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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 150

Verses 1-6

Psalms 150:1-6

Praise God in His sanctuary.


Its spirit is exultation. Is there gratitude in it? Yes, gratitude of the highest type and degree, and gratitude is an element of joy. Is there admiration in it? Yes, admiration of supreme excellence, and the mind admiring beauty, whether artistic or natural, physical or moral, is the mind in rapture. Is adoration in it? Yes, adoration of the most transcendent order, the adoration of ineffable excellence, and the mind adoring is the mind in ecstasy. Talk not of worship as a means to heaven, it is heaven itself.

Its reason is supreme. Praise God--

1. Because of His works.

(1) Creation.

(2) Redemption.

2. Because of His transcendent excellence.

Its obligation is universal. (David Thomas, D. D.)

The hallelujah chorus

Throughout the last five psalms we discover no wail of penitence, but a heightening tone of jubilant and adoring praise. The melody swells higher and louder until it reaches its climax in the “doxology” or “hallelujah chorus” of this psalm, where everything that breathes is summoned to join in the grand oratorio! It is a rigging finish to such a splendid collection of spiritual songs. Praise is the poetry of worship--the loftiest mood of the devout soul--the outflow of adoring affection--the rhythmic language of holy joy and loving gratitude.

Where the chorus is to be rendered (verse 1). The song and the sanctuary, the chorus and the cathedral, are admirably suited to each other.

Why (verse 2). For His “mighty acts” in daily life, according to the “excellent greatness” of His love as Father, compassion as Benefactor, power as Deliverer.

How (Psalms 150:3-5). “Whoever despises music,” says Luther, “I am displeased with him, Next to theology, I give a place to music, for thereby all anger is forgotten, the devil is driven away, melancholy, many tribulations, and evil thoughts are expelled. It is the solace of a desponding mind.”

By whom (verse 6). Here the psalmist reaches the climax in his exhortation; he has exhausted language; he can particularize no more; he rushes to the culmination; he demands a universal outburst of adoration; he calls upon all in whom the breath of life is to help swell the “hallelujah chorus!” O what a thrilling crash of melody! what a volume of perfect harmony, when animate and inanimate creation, with all creatures, rising rank upon rank, order above order, species above species, purged from corruption, delivered from all evil, and attuned to the euphony of the skies--when “everything that hath breath,” the consecrated breath Divine--“shall join in one harmonious song, and crown Him Lord of all!” (J. O. Keen, D. D.)

The evolution of praise:

Have you ever noticed the general advance which is presented in the Book of Psalms from the confessions, prayers, and conflicts of the earlier parts of the book to the truly sublime outburst of praise which, in the 150th Psalm, crowns the whole, and leaves us purely praising the Lord in an endless hallelujah? This advance, checked and broken at times, going back and standing still, and then pressing forward again, is a reflection of all Christian life, and is specially to be observed in the life of prayer.

1. As a general rule it is likely that the life of prayer finds its earliest expression in asking God for earthly gifts, deliverances, and helps. But some never pass far beyond this stage. I am in pain; I cry to God to relieve me. I want greatly to succeed at an examination, and I pray about it. My father or mother is ill, and I go to my own room, and, perhaps in a flood of tears, implore Him to make my loved one well. I have, later on, difficulties about money: I pray God to help me in some unexpected way. Definite petition for tangible earthly good is the first step in this “Jacob’s ladder” of prayer.

2. Time passes on, and brings the Strange experience of the soul’s awaking. The thought of spiritual realities surrounding us is borne in with vivid freshness on the heart. I learn that I have sinned, and that God is holy. Judgment to come is a real thing. I must live for ever, and where shall that eternity be passed? “Out of the depths I cry unto the Lord,” and I say, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” I ask a direct gift, but it is now no earthly blessing that I crave, but life for my sinful soul: “I am a sinner; save me, O Lord; Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Psalms 32:1-11; Psalms 51:1-19; Psalms 130:1-8.). This is a prayer for every stage. Were it not so, our Lord’s own Prayer would, after a time, in Christian experience, go out of date. Yet here, again, the fact is observed that, as we go forward, these petitions form a smaller proportion of our prayers. There are other things which, to a great extent, come to press more on the soul for utterance.

