Psalm 150 – Praising God

Psalm 150 by Hope G. Smith

Shout praises to the Lord!
    Praise God in his temple.
    Praise him in heaven,
    his mighty fortress.
Praise our God!
    His deeds are wonderful,
    too marvelous to describe.

Praise God with trumpets
    and all kinds of harps.
Praise him with tambourines
    and dancing,
    with stringed instruments
    and woodwinds.
Praise God with cymbals,
    with clashing cymbals.
Let every living creature
praise the Lord.
    Shout praises to the Lord! (CEV)

There is a time for quiet reflection and contemplation, and there is a time for jubilant shouts of praise. The biblical psalms mirror the full range of human emotion. Having moved through the ups and downs of doubt, curiosity, anger, lament, and trust, it is appropriate that the psalter ends with lots of joyful noise.

I grew up in a generation where children were expected to be quiet in church. Not surprisingly, as a child, I found the church worship service on Sunday to be the most boring hour of my week. After a Saturday of morning cartoons, sugary cereal, All-Star Wrestling, and playing outside in the dirt with my brother, Sunday morning was typically a big letdown.

All I have to say about that, and about cranky old women shushing kids in church, is that the adults somehow forgot to read Psalm 150. Maybe if us big people were better about encouraging our little people to dance in the aisles, blow a kazoo as loud as they can, and freely give a shout to the Lord, then perhaps there would be a lot fewer defections from church worship services.

“Praise is the rehearsal of our eternal song. By grace we learn to sing, and in glory we continue to sing. What will some of you do when you get to heaven, if you go on grumbling all the way? Do not hope to get to heaven in that style. But now begin to bless the name of the Lord.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

But don’t think I’m advocating going all out noise, all the time. Just as it is neither necessary nor appropriate to always shout everything you say, and skip everywhere you go, so the worship of God needs to encompass the broad scope of the human condition. Silence, meditation, and stillness have their important place. In a desire to make church fun, some Christians have created imbalanced experiences of only victory in Jesus.

One of the reasons I follow the Christian Year with its liturgical movements is that it holds and maintains the balance of worship and the theological tension of both crucifixion and resurrection. We need healthy rhythms of sorrow and joy, stillness and movement, quietness and shouting.

The Church is currently in the Christian season of Eastertide. It is a focused time of celebration – which is why we have biblical sections in this time of year like Psalm 150. This is the appropriate time to lift loud praise to God for the risen Christ and celebrate salvation and new life in Jesus.

I’m not really a numbers kind of guy, yet its easy to notice the word “praise” occurs 10 times in a psalm of just 6 verses. And 7 musical instruments are mentioned. Methinks we’re supposed to not miss something here.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

hebrews 13:15, NIv

Praise is to happen in heaven and earth, in all creation, out in the world as well as inside the walls of the church building. It is to be done with voice, dance, drums, horns, woodwinds, and stringed instruments. Because God has done wonderful and marvelous acts throughout the earth, people are to respond with profuse gratitude expressed with lots of emotion.

Just so you know, that means sourpuss Christians who wrongheadedly believe human feelings ought to be stuffed and suppressed, need some remedial theological education about who God is and exactly what he expects from people. Somebody, please dispense the laxative of Psalm 150 to loosen their spiritual constipation!

God gave us our breath, and we are to use it for praise. If we see the entire book of Psalms as a life, then it is fitting the final psalm ends with sanguine praise. Indeed, when a person is at end of life, do they have reason to praise? A life of walking with God through thick and thin will inevitably end with recounting the ways in which the Lord has shown up and delivered. They want musical praise filling their last days and minutes.

That is exactly what Duke Ellington did in the twilight of his life. On January 19, 1968, Ellington performed a concert of sacred music at St. John the Divine cathedral in New York City. Among the original songs he performed and later recorded was his musical interpretation of Psalm 150. He called it “Praise God and Dance.”

Duke Ellington said that this praise music, and the two other albums of sacred music he recorded, were “the most important thing I have ever done.” When Ellington performed “Praise God and Dance” at the ancient Church of Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona, Spain, the congregation spontaneously burst into the aisles with dancing and singing.

The whole person is to be involved in praise – mind, body, emotions, and spirit – because God is Lord of all of us, not just the spiritual dimension.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. (Psalm 98:4-6, NRSV)

I will bless you every day. I will praise your name forever and always. The Lord is great and so worthy of praise! God’s greatness can’t be grasped. (Psalm 145:2-3, CEB)

Praise the Lord! My whole being, praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praises to my God as long as I live. (Psalm 146:1-2, NCV)

Shout praises to the Lord! Our God is kind, and it is right and good to sing praises to him. (Psalm 147:1, CEV)

Amen.

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