Good morning! Today we are going to shift gears. The last few weeks have been some heavy hitters emotionally, so it will be nice to talk about a more light hearted topic. If you have your bibles, go ahead and turn to Psalm 148. While you search for it...
There once was a lady who sung as a high soprano in the choir of a larger church, but for several services she was sitting with the congregation instead of in the loft. When someone asked why she no longer sang in the choir she responded, “One Sunday when I was home with the cold several folks asked if the organ had been repaired.”
A good friend of mine once told me that one of the most disappointing things that he learned about being a worship leader was that many people completely rely on whoever is leading the music to carry them into a state of worshipping God. Therefore if the leader wasn’t very good or if they didn’t like a specific song they would complain or blame the worship leader for not doing a good job. That it was some how his fault for not getting them to a mindset of praising God.
Unfortunately, at the same time there are worship leaders and preachers who will use their positions to bully their opinions or preach at others.
There is a story of a church where the music minister and the preacher were not getting along. Over time, their disagreement began to spill over into the worship service on Sundays. The preacher’s message one Sunday was about commitment and how we should dedicate ourselves to God. To close, the music director led the song, “I Shall Not Be Moved.”
The next week the preacher preached on tithing and how we all should gladly give to the work of the Lord. The director led the song, “Jesus Paid It All.”
The third week the preacher preached on gossip and how we should all watch our tongues. The music director led, “I Love To Tell The Story.”
The preacher, becoming completely disgusted over the ordeal, told the congregation the following Sunday that he was considering resigning. The music director led, “Oh, Why Not Tonight.”
The preacher did decide to resign, so the next week he informed everyone and said that it was Jesus who led him there and Jesus who is taking him away. The music director led, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”
I don’t know if you can relate to anyone in these examples, but I tend to relate more to the “high soprano” who shy’s away from singing for fear that someone may hear me and wince. The cool thing about praising God is that He doesn’t even care how we sound. In fact, a few weeks ago we mentioned Jesus responding to the Pharisees who urged him to rebuke the people who were praising God for the miracles Jesus had done and Jesus said, “If they kept silent, even the rocks along the road would cry out.”
I’ve never heard a rock sing, but I doubt it’s easy for them to hold a note. If God is willing to listen to a rock sing praises, surely my voice is of little concern to Him. In fact, Paul gives us an idea that what we find noisy and what God finds noisy are two completely different things. In 1 Corinthians 13 he says that I could speak in tongues, prophesy, understand all mysteries and knowledge, have faith to move mountains, give away everything I own, and even die willingly, but if I don’t have love I gain nothing. Listen to what he says specifically in regards to speaking in tongues...
1 Corinthians 13:1 (NLT)
1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
Paul leads me to believe that it isn’t my bad singing that is noisy and annoying to God, it’s my lack of love. Amy says, “Actually, a lack of love is forcing me to listen to your annoying singing.” Let’s talk about Psalm 148. Let’s start by asking...
What is Psalm 148?
What is Psalm 148?
What is Psalm 148? It is a Poem. It is a call for all of the cosmos to praise Yahweh. It is a call for all of creation to praise Yahweh. It’s focus: God’s promise to deliver his people from oppression.
To really grasp this Psalm we should familiarize ourselves with the story being told by the book of Psalms. The book of Psalms is a large collection of poems in the Hebrew Bible. Each poem has been expertly crafted and placed where it is within the book to create one complete story-line from the book’s beginning to it’s end. It poetically retells the entire biblical story. The 150 poems in the book of Psalms are broken up into five sections...
The first section is the introduction. In the Introduction, Psalm 1 describes the blessing that those who follow Yahweh will experience. They will live at peace and flourish. They will be upright and delight in God’s wisdom. It describes these people using imagery of the garden story in Genesis 1-2...
Psalm 1:3 (NLT)
3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
Psalm 2 shows how this ideal will come about through God raising up his messianic King.
These themes continue to develop throughout the 5 sections of the Psalms. The first 2 sections focus on David and his royal family. The third section highlights Israel’s exile and the downfall of David’s royal line. Then the last 2 sections spark new hope for the Messiah, a new temple and God’s kingdom. The book of Psalms ends with a grand finale of praise (Psalms 146-150) called the “final hallel” or final praise. In the middle of this final praise is Psalm 148.
Each of the final 5 Psalms begin and end the same way. The first and last words of each of them is “Praise Yah”, or in Hebrew “Hallu YAH”. Look familiar? It is where we get hallelujah. Today it is common for people to use the term “hallelujah” as a way to praise God, but in Hebrew it is not something you say to God, but it is what you say to people when you invite them to praise God. It is about the call to praise, not the content of the praise. In this Psalm, the psalmist is calling for all the creatures in 2 different realms to praise Yahweh. The realm of the sky and the realm of the land and everything that fills each realm. This structure calls back to Genesis 1 when God created the skies and the land.
This Psalm has a really neat structure. It is more or less broken into 2 different sections, but it is also segmented off into subsections. First off, the entire Psalm is encapsulated by a call to praise Yahweh. Then the first segment is the call to the cosmos, and it is also encapsulated by another call to praise Yahweh. Within this segment is a list of the heavenly realm and all of its inhabitants. Then after this encapsulation of a call to praise, the psalmist gives the reason for them to praise the name of Yahweh.
Psalm 148:1–6 (NIV)
1 Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above.
2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all is heavenly hosts.
3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.
5 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created,
6 and he established them for ever and ever— he issued a decree that will never pass away.
Praise God, all you heavenly creation! Why? He created you with a simple command and at His word you are established for ever! Then the psalmist continues with the earth and uses the same structure as before by encapsulating creation with a call to praise and following up with the reason for praising Yahweh...
Psalm 148:7–14 (NIV)
7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
8 lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding,
9 you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and women, old men and children.
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 And he has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his faithful servants, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the Lord.
All you people, praise Yahweh! Why? Because He has raised up a horn! Wait, what? What is this horn all about? The metaphor of having a horn raised up comes from the imagery of a bull winning a fight and lifting it’s horns in victory. God raising a horn for his people is a common biblical symbol of being rescued from oppression. If you do a quick concordance search for horns in the book of Psalms you will see this theme repeated.
In 1 Samuel 2, Hanna rejoiced because “in Yahweh her horn was lifted high” and later declared that “God will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed one, the Messiah.” Yahweh’s chosen Messiah is the horn that He raised up for His people. When John the Baptist was born, his father prophesied this about Jesus...
Luke 1:68–69 (NIV)
68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David
If you want extra homework you can research the relationship between bulls and Jesus. Including sacrifices. I don’t want to get into the weeds and be confusing, but I have always found this fascinating. In Ancient Hebrew the first letter of the “alphabet” looks like a bull’s head. The name of the symbol is “El” and it’s meaning is “Strong, Power, Leader”. God is known as the first and the last, and the ancient Hebrew writing reflects that. He is our source of strength, He leads and guides us, He is known as El (or God), and he raises up a horn for us. He is the strong bull that will save us.
As a side note, God is the first AND the last. The ancient symbols for writing reflect this as well. The last “letter” or symbol is “Taw” and it looks like a cross. God is the FIRST and the LAST. Isn’t that interesting? It is to me. Anyway....
As followers of Jesus, we join in this song of praise from Psalm 148. With all of creation, the heavens and the earth and everything in between we sing praises to God for lifting up this horn of salvation for us. Our Messiah. Hallelujah! All heaven and earth, Praise God!