Psalm 150: A Final Doxology
Blog by Rob Vandeman
Psalm 146-150 provides a fitting conclusion to the book of Psalms. Like Psalms 146-149, Psalm 150 opens and closes with the exhortation to Praise the Lord (Hallelu Yah), the simplest of all the expressions of exuberant praise.
Although there may not be a strict organization to the book of Psalms, it is evident that there is movement from lament to praise, from the beginning to the end of the book. Psalm 150 encourages an joyful expression of praise with abandon. Although this psalm is not completely devoid of reasons for praise, it is unique within the Psalter for its emphasis on unalloyed praise, an emphasis on emotion rather than reason. This psalm is significant in reminding us that praise is most natural in congregational settings. We can praise God alone, but we should join our voices with others in the celebration of God. Such praise moves us away from self-absorption, first by focusing on God and secondly by fellowship with other worshippers.
We are not the most comfortable with the notion of praise and adoration. It seems alien to our popular culture. C. S. Lewis suggested we might best imagine praise by thinking about our “instinctive response” to a great work of art, or a beautiful symphony, or extraordinary beauty in any form. The natural response is, first, to pause and enjoy the beauty and then to announce it to others. Such a response of shared enjoyment works on many levels. “Wasn’t that a spectacular sunset this evening? Or “I wish you could see the fresh fallen snow. It makes everything so beautiful!” Or “I wish you could have seen the mother deer with her two speckled little ones!” Or “Wasn’t that concert awesome?”
Praise takes the instinctive response of shared enjoyment (ever try keeping a great joke to yourself or the fact that you just got engaged?) and raises it a few notches. In praise, the creature happily acknowledges His Creator and His goodness. “Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,” says one old gospel song, and praise is partly that. Just as sport fans or military veterans or high school classmates or families love to recount the same stories over and over again, praise offers that same nostalgic opportunity.
Many of us stumble over how to express praise in a culture in which it seems alien. The wonderful contribution of the psalms is that they solve the problem of our deficiency of praise. They provide the words – we merely need to enter into them, letting the content of the psalms realign our inner attitudes. Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggested that the psalms are God’s language course. Just as infants learn the mother tongue from their parents, Christians can learn the language of prayer from the psalms.
When the ancient Hebrews encountered something beautiful of majestic, their typical response was not to contemplate the scene or to analyze it, but rather to praise God for it or perhaps to write a poem or a song. Their fingers itched for the harp; their vocal chords longed for the hymn. For them, praise was joy expressing itself in song and speech – an “inner health made audible” in C. S. Lewis’s phrase. And because of them, we too can enter into that health. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah.
And with this blog, our Journey Through Psalms, comes to a conclusion. I hope a few of the thoughts shared have resonated with your life and have helped you in your pilgrimage. As I stated in the opening background article “Join the Journey Through Psalms,” “Psalms give us a comprehensive record of life with God through individually fashioned accounts of how the spiritual life works. They are not to be approached as a student wanting to acquire knowledge, but as a fellow pilgrim wanting to acquire relationship. The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. More than any other book in the Bible, Psalms reveals what a heartfelt, soul-starved, single-minded relationship with God looks like.” And this relationship is rooted in reality, because God can be trusted with reality!