Category Archives: Worship

Putting words in my mouth (Ps 119:13)

It’s often frowned on—putting words in someone else’s mouth. The barrister will be reprimanded for “leading the witness” by the presiding judge in a trial. We complain bitterly, “you’re putting words in my mouth” when we’re accused of saying something we certainly didn’t mean at all.

But is it ever a good thing? What if you were scheduled to meet a celebrity, a hero, royalty? Or perhaps if you were to meet an estranged relative for the first time in a long time? Many’s the person in such circumstances has been heard to ask, “What shall I say?” Not this time the complaint, “How dare you put words in to my mouth?” but, rather, the plea, “Can someone please put some words in my mouth!”

And when it comes to addressing Almighty God? What words shall we use? The psalmist knew exactly what to say.

With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. (Psalm 119:13)

He had learned that God is the great teacher (Psalm 119:12) and had already done what the disciples had done when they asked Jesus, “teach us to pray”—put some words in our mouths!

It may well be that the psalmist is declaring God’s word to others, perhaps unbelievers (as in Psalm 119:46). But if he relies on God to supply words for his witness, surely he dare not rely on himself to worship God. Is this what he is driving at when he tells us that God’s word is the subject of his songs, presumably of worship (Psalm 119:54)? His praise to God is comprised of God’s own words and addressed to God.

The psalmist’s constant meditation is not simply him thinking his own thoughts on his own. Is he not going over things in his mind before God himself? And who, in the presence of God, would sit and mumble and mutter to themselves alone? One would not do it in the presence of royalty or important people. Christian meditation involves my mind and my God. What I say when I’m meditating I don’t simply say to myself, or simply in God’s presence, but to God himself.

So what words will I use to speak to the one whose very word created all that is? How delightful that God has put his words in my mouth. He has not left my tongue-tied in his presence. He doesn’t delight to see my squirm before him, desperately seeking the words with which to address him. We have a Psalter full of praises and prayers from which to draw. We have an entire Bible to aid us speak to God in appropriate language. Shall we do better than he in discovering that precise turn of phrase that most adequately expresses out thoughts, and most glorifies him?

If the psalmist considered storing God’s word in his heart as a preventative measure against sin (Psalm 119:11), surely another great benefit of Scripture stored in the heart is its ability to supply those words we desperately need to pray to and praise God. If the psalmist shows us that learning God’s word will unleash in us heartfelt praise (Psalm 119:7), he also shows us that learning God’s word will supply the very words we need to praise God as we ought.

How shall we then praise? By using the words he has put in our mouths and on our lips.

Demise of the hymn book

I was just pondering the demise of the hymn book from many churches, including the one that I attend. It has been replaced by the overhead projector or presentation systems. I wonder if the apparent advantages seriously outweigh the detrimental effect that this wholehearted embracing of technology is having. Gone are the days when you could ponder the words of the hymn you had just sung, by keeping your hymn book open and rereading it. The impact of the words can be lost, or greatly lessened, if you have no access to the words. It is no longer possible to meditate on a hymn during the offering, or the Lord’s Supper. I have always found this practice a helpful aid to prayer.

Could it be that we have almost come to treat our singing of God’s praises with his people as little more than a “sanctified” karaoke? The words appear on screen and we simply sing along. Once we’re finished singing, the words leave little impact on our minds. Without access to them in print, at the time, what little impact they might have had is completely lost.

So, bring back the hymn book. We might sing less new songs as a result, but that would surely be a small price to pay for a richer, deeper praise. Our worship would be the more glorifying to God for being more thoughtful, and more edifying to ourselves for engaging our minds the more completely.