If you have your Bibles, I would invite you to turn with me to Psalm 150. Sixteen years and two months ago, on September 1, 1996, I preached my first Sunday evening sermon as the minister of First Presbyterian Church on Psalm 1. Sixteen years and two months later, here we are at Psalm 150! Now if I had preached it all the way through, we could have done it in three years, but it was the first book of the Psalms, and Genesis, the second book of the Psalms, and Exodus, the third book of the Psalms, and then Numbers and Leviticus got — they happened on Wednesday nights mostly, but then I did the fourth book of the Psalms more recently, and in between the third and fourth book of the Psalms, Derek Thomas came on and preached a lot of Sunday nights for a decade or more at First Presbyterian Church before I got to pick back up with the fourth book of the Psalms. In fact, he did a series, if you will remember, on the Psalms of Ascent and wrote a book on the Psalms of Ascent, which happened in part of that fifth book of the Psalms that we've been studying. So here we are at Psalm 150.
The first four books of the Psalms all end with a doxology. If you look at the end of each of those first four books of the Psalter, they end with a doxology, a brief word of praise. The fifth book of the Psalms ends with a doxology as well but it's a whole psalm. This whole psalm consists of praise and calls to praise. Psalm 150 is to the Psalter what the climax is to a great symphony. And if you look at this psalm it's filled with the conventional calls to praise that you find scattered throughout the book of Psalms. It has an opening and closing command to praise, like we've seen in the last four psalms before it in the Psalter, it tells us who must praise God, where God should be praised, the modes of His praise, and then it calls us again to praise God. It's very interesting; Psalm 1 begins with instruction on how a person who fears the Lord, who holds Him in reverent, loving awe, ought to live, and Psalm 150 ends with exhortations to praise the God with whom we live and with whom we walk. And we’ll talk about that connection a little bit later.
There are four things that I want you to be on the lookout for in this psalm as we study it tonight. And you will see them in verses 1, verse 2, then 3, 4, and 5 the third point, and then verse 6 the fourth point. First, where we praise God, verse 1; verse 2, why we praise God; verses 3, 4, and 5, how to praise God; and then verse 6, who is to praise God. Let's look to the Lord in prayer before we read and hear His Word.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for the Psalms. We thank You for the descriptions of life with You that we find within them. And we thank You for this great crescendo of praise that we find at the end of the Psalter. We ask, O God, as we study it together tonight, that we would be moved to praise You with all that we have and are in every aspect of life, in Jesus’ name, amen.
This is the Word of God. Hear it:
“Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens! Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
When the psalmist tells the person who fears and loves and knows God how it is that she or he is to live with Him, how it is that we are to live the life of faith in this world, you will remember in Psalm 1 verse 2 the psalmist says the way you do that is by delighting in God's Word. Remember? “He delights in God's law and on it he meditates day and night.” And so the psalmist begins by telling us that to live life with God in this world we need to delight in His Word, His Law, and meditate on it, and then live by it. So the Psalms begin with an exhortation to delight in God's Word and they end with an exhortation to delight in God and to delight in His praise. Delight in His Word; delight in His praise. The psalms are framed with those two exhortations. And in between, every emotion and every experience that we could possibly conjure up in life. In Psalm 23, we find ourselves walking with God and knowing His presence even in the valley of the shadow of death, but in Psalm 88, we find ourselves in such a dark place that we cannot even feel His presence though He is there. Every trial, toil, and snare known to man are signified in the Psalter, and so it helps us all the way home, from the beginning of our walk in delighting in His Word, to the very end of life in the praise of God that continues in eternity. And so I want to look with you at this psalm tonight and I want us to see the four parts of it.
