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Dean Perowne speaks of this Psalm as “the great closing Hallelujah, or Doxology, of the Psalter, in which every kind of musical instrument is to hear its part as well as the voice of man, in which not one nation only, but ‘everything that hath breath,’ is invited to join. It is one of those Psalms which ‘declare their own intention as anthems, adapted for that public worship which was the glory and delight of the Hebrew people; a worship carrying with it the soul of the multitude by its simple majesty and by the powers of music, brought in their utmost force to recommend the devotions of earth in the ears of heaven.’ ‘Take it,’says Isaac Taylor, ‘as a sample of this class, and bring the spectacle and the sounds into one, for the imagination to rest in. It was evidently to subserve the purposes of music that these thirteen verses are put together; it was no doubt to give effect first to the human voice, and then to the alternations of instruments,—loud and tender and gay,—with the graceful movements of the dance, that the anthem was composed and its chorus brought out,
“ ‘Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord! Praise ye the Lord!
“ ‘And so did the congregated thousands take up their part with a shout, even as the voice of many waters.’ ”
I. The sphere of the Divine praise.
“Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary, praise Him in the firmament of His power.”
1. In His temple upon earth. “Praise God in His sanctuary.” We understand this of the earthly temple, the place which He had chosen for the special manifestation of His presence and bestowment of His grace.
2. In the heavens. “Praise Him in the firmament of His power;” or “in the expanse of His power.” “The call here is on all that dwell above that expanse, in heaven, to unite with those on earth in His praise. It is called ‘the expanse of His power’ because it is in the heavens—in the sun, the moon, the stars—that the power of God seems to be principally displayed.” The earthly temple and heaven are mentioned together probably to indicate the universality of His praise. (Comp. 1 Kings 8:39; 1 Kings 8:43; 1 Kings 8:49; Psalms 11:4.)
II. The reason of the Divine praise.
“Praise Him for His mighty acts.”
1. In creation. “By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made,” &c. (Psalms 33:6-19.33.9).
2. In providence. What marvellous and mighty acts He had wrought on behalf of the Israelites!
3. In redemption. In this the power of His wisdom and grace is most clearly and impressively displayed.
III. The measure of the Divine praise. “Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.” Hebrew: “The multitude of His greatness.” Conant: “His abundant greatness.” We are to endeavour to praise Him in a manner which shall be in proportion to His greatness and glory. Man’s praise should correspond with God’s perfections, as far as this is possible. But when the most perfect praise is offered by the whole universe to God, it will still fall below His infinite greatness and glory. “He who will review only his own life will discover so many of God’s deeds that he will not be able to thank Him sufficiently through eternity.”
IV. The manner of the Divine praise.
“Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet,” &c. (Psalms 150:3-19.150.5). These verses suggest the following observations as to the manner in which God should be praised:—
1. The praise of God should be joyous. “Beyond doubt,” says Hengstenberg, “the pipe” (A. V., “organ”), “which otherwise did not belong to the Temple service, was brought into requisition here only because the feast had at the same time the character of a popular rejoicing. In like manner also timbrels and dances.… The cymbals were used only at festivals of a joyful kind. (Comp. 2 Samuel 6:5; Ezra 3:10; Nehemiah 12:27.)” Joyful worship is acceptable to God and honours Him.
2. The praise of God should be as perfect as possible. “Everything pertaining to worship should surely indicate a reverent solicitude to bring to God the best that we can proffer—an offering perfect in every appliance that can give emphasis to its adoration, intensify its rapture, or beautify its love. Hence, the devoutest worshippers will provide for their praise hymns of the highest poetry, and music of the richest harmony.”—Dr. H. Allon.
3. The praise of God should thoroughly engage the powers of our spirits. It behoves us to stir up our warmest and holiest affections to praise God. Where these are not engaged, the most perfect poetry and music will not find acceptance with God. “The finest music before God is the harmonious praise and glorifying of God by the soul united in all its powers, with all the senses and all the members.”
V. The offerers of the Divine praise.
“Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.” “The very ambiguity of ‘all breath’ gives,” says Alexander, “an extraordinary richness of meaning to the closing sentence. From the simple idea of wind-instruments mentioned in the context, it leads us by a beautiful transition to that of vocal, articulate, intelligent praise, uttered by the breath of living men, as distinguished from mere lifeless instruments. Then, lastly, by a natural association, we ascend to the idea expressed in the common version, ‘everything that hath breath’ not merely all that lives, but all that has a voice to praise God. There is nothing in the Psalter more majestic or more beautiful than this brief, but most significant, finale, in which solemnity of tone predominates, without, however, in the least disturbing the exhilaration which the close of the Psalter seems intended to produce, as if in emblematical allusion to the triumph which awaits the Church and all its members, when, through much tribulation, they shall enter into rest.” All living creatures are summoned to unite in celebrating the praises of God,—all in the air and in the waters, all on earth and all in heaven,—let everything according to its capacity and power join in the universal anthem. “All creatures,” says Moll, “should join their voices to the praise of God; but the members of His Church should lead the choir.”
