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.

Psalm 117

            God’s faithfulness never ends.  Let that statement from the psalmist sink in and ruminate on it for a bit.  What does it mean?  How does it work itself out?  Is God faithful to me?  As a pastor, I can tell you that one of the most difficult things that I see people encounter is wondering if God can really do things in their lives like he does in other people’s lives.  Sometimes we have all the faith in the world for other people – that God will forgive, heal, help, and show up in their lives – but when it comes to me personally, it becomes an entirely different thing.  We wonder if anything can really change.
 
            God is good for his promises.  He will accomplish all that he has said he will do.  It certainly might seem like he is taking his time and is terribly slow in moving on our behalf.  Yet, it shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.  God does not just work in other countries with mass conversions; he does not only grow his church in other geographical locales; and, he does not limit himself to establishing his kingdom in receptive areas.  God can and does work everywhere and will show up in your life and your church, just like he has been doing for ages in all places in all times.
 
            Perhaps the most appropriate response is to praise God for what he is going to do.  That is, don’t just wait for him to do something astounding.  Look for it and give thanks ahead of time for the incredible work of saving, healing, teaching, growing, and transforming that God will do in Christ through the power of his Holy Spirit.  It isn’t just for others; it is for you, my friend.  How will you trust him today?
 

 

            Faithful God, I praise you for what you will do in my life this season.  Thanks for the answers to prayer that will come.  I give you gratitude for the people you will deliver from sin, darkness, addiction, disease, and suffering and the new spirit you will give to me and many others in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Psalm 97


             In the wake of Ascension Day we are to be overwhelmed with the tremendous majesty of King Jesus.  Today’s psalm portrays the Lord as a very big God whose presence alone impacts the world in cataclysmic glory. God is large and in charge.  Nothing moves God; but God moves mountains.  This is no wimpy deity who needs his creatures to sustain him and his memory.  But all God’s creation is dependent upon him for life, sustenance, and flourishing.
             It is such a view of God that deeply impacts humanity.  When people catch just a glimpse of God’s glory it causes pagans to be ashamed of their useless idol worship, and brings forth humble celebration from the penitent.  The sheer dearth of these dual responses to God in today’s Western world ought to clue us to the reality that we are not seeing God for who he really is:  the great and glorious king who is so immense and so concerned for justice that just a snort of his nostrils could lay complete waste to the earth.
The conclusion to the matter is to “Love the LORD and hate evil!….  You are the LORD’s people!  So celebrate and praise the only God.”  Today is a day to make a simple choice to celebrate and praise God in some simple ways:  
Ø  Acknowledge Him in both the big and in the small things of life;
Ø  Include God’s message of grace in your everyday conversations – we don’t have to be preachy, just real;
Ø  Praise Him in public as well as in private;
Ø  Pray simple heartfelt prayers to Him whether it is eloquent or not because He just wants to hear the voice He has given us;
Ø  Be generous toward others through forgiveness and actual physical help;
Ø  Study His word because it honors Him to do so;
Ø  Express gratitude with a predetermined mindset to find things that God has put in your life to be thankful for;
Ø  Count your blessings today and again tomorrow so that it eventually becomes a spiritual habit; and,
Ø  Sing with the joyful noise God gives you.
Mighty God, you are worthy of all the praise, honor, and glory I can give you.  May my life be a simple offering to you, so that your kingdom comes not only in my own life but impacts the lives of others; through Jesus, my King.  Amen.

Psalm 148

            Praise to the Lord is the recognition that God deserves praise from everyone, and the way to do that is to bow, yield, and submit to him.  “Praise the Lord” is the Hebrew word “hallelujah.”  Hallelujah literally means “to raise the hands.”
 
            We are told ten times in fourteen verses of Psalm 148 to praise the Lord, to raise our hands.  It is a symbol of submission and joy.  To have open hands lifted toward heaven is to convey to God that we will obey him and live for him in everything.  Praising the Lord, lifting the hands, is not only to occur in church; praising the Lord is to happen everywhere.  We are to lift our arms in reverent submission at our workplaces when we land a client or have a good day, as well as when we are overwhelmed and cranky people demean us.  It is always open season on praising the Lord, and it is not limited to a certain set of good circumstances.
 
            We are to raise our hands and praise the Lord when our neighbors care about us and look out for us, as well as when they make noise and irritate us with their less than kept up yards and houses.  Yielding to God’s purposes for our lives is not dependent upon whether we have good neighbors or not.  We are to praise the Lord and raise our hands when our marriages are life-giving and thriving, as well as when our relationship with our spouse is dry, dull, and going nowhere.  It is always open season on praising the Lord and reflecting his image through love.  We are to praise the Lord over our kids, not only when they do what is right but we are to raise our hands with hallelujah when they are complete stinkers and drive us nuts.  We are to use our hands to praise and enact obedience, not refuse to praise and use them for violence through finger pointing, fist pumping, and even hitting.  Let both our mouths and hands work in concert together to praise the Lord!
 

 

            Praise the Lord!  Praise Father, Son, and Spirit!  Today I join with all creation to praise the name of Jesus.  His name alone is exalted.  He has raised me to new life.  Thank you, gracious Lord Jesus.  May you be lifted high today in and through my life.  Amen.