June 29th, 2012 | By admin
by Paul Holland
We conclude our Daily Nourishment today in reading the book of Psalms. The book of Psalms is certainly one of our favorite books. Psalm 148 is a hymn of praise. C. S. Lewis wrote a devotional book, Reflections on the Psalms in which he writes: “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. …In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him” (95, 97).
Derek Kidner in the Tyndale OT Commentary Series calls this psalm a “Choir of Creation” (487). You are familiar with this psalm because you have sung it frequently in worship. In 1893, these words were set to music by William Kirkpatrick.
The first two words of this psalm in the Hebrew Bible are Hallelu andjah. Hallelu comes from the verb Hālal meaning to “praise, boast” and “connotes being sincerely and deeply thankful for and/or satisfied in lauding a superior quality(ies) or great, great act(s) of the object” (Coppes, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament;I:217). Yah is a shortened form of the divine name “Yahweh” or transliterated usually as Jehovah. Thus this words are generally translated as “Praise the LORD.”
We will divide Psalm 148 into three stanzas and seven strophes. Three typically symbolizes the Trinity and thus unity, divine unity; seven symbolizes the seven-days of creation and thus completion. We therefore have the complete unit of creation praising the Lord and that summarizes the psalm.
Stanza 1 - verses 1-6 – is the “Call to heaven to worship”. It is composed of three strophes – verses 1-2, 3-4, 5-6. The word “strophe” (Gr.) means to “turn” or to “twist” – they are characterized by subtle shifts and changes. A strophe is the building block of the poem. The unifying factor is one single idea.
Verses 1-2 – strophe one -This is the heavenly praise of Jehovah.
Verses 3-4 – strophe two -This is the celestial praise of Jehovah.
“Highest heavens” is literally “heavens of heavens,” the Hebrew method of indicating the superlative degree. The heavens, the heights, the sun, moon and stars, the highest of heavens and the waters above the heavens are all non-sentient beings. But the inarticulate entities praise “inasmuch as they fulfill the function assigned to them by the Creator and so witness to his self-revelation through them (cf. Isa. 6:3)” (Allen, World Biblical Commentary, 1:1036).
Verses 5-6 – strophe three -Here we have the motive for the praise of Jehovah.
It calls upon all those entities just mentioned to praise His name. There are three reasons why the heavenly and celestial order ought to praise the name of Jehovah. Because He commanded – and they were created. He established them – forever and ever. He has made a decree – which will not pass away.
Stanza 2 - verses 7-12 – is the “Call to earth to worship”. We mentioned the seven strophes in this psalm and its hint of completion. The word “ALL” rings out in this particular stanza for a totality of praise. It is used 10 times in all fourteen verses.
Verses 7-8 – strophe one – These are the aquatic & physical elements of the earth.
Verses 9-10 – strophe two -These are the terrestrial & bestial creatures of the earth.
Notice that nothing is allowed to receive praise. All are to give praise to Jehovah. All those creatures that fly in the heavens or creep upon the earth are creations of God and not worthy to receive praise. God does not give his praise to another – Isa 42:8.
Verses 11-12 – strophe three -The psalmist now directs his attention to the sentient beings, human beings on the earth.
Stanza 3 - Brings the praise home to the Israelite people. In Hebrew poetry, if a stanza coincides with a single strophe – as we have here – it would be momentous.
Verses 13-14 – single strophe Again, this is the motive for the praise and specifically addressed to “His people”, for the “sons of Israel.”
One commentator on Psalm 148 writes that “nearness” in vs 14 is the climax of the Psalm. Indeed, we might say that the theme of the Bible is “Drawing sinful man near to the holy God.” The culmination of all God’s efforts in Jesus Christ and all of our efforts as His children in Jesus Christ is pictured in Revelation 21:3, 7 – “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them. …He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My Son.” That’s nearness.
I appreciate the sentiments of Glover Shipp: “We, then, His children, are to be instruments through whom psalms are created and lifted up to Him in all lands” (Fire in My Bones, 139).
Let the church of Christ Jesus lead the whole earth in praise to God.