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THIS psalm has been well called "the joy-song of creation." Israel, having received a signal manifestation of the Divine power (Psalms 148:14), calls on all things in heaven and earth to praise Jehovah. In respect of heaven, commencement is made with the angels, from whom the writer descends to the sun and moon, the stars, the spacious firmament, and the clouds that float in it and above it (Psalms 148:2-4). In respect of earth, the writer begins with the lowest parts—the deep sea, and the monsters dwelling therein—whence he makes a sudden ascent to the highest parts—the atmosphere and the manifestations peculiar to it—lightning, hail, snow, vapor, stormy wind; hence he again comes back to solid earth—mountains, hills, trees, beasts, creeping things, and flying fowl (Psalms 148:7-10). Lastly, the discourse touches on man, and calls on him to join in the chorus of jubilation (Psalms 148:11-13). Professor Cheyne remarks that "in this psalm and in the De Profundis we seem to touch the opposite ends of the gamut of emotion." In the one we have the dirge of the Church; in the ether, its "Hallelujah Chorus." Metrically, two strophes of six verses each (Psalms 148:1-6, Psalms 148:7-12) are followed by one of two (Psalms 148:13, Psalms 148:14), assigning the motive for the entire psalm.
Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens; i.e. beginning at the heavens, making them the primary source from which the praises are to be drawn (comp. Psalms 148:7). Praise him in the heights; in excelsis (Vulgate). In the upper tenons, or the most exalted regions of his creation.
Praise ye him, all his angels (comp. Psalms 103:20, Psalms 103:21). As the angels occupy the first rank in creation, and have the most to praise God for, they are fitly called upon to commence the song of jubilation. The praises of God must form their chief occupation through all eternity. Praise ye him, all his hosts; rather, all his host. In the "host of God" are included beings of inferior rank to angels—"ministers of his that do his pleasure" (Psalms 103:21).
Praise ye him, sun and moon. Objects of worship to most heathen nations, but here called upon to join in the chorus of praise to God. Praise him, all ye stars of light; i.e. ye brilliant stars, that light up the heaven at night.
Praise him, ye heavens of heavens; i.e. "ye highest heavens" (comp. Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; Psalms 68:33). And ye waters that be above the heavens (comp. Genesis 1:7). The clouds are probably intended.
Let them praise the Name of the Lord. Frequent changes of person, when no doubt can arise as to the meaning, are a sort of Hebrew idiom. They give liveliness and variety. For he commanded, and they were created (Genesis 1:3, Genesis 1:6, Genesis 1:9, Genesis 1:11, Genesis 1:14, Genesis 1:15, etc.). All creation sprang into being at the word of God (Psalms 33:8).
He hath also established them forever and ever (comp. Psalms 89:37). The expression, "forever and ever," must not be pressed. It means "for all time"—while heaven and earth endure—but does not imply an absolute perpetuity. He hath made a decree which shall not pass; rather, which shall not pass away (see the Revised Version; and comp Genesis 8:22; Jeremiah 31:35, Jeremiah 31:36; Jeremiah 33:25).
Praise the Lord from the earth. The counterpart of the clause in Psalms 148:1, "Praise ye the Lord from the heavens." Earth must join with heaven in the praise of God. Ye dragons; or, "ye sea-monsters" (comp. Psalms 74:13, where the same word is used). Hengstenberg translates by "whales;" but all the greater sea-animals are probably included. And all deeps. The extreme "ocean depths" are meant—"lower deeps," in certain parts of what was commonly known as "the great deep" (Psalms 36:6).
Fire and hail. By "fire," in this combination, we must understand "lightning," or rather the various electrical phenomena accompanying storms in the East, which are sometimes very strange and terrible. Snow and vapors; rather, vapor. The mist so often accompanying snowstorms is probably the "vapor" intended. Stormy wind fulfilling his word (comp. Psalms 107:25).
