Friday, February 08, 2008

Praise in the Psalter

What is the chief end of the Psalter? We have considered the blessed life and have traveled a bit through the depths of lament, crying out to God for help, and have now reached the heights of gratitude and praise to God. As Arthur Jenks worded it, we have come from Beatitude to Allelujah!

In answering this question, lets consider the first catechism question "What is the chief end of man?" The Westminster Catechism answers, The chief end of man is to glorify and enjoy God for ever.

This is what the Psalter teaches us! In the end our lives is to be a reflection of God’s glory. He has revealed himself to us in word and in deed—he has proclaimed who and what he is beginning with his name, YHWH, the eternal, self-existing One. From this we have seen his words to Moses.
Exodus 34:6-7 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Throughout the rest of Scripture we see the outworking of this creed along with his many mighty and gracious deeds. Just as the psalmists base their prayers on this creed and his various deeds, they also are moved to express praise and thanksgiving to God on the same basis.

You will notice this clearly in the concluding five psalms of the Psalter. Psalms 148-150 are a subset within this final set of Hallelujah Psalms. These are called Praise Ye Him psalms. This is the case because of the frequent repetition of this phrase.

What I would like to consider, as we conclude this short series on the Psalter, is the following question: What do the Psalms teach us about praise?

Psalm 148

1 Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord from the heavens;

praise him in the heights!

2 Praise him, all his angels;

praise him, all his hosts!

3 Praise him, sun and moon,

praise him, all you shining stars!

4 Praise him, you highest heavens,

and you waters above the heavens!

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord!

For he commanded and they were created.

6 And he established them forever and ever;

he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth,

you great sea creatures and all deeps,

8 fire and hail, snow and mist,

stormy wind fulfilling his word!

9 Mountains and all hills,

fruit trees and all cedars!

10 Beasts and all livestock,

creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all rulers of the earth!

12 Young men and maidens together,

old men and children!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,

for his name alone is exalted;

his majesty is above earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up a horn for his people,

praise for all his saints,

for the people of Israel who are near to him.

Praise the Lord! (ESV)

Drawing from the final three psalms we can conclude the following:
  1. We are commanded to praise.
  2. We are commanded to praise the LORD (Him, His name).
    • The active verb occurs 75 times in the Psalms and its object is always God.
  3. The command to praise is universal.
    • From highest heaven to lowest earth.
    • From inanimate objects to animate objects
    • From highest ranking humans to the lowest classes of men
    • From the oldest to the youngest
      • See also Revelation 5:13 and 7:9f for more descriptions of universal worship.
  4. Praise is essentially vocal.
    • Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 cautions against hastiness in speaking before God. However, praise is unrestrained here in the Psalter.
    • Notice the synonymous terms for praise in Psalm 149:
      • Praise (1)
      • Sing (1)
      • Be glad (2)
      • Rejoice (2)
      • Praise...with dancing (3)
      • Make melody (3)
      • Let the high in their throats (6)
Psalm 149

1 Praise the Lord!

Sing to the Lord a new song,

his praise in the assembly of the godly!

2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker;

let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!

3 Let them praise his name with dancing,

making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!

4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;

he adorns the humble with salvation.

5 Let the godly exult in glory;

let them sing for joy on their beds.

6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats

and two-edged swords in their hands,

7 to execute vengeance on the nations

and punishments on the peoples,

8 to bind their kings with chains

and their nobles with fetters of iron,

9 to execute on them the judgment written!

This is honor for all his godly ones.

Praise the Lord! (ESV)

Psalm 150 is the Grand Finale of the Psalter. As a magnificent fireworks display concludes with an abundance of lights, colors, and sounds determined to overwhelm the senses with awe, so this final psalm unfolds. You get a sense of this from the rapid repetition of praise in each line; Praise the LORD...Praise God...praise him...Praise him...praise him...Praise him...praise him...Praise him...praise him...Praise him...praise him...praise the LORD...Praise the LORD!

Psalm 150

1 Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary;

praise him in his mighty heavens!

2 Praise him for his mighty deeds;

praise him according to his excellent greatness!

3 Praise him with trumpet sound;

praise him with lute and harp!

4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe!

5 Praise him with sounding cymbals;

praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord! (ESV)

Who? You! (1) & everything that has breath (6)

What should you do? Praise the LORD! (1)

Where should you praise him?

  • In the sanctuary (1)
  • In the mighty heavens (1)

Why should you praise him? Because of who he is and what he does. (2)

How should you praise him? (3-6)

  • With various instruments
  • Loudly (not timidly)
  • As though you want the whole world to hear you!
Let us be about the business of living the blessed life, praying and praising our God and Savior deliberately and without restraint! May the LORD help us!


Tim Ashcraft said...

Thanks for the good posts on the Psalms. An inspired worship book! The Psalms just seem to resonate with God's people anytime.

Also, thanks, Doug, for allowing Jason to guest-blog on the Psalter.

Glorygazer said...


I didn't know what I was getting when I asked Jason to write as a guest here. I appreciate his pointing us to a portion of God's Word that should be ever more and more familiar to us.