a brief study of Psalm 149, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 27 Aug 2004
Psalm 149 is the 4th of the Concluding Hallels. A Hallel is a Psalm of praise. It is a call of Christ to His church to join Him to praise the LORD. Who is the LORD? He is God Triune, the Living and True God, the God we worship. Remember that all our worship is essentially directed unto God Triune. Yes, we are taught by our Saviour to address our prayers to our heavenly Father, but our heavenly Father, the first Person of the Godhead represents Triune God. Thus words of praise in the Psalms are all directed to God Triune. Sometimes, our words will be addressed to the Second Person as in Psalms 20 and 45. Sometimes, they will be addressed to the Father such as in Psalms 65 and 80. But other times, such as in these Concluding Hallels, they are addressed to the congregation to exhort and admonish each one to praise the LORD.
We do not know when Psalm 149 was written. In all probability, it was written at the time when King David was extending his rule and bringing peace to the land. The people of Israel had been under oppression by their enemies since the time when Joshua died. Even when Saul came on the throne after the time of the judges, there was no peace.
But victory and peace came into sight only when David ascended the throne. This psalm calls upon the people of God to praise the LORD because He has given them a King, by whom He is subduing the nations. We may entitle it: “Triumphant Call to Praise the LORD for the Victorious King.”
It contains three parts (1) A Call to praise (v. 1-3); (2) A Cause for Praise (v. 4-5); and (3) A Charge to (v. 6-9).
1. Call to Praise
1 Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and His praise in the congregation of saints. 2 Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. 3 Let them praise His name in the dance: let them sing praises unto Him with the timbrel and harp.
The call in the opening words, “Praise ye the LORD,” or Hallelujah, is clearly not directed to God. It is directed to the congregation that we may be taught and admonished to praise the LORD.
Who should praise the LORD? All men should praise the LORD, for we are created in the image of God. But Israel and the children of Zion must particularly praise the LORD. “Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful” (v. 2).
Who are the children of Israel or the children of Zion? They are the sons and daughters of God throughout the ages. They are God’s covenant people. They are the saints and the believers of the Messiah. Today they are called Christians. Why should we praise the LORD?
In a word, we should praise Him because He has given them a King. “Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King” (v. 2). Who is this their King? Not David, but Christ Jesus our Lord, the King of kings, Lord of Lords! We were like all men, defenseless and doomed to destruction. But now God has given us a King to defend us and to protect us. Shall we not praise Him?
How should we praise Him?
We should praise Him with our lips especially in congregational worship: “Sing unto the LORD a new song, and His praise in the congregation of saints” (v. 1). This is not to say we should compose new songs and sing them. This Psalm calls us to sing a new song and then supplies the new song! The new song referred to in this Psalm is this Psalm itself! We must stir up renewed zeal to praise the LORD with God’s inspired Psalms. We must praise Him aloud when the congregation is gathered for worship.
But we are not only to praise Him in public worship. We are to praise Him with every aspect of our lives too. Even the irrational creatures must praise the LORD according to their capacity.
The sun must praise the LORD by its warmth and light; the rain must praise the Lord by the refreshment it brings; the birds must praise the LORD by their flight and songs; the flowers must praise the LORD by their beauty and fragrance.
The brute creation must praise the LORD. How much
more, then, must man praise the LORD by our lives? So our Lord exhorts us to: “praise His name in the dance” and to “sing praises unto Him with the timbrel and harp” (v. 3).
Only four kinds of musical instruments were allowed for use in worship in the Temple, namely, cymbals, psalteries, harps and trumpets (2 Chr 29:25; 1 Chr 25:6; 2 Chr 5:12). Timbrels had no place in the public worship of God.
But there is nothing wrong with celebrating with dances and timbrels. The children of Israel, did that after they crossed the Red Sea. David did the same when the Ark entered Jerusalem after being in exile for more than forty years. It is clear that their celebration was approved by God. So this Psalm teaches us to “praise [the LORD’s] name in the dance” and to “sing praises unto Him with the timbrel and harp”
Does this not indicate that outside formal worship we need not be restricted in our expression of joy in praise to God? We must never become too morose as Christians.
