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A Rousing Finale To Call The Church To Unite In A Symphony Of Praise

A Rousing Finale To Call The Church To Unite In A Symphony Of Praise

a brief study of Psalm 150, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 3 Sep 2004


Psalm 150 is the last of the psalms and the 5th of the Concluding Hallels. A Hallel is a psalm of praise.

Like the previous 4 Psalms, Psalm 150 is a call of Christ to His church to join Him to praise the Father. It contains the words of Christ that the church must use to teach and admonish one another by singing.

But Psalm 150 is somewhat different from the preceding 4 psalms. For, in the preceding 4 psalms, we are given numerous reasons and arguments to encourage us to praise the Lord. In Psalm 150, on the other hand, no reasons and arguments are given. We are simply exhorted to praise the LORD. 12 or 13 times in this psalm, is the call to praise the Lord repeated.

We say 12 or 13 times, because the first part of verse 6 is worded differently.

In any case, the psalm opens and closes with same word—“hallelu-yah (Hy: Wll]h) or “praise ye the LORD.” Sandwiched between are 5 couplets containing the exhortation “hallelu (Wll]h') or “praise.” The first couplet, begins with “hallelu-el” (laeAWll]h) or “Praise God” (v. 1b); followed by “hallelu-hu” (WhWll]h) or “praise him.” The rest of the couplets comprise a pair of “hallelu-hu” (WhWll]h) each.

In the first part of verse 6, the same verb is used, but it is used in a different way. Indeed, the psalm appears to be intentionally structured in this way so that there will be just 12 hallelu’s. As one writer suggests, this 12-fold hallelu indicates that it is the duty and privilege of the Church of Christ to praise the LORD. The number 12, after all, is the number of the Church. With this in mind, we may entitle this Psalm, “A Rousing Finale to Call the Church and all Creation to Unite in a Symphony of Praise.

Let us briefly consider this psalm by looking at each of the 5 couplets of exhortation to praise the LORD.

1. The First Couplet

“Praise God in his sanctuary. Praise him in the firmament of his power” (v. 1)

The sanctuary refers to the holy place in the temple. The church is the temple of God’s Holy Spirit.

The firmament of God’s power is heaven.

This couplet of praise is therefore a call to the church on earth and the church in heaven, together with all the heavenly hosts, to join our voices together to praise the LORD.

On earth, praise is the duty and privilege of God’s people. In heaven, praise is the delight and passion of God’s people.

Today sin and suffering hinders us in our exercise of praise. Tomorrow, our memories of deliverance from sin and suffering will spur us unto spontaneous praise.

But we must not wait till tomorrow to praise the LORD. We must praise Him today on earth if we would praise Him tomorrow in heaven. He who refuses to praise God today may defer the exercise forever. For the desire and willingness to praise God is a mark of the redeemed soul. Let us therefore take heed to the call to praise the Lord. If there is no other reason to praise the Lord, is not the reason that Christ our Redeemer has called us to do so sufficient?

But how shall we praise? What shall we praise God for?

2. The Second Couplet

“Praise him for his mighty acts, Praise him according to his excellent greatness” (v. 2)

Praise the Lord for all that He has done. Praise Him for creating the universe. Praise Him for delivering His people from the bondage of Egypt with great signs and wonders. Praise Him for delivering you from the bondage of sin and Satan. Praise Him for gathering us together as His church.

Praise Him for His Word and His Providence has shown us His incomparable greatness. There is none worthy of praise as He is, for there is none truly great as He is.

Man knows how to praise man. Think of the American political campaigns. The candidates need hardly to say a word about how great they are. They have their loyal supporters singing their praise sometimes in an unqualified manner that if taken out of context would suggest that candidate is flawless and over-qualified for the job! I wonder how many Singaporeans are as passionate about our leaders. But more than that I wondered how many of us who are the citizens of heaven are as loyal and enthused about our King and heavenly Father.

Howmany of us will seek to glorify or have been glorifying God the way that the Americans glorify their president or presidential candidates.

I am not speaking about the method of course. I am speaking about our hearts, soul, mind and strength.

God has done great things! His greatness is beyond comparison. Man by comparison has done nothing, and man’s greatness is temporal at best.

Oh let us stir our hearts to remember the excellent deeds of our Great God and King and let us extol His name earnestly from the bottom of our hearts.

3. The Third Couplet

“Praise him with the sound of the trumpet. Praise him with the psaltery and harp” (v. 3)

In Old Covenant days, trumpets, psaltery and harps were used for the public worship of God in the Temple. They were used when the sacrifices were being performed.

But today, we are to make melody with our hearts and not with instruments.

Instruments, as Chrysostom says, “was only permitted to the Jews as sacrifice was, for the heaviness and grossness of their souls.” Chrysostom lived in the 4th century. During the 16th century Reformation, John Calvin taught the same thing. The use of instruments for the formal worship of God, is according to him, “no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law.”

Therefore, when we sing these words, let us not imitate the Jews and begin to introduce instruments into our worship. Let us rather stir our heart to sing melodiously unto our God and King. Let us be diligent to strum our heart-strings to make a delightful sound as we offer the calves of our lips unto our great God and King.

But let us not stop there.

