CS Lewis: “When I first began to draw near to belief in God and even for some time after it had been given to me, I found a stumbling block in the demand so clamorously made by all religious people that we should “praise” God; still more that he demanded it. We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence or delightfulness; we despise still more the crowd of people round every dictator, every millionaire, every celebrity, who gratify that demand”…It was extremely distressing. Gratitude to God, reverence to Him, obedience to Him, I thought I could understand; not praise.”
And, so, i can only imagine that of all the Psalms, this Psalm – Psalm 150 – the very last Psalm – was most offensive and distressing to him.
Because though all the Psalms talk of Praise, this last Psalm is driving home the point – insistent upon it –
Praise is the theme of much of the Psalms, but Psalm 150 – the very last Psalm – emphasizes this theme perhaps more than any other – and you can see that by a simple glance at the Psalm, as every. single. line. includes the command, the invitation, the call, to praise God.
As if, there is nothing left to say; except to make sure that we don’t miss this: our lives must praise God.
It’s odd to think that CS Lewis would think of praising God as so difficult to grasp and as such an obstacle of offense.
Praise seems so simple, seems so inconsequential; but here with the insistence of praise in this Psalm we see it is anything but that.
Rather: Praise is the most central & significant issue in all of life and human existence.
Praise – whether it’s praise to God or praise to something else, isn’t something that only some people do; the question isn’t if you praise, but what you praise.
Praise is not just for the “religious” people, as if there is 1 type of person who praises, & another type of person who doesn’t.
Praise is so central to life that it is unavoidable. We are all – every person, every where, is a worshiper.
The question isn’t, “if” you worship, but “what”, or “who”, you worship. And, the displacement of worship is what ruined the world and continues to devastate human lives; and the Psalm is calling us back to reorient our lives back around the reality of God.
“The great division in mankind is not between those who praise a god and others who do not. Rather, it is between those who worship the true God and those who worship false gods, or idols.”
Either, we praise the true & living God; or we exchange the praise rightly due the creator, & instead give praise to created things.
And, that false god, can be something that isn’t a god in the narrow sense. It can be: approval; security; money; success; self; sex; power; comfort; respect.
Not all bad things, but bad gods.
And the question, then that this Psalm is driving at: is to force us to ask the question: what do we worship; and, is it worthy?
What does it mean that something is praiseworthy?
Not that people praise it – or don’t praise it; because people all the time praise something that is unworthy of praise or don’t praise something that is worthy of praise.
Something is praiseworthy, when: “praise, or admiration, is the correct, appropriate response to it; that when given, it’s not thrown away – it’s not wasted;” and that if in fact we do not give praise, that doesn’t reflect on the object but on the observer – that we are displaying our own ignorance, foolishness, sinfulness that we are missing out in the greatest way imaginable.
People are desperate to find, discover, calculate, how to find fulfillment in life – and they are leaving out the one thing that can bring it: the thing that this Psalm is wanting to bring us back to: God.
“God is that great object to praise; and not to do so is to have lost the greatest experience, and in the end to have lost all.”
And, the way we find all; the way we can sing with confidence the words of that hymn we just sang:
-even if we lose everything else, we are still rich because we still have God
-nothing of the greatest joys in this life could give us any true delight if we lack God the source of delight.
In in praising God – and living lives of praise to God – that is where we find our truest delight and satisfaction – that is what life was made for, that is what life is all about.
“In praising God, the meaning of the world is fulfilled.”
The world exists from God, and the world exists for God. And the world finds it’s purpose, when it praises not itself; not any thing else in all creation; but when it praises God.
What is man’s chief end?
Man’s chief end is to Glorify God and enjoy him forever.
And so: “Even in our praise – it is God who gives and we who receive.” God invitation to praise him is not like a vain insecure person desperately begging for compliments. It’s him inviting us to find what we need most – an experience of him; knowing him; seeing his beauty – and finding our delight in making him the object of our praise.
the demand for praise, is vice for us, but virtue for God.
God is great. He needs nothing from us; we need him. And, he out of his love for us, invites us to share in his greatness, to know of it – and that’s why he commands us to praise him – not for his sake, but for our sake.
- Praise God for who he is;
- Praise God for what he’s done;
- Praise God with all you’ve got.
- Praise God for who he is:
v1 – Praise the Lord – he is the Lord – the one with all-power, supreme authority; the one who rules in every time and every place.
He is the Creator, the King.
v1 – praise God in his sanctuary, praise him in his mighty heavens.
-sanctuary – we think of the earthly sanctuary where God’s presence was concentrated as he lived among his people and received their praise.
