Good morning! We have been in the Psalms for nearly a month, but we finish the book today with Psalms 144-150, almost all dedicated to unabashed praise of God. It is as though a champagne cork has been popped, and an effervescent flow of praise bubbles out through creation and human society.
Psalm 144 start us off with a reminder of human limitations and an appeal for God’s preservation in the presence of peril. Beautiful lines in verses 12-15 call out desires for divine blessing on the community and/or nation. These particularly resonate with me during this time of grave national unrest. Psalm 145’s declaration of God in verse 8 as “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” should sound familiar to us by now. This phrasing is sprinkled throughout the Psalms and elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. I’m glad for the “stickiness” of these character traits for God, for the ways they show up throughout Scripture. They help characterize the God of the Bible in more positive, life-giving ways than other depictions of a vindictive or partisan God.
Our next two chapters focus on God’s merciful acts among humanity. The body of Psalm 146 praises all God’s merciful acts: creating a world of abundance and harmony, bringing justice for the oppressed, feeding the hungry, freeing prisoners, giving sight to the blind, elevating the humble, caring for strangers, orphans and widows. The same themes occur in Psalm 147, with the added specificity of God’s blessings in Jerusalem, and with further description of God’s action among the elements in creation.
Psalm 148 picks up that last theme in spades. I absolutely love this hymn of uncorked praise from all corners of creation. It calls to mind fireworks, each part of the world praising God in turn, continuously more abundant and impressive everywhere one looks. Beauty and splendor gives glory to God throughout every part of creation, from wild and domestic animals, and finally near the end, from human beings great and small. Hymn settings of these verses spring to mind—the psalm calls out to be sung or shouted in praise.
In contrast to Psalm 148 (which calls for humanity’s praise only at the end), Psalms 149 and 150 focus especially on people and our praise of God. Both poems rely especially on references to musical instruments. Imagine the world’s largest orchestra and band, making a great cacophony of noisy praise to God. Such is the impression left by Psalm 150, a “megadoxology” according to one writer, when it concludes “let everything that breathes” praise God. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Proverbs 1-3. Thanks for reading!