THE SUBJECTS AND EXPRESSIONS OF PRAISE
Gospel worship should be joyful worship. “Speaking to yourselves in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” The Gospel was sung at Bethlehem before it was preached. We may well say with Greg. Nazianzen: “Lord, I would be a musical instrument for Thee to touch, that I may show forth Thy praise.”
I. Some subjects of praise in which we should unite, derived from these closing Psalms. Praise the great Head of the Church—
1. For what He is in Himself.
“Praise Him according to His excellent greatness;” and according to the display of that greatness in each succeeding dispensation.
(1.) Rejoice in the plenitude of His Divine perfections. The inspired writers always speak of Christ as of One who was far greater than any description that could be given of Him. God has given Him as Mediator, “a Name which is above every name”—above every name on earth or in heaven. For power: He has all power in heaven and on earth. For wisdom: in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. For love: His love passeth knowledge. For unchanging truth and faithfulness: His righteousness is like the great mountains. “Thy faithfulness hast thou established in the very heavens.”
(2.) Rejoice in the tenderness of His human sympathies. It is remarkable that those who have suffered the most for the cause of Christ, replete with His consolations, have spoken the most loudly of His name. As David’s Psalms in the wilderness are the sweetest of his psalms, so Paul’s letters in prison are the most delightful of his epistles.
2. For the wonders of His Providence in the defence and preservation of His Church. “Praise Him for His mighty acts.” Some of these are enumerated in these last five Psalms; e.g., the bringing back of Israel from the Babylonish captivity; the rebuilding and the fortification of Jerusalem; the erection of the second Temple, which was a wonderful thing for a colony of returned exiles to attempt. All Providence is subordinated to the interests, and to the Church, of the Messiah. The government of earth and heaven is upon His shoulder. (Comp. Isaiah 9:6.) The world was built by Him and for Him, for this very purpose, that it might be the scene and theatre of His Divine and gracious government in the great economy of human salvation. (Comp. John 1:1-43.1.3; John 1:16.) With the work of Redemption in promise, the Psalmist might well say, and with the work of Redemption in fulfilment, we may well add with him, “Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His excellent greatness.”
3. For the special relation in which He stands to us; that is, to all who bow to His sceptre, and experience the efficacy of His redeeming grace. He is their King; and they have the greatest reason to rejoice in Him.
II. In what way our love and loyalty to Christ should be made manifest.
1. In a more full and frequent contemplation of His infinite excellence, His ineffable love. In Psalms 148:14 He is said to be “The praise of all His saints,—a people near unto Him.” Especially should this be the case with us when we are called to contemlate the great mystery of redemption, “wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.” In other events and providential deliverances we see the putting forth of the power of His arm; but here we see unveiled the movements of His heart. Think then of the mighty acts of our all-glorious Redeemer, &c.… These are the trophies of Christ’s power; these the putting forth of the resources of His boundless and ineffable love.
2. By a careful study of His Providences—towards the Church in general, or towards ourselves in particular. A great cluster of Providences is referred to in these Psalms. Great and signal revolutions of empire among the Persians, the Babylonians, and the Medes, brought about their return from captivity;—their conquerors being moved only by political considerations, as our public men are this day, and not at all about God’s designs. He girded Cyrus with his might, though Cyrus knew Him not (Isaiah 45:5). So the great Reformation in Germany was backed by reasons of state, as they are called; it being the interest of many princes there to countenance Luther’s doctrines to stop the growing greatness of Charles V., who designed to enslave them. How wonderful that the building and the fortification of Jerusalem should have been consented to and brought about by their original enemies and enslavers, and even at the cost of their conquerors!… How much we may see the hand of God in our national history! in the Norman Conquest—the encouragement of the Reformation by Henry VIII.—the defeat of the Spanish Armada—and the glorious Revolution by William III.