3. For, thirdly, comes the long period of conflict and of self-discipline, during which our greatest desire is for growth in grace; for the development, under the Holy Spirit’s direction and help, of the life of holiness. This noontide, as it may be called, of the Christian’s day is a time of self-cultivation, of imitation of Christ, of temptation, fall, and rising again; of Christian work; of growing knowledge and experience. “Teach me to do Thy will, O my God; show me the way in which I should walk.” And here, again, the Book of Psalms is a very storehouse of petitions. In the greater part of this book you find an almost endless variety of states of religious life and feeling.

4. Up to this stage prayer for our own selves, our body, soul, and spirit, has filled up most of our interest. But now, as love and sympathy grow--direct results of the grace which has been given through those earlier stages of prayer--we begin to find a habit of intercession developing within us. The family is the limit of our first real intercession. But the circle soon widens. It widens when we come to love our Sunday scholars, our school companions, our near neighbours, our colleagues in work. It widens much when, with a glow of real interest, we first bear before God the names of our enemies. “Father, forgive them: this is intercession indeed. Nothing grows more rapidly than this habit of spiritual intercession; nothing brings us nearer to Christ.

5. And yet, even at this more advanced stage of the life of prayer, the Christian soul, as it rises, must not stand still. As the eternal kingdom is neared, there are heard faint echoes from the heavenly choir, and their song is all a song of praise. The course of prayer has been like the course of the Psalter, and the Psalter ends with hallelujah! “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord!” (Archdeacon Wynne.)

A psalm study

Psalms 150:1-6 is a Jewish hymn of praise; but it would not be out of place to describe it as the Psalm of Prepositions, seeing it is only by marking those words that we light on the progression of thought.

The sphere of praise. “In His sanctuary,” etc.

1. Saints on earth.

2. Angels in heaven.

The reason. “For His mighty deeds.” The cross of love will become all the more marvellous if it be viewed as the central picture of a universal spectacle. What a new incentive to praise when the universe of the scientist, that staggers us by its vastness and startles us by its awfulness, is recognized as the sphere also of Divine love; and when the Cross is interpreted as focussing eternal power in its tenderness and pity.

The measure and quality. “According to His excellent greatness.” Our praise, to be worthy and acceptable, must be dominated by a due sense of God’s character.

The use of instruments. Any musician, apart altogether from questions of moral qualifications and religious fitness, can “play”: only a worshipper can “praise.” Whether, then, the instrument be an organ or a harp, a violin or a trumpet, it must become a medium between the soul and God.

The inclusion of all. “Let every breath you breathe praise the Lord.” Thus rendered, it is not an extensive appeal addressed to the universe, including birds, animals, insects, fish; so much as an intensive appeal addressed to the audience already in mind. The thought is climatic. Breathing, with its double function, is to become symbolic of prayer and praise. By every inspiration we are to take in more than breath, viz. the oxygenized air of the Divine presence; and by every expiration we are to give out more than breath, viz. the thought and feeling of the very soul. A worshipper may say when thinking of the service of praise and his own limitations, “I cannot sing, nor can I play, and speech is inadmissible.” “Granted,” replies the psalmist, “but you can breathe: let that exercise become a medium between you and God. If the vocal and the instrumental be denied you, the inspirational is not.” (H. Elderkin.)

The duty of praising God

The motives.

1. Creation.

2. Preservation.

3. Redemption.

With what heart and mind we are to perform this service. He that singeth hymns, and psalms, and spiritual songs must make melody in his heart unto the Lord; he must hold faith and a good conscience; he must also have a mind superior to the world and its low enjoyments and cares; for that soul which is chained down to the earth, no praises, no, not the finest harmony in the world, can lift up into heaven.

The blessed and salutary effects.

1. The first and immediate effect is, that it serves abundantly to confirm our strength and confidence in God; it fixes the heart upon the contemplation of Him who is the object of our praise, awakens in us a devout attention to heavenly things, increases the powers of the mind, and leaves it serene and pacified in a manner that cannot be expressed.

2. Another effect of it is the same with that which the hosannas of the children produced, who sung and celebrated our Lord when He appeared in the temple at Jerusalem; their hosannas to the Son of David silenced the adversary.

