Today is the last day of our read through the Book of Psalms! It is fitting that the Book of Psalms or praises ends with five hallelujah psalms, so named because each begins and ends with Praise the Lord…Hallelujah in Hebrew. These psalms focus our attention on praising the Lord. Rather than focus on one specific psalm today I want to take a brief look at these last five psalms and what they mean for us. Psalm 146 begins with a vow to praise God all our life long. Psalm 147 reminds us it is good and pleasant to praise the Lord and 148 reminds us that when we do praise God we join with the rest of creation in praise. All of heaven and earth praise the Lord. In psalm 149 we are called to worship with joy, and the last psalm, number 150 tells us why, where, and how everything that has breath should praise the Lord. These last psalms are a short course in worship. Worship isn’t entertainment and it isn’t theatre. Worship is an out and out hands up in the air, voices lifted up in praise, giving God the glory worship experience.
In these psalms of praise we see the Lord worshiped with voice and trumpet. God’s people use tambourines, flutes, harps and dance to give God glory and praise. And I don’t know about you, but sometimes we sing a song and it is like my hands are lifted up in praise by a power other than my own. There are many ways to worship. Some like the ritual of liturgy and that is great as long as we don’t start worshiping the liturgy instead of the Lord. Others like almost a heavy metal Christian music kind of worship. Some like traditional and others modern or contemporary worship. Whatever worship is, the important thing is that we do it. And even more important, all who can are called to be part of a family of faith that gathers together to celebrate. It is hard to share a family meal around the Lord’s table from home or various other places we claim are worship. It is hard to serve as a family of faith when we do not join in with the others of the family. Scripture calls us to come together as a family to worship. The writer of Hebrews says this: “And let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” And we just read in psalm 122:1 “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go to the house of the Lord.” We are called to gather together in worshiping the Lord.
We have just been through a pandemic and for a time we could not gather together for worship. But now is the time to come back, back to worship and service, back to fellowship and receiving the Lord’s Supper, back to Sunday school and adult groups and classes. We are not called to walk in faith alone. We are called to gather as one big family. And if you haven’t made your way back yet, we can’t wait to see you again!!! If you are waiting for an invitation here it is. We invite you to join us in worshiping and praising our Lord and Savior. We gather together on Sunday mornings at 8:30 and 10:00. Please come join us.
So, here are some thoughts as we read through the last psalms, which act as a doxology. Gods gives us life and breath and it is only right that we use our lives and our breath to honor and praise Him. To receive gifts…and all of us have…and ignore the giver is the essence of idolatry. Living a life of praise means being thankful for all we have, believing that all things work together for our good. Life means trusting the Lord. Trusting in flesh and blood is futile because humans will always disappoint us. God can do in and through us what no one else can. And, trusting in human wisdom and strength means we have chosen to depend on things that will not last. In Hebrew the word for man is adam. This comes from the word adamah which means earth. We come from the earth and there we return. And we are reminded of that every Ash Wednesday. While humans will let us down, God never will. He is steadfast and His love endures forever.
Living our lives means loving God. The greatest proof of God’s love for us is on the cross. We sing “What wondrous love is this O my soul, O my soul, that bears the dreadful curse”. Because of God’s incredible love for us, Jesus came to take our sins and die on the cross in our place so we can spend eternity with He and the Father. You and I know how to love because God loved us first, and if we truly love Him, we will love those who need help and do what we can to help them. Living in love means more than just enjoying God’s love for us. It means sharing God’s love with others. Think of it this way. The Sovereign Lord of the universe is our loving Heavenly Father. Not only does He reign over the nations but we reign in life through Jesus Christ as we yield to Him and walk in the Spirit.
Psalm 147 was probably written for the celebration and dedication of the rebuilt Jerusalem after the exile in Babylon. One of the cool things about this psalm is the number of present participles the author used. We see building, healing, binding, counting, and lifting up to name a few. What this means is that the Lord is constantly and dynamically at work on our behalf. There will be times when we wonder about that. We may even question if He is present at all, but rest assured that He is. There are three reasons for God’s people to praise Him, and the psalm is divided into thirds, separated by the phrase ‘praise the Lord’. We praise Him because His people have been restored. This may sound like something only found in the Old Testament but God’s people have been restored to Him in the saving work of Jesus Christ. Our God is so great that He knows each one of us and our needs. The God of the galaxies, the one who hung the stars and knows all of their names, is the same God who heals the broken hearts of His people. We sing to the Lord because the land has been refreshed. Even today, those who till the land rotate their crops and rest fields so that the land stays viable. Third, we shout about the Lord because He has revealed His Word to us. First there was the prophetic word where God tried to warn His people and draw them back to Him. We have His written Word where He reveals Himself when we read. It is in His Word that we meet Him, and let Him guide, direct, correct, and convict us. It is interesting that the Jewish nation took great care to protect the manuscripts of God’s Word. Their scholars even counted the letters and words to ensure the copies matched the originals. But they did not look beyond the text to the truth in the words. And when their long awaited Messiah came, they did not recognize Him because they did not know the Words of God that instructed them.
