Theme: Worship as an “Appetite for God”
In this week’s lessons, we learn how this last psalm teaches and exhorts everyone, everywhere to praise the LORD.
Scripture: Psalm 150:1-6
It is time to make noise, praise-noise for God. Not all worship should be noisy, of course. There are psalms of lament that call for heart-rending sorrow by God’s people. Other psalms call for quiet reflection on the acts of God in history, acts that are sometimes puzzling and even incomprehensible to us. But there are times for celebration too. When David brought the ark to Jerusalem, to the place he had prepared for it, the arrival of the ark was announced by trumpets and David danced with abandon before God (2 Sam. 6:14, 15). When the people praised God for the completion of the building of the walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day, the sound of trumpets, cymbals, harps, lyres and singing was so loud that “the sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away” (Neh. 12:43; see vv. 27-44).
C. S. Lewis refers to the exuberant quality of Jewish worship as an “appetite for God,” rejecting a phrase like “the love of God” as being almost too restrictive. In a paragraph from which I quoted earlier in these studies Lewis said of this exuberant worship,
It has all the cheerful spontaneity of a natural, even a physical, desire. It is gay and jocund. They are glad and rejoice (9, 2). Their fingers itch for the harp (43, 4), for the lute and the harp—wake up, lute and harp! — (57, 9); let’s have a song, bring the tambourine, bring the ‘merry harp with the lute,’ we’re going to sing merrily and make a cheerful noise (81, 2). Noise, you may well say. Mere music is not enough. Let everyone, even the benighted gentiles, clap their hands (47, 1). Let us have clashing cymbals, not only well tuned, but loud, and dances too (150, 6).1
Let’s be done with worship that is always weak and unexciting. If you cannot sing loudly and make loud music to praise the God who has redeemed you in Jesus Christ and is preparing you for heaven, perhaps it is because you do not really know God or the gospel at all. If you do know him, hallelujah.
Psalm 150 is the last of the psalms, and it is the obvious climax of the collection as well as of the final group of five praise songs. In Psalm 146 an individual Israelite praises God for his grace, power and faithfulness to the needy. In Psalm 147 the inhabitants of Jerusalem are urged to praise God for their regathering, blessing and security in the years following their exile. In Psalm 148 all creatures in heaven and on earth are told to praise God as their Creator and as the Redeemer of his people Israel. In Psalm 149 the saints are invited to praise God since they have been saved from their enemies and look forward to the blessings of the final judgment. In Psalm 150 every creature that has breath is exhorted to praise God everywhere and with every means available.
And loudly! A number of years ago when my middle daughter Heather was just a teenager, she asked me one day if I thought her music was loud and repetitive. I sensed that I was being set up for something, but I replied that, Yes, I did think that most of it was loud and repetitive, to which she responded, “Please, explain the Hallelujah Chorus.”
After I had told that story once, one of our musicians explained to me that the Hallelujah Chorus is not really repetitious. It advances musically toward its great crescendo. But it is loud! It has to be. And there are certainly repeating elements. That is what Psalm 150 is like. It is no mere repetition of an idea. It tells us where to praise God, why to praise God, how to praise God and who should praise God. But it does repeat the praise idea. The psalm says “Praise the LORD” three times, “Praise God” once, and “Praise him” nine times more. This is even more striking in Hebrew. The greatest number of words occurring between two of the thirteen hallelujahs is four, and that only once. In most cases only two words occur between them.
H. C. Leupold says of these last songs, “The note of praise swells out more and more strongly toward the close of the book, finally to break out in this crescendo which is full toned and jubilant.”2
And it is even more than this. Alexander Maclaren wrote rightly, “The psalm is more than an artistic close of the Psalter; it is a prophecy of the last result of the devout life, and, in its unclouded sunniness, as well as in its universality, it proclaims the certain end of the weary years for the individual and for the world. “Everything that hath breath” shall yet praise Jehovah.3
1C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1958), pp. 51, 52.
2H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1969), p. 1005.
3Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms, vol. 3, Psalms 90-150 (New York: A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1894), p. 458.
What different moods are there in worship?
In what manner does the psalmist teach us to express our praise to God?
Explain the progression of the five psalms of praise we have studied this month.
Prayer: Ask God to give you an appetite for him that will result in exuberant worship.
For Further Study: Throughout this series on the psalms, we have learned much about the character of God and about ourselves as those made in his image and created to worship him. James Boice’s entire sermon series covering all 150 psalms is available in print as a three-volume paperback set. Order yours today and receive 25% off the regular price.