Restored Praise

The jubilation that encompassed the hearts of the Jews who rebuilt the temple and restored its worship must have proven overwhelming following the neglect that characterized the divided kingdom, the destruction wrought by Nebuchadnezzar, and the captivity experienced for multiple generations. Those dedicated hearts who knew the heartaches of exile—led by godly men with faith in the future—lived to see hope live once more and revive joy in the midst of sorrow. Their forefathers traveled the road to Babylon defeated by their own unfaithfulness. Seventy years later, these descendants journeyed home fully aware not only of the cost of disobedience but also of the privileges of faith. Therefore, after years of toil and turmoil, the temple rebuilt, and the walls of Jerusalem once more offering protection from external foes, the people—God’s people—no longer took for granted their homeland and their uniqueness living under the law. They finally understood the folly of idolatry and appreciated the distinctiveness of worshiping and serving the LORD. All this came together in the commission of the final psalm.

Every line in Psalm 150 reverberates with a resounding note of praise, a word not accidentally rooted in the expression of light (1 Jn. 1:5). Thus, the concept of praise—often treated as empty gestures of shallow faith and basic lip service in today’s religious world—properly emphasizes shining light on the truth about Yahweh in a world that remains ignorant of His glory. The role of the faithful is thus to make it abundantly clear to all that God is real, that God is great, and that God—without a doubt—deserves praise. But the “Who” matters greatly. Indeed, it is essential. Praising the LORD is no routine act of ritual but the expression of a heart that knows Yahweh as the only true and living God on whom all depends. This is no limited form created for someone’s self-expression but the transcendent God of history and eternity. As such,  His praise is not limited to the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem but is deserved to the greatest expanse of the universe, to the point of embracing the angels in heaven itself (Psa. 150:1). The omnipresent God who transcends space and time deserves praise to match. Moreover, there is ample reason to praise Him, both for what He has done and simply for Who He is. God’s deeds and God’s character deserve recognition and exultation for they distinguish Him from all pretenders (Psa. 150:2). Capturing the joy of the renewal of temple worship, the author commands the instruments employed under the Old Covenant worship to sound forth (Psa. 150:3-5). Under the New Covenant, God asks not for these external instruments of praise but rather for the instrument of the heart (Eph. 5:19); however, the underlying emphasis remains clear. Praise God with everything you have. He then closes the psalm with a similar thought, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” (Psa. 150:6). This combination describes an important truth. Even if everyone gave everything they had to praise the LORD at the very same time, it would still not adequately express the praise He deserves. And yet, to the best of our ability, the exhortation remains—”Praise the LORD!”

This swelling chorus of praise rightly closes the fifth book of the psalms and the book of Psalms in its entirety. As the book began in Psalm 1 emphasizing man’s need to meditate on the word of God, soak in its spiritual riches, and so grow close in a relationship with God, so Psalm 150 closes the collection emphasizing man’s need to express all that he has learned and come to understand about Yahweh in praising Him with the whole of his being. Thus, these two bookends capture both the means and the end of the psalms, a carefully constructed collection meant to open our hearts to God, to see how He has opened Himself to us, and then to open our hearts in praise for all He has done. What a wonderful thought! What a profound experience! What a great and awesome God!

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