Mountains, and all hills. The later psalmists are great admirers of" mountains." Perhaps the fiat and monotonous Babylonian plains led them to appreciate the beauties of a landscape like that of Palestine (comp. Psalms 83:14; Psalms 114:4, Psalms 114:6; Psalms 144:5; Psalms 147:8). Fruitful trees; rather, fruit trees; literally, trees of fruit. The Babylonian palms may have swept across the writer's remembrance; but probably the vine, the olive, and the fig, which were among the chief glories of Palestine, were in his mind principally. And all cedars. Babylonia had had no "cedars." When the exiles returned, the beauty of the cedar broke upon them as a sort of new revelation.
Beasts, and all cattle. There is a gradual ascent—from inanimate to animate things, from the "beasts" of the field to domesticated animals; from such animals to man (Psalms 148:11, Psalms 148:12). Creeping things (comp. Genesis 1:24, Genesis 1:25, Genesis 1:30; Psalms 104:25). And flying fowl; literally, bird of wing. The intention is to include, under a few heads, all animate creation.
Kings of the earth, and all people; rather, all peoples; or, all nations. Princes, and all judges of the earth. "Kings," "princes," and "judges" represent the upper classes of society; "peoples," or "nations," all the remainder. Together, they include the whole race of mankind.
Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children. All mar. bind, i.e; of each sex and of every age. The obligation to praise God lies upon all.
Let them praise the Name of the Lord. This is the burden of the entire psalm (see especially Psalms 148:5, and comp. Psalms 148:1-4, Psalms 148:7, and Psalms 148:14). For his Name alone is excellent; or, "exalted" (comp. Psalms 8:1; Isaiah 12:4). The exaltation of God's Name is effected mainly by the praises which his rational creatures render to him. His glory is above the earth and heaven. (On God's "glory," see Psalms 8:1; Psalms 19:1; Psalms 57:5, Psalms 57:11; Psalms 63:2; Psalms 89:17, etc.) "Earth and heaven" is an unusual phrase; the terms are commonly inverted. Here, perhaps, the order may be accounted for by the law of climax. "His glory is not only above the earth, but even above the heavens."
He also exalteth the horn of his people. Great as God is, his greatness does not separate him from his human creatures. On the contrary, it makes the union between himself and them closer. His might enables him to confer benefits on his people—to "exalt their horn;" i.e. to increase their glory and their strength, and set them up above their enemies. The praise of all his saints. The construction is doubtful. Some regard "praise" as in apposition with "horn," and understand that God, by exalting the "horn" (power) of his saints, exalts also their "praise" or "renown." Others imagine an ellipse, and translate, "Praise belongs to all his saints" (Kay); or, "Seemly is praise for all his saints" (Cheyne). Even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. The "children of Israel" are nearer to God than others, since he has taken them to himself as his own peculiar people, and both "draws nigh" to them (Psalms 69:11), and draws them near to him (Jeremiah 30:21). Praise ye the Lord (comp. Psalms 148:1).
The tribute of creation.
The psalmist writes in a very jubilant strain; his mood is that of exultation. The sunshine of prosperity is on his path, and consequently the spirit of sacred joy is in his heart, and words of praise upon his lips. He calls upon the whole universe to pay its tribute of praise to Jehovah. This includes—
I. THE HEAVENLY INTELLIGENCES. (Psalms 148:2.) It is in full accord with all that we read in both the Old and the New Testament that we think of the angels of God of every rank and order (Colossians 1:16) as uniting in the high offices of adoration and thanksgiving. They, with their loftier intelligence, their nearer access, and their larger experience of the Divine goodness, must have a deeper and fuller sense than we have of the greatness and excellency of God.
II. ALL INANIMATE CREATION. Things in heaven (Psalms 148:3, Psalms 148:4), and things on earth (Psalms 148:7-10). All these things were created by his power (Psalms 148:5), are sustained at his word (Psalms 148:6), are regulated and kept within their bounds by his laws (Psalms 148:6), discharge the varied offices he has given them to fulfill (Psalms 148:8), and thus they speak his praise. Even the fire and hail, which seem to be principally destructive, and even the stormy wind, which seems to be uncontrolled and capricious, do the Divine bidding and contribute their part in the service of nature.
