Psalm 119 is epic. It is theologically profound, it is highly structured, it tells me new and wonderful things that I need to know. It gloriously reflects splendour of both the word of God and the God of the word. And it is long — it spans six pages of my Bible.

Surely Psalm 119 should inform our worship. We should seek to be theologically profound and we should not shy away from length of song or beautiful poetry. We should not be afraid of teaching God’s people to sing worship songs that glory in him because of their length.

But not every Psalm is Psalm 119.

Just two psalms prior we find something very different. Here is Psalm 117 (ESV):

Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.

That’s it. Two verses. Nothing profound, just a simple call for all of God’s creation to worship God for his character. And it is equally as inspired as Psalm 119.

Sometimes I think we ‘reformed-types’ can pride ourselves in our intelligence and our skill when it comes to doctrine. And sometimes I think we can pride ourselves in our worship songs which are rich and deep; we even defend old hymns with words that no one understands any more simply because of their lyrical genius. Sometimes, I think we can fall into the trap of thinking that every one of our songs needs to be a Psalm 119 to the neglect of the Psalm 117s that are out there.

Recently at our church we introduced a new song called ‘Have Mercy on Me’ written by Pat Sczebel (church / twitter) and Dale Bischof. One of the strengths of this song, I think, is its simplicity. That is not to say that Pat and Dale are theologically simple (they’re not!), but it is to say that they’re serving the church well by simply recounting the basic experience of a believer, calling on God to have mercy.

This is a song of contrition that acknowledges the holiness of God and our desperate need of mercy. It is a song that recognizes that our only hope of receiving mercy is the pure benevolence of God. And it is a song that every believer can sing and mean and be affected by without the immediate burden of trying to follow an intricate melody line or trying to sort out the meaning of the big words. It is a gift to the church that has blessed our church already, and I pray would bless many more.

Not every song we sing should be simple like this. There is definitely a place for profundity. But at the same time, not every song needs to be Psalm 119.

Have Mercy on Me
I am a sinner, You’re blameless, Lord
My sins against You can’t be ignored
They will be punished, I know they must
Your Law demands it, for You are just.

If You would count everything that I’ve done wrong, who could stand?
But there’s forgiveness with You, God!

Have mercy on me! Have mercy on me!
A broken and a contrite heart, You won’t turn away
Have mercy on me! Have mercy on me!
Because of Your steadfast love…

Father of mercy, You gave Your Son
To make atonement for wrongs I have done
What You required, Jesus fulfilled
I don’t deserve it, I never will

By Pat Sczebel and Dale Bischof © 2011 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP). From The Gathering by Sovereign Grace Music.