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The Psalmist exhorteth the celestial, the terrestrial, and the rational creatures to praise God.
THIS too is a psalm of praise; in which the author calls upon heaven and earth, with all that is in them, to praise God. The last verse seems to shew that it was occasioned by some victory granted to his people. Many expositors have thought that David composed this psalm when his kingdom was in a very flourishing condition, and when God had given him rest from all his enemies. See Psa 148:14 and 2 Samuel 7:1. Bishop Lowth, speaking of the origin of the ODE, observes, that it had its birth from the most pleasing affections of the human soul, joy, love, admiration. If we contemplate man in his state of innocence, newly created, such as the sacred scriptures exhibit him to us, endued with the perfect power of reason and speech; neither ignorant of himself, nor of God; conscious of the divine goodness, majesty, and power; no unworthy spectator of the beautiful fabric of the universe, the earth, and the heavens; can we suppose that at the sight of all these things his heart would not so burn within him, that his mind, carried away by the warmth of his affections, would of its own accord pour itself forth in the praise of its Creator, and glow into that impetuosity of speech, and that exultation of voice, which almost necessarily follows such emotions of mind. This seems to have been exactly the case, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, with the contemplative author of this beautiful psalm, wherein all created things are called upon to celebrate together the glory of God. Praise ye the Lord, &c. a hymn, which our Milton, by far the most divine of poets after the sacred ones, has most elegantly imitated, and very aptly given to Adam in Paradise. (See Paradise Lost, book 5: ver. 153, &c. and Bishop Newton's notes). Indeed we can scarcely conceive rightly of that primoeval and perfect state of man, unless we allow him some use of poetry, whereby he might worthily express in hymns and songs his piety and affection towards God. See the 25th Prelection.
Psalms 148:3. Praise ye him, sun and moon— The Psalmist proceeds to call upon the inanimate part of the creation, as well as upon all living creatures, to praise the Lord; who hath set forth his most transcendent wisdom, power, and magnificence, in such a variety of stupendous works, that there is not the smallest of them but ministers such matter of praise and admiration to those who attentively consider them, that they cannot but wish, with the Psalmist here, that every one of them were able to tell us how much skill he hath shewn in their contrivance; or that we were able to find it out and fully comprehend it. Thus the Psalmist is to be understood, when he calls upon all creatures to praise the Lord. By the expression of heavens of heavens, in the next verse, is not meant, as usually, the highest heaven, the place of God's throne; but here, after the sun, moon, and stars of light, by which the whole body and sphere of the heavens are signified, follow next the heavens of heavens, and the waters above the heavens; where, as, in all reason, heavens of heavens, are but the highest of those heavens, above some part of which the waters are to be placed; so, in case the waters be no higher than that region of air where the clouds are, the uppermost regions of the body of air must be resolved to be what is here meant by the heavens of heavens.
Psalms 148:6. He hath also established them— That is, the creatures before mentioned, are, by God's providence, constantly preserved and continued. He made a decree, &c. that is, prescribed rules to the heavens, the stars, and other creatures, as to their situation, motion and influence; which, though inanimate, they never transgress.
Psalms 148:7. Praise the Lord from the earth— Praise the Lord, ye [or ye creatures] of the earth; ye sea-animals, or crocodiles, or whales, &c. And so the first verse should be rendered, praise the Lord, ye [or ye inhabitants] of the heavens; which are first enumerated, and then from this verse, the inhabitants of the earth. See Delaney's Life of David, book 1: chap. 17.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Psalmist calls on heaven to begin the hallelujah, and earth must echo back the sound.
1. The heavens, and angelic hosts who them inhabit, the first of God's creation, who in the heights of glory nearest approach his throne of light inaccessible, are addressed, as those who with the most exalted praises should lead the song. Not that these bright spirits are backward to the work, or silent, day or night, in the delightful service; but the Psalmist would express the fervency of his own desires, that God should be glorified by the highest and noblest of his creatures; and would stir up himself and others to the work, which is the happiness and employment of all these sons of God in glory. Note; We in nothing more resemble angels, than when we sing the high praises of our God.
2. Not only the intellectual beings of the upper world, but the creatures void of reason, must shew forth his praise. Those orbs of light, that shed on this earth their benign influences; the sun, the moon, and glittering stars, shine audibly, and in the ear of enlightened reason proclaim aloud the glory of their great Creator. Praise him, ye heaven of heavens; and, ye waters that be above the heavens, divided by the firmament from the waters beneath, all must praise the name of the Lord; for by his power they were made, by his providence they are upheld, and their duration is fixed by him.
2nd, From the celestial world and upper regions the Psalmist descends to this terrestrial globe, from which a tribute of praise should ascend from every creature, whether intelligent, irrational, or inanimate.
1. The sea and its inhabitants are called on to praise the Lord. The dragons, or whales, and all deeps; the shoals of fish that swim beneath the waters, from the least unto the greatest, declare their Maker's work.
2. The meteors of the sky, and exhalations, fire, hail, snow, vapours, stormy winds, all fulfil his word, go forth at his bidding, and are stayed at his command.
3. The earth, and all that dwell therein; mountains, hills, fruitful trees, and cedars; creatures though inanimate, rise up to praise him; while every beast of the forest, the lowing herds, the bleating flocks, and every reptile, and every flying fowl, join in their adoration, all admirably suited for the station they fill, and corresponding with their Maker's great design.
4. The rational creatures, endowed with speech, that as the tongue of this lower world they might present the tribute of all the creatures, are enjoined to raise the song. High and low, rich and poor, young and old, of either sex, must unite their praises. None so great as to be excused, none so low as to be despised, from lisping infancy to decrepit age. And reason good there is for so doing; for his name alone is excellent; none like him, none to compare with him: his glory is above the earth and heaven, exalted far above all blessing and praise which the creatures in both can render.
5. From his Israel he hath especial demands of gratitude. They are his people, exalted to the highest state of dignity, even to be called saints, and brought near unto him, in a covenant of grace through the Redeemer; admitted into a state of communion with him, and enjoying the distinguishing tokens of his favour; and therefore most justly doth he deserve to be their praise, the great and glorious object of it in time and in eternity. Amen. Hallelujah.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 148". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13