The word praise is used many times in these last psalms. And we see that it isn’t just humans who praise the Lord. The heavens do…stars, planets, sun, moon, and heavenly hosts including the angels. And they praise Him simply by doing what they were made to do. The earth praises the Lord too. This includes all the living things listed in the creation story in Genesis 1-3. We humans are the highest creatures in God’s creation because we were made in His image. If any part of God’s creation has reason to praise it is us. We have the privilege of knowing God more intimately and we have the promise of one day being like Christ. The psalmist singles out the people of Israel because they were God’s chosen people, created to shine His light to those who do not know Him.
Everything God’s people do in serving Him and glorifying him must flow out of worship. Scripture tells us that we can do nothing with out Him. John 15:5. Worship is something we learn to do. We will continue learning for the rest of our lives while at the same time teaching others how to worship. One year in confirmation we had a first year student tell us she knew how to worship because a second year student had taught her. The focus is on glorifying and extolling Him. We are all members of the body of Christ and we need each other. When we worship we need both the old songs and the new. That creates a balance in worship. Our church families are a mix of young and old and those in between. We have seasoned believers and those new to the faith. The old songs bear witness to our steadfastness in keeping the faith but the new songs are just as important. They show that we are maturing in our faith as we grow in the knowledge of His Word and in His grace. There are many ways to worship. We all have our favorite songs and the ‘right’ way to worship. But we have to be willing to try new things that will feed and grow people other than ourselves. As we grow in our faith we need to be willing to explore new expressions of worship. This doesn’t mean we abandon the old and only focus on the new but it does mean we have to be willing to try the new. Our purpose in worship is not to please ourselves but the Lord. Worship is about giving Him the honor, praise and the glory. Yes, we come to be fed but this is not about us. It is about Him!!! Always. We worship Him gratefully. Worship is not to be routine with people just going through the motions, reciting things by rote. Worship is not just done one hour a week on Sunday mornings. We are called to live our lives as worship of, to, and for Him. If we are only giving God thanks and praise on Sunday mornings that we are short changing Him.
The evil one wants us to worship him. In fact, He has tried since the beginning to get God’s people to worship him instead. This may sound peculiar but worship and warfare go hand in hand. Whether we like it or not the church is an army, this world is a battlefield and war is being waged for the souls of those who do not know the Lord. Our weapons are prayer, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and the hymns and songs of praise to the Lord. Worship is warfare and we are His singing soldiers. Think about it. As Jesus left the city of Jerusalem that Thursday night He and the disciples sang a song. Jesus went to do battle with the evil one, singing. We sing a song sometimes that says, “The battle belongs to the Lord”. Worship today is very much a part of our spiritual warfare. The evil one means business. So should we.
We have read and studied the psalms. We have seen great joy and great sorrow. We have heard laments and prayers for vengeance. Through all of that we have also seen praise. So it is fitting that this book ends on the highest note of praise. In psalm 150 the word praise is used 13 times, ten of which are commands to those of us who are reading the psalm. Praise the Lord!! This is hallelu yah. Jehovah or Yah for Yahweh is the covenant name of the Lord. It is a reminder that He loves us and He has covenanted to save us, keep us, care for us, and eventually glorify us because of the sacrifice of His son on the cross. The new covenant was not sealed with the blood of animals. It was sealed by the innocent, perfect blood of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. When we worship we may bring our burdens and needs with us, but our focus and attention is on the Lord.
We know that the Lord does not live in the structures we build but we set these places aside so that we have a place as a family of believers to gather together to worship and praise the Lord. We worship because the acts of God reveal the character of God. In His acts we see His holiness, love, wisdom, power, grace and mercy. This is what the psalmist calls “His excellent greatness”. The final verse sums everything up. We can play instruments. We can sing or dance. Men, women and kids alike are called to and can, worship the Lord, each in their own way. It doesn’t matter where we live, our ethnic origin or social status. All of us are called to worship the Lord. In fact, everything that had breath is called to give God thanks, praise, and worship. (The picture is of the northern lights in Finland. This particular pattern is called “the hem of His garment!”
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W