I will praise the LORD!
Reading: Psalm 150
Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD (NIV).*
We have reached the crescendo—the conclusion and the high point of the Book of Psalms. Hallelujah and praise the LORD!
The word praise appears thirteen times in this final psalm. The number thirteen is suggestive of Jesus and his apostles. He is at the core—the very center of God ordained worship.
Eight forms or instruments of praise are listed in this psalm. Eight is the number of new beginnings. Seven suggests completeness, so we see that God rested on the seventh day. But eight signals a new start. In the same way, these eight means or instruments of praise do not represent a complete list. They simply suggest the varied ways in which we can express our praise to the LORD. We have only just begun to discover and explore the many ways in which we can show our gratitude to our Creator.
No one—no living being—is excluded from this call to praise. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
This call for all the breathing to praise the LORD is truly fitting. We received our original breath from the LORD. Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). Now with our breath—our God-given breath—let us praise our Maker.
In the same way after his resurrection Jesus breathed on his disciples. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22).
We need the breath of God in us—the breath of the Holy Spirit in us to live—to truly live in the overcoming power and joy of the psalms. For the Holy Spirit’s presence I will praise the LORD!
Response: LORD God, I praise you. You are my strength and my song. Help me to discover new ways to praise you because you are good. Let my entire life reflect your redemptive presence in me. Amen.
Your Turn: Why are you breathing? Is praising God an integral part of your purpose?
Reading: Psalm 149
Praise the LORD.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with victory.
Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
and sing for joy on their beds (NIV).*
I previously wrote that as we draw to the end of the Book of Psalms, we are slowly building to a crescendo of praise to the LORD. Today’s reading from Psalm 149 expands and amps up the level of praise.
For some praise to the LORD is one dimensional. It involves singing a hymn or worship chorus to the LORD in a place of worship at a designated time. Usually this simply means in church on a Sunday morning. But praise that is birthed by the Spirit of God can be much more than just that. Psalm 149 calls for a wide range of praise. It begins by calling for a new song. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
It would seem that the Creator would like to hear something fresh and creative. That’s so much like Him. After all, His mercies are new every morning. See Lamentations 3:22-23. Now don’t get me wrong. There is a place for the tried and true, and the old and familiar. But genuine praise is like fresh homemade bread. It’s best served warm from the oven. Stale worship invigorates no one.
Secondly, our praise for the LORD can take a variety of forms. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
Just yesterday I watched a couple do a beautiful dance to a popular worship chorus. The words, the music, and their expressive movements, added heartfelt meaning to their praise. God was glorified in their dance. We were created to move and our posture and movements can reflect an expressive exuberance for God.
Finally, Spirit initiated praise knows no bounds. It refuses to be confined to a church building. It is after all an outward expression of a thankful heart. There is a place for praise, wherever we find ourselves, whether it’s on a park bench, a subway car, or as we stroll down the grocery aisle. Praise the LORD!
Response: LORD God, renew in me a heart of praise. I want to lose my self-consciousness as I praise you. This is all about you. True worship is not about me. I want to praise you with my whole being. Amen.
Your Turn: Is it possible to be God focused when we are self-focused or self-conscious?
Reading: Psalm 148
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
And he has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Praise the LORD (NIV).*
Broadly speaking I like modern translations of the Bible over the traditional King James Version, but… But sometimes the old King James just sounds better, or more familiar. Here at the close of Psalm 148 we have a case in point.
The New International Version ends the psalm with these words: Praise the LORD. The King James Version ends the psalm with Praise ye the LORD. But a more literal translation or transliteration of this final phrase is Hallelujah! The footnotes to the New American Standard Bible point out that Hallelu means praise, while JAH is the abbreviated Hebrew name for God, which is often translated Jehovah or more accurately Yahweh.
Whenever you see the phrase praise the LORD, you are actually looking at a translation of the Hebrew word hallelujah!
Hallelujah is entirely absent from the New International Version of the Bible. It has also been scrubbed from most of the other modern translations. To put it bluntly, I miss hallelujah. It has an uplifting ring to it. Hallelujah skips off the tongue like a shooting star. It bursts forth from a thankful heart like fireworks on a summer night.
