By | January 22, 2017

A Crescendo of Praise

A meditation on Psalm 150

Those of you, who are familiar with Handel’s Messiah, know about the Hallelujah Chorus.  The Hallelujah Chorus is an excellent prelude to what we will be singing (actually shouting) in heaven, namely, the “Hallelujah Roar.”  The fourfold Hallelujah Roar is found in Revelation 19:1-6: “After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God’…And again they shouted: ‘Hallelujah!’ …And they cried: ‘Amen, Hallelujah!’…Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns.’”  That’s the Hallelujah Roar, which the choir in heaven thunders before the throne of God.

The goal of the gospel is not just to offer sinners forgiveness, but to transform them into worshipers—people who praise God with enthusiasm.  Missionaries, pastors and all Christians should pray and labor to see this transformation reach to the ends of the earth.

Psalms 146-150 all begin and end with the words: “Praise the LORD” (Hallelujah in Hebrew).  This inclusio (beginning and ending with the same theme) is designed to highlight praise as the final note in the book of Psalms.  And this robust praise reaches a crescendo in the closing Psalm.  In six short verses, we are instructed to be people of praise, no less than thirteen times!

The book of Psalms intentionally begins by telling us how to experience the blessed life.  Psalm 1:1-2 reads, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”  I believe the book of Psalms is also intentional in ending with an exhortation to “praise the LORD.”  If the blessed life is characterized by anything, it is characterized by the enjoyment of God’s presence and power in one’s life, which should result in an explosion of praise.  Yes, even LOUD praise.  Clashing and resounding cymbals, among many of the other instruments mentioned in Psalm 150, are not known for their quiet and soft tones.  This crescendo of praise, which includes dancing, is a reverent yet raucous celebration of what God has done and who He is.

Psalm 150 answers four question about praise: Where?  Why?  How?  Who?  First, where should we praise God?  “Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens (Ps. 150:1).  Praise God on earth and in heaven; praise God everywhere.  The Psalmist envisions the whole cosmos filled with the worship of its Creator.

Second, why should we praise God?  This is the most important of the four questions.  The psalm gives us two answers: “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness” (vs. 2).  Praise God for all that He has done in creation, throughout history, in salvation, and in your own life.  Also, praise God for who He is: a glorious and majestic God; a merciful and gracious God; a righteous and just God; a wise and powerful God; a loving and kind God.

Third, how should we praise God?  “Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet…harp and lyre…tambourine and dancing… strings and flute…clash of cymbals…resounding of cymbals” (vv. 3-5).  We are called to praise God with many loud musical instruments.

Fourth, who should praise God?  “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” (vs. 6a).  Everybody should praise the Lord.  We have been given breath primarily to praise the Lord and should do so as long as we have breath.  This psalm and the whole Psalter closes on this note: “Praise the LORD” (or Hallelujah, vs. 6b).

To summarize, the psalmist is saying: “Hallelujah!  Let everybody everywhere with every musical instrument praise God for all that he has done and for all that he is.  Hallelujah!”

In Psalms of the Heart, George Sweeting tells the story of John and Elaine Beekman, missionaries who served among the Chol Indians in southern Mexico.  This devoted couple rode mules and traveled by dugout canoes to reach this tribe.  They persevered for 25 years along with other missionaries to translate the New Testament into the language of the Chol Indians.  Today, the Chol Church is thriving with more than 12,000 Christians.  What’s interesting is that when the missionaries first came, the Chol Indians didn’t know how to sing.  However, the gospel not only brought the Chol’s forgiveness of sins, but ultimately transformed them into true worshipers.  The believers in the tribe eventually became known as “the singers.”  Sweeting said, “They love to sing now, because they have something to sing about.”

~Pastor Wayne Christensen