III. ALL MANKIND. (Psalms 148:11, Psalms 148:12.)
(1) Those who are accustomed to receive honor rather than to bestow it (Psalms 148:11)—kings and judges of the earth;
(2) those whose hearts are full of earthly hopes and loves, and whose lives are crowded with all pleasurable activities:
(3) those who have tasted the sweets and enjoyed their portion of earthly life, to whom little is left but quietude and endurance;
(4) those whose minds are only just opening to the thought of the spiritual and the Divine, young men and maidens, old men and children;—all mankind should look up from earth to heaven, from those about them to the Father of their spirits, and sing his praise with reverent lip. No human life is at all complete without praise; no human character deserves esteem in which reverence and gratitude do not form an essential part. But above all others, so far as our knowledge goes, are to be counted—
IV. HIS REDEEMED ONES. (Psalms 148:14.) Israel had been humbled; its "horn" had been degraded to the very dust; it had lost its heritage; it had dwelt in a "strange land" of servitude, far from the house and the home of God. Now it had been restored. Jerusalem had been rebuilt; its walls again surrounded it; its worship had revived; the ransomed of the Lord had returned; it was once more a people "near" to Jehovah, gathering in his house, and realizing his near presence with them. Let Israel lift up its voice of praise above every other. We, too, are God's redeemed ones. From the bondage of sin we have been restored; we have been redeemed not with silver or gold, but "with the precious blood of Christ;" we have been brought out "into the glorious liberty of the children of God; ' we have been raised up to "sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6); we have such hopes in our heart as the psalmist sang not of; we are a people "near" in every sense to our God and Savior, having freest access to his presence and very dear to his heart. What praise should come from our lips, from our souls, from our lives!
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
In this psalm, as in all the poetry of the Old Testament, there is nothing of the idea of something Divine in nature, or even of a Divine voice speaking through nature; all beings are simply creatures, knowing and praising him who made them. All nature has reason to praise the Creator who called it into being, and gave it its order so fair and so established, and poetically the universe may be imagined full of adoring creatures. With the psalmist's point of view that of Wordsworth should be carefully compared. To a Hebrew the conception of a spirit in nature would have been at least germinal idolatry. What we have to keep in view, in reading the nature-psalms, is that kind of impression which high and sublime things universally make on all simple souls—on ordinary men, not on the unusual poet. In these verses the nature-things that are above us are wholly in the psalmist's view. And the great things of the firmament—sun, moon, stars, clouds, lightnings, etc.—produce an impression on men everywhere which is unique. The same impression is never produced by anything on the earth; not even by awe-inspiring mountains, or wild wind-driven sons. There is a quietness of impression from nature's above things. The movements are so restfully sublime, so steadily continuous. Nothing ever disturbs them; sun and moon and stars go on their way, no matter what happens in the earth-spheres. In all ages, and still, the impression of nature's above things is the impression of God. The untutored savage feels it as truly as the devout Christian. That impression made man find in the sun the presentation of God to human apprehension. But it is to be specially noticed that the impression of God which nature's above things bring to us, excites us to praise him. The awe it brings draw us near to him; the revelation of him that it makes to us satisfies us in him, fills us with joy in him, so that we must praise.—R.T.
The permanence of natural law.
"He hath also stablished them for ever and ever." The permanence of natural law is not really any scientific discovery of modern date. It is the commonplace of thoughtful apprehension of facts in all ages. It is the basis of confidence on which man's enterprises have always rested. What is peculiar to modern times is the persistent effort to get law separated from God, to prove that law exists, but that it never had a lawgiver, and that now, for its working, there is no law-controller. Old Testament saints saw in the permanence of natural law the considerate working of the living God for the good of his creatures.
