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Exploring the Psalms
Psalms 149 + 150
Praise and Thanksgiving Through Music

Exploring the Psalms

Cuthbert cross

Psalms 149 + 150
Praise and Thanksgiving Through Music 

Read : Psalms 149, 150 

Today's soul space focusses mainly on Psalms 149 and 150, and as we look at the final Psalms of the 150 that were written, it gives us a chance to think about the collection as a whole.  

The Book of Psalms is very well known - most people who have little association with church can probably name a few.  

And we all have our favourites, whether it is the psalm of the Good Shepherd, Psalm 23 - The Lord's my shepherd; or the well-known psalm arranged for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Psalm 100 - All people that on earth do dwell. 

music and praise

The Book of Psalms covers every eventuality, every moment on our human lives, and every moment in the life of the church. If we think back to horrors and painfulness of Holy Week, Psalm 51 comes to mind: 

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

But conversely, on Easter Day we can sing Psalm 136: 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

Coming back to Psalms 149 and 150, it is evident that despite all the various genres of Psalms provided in the book, God does not want us to miss the opportunity of praise. Each of the last five psalms begins with the word 'Halleluiah' - Praise the Lord. And, in keeping with the musical theme, they are like the climax or the crescendo of a majestic symphony. It is the final movement of a magnificent hymn of worship and praise. And Psalm 150 specifically serves as the climax of the climax. We are told to throw off our inhibitions, open our hearts, pick up whatever instruments or voice that is near us, we are told to dance, and praise the Lord with all our being.  

For us, here in St Cuthbert's, we may find this hard to imagine - I can't see the elders dancing up the aisles on Sunday morning with the offerings, or the choir breaking into a 'Sister Act', Whoopi Goldberg-like Gospel rendition of Halleluiah. But the message here to us is to praise in whatever means possible, and certainly not to miss the chance to do so. 

Steven Cole, an American Baptist Pastor, sums up the glorious Psalm 150 very well, and I base the following on his teachings. Cole says Psalm 150 gives us the where, why, how, and who of praise. 

Where should we praise? In verse one, we are told: 

Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament!

The word sanctuary refers to the places of worship here on earth, where God's people gather. In the psalmist's day, this was the temple in Jerusalem. Today, it is the church. The mighty firmament refers to the heavens. So we are being told to praise God everywhere - here on earth, and in the heavens.
And of course, our praise does not have to be isolated to when we walk though the doors of St Cuthbert's on a Sunday morning, or any other church. We are told to praise God everywhere; at home, at work, at school, in the supermarket, in the streets . . .  

Why should we praise? Verse two gives us no doubt of the reason: 

Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

We praise him for what He has done, and who He is. We only have to flick through the Book of Psalms to get an idea of his mighty deeds - God providing for his flock in Psalm 23, or God sending his Son to die for our sins in Psalm 22. And as the King of kings and Lord of lords, He is more than worthy of our praise. 

How should we praise? Again there is no doubt: 

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 clanging cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Basically, we should pull out all the stops and praise with all the joy, festivity and enthusiasm that we can muster. As I've said previously, this can be difficult for many of us, especially in Presbyterian Scotland, but our focus of praise should be on one person - God, and our excitement should be channelled into this praise. 

Lastly, who should praise God? Verse six: 

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

The only qualification is that you breathe. Everything should praise the Lord, and as we are instructed to do so, we must follow the instruction. 

Many of us make time in our busy lives to come here to St Cuthbert's, or another church, to praise God. We may not have cymbals (much to my disappointment), or tambourines, or dancing.  

But what is important is that we praise with all our being, and we do it to the very best of our ability - we must praise God with all the enthusiasm we can muster and dance and sing from within our hearts, giving our all to God.  

Through the difficult times, and through the easier ones, we have one foundation and one constant source of strength - our Lord God - that more than anything else is reason to put on our dancing shoes. 

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!



Note - The video based on this soul space, can be found here : https://youtu.be/RBW7HA7_WiY

Graham MacLagan, 2016


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