WHERE WE PRAISE GOD
And the first thing I want us to see is what this psalm says about where the praise of God is to occur. Where do we praise God? Verse 1 tells us. “Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens!” Now this little phase in the one hundred fiftieth psalm reminds us that when we gather here with God's people to praise His name, this is not the only place where God is to be praised. He is to be praised in the earthly sanctuary and He is to be praised in the heavenly sanctuary. Don't you love the way that Thomas Ken captures that truth in the little verse that occurs in three of his hymns which we call the Doxology. It begins with the words, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” but the next two lines are, “Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.” Praise Him ye creatures here below; praise Him above, His heavenly host. Where is God to be praised? Below and above; on earth and in the heavens; in the earthly sanctuary by His pilgrim people here, in the heavenly sanctuary with the church triumphant and the elders and the beasts; we are to praise Him and the Lamb. He is to be praised everywhere – in heaven above and on earth below; all creatures here below, above all ye heavenly host. God is to be praised everywhere. That's something for us always to remember.
Matthew Henry once said, “We should never begin a work without prayer and we should never end it without thanksgiving and praise.” Why? Because God is to be praised everywhere. And he goes on to observe that because of that principle, that we should never begin a work without prayer and we should never end it without thanksgiving and praise, that is one reason why Christians are so concerned to end their lives in praise. Just as the Psalter begins by pointing us to the Word and leading us in prayer, so it ends in praise. How do you ready yourself for glory? In praise. There's the first thing I want you to see. Where is it that we praise God? In His sanctuary below and above — everywhere.
WHY WE PRAISE GOD
Then, in verse 2, we see why to praise God. Where do you praise Him? On earth below; in heaven above. Why do you praise Him? Verse 2 sums it up. “For His mighty acts and for His majesty.” For what He does and for who He is. For the deeds that he performs and for the perfection of His person. That sums is up. “Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness!” So the psalmist says, “Why are we to praise God? What are we to praise Him for? We’re to praise Him because of His mighty deeds, for His mighty deeds, in His mighty deeds. We are to remember what He has done in His redemption for us.” In the Old Testament, and the Psalms reflect this so often, the people of God looked back to the redemption of Egypt when they’re brought out of the house of slavery, out of the land of bondage, and into the Promised Land. Or, they look at the bringing of the people of God out of exile towards the end of the history of Israel. But in both of those things, they are recounting the deeds of God's redemption and His providence over them.
I've told you before that we have a member in this church who had been recounting to Brister the great deliverances of God in his life. And that's what the people of God used to fuel their worship in the Old Testament. What are the great deliverances of God in my life? The greatest deliverance of God in all of our lives who trust in Christ as He is offered in the Gospel is the redemption that we have in Christ at the cross. Wherever you’re from, whatever you've been through, whatever you’re going through now, whatever you will go through, the greatest deliverance of God for all of us is at the cross. So at the very heart, at the very center of all our praise, ought to be praise to God for that work of redemption. But then in every one of our lives there are manifold and there are varieties of displays of His unique providence in our lives. How He had us at the right place at the right time to meet the one that we would spend the rest of our lives with. How He spared us and our parents and our children at unique places and times in our lives, perhaps in dangerous illnesses or in accidents, how He spared our lives, or how He enabled us to make it through in the loss of a life of someone who was dear to us. How He blessed us with blessings that we could not have anticipated and that we wouldn't have dared pray for. How He helped us when we endured losses that we can hardly speak and still can't imagine. For these and a million other things, we are to praise God. We are to praise God for His mighty acts in redemption and in providence. And that means there is literally an inexhaustible supply of things to praise God for.
But we not only praise God for what He's done but we praise God for who He is because He's not our ticket, He's our treasure. God is not a means to a greater end, He is the greater end. And so the greatest thing that we can praise Him for is that in His redemption He has brought us to Himself. You see, God again, God is not a means to the greater end, but His redemption is a means to the greater end which is fellowship with Himself. So God isn't here to get you somewhere beyond Himself that is better than He is, but in His redemption, He is getting you to Himself who is the best of all. And so our praise is to be focused on who He is. I've told you before, my family used to love my father's effusions about great meals. We would be at Kelly's Steakhouse in Blacksburg, South Carolina, for the fourteenth time, and we would hear him utter, as he dove into his bone-in rib eye, “I believe this is the best steak I've ever put in my mouth!” And we knew it was coming! We knew it was coming! The hyperbole was going to be there! You know, we live in a world of hyperbole. You can't turn on the television or listen to the radio or look at the internet and have the ads pop up before you see some ridiculously hyperbolic statement. Some statement is made about someone or something, some college, some business, some activity that is going to change your life. People even parody this. When the new Apple iPhone 5 was coming out, people did parody videos saying that the Apple iPhone5 was going to end world hunger, it was going to bring world peace, it was going to establish world prosperity! And we've gotten immune to that kind of hyperbole that exists all around us.