I. THE PERMANENCE OF ALL NATURAL LAWS. The truth is only true when permanence is seen to apply to the entire sphere of natural law. It is here that the philosopher constructs an imperfect argument. He affirms that permanence attaches to all laws that are cognizable by the senses. But have we any right to say that the sphere of natural law is limited to what we can, under our present conditions, and with our present faculties, apprehend? This may be tried by conceiving that we had seven senses instead of five. The other two senses would reveal to us the working of natural laws which we are wholly unable to apprehend under our present conditions. And the operation of those natural laws may explain what we now have to call the miraculous. And this has further to be seen: The permanence of natural law is consistent with the interworking of law; the action of one qualifying the action of another, as when by my will I raise my arm, which gravitation would pull down. The unknown natural laws are continually crossing and modifying the known, but always harmoniously.
II. THE PERMANENCE OF ALL MORAL LAWS. It has yet to be taken into full account that the natural laws include the moral; and that nature can never be explained until the influence on it of God's will and man's is recognized The moral is as natural for man as the natural is for nature; and the moral is as permanent and absolute as we can conceive the natural to be. But all law is in the adjustment and harmonizing of the law-controller.—R.T.
Psalms 148:7, Psalms 148:8
The praise-voices of nature-forces.
How poet-souls recognize the voices of nature may be illustrated by Milton's lines-
"His praise, ye winds, that from four quarters blow,
Breathe soft or loud; and wave your tops, ye pines,
With every plant, in sign of worship wave!"
What is peculiar to the psalmist is his recognizing signs of will in nature. He conceives of "stormy wind fulfilling his Word," voluntarily fulfilling it, and so an image of himself. It is a blending of poetic and pious feeling that thus leads man to make of nature a mirror in which he sees himself.
I. MAN PUTTING HIMSELF INTO THINGS. When we are impressed with anything in nature, we, in a sort of unconscious way, say to it, "If I were you, how should I feel, and what should I do?" And then we represent it to ourselves as actually feeling what we should feel, and doing what we should do. In this way the psalmist calls on the winds to praise God, because that is what he would do if he were the wind; and he calls on the wind to fulfill God's Word, because that is what he would do if he were the wind. This is man's interpreting of nature, which is never any more than interpreting himself in the terms of nature. But manifestly this putting of ourselves into things belongs exclusively to the poetic and the pious souls. To most men nature is but a satisfaction of artistic sensibilities: all that can be observed is the beautiful in form and color. It is but the sublime side of this truth to say that God puts himself into nature to show himself to us, as we put ourselves into nature to show ourselves to him.
II. MAN INFLUENCING HIMSELF BY SEEING HIMSELF IN THINGS. Introspection is neither healthy nor effective. A man must put himself outside himself; must find a mirror of himself, and see himself in the mirror. And what he thus sees is always himself as he should be. So the projection of himself is an inspiration to himself. The psalmist seas this in the one matter of obedience. Projecting himself into the stormy wind, he is inspired to the "fulfilling of God's Word."—R.T.
The leaders of the nature-choir.
The Church appears as the choir-leader of the universe. "Both sexes and all ages are summoned to the blessed service of song. Those who usually make merry together are to be devoutly joyful together; those who make up the ends of families, that is to say, the elders and the juveniles, should make the Lord their one and only End. Old men should, by their experience, teach the children to praise; and children, by their cheerfulness, should excite old men to sing. There is room for every voice at this concert; fruitful trees and maidens, cedars and young men, angels and children, old men and judges,—all may unite in this oratorio. None, indeed, can be dispensed with: for perfect psalmody we must have the whole universe aroused to worship, and all parts of creation must take their parts in devotion" (C.H.S.).
I. MAN BELONGS TO NATURE. That wondrous inbreathing through which man became a "living soul" did not separate man, or make him a distinct being from nature. This mistaken conception is too often encouraged. Man belongs to nature. His senses bear relation to this nature-sphere. He is subject to all the nature-conditions of the creatures around him. Shares pleasure and pain with them. Needs food as they do. Has the passions they have. He can lead the nature-choir as one of the choir.