It is wrong to write a song to praise the Lord? No, so long as you use it outside of formal worship. John Calvin wrote such a song, entitled as “Good morning, Lord Jesus!” There is no evidence that it was ever used in public worship, though. But it could have been used in private occasions.
Is it wrong to use musical instruments in private? Of course not! Oliver Cromwell had his own organ and organ player. Is it wrong to stand by the piano and sing some uninspired songs of praise? No, I do not think so.
Is it wrong to dance outside of worship? No! Only the legalists will say it is wrong to dance. We have to be careful with our company and what connotations the dances have, but it is not wrong to dance!
If during an outing of the church, some of our sisters or even man want to do a dance as an expression of joy to our Lord, we must thank God for it.
But not just in public! Let us learn to praise the LORD in private too. “Let them sing aloud upon their beds” (v. 5). We should praise the LORD when we are lying on our beds. So what is wrong with praising God in the bathrooms? Would to God that we be found praising God with our lips and our actions wherever we are and whatever we are doing.
Let the housewife learn to praise the LORD while doing housework. Let the factory worker and the harvesters praise Him. Let the fisherman sing praise while waiting for the fish to bite.
We must not limit ourselves where the Word of God places no limit. We must learn to rejoice in the LORD for all that He has done for us. This is part of praising God.
But why should the children of God praise the LORD?
2. Cause for Praise
We have seen in verse 2, how we should joyfully praise the LORD because He has given us a King. But now our King gives us more reasons to praise God.
4 For the LORD taketh pleasure in His people: He will beautify the meek with salvation. 5 Let the saints be joyful in glory…
Why should we praise the LORD? We should praise Him because though He is high, exalted and mighty, He takes an interest in His people. He takes pleasure in beholding the life and worship of His people.
Thus, He beautifies us with His salvation! He has already begun a good work in us. He will perfect it. He will remove all our sins and inhibitions. Today many of us are inhibited from praising God due to our sinful natures. God will beautify us with salvation. He will glorify us so that nothing will hinder us in our desire to praise the LORD.
We will have joy, pure joy when the LORD brings us to glory. So when we lay down our heads on our bed for the last time, let us not fear death, but let us rejoice. Let us rejoice for when morning breaks over our souls, we shall be in eternal bliss for ever and ever, praising the LORD who loves us; and has given us a reason to praise Him.
This thought must motivate us as we live today. So our text concludes with a…
3. Charge to Praise
6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; 7 To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; 8 To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; 9 To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all His saints. Praise ye the LORD.
In ancient days, the people of God were often oppressed by their enemies. They would literally have to go out to fight against them in order that they might have peace at home. Our Lord teaches them in this Psalm to march out into their battles with the high praise of God upon their lips.
They are to have their weapons in their hands. But in their lips they should have the high praises of God rather than any war chants. They are, in other words, to conquer in the name of the LORD and for the sake of the glory of the LORD.
Today we do not fight literal battles. But the exhortation still applies to us. Are we not daily in a spiritual battle? “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” says the Apostle Paul (Eph 6:12).
And do we not have to fight with the sword of the Spirit, even the Word of God, which is a double-edged sword.
Christ our King has conquered and is conquering. We are the subjects of His kingdom. Shall we not stand our ground and fight with Him. Shall we not do so with our lips and our lives? Shall we not do so with the high praises of God in our lips?
The point is: As we fight our spiritual battles daily, let us be conscious of the promised victory. Let us trust that the God of peace will bruise Satan under our feet shortly (Rom 16:20). We must not be fighting a losing battle. We must fight on with the confidence and assurance that Christ has overcame the world.
With the high praise of God in our lips and the two-edged sword in our hands, we can live a victorious Christian life. We can have an impact on the people around us. We can be salt that has not lost its saltiness, and light that is not hidden under the bushel. We can live lives that count—not only in the sight of God, but in the sight of men.
Only such a life will bring glory to God.
Will you live such a life dearly beloved brethren and children? Drift along no more. Live rather an extraordinary life that touches other lives because it brings honour to God and your beloved King. Amen. W