For the Christian believer Christmas is the great Hallelujah! God has come to the earth and been born as a baby like you and me. This is the beginning of the great redemption story.
The resurrection is the second great Hallelujah! The Son of God was vindicated. His death was not in vain. He conquered death, our greatest foe, and now Jesus reigns on high forever. That calls for a hallelujah! And for good measure, let’s add praise the LORD too!
The one who at his birth was laid in a manger is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. As Handel’s Messiah proclaims, “He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!” Let the hallelujahs resound from the earth to the heavens as we join in the song of the angels—the song of the ages.
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
Response: LORD God, I praise you for sending Jesus. I praise you for your great plan of redemption. Jesus, I thank you for carrying my sins to Calvary. I rejoice in your resurrection victory. Hallelujah! Amen.
Your Turn: Do you enjoy Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus? What is your favorite expression of praise to God?
Reading: Psalm 148
Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,
kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,
young men and women,
old men and children (NIV).*
Psalm 148 began with a call for praise for the LORD from the angels, who are heaven’s messengers, from the heavenly hosts and all the heavenly bodies. In today’s reading, the psalmist expands this call for praise to all the creatures of the earth, the elements of nature, wind, cloud and ocean depths, and finally to all humanity.
There is a logical progression in this call for thunderous praise. The call begins with what is distant, the galaxies and the heavenly beings, and then it descends to the earth, and finally it touches humanity. It becomes personal. We are called to praise God. Will you join the swelling chorus?
John, the beloved, gives us a picture of what heaven’s praise party looks like.
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:11-12).
Our Lord taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9b-10).
Surely, it is the will of God that He be praised and worshiped on earth just as He is around His throne in heaven. The purpose of God’s Kingdom—the Kingdom that Jesus came to establish—is to bring heaven to earth. God did not remain distant. In the person of Jesus, He came to dwell among us. He brought and is presently bringing the will of God to the earth through the Holy Spirit. For that Jesus is to be praised. Let all of creation praise Him—praise Him from the earth, because from it we were formed. As we reflect on his first coming let the praise for our Lord ascend from you and me.
Response: LORD God, let your Holy Spirit be active among us. Help us to love and serve you and those around us. Help me to bring a little bit of heaven—a little bit of your will to the earth today. Amen.
Your Turn: How do you picture heaven? What does a little bit of heaven on earth look like to you?
Reading: Psalm 148
Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for at his command they were created,
and he established them for ever and ever—
he issued a decree that will never pass away (NIV).*
As we draw to the end of the Book of Psalms, we are slowly building to a crescendo. It’s a crescendo of praise for the LORD. Today’s reading from Psalm 148 represents another stepping stone in that rising crescendo of praise.
The word praise appears nine times in this six-verse portion of the psalm. The psalmist repeatedly calls for all of creation to praise the LORD—to praise him. In today’s reading the call to praise is focused on the heavenly realm. You would think that the angels and the heavenly hosts would need no reminder to praise the LORD, but nevertheless the psalmist calls on them to praise their Creator. Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars.
If the angels need a praise prompter, then I know that I certainly do. There are days when I have a greater tendency to complain than to praise. If I am feeling a bit out of sorts or experiencing discomfort, it doesn’t take much to trip me into full-blown, grumble mode with a side order of self-pity tacked on for good measure. Praise for the LORD is a distant thought or a faint memory.
But has God changed? Has His mercy been diminished because I have a grumbly tummy or a kink in my neck? Of course not. The LORD is constantly worthy of praise—even in hard times—especially in hard times. In hard times I need to change my focus. I need to lift up my eyes to the heavens. I need to see the big picture rather than be caught up in the trifling details of my life. God is still on His throne even if I burn the toast or spill that glass of milk. Praise has greater significance at such times because it springs from a troubled heart that has shifted to become a thankful overcoming heart.
In the midst of his great suffering, Job made this declaration about his faithfulness to the LORD, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15a). Will that be your testimony? In all these things, the LORD, our great Creator, remains steadfast and worthy of praise.
Response: LORD God, give me a heart that is eager to praise you—even in hard times—especially in hard times. Your constant care for us does not change. Let my praise for you be just as constant. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you have a greater tendency to grumble or praise? Can you change that tendency?