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the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 150

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-6


COMMENTATORS generally are agreed that this is a most noble psalm, a fit conclusion to the noble collection which here terminates. Professor Cheyne says, "Psalms 150:1-6 closes this Hallelujah group not less worthily than the whole group concludes the Psalter. It is the finale of the spiritual concert." Hengstenberg observes, "We have here a full-toned call to the praise of God, quite appropriate to the close of this psalm-cycle and of the whole Psalter." The "Four Friends" say, "With these grand words the Psalter closes." Dr. Mason Good points out, as the speciality of the psalm, that it sets before us in detail the various elements of the temple music. "The enraptured minstrel," he remarks, "now rises upon the full stretch of his pinions, and addresses himself to all the powers and faculties of his symphonious brotherhood; to the enchantment of flowing numbers, and the overwhelming ecstasy of an harmonious peal, poured forth in all its strength, from pipe and string and shell of every kind, each, with devotional rivalry, striving to surpass each in pealing forth his praise, from whom they derive breath, vibration, and sound." No psalm rises more grandly from verse to verse, or terminates in a nobler or grander climax, "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord."

Psalms 150:1

Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary. This is the right rendering, and not that of the Prayer-book Version, "Praise God in his holiness." Israel is called upon to give God praise in his holy temple. Praise him in the firmament of his power; i.e. in the broad expanse of heaven, the sign and seat of his power.

Psalms 150:2

Praise him for his mighty acts; i.e. for the great acts of his providence, especially for his deliverances of Israel. Praise him according to his excellent greatness; rather, his abounding greatness (Kay); or, his manifold greatness (Cheyne).

Psalms 150:3

Praise him with the sound of the trumpet, (On the use of the trumpet in Divine service, see Leviticus 23:24; Psalms 25:9; Numbers 10:10; 2 Samuel 6:15; 1Ch 13:8; 1 Chronicles 15:24; 1 Chronicles 16:6; 2Ch 5:12, 2 Chronicles 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:6; 2 Chronicles 29:27; Psalms 81:3; Psalms 98:6.) Praise him with the psaltery and harp (comp. Psalms 57:8; Psalms 81:2; Psa 108:2; 1 Chronicles 15:16; 2 Chronicles 5:12, etc.).

Psalms 150:4

Praise him with the timbrel and dance (comp. Psalms 149:3). Praise him with stringed instruments and organs; literally, with strings and pipe. "Organs" are, of course, out of the question. The "pipe" intended is probably the double pipe so often represented on the monuments of Egypt, Assyria, and Phoenicia.

Psalms 150:5

Praise him upon the loud cymbals; praise him upon the high-sounding cymbals. "We can hardly," says Professor Cheyne, "venture to distinguish two kinds of cymbals on the ground of these two epithet" The mention of "cymbals" is reserved to the last, as being the instrument of music most expressive of joy and jubilation. It completes the musical climax, as Psalms 150:6 completes the ideal one.

Psalms 150:6

Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord; literally, the whole of breath (comp. Revelation 5:13, "And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever;" see also Psalms 148:7, Psalms 148:10-12). Praise ye the Lord. "As the life of the faithful, and the history of the Church, so also the Psalter, with all its cries from the depths, runs out in a hallelujah" (Hengstenberg).


Psalms 150:1-6

Hallelujah: our life a psalm.

There is no distinctive truth taught here; each verse gives utterance to that which has been sung before (see especially Psalms 148:1-14.). But the strain of the psalm is that of an earnest summons to make the praise of God the prevailing note of our life. Let life be charged and crowned with praise.

1. If regularly at the sanctuary, there in order that it may be offered elsewhere, everywhere.

2. If on the sabbath day, then that it may be presented every day.

3. If with trumpet and cymbal, thus that it may be sounded on every instrument that can make music unto the Lord.

4. If rendered for his "mighty acts" especially, it is not to be withheld for his daily and hourly loving-kindnesses.

5. Praise should, in its fullness and sweetness and heartiness on our part, answer to "the abundance of his greatness"—"his excellent greatness" (Psalms 150:2).

6. Praise should proceed from every lip, from every life (Psalms 150:6); from the youngest who is old enough to lisp his Name, and from the oldest who has strength enough left to make mention of his grace; from the sick on their couch as they anticipate the time when there will be "no more pain;" from the bereaved as they realize all that their departed friends were to them through years of health and service, and as they look forward to the glad day of reunion, and from the strong and active in the midst of the strife of life; from those who study, and from those who "labor, working with their hands;" from those who rule, and from those who serve. A life of praise is a life of holy fragrance, acceptable to God and well-pleasing to man. It is excellent in itself, and it is pro-motive and prophetic of the time when "the whole earth shall be filled with his glory."


Psalms 150:1

Places to praise God in.

"This psalm is a rapture. The poet-prophet is full of inspiration and enthusiasm." Lamartine says, "In this closing psalm we see the almost inarticulate enthusiasm of the lyric poet; so rapidly do the words press to his lips, floating upwards towards God, their Source, like the smoke of a great fire of the soul wafted by the tempest." "In former times, when the casting of church-bells was more of a religious ceremony, this psalm was chanted by the brethren of the guild, as they stood ranged around the furnace, while the molten metal was prepared to be let off into the mould ready to receive it."

I. THE SANCTUARY. Not "his holiness," as in the Prayer-book Version, nor merely "his temple;" but the whole earth, as the sphere in which he has displayed his power and his grace. It is quite true that praise is to be offered in those buildings which are set apart for God's worship; but we must always regard them as representative of God's great temple of nature and of human history. The old tabernacle represented wandering Israel as the dwelling-place of God. The temple, later on, represented the organized nation as the dwelling-place of God. But such localization and limitations only represented and taught the truth that the whole earth is the sanctuary of God. In tabernacle, temple, church, whole earth, where God is, God's praise must be sounded forth. He says, "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me."

