Scripture Text: Psalm 150
Pastor Steven Hillmer
Grace and peace are yours dear fellow Saints washed clean in the blood of Christ!
Chances are that in just a few days you’re going to walk into the house and even before you have your hat and gloves off, you’re going to be hit with some of the most wonderful aromas… a turkey roasting in the oven… mash potatoes and gravy… sweet potato crunch with brown sugar and roasted pecans on top. Before your jacket is hung in the closet, your mouth will be watering uncontrollably.
What Thanksgiving morning is for your salivary glands – Saints Triumphant Sunday is for your soul. Saints Triumphant Sunday is a “whet your appetite” Sunday. It’s a time when God grants us this incredible preview of the glory that awaits us and all believers together with all the angels singing the praises of our Savior around his glorious throne. What an incredible picture which is why Psalm 150, the assigned Psalm for this Day, is so very fitting for us this morning.
The book of Psalms itself is very much like a mini-Bible, a mini history of God’s people. In the early portions of the book of Psalms, our attention is focused on the trials and hardships endured by David. In the middle portion, we focus on the disaster that came to Jerusalem and to the temple because of Israel’s unfaithfulness. In the Song of Ascents, we find the joy of restoration. And at this book’s end, Psalm 150, we are found where our history and our experiences will end – in the sanctuary of our God, singing joyful praises to the Lord forever.
The six simple verses of this Psalm teach us four important truths about Singing the Praises of the Lord. We learn: 1) where the Lord shall be praised, 2) why the Lord is to be praised, 3) with what we can praise him, and finally 4) who shall praise the Lord. As we meditate upon these verses, may the Lord whet our spiritual appetite and longing for this eternal triumph.
- Where is the Lord to be Praised? (vs 1)
The Hebrew word Hallel means to praise or exult, to shout out in joy. It is found 24 times in the book of Psalms – 13 times here in Psalm 150 alone! The point is obvious – we are called to shout out, to exult, to sing the praises of the Lord – both now and forever in heaven. This is the encouragement of verse 1, Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
Where shall we praise the Lord? The Psalm gives us a two-fold answer: in his sanctuary and in his mighty heavens. Perhaps at first glance we might think that we have two names for the same place, but this is not necessarily the case. In Psalm 134, one of the Song of Ascents, those who minister before the Lord, that is in the temple, are encouraged to lift up hands in praise to God in the house of the Lord. That visible tabernacle, and later, temple was an earthly representation of the heavenly sanctuary.
So – where shall we praise the Lord? The answer is both! We are to praise God here in his house together with our fellow believers AND we are to praise God everywhere, for dwells in his heavenly sanctuary. The psalmist tells us this lest we fall into thinking that heaven isn’t real, or that God just floats around on the imaginary clouds. His sanctuary, his heavenly throne above is a real, actual place where God hears the praises of his people – praises ascending from believers gathered together, praises from individual believers no matter where they are.
- Why is the Lord to be Praised? (vs. 2)
“But why? Why do we need to praise God? Doesn’t it seem a bit odd that God should command people to praise and worship Him? God doesn’t need our praises, does he?…” If you catch a little bit of the sinful nature’s edginess in those responses, then your ears are properly tuned in. And even still, how often are the times we think those thoughts? Do I have sing God’s praises? Do I have to go to church? I can’t carry a tune in a bucket let alone in the pew, so what’s the point?
This point is this – God most certainly and truly deserves all the praises of every living thing all the time – and verse 2 tells us why. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
In this day and age we’re accustomed to singing the praises of the quarterback with a perfect passer rating… of the hunter who bagged the 30-pointer… of the best steak house and their prime rib… of basketball player who can slam dunk over the top of someone else – with his eyes closed! If you want to truly see “acts of power and greatness that surpasses all others” then simply open your eyes. Who else has called out the heavens and the earth from nothing? Who else formed the seas and the dry lands? Who else placed each star in the sky while aligning all the planets, moons, and sun and keeps them in perfect orbit so that life can thrive and prosper here on earth… not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, not too dry? Who else maintains an atmosphere with air for us to breath? No man can even come close to the surpassing greatness of our God, and yet too often we give our praise to earth bound people and things that will only perish.
Frankly, it is sin to give such honor to the created things – while failing to honor the Creator of all things. In the same way it is a slap in God’s face to sing the praises of ourselves, to boast in our accomplishments – as if we are the world’s greatest – all while failing to admit that all we have comes from Him.
As we hear this call to repent and return all glory to whom it belongs, we want to hear again the words of Isaiah from our first lesson, “The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice in what I will create.” (Is. 65:17-18) The greatest reason we praise the Lord is because of what he has done with all the former things – all the things corrupted by sin. With the greatest act of power, he sent his Son to be born of a virgin. This Son humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross – for us and for our sins! With a wondrous display of his surpassing greatness, God raised Jesus from the grave. He did all this to rescue fallen sinful mankind from our self-absorbed, self-centered wickedness. He did all this because his love for us is unsurpassed and unequalled. He did this so that you and I and all believers will one day live with him in his heavenly sanctuary. This, dear friends, is why we want to praise the Lord now and forever.
- With What shall we praise the Lord? (vs. 3-5)
So, what can we use to praise the Lord? These next 3 verses are pretty fun as they give us a picture of what an ancient orchestra or ensemble might have looked like and sounded like. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, (rams’ horn) praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine (hand drums) and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals! Imagine the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra taking their seats on stage at the Pabst Theater with all these instruments! Rams horns blowing, stringed instruments resonating, tambourines and drums resounding, flutes and all kinds of wind instruments soring, all accented by the clashing of cymbals. What an incredible sound – all tuned to give God the highest praise.
And even if you don’t own a ram’s horn or flute, even if you can’t play one single musical note on a kazoo, you can still join in praising the Lord, for as Paul wrote in Romans 12, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” With our whole lives, our energy, our skills, our time and abilities we tune them in each day to give praise to God for is mercy and grace!
- Who Shall Praise the Lord? (vs. 6)
And as we reach the last verse of this Psalm, we find the answer to our final question, “Who shall praise the Lord?” Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Everything that has breath… every bird, every animal, every creature great and small has the privilege and joy of singing God’s praises. It’s truly a magnificent sight and sound to behold – the greatest and grandest choir of all time! Perhaps, in just a small way, I and 2000 others plus those on livestream, got small foretaste of this last Sunday afternoon. 515 of our WELS teens gathered at Choral Fest in Fond du Lac, together with a 60-piece orchestra. At one point the director invited everyone to sing “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.” I wasn’t the only one in tears.
Friends, fellow Saints-Triumphant in Christ – we have such an incredibly blessed future ahead of us. We get to hear and participate in the grandest choir of all time. We get to sit have an eternal banquet prepared for us by Jesus himself. And until he comes again to take us to heaven, may we, with all that we have, continue to Praise the Lord. Amen.