A Joyous Call To God’s People To Join All Creation To Praise Him

a brief study of Psalm 148, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 20 Aug 2004

Psalm 148 is the third of the Concluding Hallels. A Hallel is a psalm of praise.

It begins with the Hebrew hallelujah! And it ends with hallelujah! It contains no word of petition. It is all of praise. But it is not praise that is directed to God as with Psalm 145. It is, rather, a call to praise the LORD.

It is a psalm of praise in the sense that the worshipper is charged and stirred to praise the LORD. It is a psalm that Christ the King of the Church would have us to sing in union with Him to call out to one another to praise the Father with Him. So one of the purposes of this psalm is for the congregation of Christ to teach and admonish one another to praise the LORD.

This, however, is done in a very special way in this psalm, for we see that a major part of this psalm comprises calls to the inanimate and irrational members of creation to praise the LORD!

Matthew Henry puts it beautifully when he says:

This psalm is a most solemn and earnest call to all the creatures, according to their capacity, to praise their Creator, and to show forth his eternal power and Godhead, the invisible things of which are manifested in the things that are seen.

This psalm has two main sections.

The words of the first section (v. 1-6), directs us to look up to the heavens. With these words, we may call upon the rational members, – angelic hosts (v. 1-2), as well as the irrational members, – the stars, the moon, and the clouds (v. 3-6), to praise the LORD.

Likewise, the second section (v. 7-14), directs our eyes toward the lower regions of creation, the earth. With these words we may call upon the irrational members, the animals, trees, the mountains, the snow, etc (v. 7-11), as well as the rational members, men, women and children (v. 12-14), to praise the LORD.

This then, is how we must look at the psalm in order that it may accomplish its purpose in our hearts.

What is the purpose of this psalm? Be sure that it is not to stir the angels to praise the Lord. They are already perfect. They will find it their greatest joy to worship the LORD. Be sure that it is not to stir the irrational things in the upper parts or the lower parts of creation to praise the LORD. They are already doing so passively, and they cannot do more. Neither will they hear even if we shout and sing our throats sore.

What then is the purpose of this psalm? It is no doubt to stir the hearts of men, and especially, the covenant people of God, to praise the LORD. We may entitle it: “A Joyous Call to God’s People to Join All Creation to Praise Him.”

Let us therefore look at this psalm briefly, that as we understand the Word of God, the Spirit of Christ may excite us to praise the LORD with greater affection.

1. Praise the LORD ye Angelic Host

1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights.  2 Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.

The heavenly hosts are the angelic armies of heaven. When we sing this psalm, we are calling upon these the servants of God to praise the LORD.

But why do we do so? The angels are fully employed in the praise of God. It is their chief delight and occupation. They do not need to be reminded to praise the LORD. Why then do we call them to praise the LORD?

We call them to praise the LORD in the same way that an appreciative audience of a great pianist would urge him to play on. He loves to play. He enjoys it greatly. He does not need to be urged to play. But the audience desire to hear him play so much that they urge him on with their resounding cheers.

Likewise we call the angels to praise the LORD because we desire greatly that God be praised. We wish we can praise as well as the angels today. But sin hinders us. One day we will join the innumerable company of angels to praise the LORD. But not today. What shall we do? Shall we not call upon the angels to praise the LORD?

Indeed, not only the angels, but the celestial bodies in heaven who likewise knew no sin…


2. Praise the LORD ye Celestial Bodies

3 Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. 4 Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. 5 Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created. 6 He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass.

The heaven of heavens, the dwelling place of angels, the sun, moon and stars in space, the clouds in the sky: These all were created by the word of God’s power. These were placed where they now exist by the sovereign decree of God. Far from being lawful objects of worship, these should praise the LORD.

But why do we call them to praise the LORD, when they are irrational? They are praising God in their own capacities in a passive way. They cannot hear our calls to them to praise the LORD. They have neither ears nor understanding. Why then do we call them to praise the LORD?

Once again we call upon them to praise the LORD as an expression of our belief that God is worthy to be praised; and of our desire to see Him praised.

