An Exhortation to Praise God (Psalm 150)

ww_psalmsThe Scriptures possess that peculiarity of being understood by a child while boggling the mind of the scholar, and the last psalm is no exception. After reading it to my three-year old daughter, I asked her, “What do you think our Papa God wanted us to do with this psalm?” Her response was, “To praise Him…with lots of instruments”.

Although praising Him is the central message of the psalm, as Christians we might be tempted to restrict and/or downplay its whole meaning as just a passage about worship time in church. But we should be wary of our own presuppositions! For starters, even though we don’t know who the author was, we can be certain that the psalmist did not write this with a church’s morning service in mind. In God’s providence, He allowed this to be the last of 150 psalms recorded in five different books. Thus, this psalm serves as the ending of the fifth book, as well as the whole Psalter[1].

Two conclusions can be drawn from this: 1) As the fifth book begins and ends with a call to praise God (Ps. 107), we can see praise as a common element within the Christian life in the middle of struggles, enemies’ attacks, times of afflictions, times of prosperity and other topics covered in the fifth book; 2) A similar conclusion can be drawn by taking the whole Psalter, which begins with the two ways of man: the way of life and the way of death (Ps. 1). He who chooses the way of life might go through all the blessings and difficulties described in the Psalms, but at the end of his life, he will be able to praise God. The blessed man will always praise God at the end of the day, but there is no song for those who choose the way of the wicked, and once they pass through the gates of death, there will be no praise in their graves (Ps. 6:5).

Moreover, it is easy to trivialize everything related to music in our contemporary mindset. We automatically classify it in the “entertainment” section of our minds. But the Scriptures don’t approve of such mentality. Take Deuteronomy 32 as an example. Did you know that God chose to warn Israel with a song He wrote? God commanded Moses to write it as a witness to testify against their future wickedness (Dt. 31:19-22), and right after finishing the song, He gave the following warning: “They are not just idle words for you—they are your life…” (Deut. 32:47). Surely there is nothing trivial about this song!

Psalm 150 contains 13 admonitions to praise God. It is rather clear that God wants us to praise Him on a constant basis. In contrast, we read in Romans 1:21 how Paul brings the two main accusations against all humankind and one of them is lack of praise (“they neither glorify God…”). This shows how serious God feels about praising His name. Psalm 150 can be divided into four sections that can be easily remembered: 1) Where to praise (v.1), 2) why praise (v. 2), 3) how to praise (v.v. 3-5), and 4) who ought to praise (v. 6).

  1. Where: God wants us to praise Him in His sanctuary and in His mighty heavens. Although space does not allow us to make a deep study, we can easily infer that praise should be made in His presence. Of course, Israel understood this verse as praising Him in the Temple in Jerusalem, the place where heavens and earth met and the most revered place in the world. But now, He lives within our hearts. Thus, it is not about going to a physical place. It is a matter of disposition of the heart, to be face to face with Him and all the spiritual realities that come with it.
  2. Why: Praise is not to be made in an intellectual vacuum. There must be valid reasons for us to come with offerings of praise, and verse 2 summarizes these reasons for us: praise Him for what He has done (acts of power) and for who He is (His greatness).
  3. How: This passage must be a favorite for musicians, because it describes the varying arrays of musical possibilities. There is the wind section, strings, and percussion for a whole orchestra. There is a place for mellow styles (harp and flutes) and upbeat styles (resounding cymbals and trumpets), with dancing and joy. Most of all, God wants us to praise with instruments made by our own hands through our creativity and skill. He even gives us clearance to create new songs, and requires a certain standard of quality (Ps. 33:3).
  4. Who: On account of His creation, God takes the prerogative as the object of praise. Psalm 148 describes not only living beings but the creation as a whole praising Him: trees and animals; angels and mountains; everything that has been created praises the Creator.

Let us then praise the Lord. Praise Him in His holy presence. Praise Him for who He is and what He has done. Praise Him with music and joy. Praise Him with your every breath. Praise the Lord!

Reflection Questions

  • Do you think God is pleased in the praise you offer to Him?
  • Does it strike you as odd that the Almighty God wants us to praise with music and instruments
  • What conclusions can you make by the fact that the largest book of the Bible is a songbook?

[1] Actually, Psalm 150 is also the last section of the last “Hallel” (Ps. 145-150), which also begins with a call to exalt and praise Him (Ps. 145:1).

huriThis week’s devotional was written by Huri Cañas. Born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Huri has been in the US since moving there in 2010. He received his Bachelor degree at Crossroads Bible College in Urban Leadership and is pursuing a Master’s degree with Indianapolis Theological Seminary. He is actively involved in worship at Neighborhood Fellowship and Zionsville Fellowship. Most importantly, he is blessed with his wife Gina and their two lovely daughters, Isabella and Alessia.

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