II. THE FIRMAMENT OF HAS POWER. This is usually taken to mean "heaven," but it is more in accordance with Hebrew repetition to see in it another figure for what is called the "sanctuary." "Firmament" simply means sphere. Every place becomes a holy place if God's power is put forth in it; then the whole earth, and the entire range of history, become a sanctuary in which God's praise is properly called forth. If we are to praise God in the spheres in which he has put forth his power and grace, we shall have to be praising him everywhere.—R.T.

Psalms 150:2

Things to praise God for.

For "excellent greatness," read "muchness of greatness." Praise is to be offered in recognition both of God's inherent power, and of its manifestation in mighty acts.

I. PRAISE IS CALLED FOR BY DIVINE POWER. He who knows God knows him through a series of mighty, wonderful acts, interventions, provisions, deliverances, punishings, all of which produce overwhelming impressions of almighty power. Illustration may be taken from

(1) the Divine creations;

(2) the Divine maintainings;

(3) the Divine redemptions.

Divine power is seen in God's ordering and controlling the gigantic forces of nature and the lawless willfulness of man. Modern artistic and poetic feeling, perhaps responding to the revelations of the microscope, can find Divine power in the gentle and the minute; but Hebrew genius dealt almost exclusively with the august, tremendous, and awful in nature; so power in God was the thing most impressed on the Hebrew mind as the inspiration of praise. And still a necessary ground of entire Confidence in God is a conviction of his absolute and unquestionable almightiness everywhere, and in relation to everything. We praise him because we feel sure that our God is mightier than the mightiest.

II. PRAISE IS CALLED FOR BY DIVINE CHARACTER BEHIND POWER. "Excellent greatness." An adjective is applied which directs us to moral quality. God must never be thought of as we think of giants. We are altogether absorbed by thinking of their bodily size and strength; it does not matter to us whether they hi, re either mental faculty or moral character. Some think of God as a mere embodiment of august and awful power. He is not known aright, nor can he be praised aright, until the character inspiring the exercise of his power is apprehended. Then we realize that he stands in relation to us, and for his gracious relations we praise him in the highest.—R.T.

Psalms 150:3, Psalms 150:4

Instruments to praise God with.

Bishop Wordsworth notes that all kinds of faculty are engaged in the work of praise. The breath is employed in blowing the trumpet; the fingers are used in striking the strings of the psaltery and the harp; the whole hand is exerted in beating the timbrel; the feet move in the dance. The introduction of various musical instruments, as well as choirs of human voices, into the regular worship of the tabernacle and temple, is traceable to the time and probably to the personal influence of David. "David did so much for the public worship of God in that he brought it so near to men; he gave it so much interest to them; and he lifted it out of mere duty into pleasure by adding the features of music and of song." It is interesting, but only a matter of curiosity, to identify and describe the different instruments mentioned here. We need only see that they include all the musical instruments—wind, string, and clanging. The point to fix attention on is that, when a man wants to praise God, he may bring into his service every kind of power that he possesses, and every agency through which he can find expression for his power.

I. ALL KINDS OF INSTRUMENTS MAY BE USED IN PRAISE. Only sentiment ever puts limitations on the instruments that may be used for Divine worship. Sentiment imagines some kinds to be more solemn and reverent than others. Curiously, those which some regard as specially solemn, e.g. the organ, are wholly repudiated by others (the Scotch). No instrument is in itself unsuitable. The kind of use man makes of it, and the kind of associations man causes to gather round it, may make an instrument unsuitable. In this matter the good sense of Christian people must decide.

II. THE PRAISE IS NOT IN THE INSTRUMENT, BUT IN WHAT THE MAN EXPRESSES THROUGH THE INSTRUMENT. With our temptation to rest in things, we need this reminder for every age. The praise is in the man's soul. And the most exquisite musical expression is worthless as praise if it is soulless.R.T.

Psalms 150:6

Persons and things that should unite in God's praise.

"It is difficult to conceive how any man who believes in God can need to be reminded of the duty of praise. In every age and country the adoration of the Supreme Being has risen with the illumination of the human mind, and borne a very exact proportion to its restoration in the Divine image." "Our whole life should speak forth our thankfulness." "Let all the breath [i.e. the entirety of animate creation] praise Jehovah." If a comprehensive view of God be taken, and it is seen that "his tender mercies are over all is works," and that "the eyes of all wait upon him, and he giveth them their meat in due season," this call to the entire animate creation to join man in his praise will become to us more than poetry and sentiment. It is to be noticed that the Hebrew poet had no glimpse of the idea of Wordsworth, that a living soul animates the inanimate creation. The Hebrew limits his call to creatures that have breath and can make sounds; and of this great choir man is the leader. They may be likened to the great band of musicians in a chorus, who never utter an articulate sound, yet are in perfect harmony with the singers whose intelligent voices lead the chorus. "As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there."

I. EVERYTHING AND EVERYBODY OUGHT TO PRAISE GOD. Ought to harmoniously unite in praising God. And this is only possible when each does what he can, and does it in the best way he can. The grand song of redeemed nature and man is well given in Pollok's 'Course of Time,' pp. 189-191.

II. WE OUGHT TO PRAISE GOD. For the last exclamation, "Praise ye the Lord!" should be taken as a personal call and application. It can never he enough to us that praise is being offered. Nor can it be enough to offer formal praise with ours. It must be our praise-our soul-praise, and our praise at its best.—R.T.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 150". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/psalms-150.html. 1897.
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