Moreover, as we do so, our hearts are stirred to praise the LORD. How? By being reminded that even the lower orders of creation are proclaiming the glory of God. The Sun in its brightness, power and beauty reflect the glory of one far brighter and more powerful. The near infinite number of stars and the inexhaustible knowledge that can be gleaned from them should the LORD tarries, speaks of the eternality and infinity of God. The moon, the clouds, these speak of God’s compassion towards His creatures.

Everything in the higher sphere reflects some aspects of the glory of God rather dramatically. This is why ignorant men and women throughout the ages have bowed down to worship them. Yet, these are irrational things. They are neither made in the image of God, nor do they have any understanding at all. They praise God only passively the way that a piece of art praises the artist.

But if these celestial paintings are praising the LORD, then how much more we who are created in the image of God?

Indeed, not only are the things above praise God. The lowly creatures upon the earth and her oceans are also clamoring to display the glory of God!

We desire that God be glorified, therefore we urge them on. But remember that they will neither need nor heed our call. We call upon them to praise to express our heart-felt desires for God’s glory.


3. Praise the LORD ye Irrational Creatures on Earth

7 Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: 8 Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word: 9 Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars: 10 Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl:

God’s creation upon the earth is a great orchestra of praise. Notice how apparently jumbled up are the members in this orchestra. The modern composer might be tempted to organise the members by separating the animate members from the inanimate. But the arrangement we have is divine and instructive.

You see, when you listen to a symphony you do not listen to the organ first, then the cellos, then the violin, then the flute, then the trumpets. No, you listen to them at the same time. So too when we behold creation praising God, we simply cannot discern which should strike the first note and which should follow. The dragons of the dee

The point is whether they are animate or inanimate, whether they are permanent as mountains or transient as snow, all things in the lower creation conspire to speak of the glory of God.

“…the invisible things of [the LORD] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that [all men] are without excuse” (Rom 1:20).

What excuse do we have for not praising God when every day, and every moment, the irrational things that God has made are loudly and clearly proclaiming the glory of God?

So we must come finally to calling upon man to praise the LORD.


4. Praise the LORD ye Rational Creatures on Earth

11 Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: 12 Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children: 13 Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.

Who among men should praise the LORD? Kings and judges should praise Him. So should all people, young and old, male or female. We should praise the LORD, for His name is excellent and His glory is above the earth and heaven.

Of all the things and creatures that God has made, man has the greatest advantage and privilege. Not only are we made in the image of God, but God took on human nature to effect our redemption in order that we might enjoy everlasting fellowship with Him. Even angels do not share the privilege that we have.

Christ, we are reminded by the apostle, did not take on the form of an angel, but He took on human flesh (Heb 2:16). Can we ask for more? God condescended so much that the Son of God should become the son of man that the sons of man might become the sons of God.

Shall we not praise Him? And shall we not remind ourselves of the covenant mercies of God? The psalmist puts this in verse 14—

14 He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD.

The horn is a symbol of power. God’s people have a powerful representative in the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is because of Him, we are regarded as God’s children and a people near to God because of Him who is our horn.

Shall not all men praise God? Shall not the church of Christ especially praise Him? If the rest of mankind do not praise Him, it is because their sin have blinded their eyes and they are holding down the truth in unrighteousness. We were once like them, but we have been set free. Our hearts have been made flesh. Our eyes were opened. Our ears were unstopped. Our tongues have been unloosed.

What excuse do we have for not wanting to praise the LORD? No excuse at all! Indeed, none who are truly His will give any excuse, for God’s glory is our chiefest desire. Sin hinders us, but when it does so, our hearts are grieved. We desire so much to employ our tongue, our eyes, our ears, our hands, our feet—our every part to praise the LORD. Let all that is within me praise thy holy name, O LORD!


Conclusion

What more shall we say? Shall we not sing this psalm that we may be further stirred to praise our Great God and King. The Orchestra of Creation is already in full swing. Christ our King is the conductor. But the choir is lacking some voices. Oh will we not tune our heart strings and join quickly and heartily into this great symphony of praise! Let us praise the LORD! Let us praise Him with our lives and with our lips. Amen. W