Praise Him, Heaven and Earth

Psalm 148

“It is a song of nature and of grace. As a flash of lightning flames through space, and enwraps both heaven and earth in one vestment of glory, so doth the adoration of the Lord in this Psalm light up all the universe and cause it to glow with a radiance of praise. The song begins in the heavens, sweeps downward to dragons and all deeps, and then ascends again, till the people near unto Jehovah take up the strain. For its exposition the chief requisite is a heart on fire with reverent love to the Lord over all, who is to be blessed for ever.” CHS

Cambridge Bible Commentary: “Verses 1-6 correspond to Gen. 1:1-19, the creation of the heavenly bodies, while verses 7-14 correspond to Gen. 1:20-2:4a….It would not be unfair to describe the psalm as a version of Gen. 1 suitable for use as a hymn.”

Three categories – the heavens, the earth, his people; four questions for each: where is praise to happen, who or what is to praise, how are they to praise, why in particular they should praise. We all know Sunday School answers: (1) everything that has capacity should praise God; (2) should use all faculties available to praise (hand, voice); (3) that God commands it is enough reason. Since have this psalm and more like it, those answers must not be exhaustive! Gotta be more to it than just Sunday School reasons. Especially when are singled out with 12 imperatives to praise!

A. from the heavens v.1-6

where?

from the heavens – whatever we see or know to be “out there” should be worshiping God, not the object of our worship

made explicitly clear in following verses – no created thing should be worshiped; rather, everything across full spectrum to give praise to God

in the heavens – praise not something we “outgrow”, not limited to this age or dimension/sphere of existence; is for everywhere, always

who?

Angels” / “hosts” – those who minister to God, minister for God: seem to be different classes of “angels” with primary duties

(1) attending to God, surrounding his throne – Garden of Eden, Isaiah’s vision, worship scenes in revelation

(2) on military duty – Joshua at Jericho (Josh. 5:13ff), Elisha and Syrians (2 Ki 6:17), Daniel’s messenger (Dan. 10:13, 20)

(3) ministering / announcing to God’s people – Joseph and Mary, shepherds, John the Revelator

Sun and moon” / “stars of light”

all the created bodies that fill the cosmos – stars, planets, galaxies – things we know about and ones we don’t yet

Highest heavens” / “waters that are above the heavens”

whatever else there is out there that occupies the rest of the cosmos, including other dimensions… like spiritual realm

how?

voices – rational beings with ability to communicate verbally must do so: angelic type beings use voices to direct hearer’s attention to God – clearest example, angels to shepherds

Star of Bethlehem – whether star was simply following pre-ordained cosmic moves or result of particular miracle, clearly served divine purpose as GPS for wise men

some say various stars and constellations are telling story of God’s redemptive work by their movements

obedience to his laws – from sub-atomic particles to entire galaxies, all obey not laws of nature or physics or matter, but laws God designed into them at creation

God also designed them specifically to “speak” of his glory and handiwork – Ps. 19:1ff

why?

Created by the Command of the Lord (5)

God has both rights of ownership and rulership – owns because he made from nothing, rules by his own design

the kind of Being who could achieve this not only has rights, has characteristics that make him worthy of praise

Established and Sustained by the Decree of the Lord (6)

God deserves ongoing praise for sustaining power and provision – obvious in fact that “laws of nature” haven’t changed

our understanding/grasp has changed, underlying laws have not – why we can land a rover on Mars, calculate tides, create star charts for 2000 years ago, make chemical compoiunds, list is endless

B. from the earth v.7-13

where?

earth and heaven join together in praise of God – praise is from the earth, not confined in the earth: praise like other forms of communication have ability to reach beyond our sky

who?

You great sea creatures and all the depths”

virtually every layer of ocean has something living in it; many of creatures in deepest parts have never been observed by mankind

Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word”

atmospheric phenomena that can barely be predicted, much less produced or controlled by man are governed by God and carry out his ultimate purpose

routine occurrences just as much under God’s supervision as miraculous demonstrations at time of Exodus from Egypt

Mountains and all hills”

keep in mind: how mountains and hills got their shapes; variety of living/non-living things found at different elevations

also important – what is beneath the surface, whether dynamic or static: volcanos, fossils, precious stones and metals

Fruitful trees and all cedars”

whether of orchard or forest, all have purpose – to bear fruit for good of man and glory of God; fruit may be edible, aromatic, or utilitarian (firewood, lumber)

Beasts and all cattle”

creatures under sole care of God as well as those that have been domesticated

Creeping things and flying fowl”

whether clean or unclean animals, without regard for size or “significance” – by the time you get here, no creature or landform has been overlooked

” More base than reptiles, more insignificant than insects, are songless men.” CHS

Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; Both young men and maidens; Old men and children.”

people from all walks and stations of life have this in common – praise of the Creator; some to set example, others to follow, all to join together in worship

bottom line here – all the things / places that have been perverted for worship must themselves give praise to God

how?

one example specific to v.7:

“One enduring mystery surrounds the most celebrated musical event in nature, the songs of the humpback whale. Before the singing can begin, the performers must give a master class in percussion. 40-ton bodies hit the sea with an ear-splitting crash and giant tail flukes thunder out a message to rival males. …With his mouth shut tight, shunting air back and forth through a larynx the size of a phone box, technically he’s humming, not singing. Whatever it is, it’s a voice that can travel thousands of miles, across entire oceans. …But does it have a purpose? “For a long time it was presumed that the singers were singing to attract females. But, there’s not a shred of evidence for it. We’ve never seen a female approach a male.” If they aren’t calling a mate, then why are they singing? Is it a way for males to size each other up? Could they even be making music for pleasure? The truth is that nobody knows. Scientists may one day find out the whole truth behind these extraordinary voices of the sea. But for now the private life of these ocean giants remains wonderfully mysterious.” Humpback Whales – BBC documentary excerpt; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oYIK6Bg6co

why?

He is exalted (13) – reminder of Jewish understanding: name not a label, name = person; God alone is at the top, sharing his glory with no other (Isa. 42:8)

is intentional component of God’s design that his creatures will praise him alone and… no one anywhere can justly claim ignorance – his glory is present in all his creation

C. from all his people v.14

where?

in the place of worship – yes, he’s everywhere, but… present in different way with his people when they worship him

who?

his people – his saints – children of Israel (Jacob) – those whom God is in covenant relationship with, iow people who are near

how?

adoration, thanksgiving, iow worship – nature of relationship God has with his people shapes their worship: he loves, they love; he provides, they thank; he reveals, they worship

why?

he has exalted the horn of his people – any victories / successes we have are result of God’s direct help and blessing

a people near to him – cause for praise with greatest personal significance: that anyone is near God is because God took initiative

God moved first, God did all necessary for our reconciliation, God makes all the moves… and we respond, God draws us away from old master and to himself

 

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