THE FOLLOWING ARE NOTES FOR LECTURES GIVEN AT NEW COLLEGE, BIRMINGHAM. I AM NOT AN EXPERT AND BOOKS WILL BE CREDITED TO SHOW WHERE MY INFORMATION IS COMING FROM. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, COMMENT ON THIS POST AND I WILL TRY MY BEST TO ANSWER.
1 Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
This psalm is quite obviously a praise song; it is also a doxology. You may remember that a doxology ends each of the 5 books of psalms within the psalter. This psalm also ends the whole book, but it does not fade out, this is meant to be stimulating, a fortissimo of response in our praise. It starts and ends with the phrase “Praise the Lord”… a better translation might be the original hebrew Hallelu Yah – Yah here being Yahweh, the true name of God.
There are four questions, or subjects, about praise that split this praise psalm up.
There is a contrast here of where God is to be praise, but like so many other psalms, the contrasts are meant to emphasise. We are to praise Him in His sanctuary, His holiness, His chosen dwelling place. This means both His temple sanctuary, but also earth. Now having known Jesus we can also expand this to His dwelling place in us. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” We are now forever in His presence and He is forever with us, hence we can praise wherever we are. In contrast to this earthly place, our human bodies, the author also reminds us that God is being praised in heaven where His hosts, the angels, are also mingling their praises with ours. As God’s glory fills the universe, so does our praise of Him also fill the universe.
We praise because of two things: firstly, what He has done, and secondly, who He is. His “acts of power/mighty deeds” refer here mainly to His saving acts – those action that saved His people again and again, from others, from slavery, and from themselves. Who He is here refers to God as great Creator and Sovereign of the world – He who is great, beyond great, the greatest ever.
The answer to this is simply: praise with everything you have! Trumpet, harp, lyre, timbrel, dancing, strings and pipe, cymbals – everything. This list emphasises the number of ways you can praise. With a deeper look at this list we get new connotations. The mention of a trumpet touches on those events which were of great national, or sacred importance, for example, to announce the beginning of the jubilee. Joyous celebrations would have timbrel and dance and descriptions of the escape from Egypt, with children singing and dancing of God’s goodness. Simple music of the pipe and strings would be for the everyday situations. This broadens the praise over all people and all music, all kinds of music are used here to rally praise for God.
A simply answer would be “everyone”, but that’s too simple for this phrase. “Let everything that has breathe praise the Lord” means literally everything that has breathe, similar to Psalm 148:7-12 “Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and women, old men and children.” This is closer to the whole earth praising His name, and leaves with the author himself praising with the repeated halleluyah, praise the Lord.
So that’s what we’re going to do. I would like you to write a simple praise psalm based on this psalm. By that I mean with a structure answering these questions:
Where do you praise?
How do you praise?
Why do you praise?
Who do you praise?
Think of the place you have felt best praising God, most in touch with God, how did you praise him, was it comfortable or out of your normal comfort zone. What has God done to make you praise?
Have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
- Kidner, Derek. Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Book III, IV and V of the Psalms (Inter-Varsity Press, England, 1973).
- Spurgeon, C. H. The Treasury of David, Volume II, Psalm LVIII to CX (Hendrickson Publishers, Massachusetts).
- Society of Biblical Literature. The Harper Collins Study Bible (New Revised Standard Version).
- Walton, John H. Chronolgical and Background Charts of the Old Testament (Zondervan, Michigan, 1978).