Theme: Praise on the Earth
In this week’s lessons, we see the comprehensive scope of worship—that all creation, both in heaven and on earth, is to praise the LORD.
Scripture: Psalm 148:1-14
Having looked upward to the heavens and having called on the angels and the many heavenly bodies to worship God, the psalmist now looks downward to earth and calls on things terrestrial to join the worship chorus. Worship on earth is to echo that of heaven. As in the preceding section where the worship of heaven is sought from angels and the heavenly bodies, here worship is sought from two entities also: from the animal creation, and from human beings.
1. The animal creation. I have spoken of “the animal creation,” but the verses of this stanza (vv. 7-12) do not speak only of the animals but of the inanimate creation as well. The flow of thought seems to begin at the bottom and move upward, just as the passage from the first stanza to the second is a motion from above to below. The psalmist begins with creatures found in the ocean depths, moves upward to speak about lightning and hail, snow, clouds and stormy winds, then the mountains and hills, fruit trees and cedars, all the wild and domestic animals, and finally the smallest creatures and birds—before concluding with human beings of all ages and from every social position in this life. His point is that everything on earth as well as everything above the earth must praise God.
The mountains and hills, weather, trees and animals of all kinds worship God. But as for man, if we do not worship the angels or the heavenly bodies in our fallen state, we tend next to worship animals or even nature, as Paul said the pagans of his day did. He looked at the Greeks and Romans and said, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom. 1:22).
It is a sad thing that in our fallen state men and women make either of two mistakes regarding nature. Either we rape it ruthlessly for our own benefit, stripping the ground of its minerals and the surface for its wood, showing no regard for nature and its beauties at all; or else we worship it in place of God. We attribute creative powers to nature and end up virtually deifying the dynamic within living things. In opposition to this sad pagan error, the psalmist reminds us that the animals themselves worship God.
2. Human beings. At last we come to human beings (vv. 11, 12), the climax of God’s creation, those who are made “in God’s image” (Gen. 1:26, 27) and who are therefore able to know and even converse with their Maker.
Derek Kidner notes an important comparison between the worship of God by human beings here and the worship of God by the heavenly bodies in the previous stanza:
In verse 5 the celestial bodies are called to praise God simply by the fact of their existence (“For he commanded and they were created”). But in 13, man may praise him consciously, since he has revealed himself (“For his name… is exalted”). Similarly, God’s glory in the natural world is the reign of law (6), the regularity which invites us to “search out” his works (Ps. 111:2); but among his people his glory is redemptive love (14), in raising up a horn for them, i.e., a strong deliverer (Lk. 1:69); above all, in bringing them near to him. That is the climax of the psalm, as it is of the gospel: “Behold the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people” (Rev. 21:3).1
But here is that problem again. Instead of worshiping God, as we should and as the angels, the animals and the inanimate creation do, in our fallen state we seek out substitutes for God. And if we do not worship the angels, animals or nature, we worship the only being left, which is ourselves.
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), p. 488.
What is worship on earth?
Why is the progression of vv. 7-12 significant?
Explain what is different about human beings from God’s other creatures.
What two mistakes do fallen men make in regard to nature? What is the biblical understanding?
Key Point: Instead of worshiping God, as we should and as the angels, the animals and the inanimate creation do, in our fallen state we seek out substitutes for God.
Prayer: Ask God to make you aware of any ways you seek out substitutes for him.