But, probably, because of the parallel line, this is referring to God’s heavenly sanctuary – his sanctuary in heaven.
This call to praise God in his heavenly sanctuary, may be an invitation to the angels in heaven to praise him – that even if all in this earth praise him, his praise still wouldn’t out-do him; that even with the angels helping us to adore him, it still wouldn’t be enough to match or equal or out-do his worthiness.
and, this call to praise God in his heavenly sanctuary, is a reminder to God’s people on earth of the transcendence of God – that he is above and over all.
That he can’t be reduced down to our level – but, int he words of the second part of v2 – praise him for his surpassing greatness – his greatness exceeds all that there is in this creation.
because he is above creation, and because he is the author of creation
Everything else in this life is a drop-in-the-bucket compared to God – it can’t be compared to him.
And, even the good things in this life; even the best things that this life has to offer; they are only a shadow of the substance of God’s goodness; they are only a glimpse of the delight we find in him; they are only a foretaste which draws our hearts to feast upon him.
Everything in this world is a small reflection of the goodness of God but he is the very source of goodness – and he has not created anything which surpasses him, or exceeds him, or satisfies us more than he does.
And when we experience good things in this life – instead of letting them become our heart-captivations; we allow those things draw our hearts to God, to be captivated by him.
Praise begins with a heart that is captivated by God. A heart for which nothing else compares to God, or competes with God.
A heart that knows: you can search all the earth; you can spend your whole life seeking after delight; but you will not find anything that compares to God – because God’s greatness is all-surpassing
in fact, the entire universe could praise God for all eternity – and we wouldn’t be able to out-do or exceed his worthiness – he’s still be worthy of more.
His greatness is all-surpassing.
We need something to live for that is bigger than ourselves; bigger than this world; worthy; worthwhile; lasting; satisfying; producing an enduring joy that doesn’t dry up.
And, that can be found in nothing in this creation; but only in the one who is over and above it.
“God should be the one object of adoration. To give the least particle of his honor to another is shameful treason; to refuse to render it to him is heartless robbery.”
But: many people’s praise problem boils down to simply a small view of God. A view of God who’s greatness isn’t surpassing, but lacking; who’s greatness isn’t overshadowing all else but overshadowed by anything else.
We need a bigger view of God – a more realistic view of God – a more biblical view of God.
a view “such that we cannot look to the heavens without being lost in admiration”
A view of God that believes that if we had everything else but not him, we would have nothing; yet when we have him but nothing else, we still have all because his greatness is surpassing.
- Praise God for who he is
- Praise God for what he’s done
Before God does anything, he is abundantly worthy of praise; simply for who he is in himself. But the Psalmist gives us more reason to praise God:
v2 – Praise him for his acts of power.
These would refer to all of his miraculous works, but primarily to his powerful works of creation & redemption.
His powerful creating of all things out of nothing by the word of his power – by simply speaking a word, bringing into existence things which were not.
By which we remember that he gave us all breath, we are his, we have our existence from him; and we must live our lives for him and use our breath to give him praise and glory.
And, his powerful redemption – freeing his people from the oppressive and enslaving hand of Pharaoh; delivering them through the red sea; leading them through the wilderness; delivering them into the promised land and giving them victory of people stronger and more numerous than them.
And, if the Old Covenant people of God had reason to praise him for his powerful acts of redemption, then, we, the New Covenant people of God, have all the more reason –
“These psalmists knew far less reason than we for loving God. They did not know that He would die to win for them eternal joy. Yet they express a longing for Him, for His mere presence, which comes only to the best Christians or to Christians in their best moments.”
We who have been delivered from objects of God’s wrath, to children of God; we who have been delivered from slavery to sin and death, to abundant and eternal life; we who had been alienated from God, now brought near to God; we who had stood guilty and condemned before God to those who have been forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Christ.
We, who in Christ have been graciously, undeservedly, given, as Paul puts it, “every spiritual blessing”.
Spurgeon: “there is enough in our holy faith to create and to justify the utmost degree of rapturous delight”
We should never run out of reasons to praise God; we should never run out of desire to praise God. We should never run out of determination to praise God.
Why is it, then, that there are so many praise-less and joy-less Christians?
I think it’s because we lack a knowledge of and appreciation for what God has done for us.
Many Christians simply don’t take much time to consider, meditate upon, and learn about, who God is and what he’s done.
See, praise is not mere emotional outburst; Praise doesn’t just arise out of thin air.
no, it’s based on, and fueled by, a knowledge of and a tasting of, who God is, and what he’s done.
There’s a stereotype that exists, that paints the picture that those who are the most theological, are the least doxological – that those who know the most about God love him the least – that knowledge of God gets in the way of praise to God.
