Songs of Greatness is a sermon series on the greatness of God from the Psalms. Hallelujah! — Everyone everywhere is called to join the choir of creation in praise of God. Worship is offering everything you have, as a living sacrifice, in response to the glory of God. Recorded on Sep 5, 2021, on Psalm 150, by Pastor David Parks.
All year, we’re focusing on The Greatness of God. And today we’re going to finish a sermon series from the Psalms in the Bible called, Songs of Greatness. And we’ve said that the psalms cover the whole range of human emotion/experience. Whatever you’re going through, the Psalms can be helpful for you. But a number of the psalms are all about the greatness of God, which is why we included this series with our annual theme. This series started back in July with Psalms 1-2 and today, we’re finishing our series with Psalm 150, which is the end of the book of Psalms, so we’ve covered a range of Scripture and themes over the last few months. We’ve seen that God is great. That God is glorious and eternal and almighty and wholly independent, he does not need anything from us. But at the same time, he inexplicably cares for us and is steadfast in his love and faithfulness to us and uses his greatness not to oppress us or to work against us, but to reach down and lift up the poor and those who are in need. He comes down to lift us up. God is great and God is good. So here, in Ps 150, we have a fitting end, focused on worship. This psalm begins and ends with a hallelujah or the phrase, “Praise the Lord,” and is really a call for every person, in fact, every living thing, to add their voice in a song of praise to God. And this is what life is all about. Please open your Bible/app to Psalm 150, starting with v. 1. We’re going to read all the way through this psalm, and then we’ll work through this in three parts, and actually, we’re going to take them in reverse order: 1. The Call to Sing 2. The Way We Sing 3. The Reason We Sing.
Psalm 150 (NIV), “Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. 2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. 3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, 4 praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, 5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. 6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.”
1. The Call to Sing:
As promised, we’re going to unpack this psalm in reverse order. So once again, v. 6, and let’s read this together, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.” Let everything that has breath, that is let every living thing. Let every fish in the sea (small and great), let every bird in the sky, let every one of the livestock and all the wild animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground. And let every human being, every man, woman, and child. Let every nation, tribe, people, and language. Let every one in every time and place. Let everything that has breath…do what? Praise. Praise who? Praise God! Oh, but not just any god. Not the god in your mind or imagination. Not a god of our own creation. But Yahweh God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of history, the God of the Bible. Remember when Lord is in all caps in the Bible, it doesn’t translate a generic title of Lord from the original Hebrew language, but rather the personal name of the God. Yahweh God. This God. We are to praise this God. Praise him! Hallelujah! This is the call to sing. Use your breath. Use your life. Join the chorus and sing!
And we’ve seen this call/invitation to worship/praise before in our series. But the call to sing crescendos as we get closer to the end of the book of Psalms. The last five psalms in the book all begin and end with this phrase, “hallelujah,” or, “Praise the Lord.” It’s like the song of creation gets louder and louder as time goes on, as history unfolds. And I’m sure that was intentional on the part of those who edited and arranged the book of Psalms. The call to sing a song of praise to God is a universal call, no one needs to be left out. Let everything that has breath. But it’s also an evangelistic call. It’s an invitation. Not everyone is singing, but everyone is invited. It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from or what you’ve done or what’s been done to you, all are welcome here. It doesn’t matter how righteous you are or how religious you’ve been, everyone can join the chorus. This is the call to sing.
2. The Way We Sing:
How do we sing? Some of you are thinking, “There’s no way God wants me in the choir. I can’t sing well if my life depended on it!” Well, fear not. The call to sing isn’t dependent on your ability to carry a tune. So how do we join this universal chorus of praise to God? I have two observations to make about the way we sing. First, let’s look back at vv. 3-5. Psalm 150:3-5, “Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.” According to Ps 150, the way we sing is with anything we’ve got in our lives. If you can’t carry a tune, you might be able to play the trumpet. If you can’t do that, you might be able to hit the cymbals. If you can’t do that, you might be able to dance. And if you can’t do that, I guarantee you can do something! The list of instruments in Ps 150 pretty much covers all the available instruments of their day. We have wind instruments, stringed instruments, and rhythmic instruments. Now, several commentators have observed that after the time of King David, when many regulations/provisions were made for the corporate worship of the people of ancient Israel, the “trumpets were played by priests; harps, lyres, and cymbals by the Levites; and the other instruments (timbrel/tambourine, strings, and pipes) by lay people.” So it wasn’t just the professionals in ancient Israel who were responsible for performing songs of worship for the congregation of Israel to watch and appreciate. It was just the ones on stage/platform doing everything. The priests and Levites of ancient Israel were like the worship leaders of our day. They were responsible for leading the people in worship so that everyone could participate. This is why we value congregational singing to this day. Again, the call to sing isn’t only a call for the professionals. It’s a call for the whole church.