II. MAN LEADS NATURE. It is in the line of modern evolution teachings to point out that man bodily is the crown of creation; and that man, when his possibilities are all fully developed, will be the crown of creation in the highest and most sublime sense. In praise-power man is supreme. In every choir there are leading voices; in every orchestra leading instruments. This place man occupies. As the chorus of creation rises to God, he hears the thrilling tones of those who were made in his image and redeemed by his grace.
III. MAN FINDS VOICE FOR NATURE. And so puts intelligence, character, tone, heart, into it. As some exquisite solo that seems to carry to our souls all the body of orchestral sound, so man—redeemed man—finds voice for God, voice in which is pathos, praise, devotion, love, which translates for God the whole mass of praise that rises from all creation.—R.T.
Praise inspired by personal experience.
"And he hath lifted up the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints." The figure of the horn is a familiar one, and need not be again explained. What is noticeable here is that the supreme subject of praise for man is God's personal dealing with him in the sphere of his moral and religious life. This we refer to as a man's personal experience.
I. PRAISE INSPIRED BY THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE. In this man's praise is common with the praise of all creation and all creatures. All have their being from God; all are sustained in their places in God; all have their movements directed by God; all have their wants supplied by God; all are helped to fulfill their mission by God. "All thy works praise thee, in all places of thy dominion." And yet here man stands out in front of all creation, because he knows that he is, in his willfulness, a disturbing element in God's providence; and so has an altogether fuller sense of the wonder-working of a providence which can remedy and restore, as well as sustain and provide. And besides this general view, each man should have such a particular impression of God's workings and overrulings in his actual life-experience, as would be for him the constant inspiration of fresh praise and trust. And the experiences of the individual may be illustrated by the experience of God's people Israel, whose horn he had so often "lifted up."
II. PRAISE INSPIRED BY THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF GOD'S GRACE. Illustrate by John Newton, who, when reproved for his testimony and his joy in Christ, replied, "How can the old blasphemer be silent!" It is here that redeemed man passes out of the sphere of nature, and out of the sphere of ordinary humanity. God has "brought him out of the miry pit and horrible clay, and put a new song in his mouth." And to him all life is but a repetition of the restorings and deliverings which is ever calling forth fresh songs to him who "redeemeth our soul from destruction."—R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
The Creator and his creatures.
"The psalmist calls upon the whole creation, in its two great divisions of heaven and earth, to praise God. Things with and things without life, things rational and irrational, are summoned to join the mighty chorus. The psalm is an expression of the loftiest devotion, and embraces the most comprehensive view of the relation of the creature to the Creator."
I. IRRATIONAL CREATURES OF THE SEA, LAND, AND AIR ARE BIDDEN INTO THE CHORUS OF PRAISE. (Psalms 148:7, Psalms 148:10.) From the monsters of the sea to the creeping things of the earth. All life, in its various forms, owes itself to the creative life of God. All creatures, after their own manner, are an echo and reflection of the glory of God; and by sympathy we link them with us in the praise of God.
II. MATERIAL THINGS PRAISE GOD BY THEIR OBEDIENCE TO THE DIVINE LAW. (Psalms 148:8, Psalms 148:9.) "Stormy wind," that seems far from the control of law, is really obedient to it; like all the other elements—"fire and hail, snow and vapor" (Psalms 107:25). All fruitful life, "and all cedars"—examples of majesty and beauty—testify to the power and goodness of God. All things are alive to the man of religious sympathies.
III. ALL RANKS OF HUMAN BEINGS ARE SUMMONED TO PRAISE GOD.
"Kings and all their subjects.
Princes and judges of the earth;
Young men and maidens,
Old men and children."
Each rank, each class, has its own theme and reason for praise and worship.
IV. THE GROUNDS OF PRAISE.
1. General. His Name is greater, more exalted, than the heavens and the earth.
2. Special. God has raised his people from deep degradation, and filled them with powers and exultation. "A people near unto him."—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 148". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension