A Song and a Psalm

April 1, 2012 - 5:00 am

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A song. A psalm.

“May God be gracious to us and bless us
   and make His face shine on us.” — Psalm 67:1

Throughout the book of Psalms there are some commonly recurring phrases that serve to introduce the various chapters. Many psalms are introduced with “a song of ascents,” “a psalm of David” and of course, “Halleluiah!” Psalm 67 begins with a seemingly repetitive phrase, “A song. A psalm,” or in Hebrew, shir mizmor.

Is there a difference between a song and a psalm? Why does the psalmist mention them both?

The Hebrew word for song is shira (which is also a popular girl’s name), but like all biblical words, there is a deeper significance as well. Shir doesn’t only mean song; it signifies a connection and, interestingly enough, is the same word for both a domesticated animal and a leash. With this understanding, shirah means a song connecting the singer with God above.

Psalm, or mizmor, on the other hand has nearly the opposite connotation. Mizmor comes from the Hebrew word zamoor which means to cut or prune as in Leviticus (25:4), during the Sabbatical year, “do not prune (tizmor) your vineyard.” The message here is that before offering a psalm to the Lord, we must first cut out any inappropriate forces or desires that may interfere with our devotion.

The challenge for us then becomes to live each day as the psalmist suggests — by offering “a song” and “a psalm,” connecting ourselves to God, while cutting away those things that keep us from Him.

What might you cut out from your daily routine that is keeping you from God? In what ways can you better connect with Him? As you offer a song and a psalm to God, you will be in a better position to receive His gracious blessings that He wants to bestow upon you.


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