**** These are the condensed notes from my sermon on Sunday. *****
Hills and valleys, highs and lows. Life is full of hills and valleys, highs and lows. So when we come to Psalm 150 and its relatively buoyant nature, what are we to make of it?
Firstly we can not divorce Ps 150 from its original context – the 149 Psalms which precede Ps 150 contain moments of overflowing joy and moments of excruciating despair. Hills and valleys, highs and lows. Psalm 100 shouts for joy in proclaiming:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
But then, just as easily, the Psalmist cries out:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (Ps 13:1)
This is but a minute taste of the emotions which are felt and expressed throughout the Psalms. So when we arrive at the end, what are we to make of the journey through the Psalms?
I’d like to suggest that Ps 150 holds some great truths we must never let go of.
Firstly – Ps 150 is a conclusion. It’s the summarising point, the end note, of the Psalms. It’s the place we should finish as we reflect on life, and our relationship with God, through the Psalms. You could say that the main idea of this particular Psalm is that as we reflect upon God, His character and His works, we must eventually be led to exuberant and passionate praise of Him.
And within that sentence there are a few key words that we must draw attention to – must, eventually, exuberant and passionately. The Psalm raises two main questions for us – Why is God to be praised and How is God to be praised.
Verse 1 sets the tone for our answer:
Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
The first reason we praise God is for His place in the cosmos. The word ‘sanctuary’ refers to God’s Old Testament temple: the place where God’s spirit dwelt amongst his people, the place where Israel would offer up their worship (and probably sing this Psalm!). We praise God because he came down from ‘his mighty heavens’ to be with his people in his ‘sanctuary’. Today Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 6:19…
Do you not know that your body s a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…?
Why do we praise God? Because He is in His holy temple – our bodies. Why praise God? Because His Spirit is within us! Praise the Lord!
The second reason we praise God is because is in verse 2:
Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!
What mighty deeds has he done? We know that in the Psalms there are great odes to God’s creation. For instance the psalmist cries out, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims his handiwork’ (Ps 19:1). Elsewhere we see the Psalmist shout for joy at the saving work of the Lord – Psalm 66 rejoices in the ‘awesome deeds’ of God who turned the sea into dry landing order to save Israel.
Paul must have had this verse and Israel’s salvation history in mind when he penned the opening lines to his letter to the Ephesians where we read:
1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will 6 to the praise of his glorious grace
The mightiest deed of our Father in Heaven is the very act of sending His Son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins and thereby bless us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. And that he did all this before the foundations of the world – that we were predestined to receive adoption as sons out of love. And all of this working to the praise of God’s glorious grace. Praise Him for his mighty deeds, praise the Lord!
These are the two opening reasons why we should be praising God. That as we reflect upon our lives and upon God and His character we must eventually be led to praising Him.
The next question is how are we to praise God? Verse 3-5 set out the manner in which this is to be done.
Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Exuberantly and passionately! It is obvious that God deserves nothing less than passionate and enthusiastic praise. Now, this doesn’t mean that we should be joyous and happy all the time. It doesn’t mean that there will not be sombre moments or that the songs we sing in church should only be upbeat ones.
What it does mean is that that anything half-hearted will fail to please Him and fail to glorify Him. The Psalmist wants our enthusiastic praise to overflow from our deep satisfaction in God. And he wants us to do this at the conclusion of our thoughts and reflections upon Him.
Which leads us to our final exhortation in verse 6 of the Psalm:
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord, praise the Lord!
That word ‘breath’, as I mentioned in an earlier post, refers to the same ‘breath of life’ which God breathed into Adam. God wants all people to praise Him. People who will experience joy and pain, pleasure and sorrow. People who will go through the highs and the lows, the hills and the valleys of life. People who will read through the Psalms and have experienced (maybe not all) the emotions written down. People who will, as the Psalmist does here, bring their concluding thoughts on God and life to praising Him.
So, since Ps 150 can not be divorced from the 149 Psalms preceding it we’ve seen that Ps 150 is a conclusion. It is the end point of our reflections upon God and His character. Which means the obvious thing we can not do when we take time to ponder God is to walk away not praising Him. We can not continue to believe the lie and exchange the creator for the creation. We can not praise or worship everything else but God.
What it may mean for some of us is that we need to be shaken out of our complacent faith. A faith which is devoid of passion and exuberance. Faiths which are lukewarm in practice and in theology. For this is no simple Psalm – the praise is a result of a deeply rooted in theology.
But what it certainly means is this – that no matter what hills and valleys we may go through, our reflections upon life and upon God must eventually lead us to praising Him.
Last year at the Men’s Training Event a man shared his testimony. He had two sons, both of whom were mentally disabled. He shared memories of having to clean the sheets of a 25 year old man who still wet his bed. He shared his struggles raising his children. And he shared of how he and his wife had buried both of them. Their disabilities cut short their life-span, and what no parent would ever want they endured. That they should outlive their children. Now, by all accounts this was a man who had every right to be bitter at God. But he went on to say that he felt blessed to have two disabled sons. What parent could say that they never had to worry where their boys where at night? What parent could say that they were completely at peace knowing their two boys were now free from their disabilities and with Jesus? Here was a man who had gone through his fair share of hills and valleys, yet was coming away praising God.
When he finished giving his testimony there was a deathly silence. We rose and sang a song in response. A song which is sung every year, a song which never fails to rumble the foundations of the tin shed at Mt Tambourine. Hundreds of men gathered together singing at the top of their lungs in response to life’s hills and valleys:
No condemnation now I dread: Jesus and all in him is mine; alive in him my living head and clothed with righteousness divine. Bold I approach the eternal throne and claim the crown through Christ, my own.
Our reflections upon Jesus and his character must eventually lead us to exuberant and passionate praise of Him.
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord!