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.
The summons to praise God in this the last psalm, serves as a fitting finale to the book whose title is “Praises” (Hebrew: Tehillim). This psalm text is a doxology of doxologies that began in Psalm 146 with its opening summons, “Praise the LORD.” That call to praise continues through every successive psalm, each one beginning and ending with the call, “Praise the LORD” (Hebrew: Hallelu Yah). The swelling crescendo of praise in the last five psalms brings the hymnal of Israel and of the Church to its completion. The theme of praise permeates the Psalms, but as we approach the end there is this rousing, grand finale of praise.
Thirteen times in this short psalm we are commanded to praise God. The fact that God can command praise means that praise is not based on our emotions or circumstances. There is emotion in praise, but praise is primarily obedience to God.
If we think of the Book of Psalms as a journey of faith, then this psalm represents the goal of such a life: being caught up in the praise of God. Throughout the psalms we see the psalmists wrestling with God, lamenting and questioning, which takes them to praise. “Prayer is always reaching towards praise and will finally arrive there. If we persist in prayer, laugh and cry, doubt and believe, struggle and dance and then struggle again, we will surely end up at Psalm 150.” (Eugene Peterson, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer) All that remains to be said is “Praise the LORD!”
When the psalmists talk about praising God they are not talking about repeating “Praise the LORD”, over and over. They are talking about cheering God, thanking Him, speaking well of Him for the wonder of His mighty works (“for his acts of power”) and the wonder of who He is (“for his surpassing greatness”).
Praise is expressed in the Psalms and Scripture through singing, testimony, prayer, thanksgiving, sacrifice, dancing, kneeling, lifting hands, lying prostrate, et al. In today’s text the psalmist is saying, “Pull out the stops and give it everything you’ve got! Find every instrument you can and praise the Lord!” He mentions categories of strings, percussion, and wind instruments that would have been typical for the ancient Hebrews to play in their celebrations. The psalmist also calls for dancing; fitting praise to the Lord is festive and joyous. A picture of this kind of praise is seen when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem:
“David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets” (I Chronicles 13:8; emphasis added).
The psalmist calls on every terrestrial and celestial creature to praise God (“Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.”). Heaven’s angels join with us as we praise the Lord. “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.” If you are breathing, praising God is not an option!
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