3. In zealous efforts for the extension of His kingdom. “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.”
III. What great losers they are who have no part in these benefits!
This summons to praise Jehovah with which the Book of Psalms closes, is not Jewish, but human; not narrow or exclusive, but broad and catholic. Let us look at universal praise—
I. As the grand prerogative of God.
Praise is due to Him from all His creatures because—
1. Of the perfections of His Being. We should praise Him for what He is in Himself—the Supremely Great and Good. His character is fitted to awaken the devout admiration, and inspire the reverent affection, and enkindle the hearty praise of all His intelligent creatures.
2. Of his relations to the universe.
(1.) Creator. “Of old hast Thou laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands.” “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” “We are also His offspring.”
(2.) Sustainer. Constantly and completely all things depend upon Him. “By Him all things consist.” “Everything that hath breath” draws that breath from Him. “He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.… For in Him we live and move and have our being.”
(3.) Sovereign. All things are ordered by Him. “He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?” Therefore, “everything that hath breath” should praise Him. The lower orders of creation praise Him as embodiments of His ideas, and by fulfilling in their existence His purpose concerning them. And the intelligent orders of creation should praise Him by their loyal obedience, reverent worship, and supreme affection. This is due to Him. He has a most righteous and powerful claim upon this.
3. Praise is due to Him especially from man. Man’s creation is a higher thing than that of other creatures, and brings him into closer relations with God. “Man’s origin as to his essential inward being, the intellectual, moral, and spiritual, is not so much a creation as an outbirth” “The Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” “There is a spirit in man; and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” “The God of the spirits of all flesh.” Hence man’s increased obligation to praise God. The position assigned to man still further increases his obligation to honour God. The Creator made man sovereign over the lower ranks of creatures; and gave the earth to him for his sustentation and service (Genesis 1:28-1.1.29; Psalms 115:16). And man, as a sinner, was redeemed by God at an immense cost. “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things,” &c. (1 Peter 1:18-60.1.19). The obligations of man to praise God are of the most sacred and binding character. Universal worship belongs by right to God: it is His prerogative. “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His Name,” &c.
II. As the precious privilege of man.
To contribute to the universal worship of God is not only the binding duty, but the exalted privilege of man.
1. Because of the acceptance of our praise by Him. That we are permitted to approach God with our praises, and assured of a gracious welcome, is surely great condescension on His part, and a great privilege on ours. Holy angels worship Him with intensest ardour and humblest reverence (Isaiah 6:3); yet He deigns to hear and receive the praises of such ignorant and sinful beings as we are.
2. Because of the influence of our praise upon us. The worship of God has the most blessed effect upon the true worshipper.
(1.) Worship is joygiving. It affords richest and purest delight to the devout spirit. One of the highest joys of heaven is the joy of worship. (Comp. Revelation 4:10-66.4.11; Revelation 5:9-66.5.14; Revelation 7:9-66.7.12.)
(2.) Worship is transforming. Man becomes like unto the thing or the being whom he really worships. The worship of God pronotes in the worshipper the attributes of humility, reverence for all that is true and holy, self-forgetfulness, sanctity, and the highest spiritual beauty. They who worship God in spirit and in truth are changed into likeness to Him “from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Brothers, behold your privilege! To worship God doubtless is your duty; but it is much more than that: more beautiful and blessed than a mere duty; it is a sacred, precious, exalted privilege. Regard it as such; practise it as such.
III. As the fervent desire of the good.
It is the wish of all godly souls that “everything that hath breath would praise the Lord.” They manifest their desire by—
1. Praising Him themselves. To praise Him is to them a rich delight By their songs and by their services, by their profession and by their practice, they honour Him.
2. Calling upon others to praise Him. “Let everything that hath breath praise Jah. Praise ye Jah.” The godly soul would incite others to join in this blessed service, and would have all creatures to unite in the melodious and mighty chorus to the praise and glory of God.
This is the best mode of attaining to this universal praise to God. The time advances when “everything that hath breath will praise the Lord.” We may contribute to its advent by sincerely praising Him ourselves, and by inducing others to join us in praising Him.
“Dear Lord, our God and Saviour! for Thy gifts
The world were poor in thanks, though every soul
Should nought but breathe them; every blade of grass,
Yea, every atomie of earth and air
Should utter thanks like dew.
Wherefore let us Him ceaselessly adore;
Praise Him, ye chosen of the earth and skies,
Ye visible raylets of invisible Light,
Blend with the universal Heavens your lays!
Immortal leaflets of Love’s holy flower,
Breathe forth the perfume of eternal praise.”
“LET EVERYTHING THAT HATH BREATH PRAISE JAB!
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 150". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany