August 31, 2016
Kicked off by the last Song of David (Psalm 145), the hymns of praise (Psalms 146-150) close out the Book of Psalms with a barrage of commands to enjoy God through song. The psalmist exclaims “Praise the LORD!” at the onset of each hymn which is where we get the word “Hallelujah” (Praise be to Yahweh!). In his own song, the psalmist is offering up the very reasons we should join him in this beautiful chorus, all of the reasons why God is praiseworthy.
Throughout these hymns, we see a multitude of causes for our hearts to be in love with God. Whether it be God’s trustworthiness to keep his promises, or his righteousness to defend those who sufer, or simply his great and unsearchable depth of power in the creating, sustaining, and governing all that exists: all of these are leveraged by the psalmist to open our eyes to God’s objective majesty. The natural inclination of the human soul is to praise what is praiseworthy—this is what we were made for—and therefore the psalmist goes to great lengths to show us what is ultimately praiseworthy: God.
Although the focus of these songs is locked onto mankind enjoying their God, we do get a glimpse of what God himself enjoys. God is not after a joyless and mechanical kind of singing, but he’s after the heart of his people. Notice that in Psalm 147:10-11, the psalmist states that God isn’t pleased with man’s self reliance, but rather the man who fears him and hopes in his steadfast love. God’s after people who rely on him because he’s infinitely reliable.
Fear and hope in this context are designed to propel our hearts into the arms of the only One who can satisfy our deepest longings. Fear is our natural response to great power being displayed and warranted hope is what happens to a heart that sees the genuine possibility for something better—when these are combined, in the face of God’s steadfast love, we realize we don’t earn God’s mercy in our lives by singing: our singing is a response to his great mercy.
The focus of our praise is the fact that there is nothing as beautiful or as majestic or our hope-creating than our God. He is one of a kind. As these hymns continue, the psalmist shifts from vividly describing the greatness of God to exerting all of his energy in getting others to join in singing. He ascends from a place of awestruck observation to one of breathless exultation— and he wants everyone to join in.
We see this clearly in Psalm 148, as he charges all that exists in creation to exult in the One who made them and governs them. As we enter into the final two chapters, the psalmist even tells us the kinds of praise he has in mind, whether it being dancing and musical instruments, singing and exultation, and even justice. The psalmist triumphantly finishes the hymn and the entire book we’ve been studying with: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”
C.S. Lewis describes mankind as “half-hearted creatures” who don’t recognize real beauty and majesty when they see it because they are inoculated to real and infinite Glory in their pursuit of lesser glories. So the first practical step is seeing God for who he is. We need saturate ourselves with his Word and the blessings he’s showered us with, so that we know him and all that he’s done. When that happens, our hearts begin to awaken to his beauty and we will want to express our enjoyment of it.
Whether our first inclination is to sing or not, we have to recognize that music—and even our own singing—is not an arbitrary facet of human existence, but the inclination of God’s own children singing to their Father. And the Bible is clear that singing to God from the heart is done both for the glory of God and the joy of his people (Ephesians 5:19-20). Singing is part of what it means to be in community, because when we enjoy God through singing, we encourage and impact those around us who are struggling in their enjoyment of God. Our good Father shows up powerful in worship, healing hearts and changing lives (Acts 4:24-28, Hebrews 5:5).
Delight in God’s instruction. Get a Bible and read it. Pore over it, even if delight doesn’t come when you first begin. Look for the Son in it, look for glimpses of Jesus and what he did on the cross to rescue us. See who he is and how worthy he is of our affection and our adoration. This is what it means to delight in God’s instruction. This is what it means to kiss the Son. When we pursue God through his Word, our hearts begin to delight in it and obey it. Why is this? It’s because we find that we’ve fallen in love with him—it’s impossible not to when you’ve really encountered him.