking piano lessons it was one of the first books I played out of that wasn’t a lesson book! We sang out of the Songs of Hope for Sunday School. Our K-9 school was attached to the church so maybe the thought was to give us some diversity! The songs in both of these books as well as the Psalter Hymnal were influential in my growth as a Christian! The words are as familiar as the Bible verses we memorized in school. I would not trade one verse in the song or the Bible for a public school education! It was priceless!

  4. 7 KP November 19, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    I heard an organist play a medley of LYPH songs in the OP church in WI. it was really neat to hear. I always wondered where she got it.


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