The Book of Psalms is the title we know but the Hebrew name was The Book of Praises. Many of the Psalms were read repeatedly meaning some became more well-known than others and it grew from there that certain Psalms were read at particular festivals and occasions such as during the feast of booths, the seventh and last feast recorded in the Bible when all Jewish males were required to appear before the Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem. Very similar to the modern church that we know today, in ancient times the Psalms were used liturgically. Week six of our journey through the book of Psalms and what a huge change in the journey today. We were back in the church building. Yes, socially distanced, yes complying with all the regulations in an attempt to keep us all safe. But as the Psalmist says praising the Lord. How apt that this final Psalm in the book is a call to praise God. We have journeyed through the five sections or books of the Book of Psalms and discovered along the way many truths about God. We have discovered God in his interaction with humanity. We have discovered God as our deliverer. We discovered God as place of sanctuary. We have discovered God’s reign over all things. And last week we discovered God’s word and the depths of his truth. Much of this we have known and held firm to for years, other things we may have discovered either for the first time or found in a new refreshing way as we visited detail not done so for a while. The Psalms are a melting pot of human emotion with cries to heaven turning into heavenly praise. There is a spiritual intensity that compels us to hold the Book of Psalms in a rather unique place in scripture. We are equally at home with them when we read them alone and reflect on them from a purely personal focus as we are when we read them in a setting such as this during public worship.
Reading: Psalm 150
The final Psalm in the book and it is a call to praise God. What a way to conclude everything written in the Psalms. Having experienced every emotion known from the highest peaks into the lowest depths. God has always been there with and for us. Throughout the journey we have noted God is God and we are not. Our relationship is with the creator of all things. Praise God in the sanctuary, the physical place, the temple in Jerusalem. From that earthly recognisable place we are called to praise him in the mighty heavens. Remember in Psalm 121 last week.
The author looks to the hills and asks the question, ‘where does my help come from?’ Not from the hills but from God is the answer. We lift our praise not to the mighty heavens but to God who find there. And here we are once more in that place of sanctuary with him, the physical and the spiritual, the place of sanctuary and the emotion of sanctuary. Just as we have seen all aspects of life covered through the Psalms, here in the final verse of the final Psalm, we read everything that has breath should praise the Lord. Over the generations including our own of today. People have asked why praise God?
In our journey of faith and discovery we praise God for acts of power in the creation of all things and in the redemption of humanity. People will argue there are other causes of and theories for creation, the future of humanity lies within its own hands. This is where the journey of faith becomes so vital in the journey life. People of faith will praise God for his surpassing greatness. Who is like this God of ours? We may have been created in His own image but there is none like Him. Every single line of the Psalm is about praise. Possibly the most fitting aspect for us today is there is no specific place for it to happen, yes it can happen in the church building, yes it can happen in the open air as we walk along a journey, yes it can even happen online during a zoom service. God’s greatness goes way beyond any limitations we can think to place upon him. The list of musical instruments shows us there is no one way to praise God.
Our offer of praise can be as varied and as wide as we like. We should not worry ourselves so much about the noise we make when praising God, we should not worry ourselves so much about the physical place where we engage in God, I believe God is more interested in the music that beats within our hearts, the noise that we make in the silent places of our soul. If something happens when we least expect it and we instantly say out loud, ‘praise the Lord’ is that any less praise than when planned as part of a worship service? Yes, it is a very different form of praise but I would argue it is very much praise.
A spontaneous reaction to encountering the divine that results in us recognising God in our lives surely that has to be praise. We praise God when we have loving, hope-filled hearts; when we hear his word and apply it to our life; when we witness to others his gospel story; We praise God when we serve to advance his kingdom here on earth. Although the Psalmist lists all these musical instruments God wants to hear us praising him with everything we have as it says in Deuteronomy, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ That is praise worthy of such a God as ours.