3. The last and most blessed effect of all others which our giving praises to God in this world will have upon us, is, that it will entitle us to praise Him for ever in the next; and nothing but beginning to do it here will make us capable of it hereafter. (W. Jones, M. A.)

Verses 3-5

Psalms 150:3-5

Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet.

Musical instruments in worship

1. Albeit the typical ceremonies of musical instruments in God’s public worship, belonging to the pedagogy of the Church, in her minority before Christ, be now abolished with the rest of the ceremonies, yet the moral duties shadowed forth by them are still to be studied, because this duty of praising God, and praising Him with all our mind, strength and soul is moral, whereunto we are perpetually obliged.

2. The variety of musical instruments, some of them made use of in the camp, as trumpets; some of them more suitable to a peaceable condition, as psalteries and harps; some of them sounding by blowing wind in them; some of them sounding by lighter touching of them, as stringed instruments; some of them by beating on them more sharply, as tabrets, drums and cymbals; some of them sounding by touching and blowing also, as organs: all of them giving some certain sound, some more quiet, and some making more noise; some of them having a harmony by themselves; some of them making a consort with other instruments, or with the motions of the body in dancings, some of them serving for one use, some of them serving for another, and all of them serving to set forth God’s glory, and to shadow forth the duty of worshippers and the privileges of the saints. The plurality and variety, I say, of these instruments, were fit to represent divers conditions of the spiritual man, and of the greatness of the joy to be found in God, and to teach what stirring up should be of the affections and powers of our soul, and one of another, unto God’s worship; what harmony should be amongst worshippers of God, what melody each should mike in himself, singing to God with grace in his heart, and to show the excellency of God’s praise, which no means nor instrument, nor any expression of the body joined thereto, could sufficiently set forth; and thus much is figured forth in these exhortations to praise God with trumpet, etc. (D. Dickson.)

Office of music in Divine service

Thanksgiving, a consciousness of the goodness and glory of God, the soul’s joy in God--how seldom do you find an utterance of this in the prayers of the sanctuary. There is a provision, even in our churches, for the excitation and expression of praise. It is the song-service of the church. But the first and most fatal difficulty in this is that we have no religious music; or, rather, that the music of the church is for the sake of music, and not for the sake of praise, it expresses the aesthetic or art-feeling about praise--not heart-feeling. It is aimed at a wholly different thing from that which music was designed to be in the sanctuary. In the household, music aims at a domestic feeling. A mother’s lullaby is sung in the family. No one Would expect a mother to sit by the side of the cradle and attempt to sing Handel’s “Messiah,” or to execute the difficult passages of an opera. Something sweet--a simple carol--is the mother’s song. The child knows it, and feels it. It is aimed at a domestic effect. In songs of patriotism that express and excite that feeling the music becomes subordinate. The most patriotic tunes in vogue have no merit as tunes, but they possess a subtle element that stirs up a patriotic feeling in the heart, and it therefore answers the end of music. Multitudes of tunes in the church of God are hewn out of symphonies, and oratorios, and operas. They are music as operas, and oratorios, and symphonies, but they are trash in God’s house. In many cases the better a tune is, the worse it is in the service of the sanctuary. For the office of music in Divine service is praising. (H. W. Beecher.)

Verse 6

Psalms 150:6

Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.

The breath of praise

Praise in every age is one of the most important parts of worship. The holiest saint, what is he in the sight of God by nature? A poor sinner, born, no doubt, again of the Spirit, made a new creature by the Holy Ghost. But what does he owe it to? He owes it all to the free grace of God. “By the grace of God,” said the great apostle of the Gentiles, “I am what I am.” And ought not this creature, delivered from such a miserable state of death and condemnation, redeemed and renewed to cultivate continually the thankful spirit? Let him pray by all means; but let him also praise.

There is no part of Christian worship that so tends to unite Christians, if they really take it up in spirit and unity, as praise. Men who cannot agree on the platform agree when they come to sing praise.

There is no part of worship which so trains and fits us for heaven as does the service of praise. In that world there will be no more need of prayer, for all will be supplied; no more need for sacraments, for we shall sit face to face with Him who shed His own blood for us, gave His own body for us; no more need to search diligently for the things written for our learning. They will be swallowed up in sight, and will be absorbed in certainty. Praise will be the one grand employment of the inhabitants of heaven. (Bp. Ryle.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 150". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.