Sunday, March 26, 2017

Global Applause

Print Passage: Psalm 148:1-14
Devotional Reading: Psalm 150

While preparing for today’s lesson I ran across an across an article written by Denny Burk entitled “Do Dead People Praise God?” The substance of the article is that we praise God while we have our breath, but the dead body does not praise God. In Ps 115:17-18 which is quoted in the article it continues by stating the faithful shall continue their praise when their soul is in eternal life. The verses state, “The dead do not praise the LORD, nor any who go down into silence. But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!” (NKJV) This view is shared by a number of commentaries, such as Benson, Pulpit, Matthew Henry and Gill.2

Where and how shall we praise Him? Psalm 150:1b-6 exclaims, “…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; Let everything that has breath praise the LORD…” (NKJV) We are to praise God in the Heavens and the Earth with all of our being with whatever manner we can as long as we have breath.

We are in Unit II – “Praise from and for God’s Creation” of the three units of the quarter. This is the last lesson of the five-lesson study. In the lesson today we are focusing on Psalm 148, a psalm which is one of the five chapters known collectively as “the praise conclusion” to the book of Psalms as a whole. Each of the five (that is, Psalms 146-150) begins and ends with the phrase “Praise the LORD,” translated from the Hebrew word hallelujah. Each of the five chapters 146 – 150 offer different emphases in regard to praise that should be offered.

The psalmist writes this psalm as if it is a concert choir with all of creation singing their praises to God. Praise of God is mainly for our benefit, since lifting our praise to Him reminds us that we are not Him. In Ps 148:1-4 we see the praise begins in the heavens, the highest region of God’s creation. The verses read, “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens!” (NKJV) The psalmist gives the command as the maestro (or minister of music) for this heavenly choir to praise the LORD. The reference to the heights is probably more an all-inclusive reference than a positional reference. The ancient Israelites believed God dwelt not only in the sky or expanse above the earth, but in this unknown area with the angels, hosts, and the inhabitants of heaven.

In verses 3 and 4 we see how the celestial bodies in the heavens lift their voice in praise to God. Gen 1:14-19 describes God’s intent for the sun and moon as he established them on the fourth day of creation. The sun praises God by giving light to the earth for the day, while the moon praises God by giving a different light for the night. Such is also true with the stars of the night. The sun and moon are known as the greater lights while the stars are known as the lesser lights. Each of them are faithful to their purpose, but they are not greater than the Father of lights, the Almighty God. Each of these celestial bodies sing a song of praise to God. Unfortunately, ancient and even in some modern cultures there was and is the belief that these celestial bodies should be worshiped. For example, today you may find a believer of the signs which means they believe in the power of the stars instead of God. Also, we must note in verse 4 the psalmist commanded praise to God to the highest heavens, higher than the water above the firmament/heaven/skies. At Gen 1:6-8 it states, “Then God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’ Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.” (NKJV)

Two reasons are given as to why the heavens and its inhabitants should praise God. Ps 148:5-6 would have creation sing, “Let them praise the name of the LORD, for He commanded and they were created. He also established them forever and ever; He made a decree which shall not pass away.”(NKJV) So God (1) SPOKE and everything was CREATED into existence FROM NOTHING. The magnitude of that statement alone can’t be understood by man and is denied by some. But it is definitely a reason for the Creator to be praised. (2) God made a covenant that established the stars, sun, moon, and the entire heavens to stand in position, fulfill His purpose, and issued an order that what He had established would not pass away. These two reasons are enough for the entire universe to praise His Name.

An amazing thing about our God is that He not only established and positioned us to praise, but He also has exalted and prepared us to praise. The psalmist moved in directing the Creation choir from the “highest of heavens” and now begins to start a call to the earth. Ps 148:7-8 encourages praise from the creatures of the deep sea and meteorological phenomena as it reads, “Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all the depths; fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word;”(NKJV) In descending order to the depths of the sea are the great sea creatures and all the swarming life of the oceans. They too testify that the Hand that made them is divine. The meteorological phenomena is next with the fire, hail, snow, clouds, and the stormy gale quick to obey His orders. Snow was not common in Israel except at higher elevations. The Hebrew behind clouds is rendered “smoke”, but in this context it may mean a thick fog or mist. God controls the seasons and the weather and harnesses them to do His will. For this reason we can look at the news to see the weather forecast. But it is always just a forecast. The weather is not controlled by our weather apps or weather men and women.

Nothing is outside the range of God and His sovereignty. We do not know how everything praises God, but He does. What a sight to see the terrestrial choir. Ps 148:9-10 exalts the animate and inanimate to praise as it states, “Mountains and all hills; fruitful trees and all cedar; beasts and all cattle; creeping things and flying fowl;” (NKJV) Let’s break this down in four parts. (1) Mountains and all hills – valleys and low lands are presupposed although not mentioned. (2) Fruitful trees and all cedar – fruit-bearing, cultivated trees and cedar, uncultivated trees are mentioned. All trees in between the cultivated and uncultivated are expected to praise God also. (3) Beasts and all cattle – wild animals and domestic cattle are mentioned. All animals between the wild animals and the domestic animals are expected to praise God. (4) Creeping thing and flying fowl – creeping thing and birds are mentioned. All animals between creeping things and flying fowls must praise God in the terrestrial choir.

Next we see the psalmist includes humanity in the chorus of praise. As we come toward the front rows, we see the great assemblage of mankind – kings, princes, judges, all government officials, and all the common people. But the greatness of the rulers is outmatched by the glory of the LORD. Ps 148:11-13 reads, “Kings of the earth and all peoples; princes and all judges of the earth; both young men and maidens; old men and children. Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven.” (NKJV) The call of the Bible to us all – whether young or old or anywhere in between is to recognize God as God, thereby praising Him with lips and lives. He is not only excellent and glorious, but He is our Creator and Redeemer. Everyone tilt your head back, open your mouth and worship God. The song today is “I Love to Praise Him”.

“I love to praise Him, I love to praise His Name (repeat 2 times), I love to praise His holy Name. He’s my rock, He’s my rock, my rock, my sword and shield. Oh, He’s my wheel, He’s my wheel, my wheel in the middle of the wheel. I know He’ll never, no He’ll never, never let me down. He’s just a jewel, He’s just a jewel that I have found. Oh, hallelujah, (hallelujah), hallelujah, (hallelujah), I love to praise His Name (repeat 2 times), I love to praise, I love to praise, I love to praise His holy Name.”

The psalmist ends Ps148 powerfully at verse 14 which reads, “And He has exalted the horn of His people, the praise of all His saints – of the children of Israel, a people near to Him. Praise the LORD!” (NKJV) Horn refers to power (see 1 Sam 2:1, 10; Ps 18:2; 75:10; 112:9; 132:17) It is used here to indicate God’s grant of dignity and strength to his people who returned from exile. The Israelites were very near to God. The saints are also very near to God. We have been exalted by the horn of His strength, not by our might or our position. It is because of our position in Christ and His redeeming love. This horn is Christ, the Lamb of God, the reason for the call of all existence to come together to praise God. Have you accepted this horn?


Written by Deborah C. Davis

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