The psalmist disagrees. Knowledge of God doesn’t get in the way of praise to God; it enables it.
if you don’t know anything about God, you can’t praise him; and if you don’t know God personally, you can’t praise him. But the more you learn about him; and the more you spend time being in his presence knowing him, the more praise will flow out of your life.
Praise is the fire of the Christian which is sustained by the fuel of a deep knowledge of Jesus; a beholding of him, seeing him, and working the truths of the gospel into our hearts.
- Praise God for who he is
- Praise God for what he’s done
- Praise him with all you’ve got.
v1-2: why we praise God (on what basis).
v3-6: How we praise God
With everything we have!
In every part of life.
Praise, is delight in God, expressed. And, that’s what the rest of the psalm is about – how we express that delight in God.
When you love something, you praise it. You express that love, and you want to invite others into that love.
And, if we love God, then we will be people of praise.
People praise what they love. People talk about what they love. And people want others to love what they love.
When you discover the greatness of God – you praise him – and you want to tell others of that greatness, and you want others to join in that praise of him with you.
Praise, is delight in God expressed.
A heart that loves God, is evident in your words, thoughts, actions, life.
And, Christian praise; is not just going through the external motions without a heart-engagement; it’s not just saying the right words without meaning them; it’s not about believing the right things but being otherwise unaffected by those beliefs. It’s having a heart captivated, by the beauty, glory, and greatness of God – it’s being in awe of him; and expressing that.
Because, you see, the specific thing about praise; is the expression of it.
There would be no question – to the people around the one who obeyed Psalm 150 – to the people around him, there would be no question that he loves God; that God is central to his life and captivates his heart.
Is that true of us?
Not everyone or every church expresses praise in same way; But, If you are a Christian, there needs to be some evident joy in God, overflowing in your life.
v3-6 ask the question: How do we praise God? With everything you’ve got!
The proliferation of instruments and other means of praise, is not meant to be a technical evaluation of the fitness of these different things for the worship of God – as though he’s picking up instruments and inspecting them and putting some in the “yes” pile and others in the “no” pile. No, it’s as though he’s listing whatever he can think of; it’s as if he’s saying, grab whatever you can; whatever you have; and praise God with it.
If you’ve got a trumpet, praise him with that; if you can play the harp, praise him with that!
Every instrument; every gift; every skill; every ounce of strength and energy and passion.
teaches us “that we cannot apply ourselves too diligently to the praises of God”
For a Christian whose heart is captivated by God – he or she walks out these doors and their heart continues to praise God; their words continue to praise God; their thoughts continue to praise God; their attitudes & emotions continue to praise God; their actions continue to praise God.
And, in all they do, they praise God in it and through it – do it for him, unto him, in obedience to him, out of a heart of love for him.
In all they do.
People have a incredible tendency to compartmentalize God – the creator, who is above all and exceeds all and greater than all and bigger than all – they stuff him into the closet; or put him on the shelf; or hide him under the rug.
To praise him with just a part of life; just a day a week.
But the picture here is to praise him with everything.
But, also, this list of musical instruments, I think reminds us that praise is appropriate for every situation in life.
the trumpet makes a very different sound than a harp or a pipe. One would be more suitable for a victory march; another would be more suitable for a funeral procession.
And this reminds us that praise exists alongside of many different situations in life.
Sometimes praise is bold and triumphant and celebratory and victorious; other times it is contemplative and quiet and restrained for the sake of reverence; other times it is filled with lament, and characterized by the sounds of sad suffering.
Because, lament, is part of praise. Sorrow stands alongside of joy in the Christian life. Joy and praise can’t coexist with despair, or hopeless, but they do – often – coexist with sadness and suffering. In fact, when we praise God even in the midst of sadness and suffering, that is what sustains our hope through that – because we know that our hope is in Christ, secured for us no matter what happens in this life – such that we can praise God through every part of life.
Everything that has breath, use every breath to do what that breath was intended to do, by the One who gave that breath as a gift from his hand.
God gave you even the breath that you breath – which means he gave you your whole life; all that you are, all that you have; and so whatever you have belongs to him and is to be employed in the praise of him. Give him the praise he is due.
v6 – dancing. Reminds of David’s dancing before the ark – danced with all his might. His wife saw him and despised him, because she thought he was making a fool of himself, but David didn’t care. He was rejoicing in the Lord.
If you praise God with your life, not everyone who sees that will praise you for it. Many will think you foolish.
But a heart of praise is unencumbered by what the world thinks; it loves God, and so it is freed to praise him unencumbered.