4. The Fourth Couplet

“Praise him with the timbrel and dance. Praise him with stringed instruments and organs” (v. 4)

Timbrel, organ and dance: These things were never allowed in the formal worship of God even in the Old Covenant. There was a distinction between formal worship and informal worship even in Old Testament times.

I believe the distinction must necessarily continue today. What is the distinction? The common way of looking at it is public and private worship. So some believe that family worship need not be regulated in any way at all.

Personally, a better way of looking at it is to look at worship as a specific and a general activity.

Worship in the specific sense is what we do when we gather specifically for the purpose of worship. This is what temple worship was. This is what worship in the synagogues was. This is what Christian worship on the Sabbath is. And I believe, this is what family worship is.

When we gather specifically for worship, our worship should be regulated according to the Biblical principle that whatever is not sanctioned is forbidden.

On the other hand, there is worship in the general sense. When we talk about worship in this sense, all our life must be worship. We must worship God in all that we do.

Now, when we speak about worship in this sense, the regulative principle of worship does not apply—at least not fully. Rather, whatever is not forbidden in the
word of God is allowed so long as they are expedient and conduce to the glory of God.

I believe it is in the broad sense of worship that verse 4 refers to. This is why it speaks of dances, timbrel and organ. No musical instruments were permitted in the temple, nor in the synagogue nor in any Christian church up till the 13th century!

Yet the psalmist teaches us to praise the Lord with dances, timbrel and organs, and we have examples in the Scriptures of this being done outside of temple worship.

Thus, I believe it is not sinful for Christians to celebrate some blessings of God in his life through appropriate dances and instruments. Now, I must qualify that I do not know how to dance nor do I enjoy dancing at all. But I do not think it is sin to use traditional dances as part of social or even national celebrations—even in praise of God.

I think, for example, of how at the Christians in Malawi would often express their thanksgiving to God by spontaneously breaking out into singing, clapping and dancing after they received a blessing from Him—such as when they have benefited from a Catechism class!

But let me include a caveat: I do not think this verse is to be taken as a command to celebrate with dances and instruments. It suggests that dances and instruments are not always sinful in the worship of God. It is not sinful in general worship as opposed to specific worship. But it is not a command for us to worship God with dances and instrument. There is simply no commandment in regard to general worship!

As a command, our text should rather be taken as a reminder that we should praise and thank God joyfully.

When we sing this verse, let us picture in our mind, the joy that the people of Israel had after they crossed the red sea, and the joy that David had when the ark returned to Jerusalem.

The same is true in the 5th couplet…

5. The Fifth Couplet

“Praise him upon the loud cymbals. Praise him upon the high sounding cymbals” (v. 5)

Cymbals were allowed for worship in the old covenant. But again it is not to be taken as a command to use instruments to praise the Lord.

It is a call to bestir our hearts to praise the LORD. As the clanging cymbals excited the people to zeal in their worship, so our Lord would have us to unite our voices with Him to bestir every trembling heart to pour forth praise out of our lips unto God. “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (Psalm 103:1).

Let us praise Him with zeal and excitement rather than with mournful voices. Only then may we be described as praising God with loud cymbals and high sounding cymbals.

Our worship, under the New Covenant ought to be more spiritual than under the old covenant. But it ought not to be less fervent. While we do not have loud clanging noise to stir our hearts, we have the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the Gospel.

So let us take heed to the exhortation. We can and should praise the Lord with zeal and excitement!

But is there anyone of us who is saying: My heart is too dull, or I am too depressed to sing out with any excitement. Well, brethren, remember that worship is not about you. It is about God!

Therefore take heed to His call, pray to the Lord for strength, and seek to obey His call. Sing out aloud, sing praises unto Him. God will be pleased with your offering. And not only so, but be sure that the very sound of loud singing will be used by the Holy Spirit to bring cheer to your sagging heart.

Surely it will! For we are made to glorify and enjoy God. Christ our Lord has said: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt 6:33). When you do as Christ our Lord has taught us, all things including joy in the heart will be added unto you.

So praise the Father as our Lord is calling us to do. And let us encourage and exhort one another to praise the Lord!

Conclusion

“Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD” (v. 6)

All things ought to worship Him. Even the brutish creation ought to worship Him, how much more should we who are the sons and daughters of God praise Him.

Let us praise Him with gratitude in our hearts. Let us seek to make the praise of God our chief end in life.

We were made to glorify and enjoy God.

We glorify Him most when we are praising Him and remembering Him in all that we do.

We enjoy Him most when we are praising Him and remembering Him in all that we do.

Let all that is within us praise His holy name. Let us praise Him when we are gathered with God’s people in the church, or with our family to worship the Lord.

But let us praise Him in our day to day life. Let us praise Him when awake, when we are talking, when walking and when working. This is what the apostle Peter teaches us when he says:

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet 2:9).

How do we show for the praise of Him who hath called you out of darkness? Peter does not leave us to guess. He adds:

11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet 2:11-12)

We are to praise God not only with our lips but also with our lives. As we sing Psalm 150, therefore let us resolve to obey our Lord. Let us seek,—individually and corporately,—to be instruments of praise unto our Great God and King.

Let us pray that God will be pleased to magnify His name through our lives and lips. Oh may the cosmic symphony of high praise led by Christ and His Church redound unto the glory of God forever and ever! Amen. W


 

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