Now, I have to share a story about this, since the timbrel or tambourine comes up in this Psalm. Years ago, Holly and I were invited to go to a worship conference that was run by a very charismatic denomination. And we really hadn’t experienced anything like that before. We were in a big arena and when the band started playing on stage, there were people that had brought their own tambourines from home who started shaking their tambourines along with the band. And there were people with streamers waving them back and forth. And there were people dancing. And one thing that startled us the most, was a sweet old man who was sitting behind us pulled out a trumpet and started playing the trumpet along with the worship music right behind our heads. It was like nothing we had experienced growing up in the church. But our church was much less emotionally expressive than this conference. Now, there were parts of that experience that were distracting, like a trumpet playing behind your head. Some of it took the focus off of God and put the focus on the worshippers instead, which isn’t good. However, I have to admit, that that experience is much closer to what Psalm 150 is describing than the much more reserved, Scandinavian tradition of worship that we had experienced in the past. I think the body of Christ needs our charismatic brothers and sisters to show us how to connect our joyful emotional expression to our song of praise. And at the same time, the body of Christ needs our reformed brothers and sisters to show us how to connect the deep truths of Scripture and the doctrines of grace to our song of praise, as well. We need the head and the heart involved.
And that leads me to my second observation on the way we sing: the reality is that the language of music and singing is really an analogy for all of life. Why? Because worship isn’t only restricted to music. I know that it’s common to talk about the musical portion of a worship service as the worship. But this isn’t fully accurate. Musical expression can be a wonderful way to praise the Lord. But maybe some of you not only can’t carry a tune but really shouldn’t be given a tambourine either, much less a trumpet. That’s totally ok. Because the call to sing fundamentally is a call to offer all of your life to God in worship. Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” The Apostle Paul is using the language of OT worship here but is applying it in a new way to the lives of the believers. Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. Normally, sacrifices made in temple worship were dead sacrifices. Animals were killed to represent the punishment that sin deserved and the blood of a sacrifice that was needed to atone for that sin. But after Jesus, that all changed. After the sacrifice of Jesus, in His death on the cross for the sins of the world, and his resurrection from the dead, no other sacrifices were needed. All the sacrifices before Jesus simply pointed toward the need for a perfect sacrifice. But once Jesus died on the cross, all that came to an end. So Paul says, because of Jesus, in view of God’s mercy, we can offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is our true and proper worship.
For Paul, and for all the authors of the Bible, worship wasn’t just music. It included our music/song, but it was so much more than that as well. Worship was supposed to include the whole of our lives, including our bodies/relationships/money/work/time/everything. We saw this weeks ago in Ps 29 in the phrase, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name.” Worship is ascribing or giving God the glory due his name. So where do we praise the Lord? The answer is everywhere, in all of life — not just in church, not just during a worship service. And when do we praise the Lord? All the time, not just on Sundays, not just during the musical portion of our service. And what are we doing? Honoring/thanking/seeing and celebrating the all-surpassing glory/beauty of God. So the way that we sing includes the sum-total of our lives. We sing in praise of God by singing. But also by working in a way that honors God. And handling our money or our sexuality in a way that honors God. And stewarding our time or our money in a way that honors God. These are ways that we sing as well. So first we had the call to sing. Second, we saw that the way that we sing is actually far greater and more multi-faceted than many people think. It’s so broad that it encompasses all of life, a life lived in response to the glory of God. Finally…
3. The Reason We Sing:
And we’re back to the beginning of Psalm 150. Psalm 150:1-2, “Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.” So, again, the psalmist starts and ends this psalm with a hallelujah or praise the Lord, saying, “Praise God in his sanctuary.” What does that mean? The word sanctuary is kind of a church word, although, we use the word to mean a place of refuge or safety, a sanctuary. But does God need a refuge or a place of safety? Is God in any sort of danger? No! God is a refuge. God is our help and our shield as we saw last week. The original word for sanctuary meant something holy or set apart. Praise God in his sanctuary, his holy or sacred place. Praise him in his mighty heavens or in the strength of his heavens. So we are to praise God for who he is: that God is holy and almighty. But we are also to praise God for what he has done. V. 2 says to praise God for his acts of power. His work in creation and salvation and new creation. Now, we will focus more on this next week as we start a new sermon series called When God is Big… so we won’t spend much time on this here other than to say that the reason for our worship of God is God. We are called to sing and we use everything in our lives to sing because of who God is and what he has done. Our worship of God is first and foremost about God, it is not first and foremost about us. Of course, we benefit from true worship. We are blessed and even transformed by true worship. “We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” But the song of our lives is first and foremost about/because/for/to God. God is the reason we sing.
So Psalm 150 is a fitting end to the songbook of the Bible. It’s a call to sing. It shows us the many ways that we can sing. And it reminds us yet again of the wonderful God-directed reasons that we sing. But for us today, as followers of Jesus, in light of everything that God has done through his Son, Jesus. Where better do we see his acts of power and his surpassing greatness than in the work of the Son of God to rescue and redeem the lost. For Jesus, he offered his very life to honor/glorify his Father in heaven. The cross was his act of worship as much as it was his act of salvation. So in view of God’s mercy, especially in the gospel of Jesus Christ, would you offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, would you sing this song with the whole of your lives in worship to our God? Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Hallelujah!