Friday, October 18, 2019

Hallel Psalms: Songs of Praise

"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD" (Psalm 150:6).

The word Hallelujah in Hebrew means “Praise the LORD” or literally, “Praise YAH!” There are four groups of psalms that are called “Hallel Psalms” because they include the word Hallelujah (Psalms 104–106, 111–118, 135–136, 146–150). One group was sung at Passover (Psalms 111–118), and Jesus sang them with His disciples on the night He instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:30). The psalm we consider today, Psalm 150, is the climax of the last group of Hallel Psalms.

Verse 1 of Psalm 150 tells us where to praise God. We are to praise Him in His sanctuary and in His mighty heavens. “In His sanctuary” and “in His heavens” are parallel to one another. The tabernacle and temple were “cosmic models” which represented the world under the blue canopy of the sky. The world itself was designed as God’s temple, the place where all things would praise Him.

Verse 2 tells us for what we are to praise God. We praise Him both for His mighty deeds and for His greatness. We recount what He has done for us in the past, and we praise Him for His excellent attributes.

Verses 3–5 tell us how to praise God. The psalm commands that we praise Him with musical instruments, and lists eight of them in two groups of four. Between the two groups he tells us to praise God with dancing. He mentions both quiet and loud instruments, both melodic and percussive ones. It is clearly implied that these instruments accompany singing, particularly the singing of the Psalms. Thus, the proper way to praise God is with many noisy instruments and great enthusiasm.

Finally, verse 6 tells us who is to praise God. Everything that has breath is to praise Him. Human beings, as the captains of creation, are to lead in this praise, but they are not the only things that praise. Anything that “has breath,” which may mean in this context anything that gives off vibrations (sounds), is to be brought into the service of God’s praise by His human priests.

Worship, as defined by the Psalms, denotes exuberant praise. There is to be nothing lackluster regarding the participation of the congregation and its people individually or corporately. Those in worship leadership should invite such robust participation while providing excellence in choral and instrumental artistry. While worship styles may vary, these is one constant: God alone is our audience, and our heartfelt expressions of praise are to be directed to Him and for His pleasure.