This past Sunday, we concluded our series of sermons from the Psalms entitled, “Managing Our Emotions” — over the last several weeks, we’ve seen how studying the Psalms can help us become more aware of our emotions, and manage them better in a biblical way. As one writer has said, The Psalms are “an anatomy of all parts of the human soul.”
As we come to the end of the Book of Psalms, we notice that each of the last five all begin with the phrase, “Praise the Lord”, and each Psalm increases - crescendos, if you would - in praise and joy until we come to the last one in Psalm 150. In just six short verses, the writer uses the phrase 13 times. Every sentence is very short and starts off with “Hallelujah” (Hebrew for, “Praise the Lord”). It’s as if he can’t wait to get to the next opportunity to say, “Praise the Lord” again!
Psalm 150 is a very fitting conclusion - doxology - to the entire book and gives us the “BASICS” of praise - the “where”, “why”, “how” and “who”. As followers of God, we are called to praise Him in all of life’s circumstances - in every season of the soul.
The writer to the Hebrews in the NT says, “… let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise …” (13:15) - we can sincerely praise God no matter what we’re going through or feeling.
1. WHERE do we praise God? The question of the whether we worship God privately or corporately is not an either/or question - it is both/and! The songwriter here urges us to worship God in the sanctuary AND in the heavens. In other words, we’re to praise God anywhere and everywhere at any time.
2. WHY should we praise God? We praise God because He’s worthy - because of what He has done (His “acts of power”); and because of who He is (”His surpassing greatness”).
3. HOW should we praise God? With the bulkiest part of the hymn, the writer urges us to praise God in any and every possible way. This psalm suggests that any and every instrument - which he lists all the instruments available to the Hebrews at the time - can, and should be used to praise God. There is no “holiest” style of praise.
It’s interesting (and sometimes amusing, yet heart-breaking) to me that so many Christians argue at this point over the best way to praise God.
Luther once asked, “How has it happened that in the secular field there are so many fine poems ans so many beautiful songs, while in the religious field we have such rotten lifeless stuff?”
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, once said, “Secular music, do you say, belongs to the devil? Does it? Well, if it did, I would plunder him for it! He has no right to a single note of the whole seven.” That kind of sounds real close to what a more contemporary musician once asked - “Why should the devil have all the good music?”
But more than just stressing the range of possibilities of styles or ways we can worship God; I think the psalmist is also giving us a clue as to some principles involved in the way we worship:
The trumpet (here, probably the shofar) was associated with the grandest and most solemn events in the OT.
The harp and lyre required very skillful hands to play them properly.
Inclusion of the tambourine and dancing in his list no doubt reveals the principle of worship being an active experience and not just a “spectator sport”.
There were so many different kinds of stringed instruments and woodwinds that the writer must be stressing the variety and diversity that God enjoys in all aspects of His creation; and therefore, as we reflect back to Him with our praise, He must enjoy the various ways in which we do that.
And with the mention of cymbals, the writer could be prompting us toward intensity. We are encouraged to worship God with gusto - all we can muster!
4. WHO should praise God? That’s an easy one - “everything that has breath”! But the important thing here is that the act of praising the Lord is lifted up in this phrase as both possibility and responsibility. The responsibility is given to all for whom it is a possibility - all who have breath.
We can praise God in every season of the soul. So long as you have breath, praise God no matter where you are, for who He is and not just for what He does for you, and in any and every possible way.