I have conducted a study of the psalms, formerly referred to as the Psalter, over the last several months. Obviously, that is not enough and only a wading experience rather than a deep dive. It’s highly possible I will take the same journey again, as I would like to continue my series on “The Gospel According to ….” with one about the psalms.
The last few are about the theme of praise, which is not exactly hard to figure out since the words leap out at you from the page. To focus on 150, the very last, there are six verses and thirteen instances of the word “praise.” I will let it speak for itself, and I will type it myself rather than cut and paste from good old Bible Gateway:
Praise the LORD!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament.
Praise Him for His mighty acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.
I removed the verse numbers so the poetry and music here is more clear. This is the translation from New King James Version.
It is my compulsion to start to analyze and parse and commentary-ize, but I’ll put a stop here. Just read it. Sing it. Make up a tune, or use one from the hymnal. “Great is Thy Faithfulness” works a little (you can move lines around to fit the rhythm). So does “It is Well With My Soul,” sort of. “Amazing Grace, not so much.” It is claimed that all of Emily Dickinson’s poems can be sung to “Amazing Grace,” but I’m not sure what that is supposed to signify.
And dance when you do it. Dance to God in private, if your tradition requires you to stay physical immobile when you praise. Think of yourself as standing before Him and every muscle wants to praise, and your body is free, and only He is watching, and no one can judge because they have no sight and no idea. Be a charismatic for a while. It will do you good.
As for the commentary, I notice contrasts here to complete the thought of total and uninterrupted praise.
Praise Him inside and outside. In the temple and in the open space, in the wild. Firmament means the expanse of heaven. Heaven is your audience anyway, not other people, when you praise. Unfortunately we have made it a performance for an audience of humans. We should, as I heard recently, turn our backs and only face God.
Praise Him now (temple worship) and in the future, eternally (again, in the expanse of heaven.)
That is the where.
Second contrast is to praise Him for what He does and Who He is—the actions and the reality, character, personhood, being, identity, whatever you want to call it. Praise Him for His mighty acts and according to His excellent greatness.
That is the why and the how. “According to His excellent greatness.” Is our praise second- or third-rate? That doesn’t mean everyone needs to be a concert performer, but….. it should be our best. Our praise should meet the level of the Person being praised.
The third contrast is also the physical how: between instruments and voice. And of the instruments, we have percussions (cymbals), strings (lute and harp), woodwinds (flute) and brass (trumpet or cornet). That’s a pretty good description of an orchestra millennia before the modern orchestra was created. A little bit of musical prophecy there.
And for those who never learned an instrument (does this psalm encourage us to learn one?) “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” You can sing, you can shout. Almost everyone but the most disabled can praise the Lord with their voice. Those folks may be able to beat a drum.
The where, why and how are bracketed with Praise the LORD.
The capitalization of LORD is, of course, the holiest name, the “I AM” revealed name that we have made transliterations of but which I prefer not to use. We are praising the self-existent one, but that title even limits. We are worshiping the one who makes all existence possible. Yes, He creates, He maintains and sustains, but He is the center of all. We should not even think of our own existence without reference to His underlying, foundational being. I do not have the words to explain this ONTOLOGY, a word meaning “the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being.” (Metaphysics referring to “the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space.”)
But if we envision some Michelangelo bearded grandpa floating on the clouds reaching his finger out to the buck naked Adam……well, we are visual creatures, but that’s pretty insufficient.
We praise—we have to praise—because it is the only reasonable reaction to the All Existing, All Sufficient, All Sustaining, All Loving One. This is Thanksgiving Week, the time we probably overlook the real meaning of the word. Praise this week, express gratitude, give thanks continually. It is scientifically proven (I have the articles) to make your life far better physically and every other way.
I am going to make instant mashed potatoes and hope to spend the saved time praising. (and not for instant mashed potatoes. I dislike them, but my family prefers them, so maybe I can give praise for that!)