Praise the LORD! We hear this phrase often as a crude, throwaway sentiment but rarely as a sincere outburst of thanks or in the midst of reverent prayer. “Praise songs” abound and yet, even in some of them, depth of praise seems less abundant. We have turned praise into a slogan instead of a powerful expression. For shame! However, the cause behind this likely stems from complacency rather than malevolence. We tend to assume the context of our praise rather than meditate upon it. We lose sight of the grandeur of our God because we fail to revisit it regularly. The majestic poetry of Psalm 148 calls us back to the heart of praise, taking us on a tour of personified creation until reaching the pinnacle of the divine purpose—man—through whom such praise can be fully appreciated and reflected, through a heart full of praise, to the very presence of God.
The Hebrew word samayim refers generically to the place above and beyond the earth, first in reference to the sky, second, in reference to the universe, and third, in reference to the transcendent dwelling place of God. In the opening verses of this psalm, the inspired poet contemplates praise throughout all of these. Beginning in the third heaven, where the LORD Himself dwells, the psalmist pictures the heavenly host of angels bursting forth in praise as a natural phenomenon in the presence of God (Psa. 148:1-2) which then extends into the farthest reaches of the universe where the light emanating from the sun, moon, and stars declare the praise of the LORD (Psa. 148:3). Thus, praise pours forth from the throne of God all the way to the atmosphere above the earth to testify to the glory of the LORD (Psa. 148:4). All of this was created and subject to the LORD and the laws of nature He decreed and thus exist as evidence of His glory and His worthiness to receive praise (Psa. 148:5-6).
As the psalmist continues, he offers a parallel. Praising the LORD should not come solely from heaven but should also come from the earth. All that is in the earth declares His majesty just as clearly as the light from the sun (Psa. 148:7). The environment of the earth—from the changes in weather to the highest of mountains, from flora to fauna—all declare God’s existence, God’s care, and God’s glory (Psa. 148:8-10), from their design to their function. More than that, as angels, the sentient inhabitants of heaven, initiated praise for God, so also should mankind, the sentient inhabitants of earth, do the same. Regardless of rank or position, regardless of gender, and regardless of age—all men should acknowledge that they owe their existence to the LORD above because we are capable of recognizing and responding to God’s glory (Psa. 148:11-12). Therefore, while all of creation exists as a testimony to the glory of God, mankind, as the pinnacle of that creation, exists as testimony to God’s desire to build a relationship with a people who will love Him and praise Him (Psa. 148:13). The LORD deserves the praise of all because His greatness is not limited to what men can create or express upon the earth. It extends beyond the reaches of the atmosphere or the universe. He is their Creator and greater than the sum of them. Those who have benefited from His blessings, who can rightfully call themselves His people, know this well (Psa. 148:14). This is possible only because He exalted a Leader to deliver us and make us His own (Phil. 2:5-11). Those who know what it means to have sinned and yet to have been forgiven should praise Him. Indeed, we should praise Him all the more for His grace and mercy and for the honor of calling Him Father because He looks upon us and calls us His children and allows us to draw near to Him through Jesus (Jn. 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Jas. 4:8).
The better we know the LORD, the more we will praise the LORD. The closer we draw toward God, the better we understand just why He deserves our praise. And that is why we should spend far more time considering the glory of God, contemplating the implications of the universe, and meditating on the privilege of coming to know Him, working to learn from Him, and one day getting to meet Him. That is a thought that should stir the soul! In the first moment of eternity, when the faithful, who have spent meaningful time reflecting on God’s greatness and worshipping Him, bow before their Creator, all of the meaning of their existence from the beginning until that eternal moment will be expressed in an endless chorus that might be captured in the simple, but meaningful phrase, “Praise the LORD!”