Christopher Ash: How Can Christians Sing the Psalms?

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Christopher Ash, Writer-in-Residence for Tyndale House in Cambridge, UK, is the author of a book on Psalm 119, two volumes of books on teaching the Psalms, a forthcoming popular-level commentary on selected Psalms, and is currently working on the culmination of his life’s work, a three-volume commentary on all the Psalms tentatively titled Praying the Psalms in Christ.

He recently delivered the 2019 Gheens Lectures at Southern Seminary on how Christians can pray the Psalms.


Lecture 1

In the first lecture, Ash opens by making his aim explicit—namely, to persuade his listeners of five theses:

  1. Jesus Christ is the sum and substance of the Psalms.
  2. Jesus Christ is the singer and the subject of the Psalms.
  3. The true meaning of the Psalms is found in Jesus Christ.
  4. Only those in Christ can sing, speak, pray the Psalms in a way that respects their true and original meaning.

He observes that (1) we ought to sing the Psalms, but that (2) singing the Psalms is not as easy as we sometimes think.

He then examines how the New Testament writers understood the Psalter, and identifies six strands of the tapestry:

  • The Sufferer: Christ is the righteous sufferer in the psalms, who prays for, and is confident of, his vindication.
  • The King: Christ is the Anointed King in David’s line, the Son of God, who is so closely identified with God that hostility to God means hostility to him.
  • The Teacher: Christ speaks with the voice of the Teacher in the psalms.
  • Deity: Christ is identified with God or “the LORD” in the psalms.
  • “Yes!” to the Covenant: Salvation by God in the psalms means salvation by Christ, who fulfills all the Old Covenant types.
  • The Head of the Church: The things of Christ overflow to the Church of Christ.

He concludes that

  • We hear in the Psalms the voice of Jesus Christ in his full humanity.
  • We cannot fail to hear in the voices of the Psalms the authoritative tones of Jesus Christ in his divine nature.
  • We see again and again the overflow from Christ our Head to the Church his Body and Members.


Lecture 2

In the second lecture he asks how we got to where we are today, briefly surveying how the Psalms have been read in twenty centuries Christian history, noting some salient trends, and how these trends impact how we see the relationship of Christ to the Psalms today.

He argues, in essence, “Two cheers for the church Fathers, but perhaps only two cheers for modern commentators; and no cheers for the ‘Endarkenment.’”


Lecture 3

In the third and final lecture, he seeks to show why all of this matters, offering some theological reflection on how these questions impact, and are impacted by, the follow areas:

  1. Scripture and Canon
  2. Prophecy and the Spirit of Christ
  3. Christology and Incarnation
  4. Prayer and Spirituality
  5. Gospel and Law
  6. Christ and his Church

He closes by offering some pointers to how a preacher might approach preaching the psalms.

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