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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Psalm 148 – God’s People Love Universal Praise

How are God’s people described in this psalm? They are those who are near to God (v. 14). In one sense, this description points to their proximity to him in contrast to those who are far from him because of their sinful lives. Believers today have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ and have access to his presence.

The concept of nearness also indicates how precious they are in God’s sight. A person usually puts their valuables in a safe place. The safest place possible is the presence of God. Paul reminds us that our lives are hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). In his presence God places those who are precious to him because of the price paid for their redemption.

Connected to the thought of their preciousness is the amazing fact that they, although sinners, give pleasure to God. Because they have been redeemed by the Son and renewed by the Spirit they can live holy, devoted lives that delight their heavenly Father. Even when they confess their sins they bring delight to him because they are magnifying his salvation.

So our proximity to his presence, our preciousness in his sight and the delight we bring together indicate the blessing of being brought near to God. The response by those who have this blessing is to call on everything to praise him.

We can see from the psalm that almost everything in the universe is called on to praise God. The psalmist begins by calling on the residents of heaven to declare his greatness (vv. 1-2). Given that this form of praise is continuous, we are not to imagine the psalmist as asking them here to commence praising. Instead he is urging them to continue doing so, not because he imagines that they are about to stop, but because he realises that the Lord is worthy of continuous praise. I suppose we can say that the psalmist himself has been enjoying their praise of his God now for centuries in heaven. But we on earth should have the same longing as he had, that the residents in heaven would continue to praise their God.

The psalmist then calls on the planets and stars to praise God (vv. 3-6). Perhaps he is refuting idolatry because pagans often worshipped those planets and stars. Instead of being worshipped they actually worship. But in what ways do they worship because they cannot think about God or sing to him. They demonstrate praise by fulfilling the function of their creation, which is to provide a suitable place where his intelligent creatures can worship him.

Then the psalmist calls on creatures of the sea, land and air to worship God (vv. 7-10). He links with them phenomena that occur in connection to the weather as well as vegetation and fruit. I suspect the point that the psalmist is making is that all of life, no matter where it is or what is happening, is under the control of God. It looks as if he had read the chapters in the Book of Job in which the Lord takes his servant on a tour of creation and shows to him how everything is fulfilling the purpose designed for it.

The fourth set that the psalmist addresses is every person living on the earth, whatever their status and age. It looks as the psalmist had grasped the fact that they could do so, which means he was not a racist. Nor did he want to limit the praise to those who were his social equals. He did not believe in a gender divide either, nor was there to be a generation gap. Is the psalmist indicating that the best way to remove those barriers is to praise God together?

There is a hint here of the evangelistic calling of God’s people to be a light to the nations. Israel had been called to do so, but had failed. Instead they used God’s grace to them as a reason for keeping away from the nations. It is possible for us to do the same. Yet we should want as many as possible to praise our great God.

We can almost imagine this psalm being sung in Eden by Adam and Eve. The psalmist almost describes paradise. Yet we should not think that he is merely looking back to what we lost. In addition, we should see him as looking ahead to the new heavens and new earth when creation will be restored by the King raised up by God to bring great blessings to his people (v. 14).

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