But let me tell you one thing. You can't be hyperbolic about God. You can't say anything that's hyperbolic about God. You cannot praise Him enough. As Ken Fairly was praying tonight just saying that, “We can't come up with the words, Lord, to praise You with,” I was thinking of the very final words of William Plumer's commentary on the Psalms. Do you know what he says in his last paragraph? In his last paragraph, after writing not just hundreds but over a thousand pages on the Psalms, William Plumer ends by saying, “If I could come up with the words that were adequate to the praise of God I would say them, but I can't come up with words that are adequate that fully do justice to who He is!” You can't be hyperbolic about God! Why do we praise God? For His mighty acts and for His majesty because it is impossible to do justice to Him. All of the redeemed will sing with all of our might speaking of the truth of who God is forever and we will never exhaust His worthiness of praise nor tire of giving it to Him! That's how great He is. He is so inexhaustibly worthy of our praise, we’ll never tire of praising Him! We praise Him for His mighty acts and for His majesty. That's why Thomas Ken begins the Doxology, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!” He not only gives all blessings, He Himself is blessedness. From Him is everything that is blessed. So where do we praise God? Everywhere; in the heavens and on the earth. Why do we praise God? For His mighty acts and majesty.
HOW WE PRAISE GOD
Third, how do we praise God? You see it in verses 3, 4, and 5. And what the psalmist does here is he gives a catalogue of instruments. And we've talked about this a little bit last week. When you look at these instruments, they touch on various aspects of the corporate life of Israel. For instance, the trumpet blast, the blowing of that curved horn that was used to announce the Year of Jubilee, is associated with great national occasion. On the other hand, the timbrel and the dance is associate with great and joyous victory occasions. We looked at that last time we were together, how Miriam and the women danced — what? At the great deliverance of the Red Sea. And then the pipe, the flute, the lyre, and the harp, these were instruments that would have been used by everyday folks in Israel in the common situations of life. They might have been used simply on a regularly weekly basis to provide music for some party or gathering of people. They might have been used on the occasions of weddings and other situations. But these instruments encapsulate the situations and events of life in Israel and point to this great fact — that we need to praise God with everything we have. We need to throw in the kitchen sink to praise Him with everything we have.
LET EVERYTHING PRAISE THE LORD
And then finally, who is it? Who is to praise God? Everyone and everything. “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!” because we were made to praise Him. The oldest lie ever told to the human race was told by the serpent to Eve and Adam. And what he told to Eve and to Adam was that God was not worth living for, that He was not worthy of your worship. And so the Psalter says — how is it that you begin to live life, the blessed life, the happy life? You begin by being devoted to, by delighting in God's Word. You start listening to God's Word, not to the lie of the serpent. And how is it that you end life? With a confession that we ought to worship God and with the activity of worshiping God, declaring that He is worth living for, that He is worthy of our praise, that there is no satisfaction, no joy, no treasure, no delight, no fulfillment outside of Him, greater than Him, that He is what we were made for. We were made for His praise.
Where are we to praise Him? Everywhere. Why? Because of what He's done and because of who He is. How? With everything that we have. Who is to do it? Everyone and everything. Praise the Lord. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father we thank You for the book of the Psalms. We thank You for our journey through them together. We pray that You would make us to be a people for Your praise, for there is no higher calling that we have than to worship You. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.
Would you stand for God's blessing?
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, until the daybreak and the shadows flee away. Amen.