The psalms are songs, many of them accompanied by string instruments. The one appearing most often is the lyre, the ancestor of the guitar. For instance, the introduction to Psalm 6 indicates that it is to be sung “with string instruments,” led by a sheminith, or an 8-string lyre. The sheminith was a carefully crafted instrument, no more than six to nine inches tall. It could only be played in two postures. Either kneeling with the instrument on the ground while you sang and plucked its strings, or with the instrument held close against your breast. The first posture gave the impression that the musician was worshipping or pleading. The second made it seem as if the singer was playing from the heart.
It is with such pleading that our heavenly husband sings us a love song. “He brought me to the banquet eating table, and his banner over me is love” (Song 2:4). Despite all our betrayal, cheating, perversity, disdain, and unbelief, he keeps loving us. Scripture says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with mercy” (Jer 31:3). That mercy was already shown through his sacrifice on our behalf, on his own body on the cross. “He was wounded for our rebellions, he suffered in our place, thanks to his wounds we have received peace… God let the punishment we deserve fall instead on him” (Isa 53).
In fact, in Psalm 6 and its “twin” Psalm 38, David prophecies of the Messiah’s suffering for us, but the context of the eight-string harp turns it into a love song. In both Psalms, we hear the Messiah becoming sin for us, and thus he pleads on our behalf before the Father. He does not want us to hear it as his suffering, but as his love for us:
There is no soundness in my flesh
Because of Your anger,
Nor any health in my bones
Because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
Like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
My wounds are foul and festering
Because of my foolishness (Ps 38:3-5).
This is one of the clearest descriptions of the Messiah becoming sin for us and carrying all our sinfulness before the Father. He wishes to win our hearts by letting us hear his pleas as a love song for us!
This lover, with his songs, is the true love of our hearts’ desiring. Instead of violence against us, he took our pain on his own body. Instead of songs reminding us of our contempt and treachery, he sings to us of his eternal tender love. With those love songs, he wins over our hearts, knowing we will still not be faithful to him; no, nowhere even close to the meaning of faithful. Our hearts will continue to doubt his love and even his existence! Even when we do affirm his existence, we often wish he didn’t exist at all! But he does not turn his back on us. Instead, he forgives, guides, and protects us with his Spirit. His love heals instead of wounds. In fact, we are healed by his wounds!
In both Psalms, we hear the Messiah becoming sin for us, and thus he pleads on our behalf before the Father.
His Spirit, that other Comforter, watches over us with a constant passion. He draws from our hearts, shouts and tears of happiness and praise! Against such love, there is no law that could ever condemn us. Instead, there is only grace that places love songs on our own lips! “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” (Ps. 40:3).
But wait! What are you doing just now? It seems like I hear you singing a love song. And, are you playing the guitar or an eight-string lyre? Doesn’t matter, you’ve got a great voice,
Sing that song over again to me,
wonderful words of life,
Offer pardon and peace to all,
wonderful words of life;
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
wonderful words of life.