PSALM 148 OVERVIEW.
The song is one and indivisible. It seems almost impossible to expound it in detail, for a living poem is not to be dissected verse by verse. It is a song of nature and of grace. As a flash of lightning flames through space, and enwraps both heaven and earth in one vestment of glory, so doth the adoration of the Lord in this Psalm light up all the universe, and cause it to glow with a radiance of praise. The song begins in the heavens, sweeps downward to dragons and all deeps, and then ascends again, till the people near unto Jehovah take up the strain. For its exposition the chief requisite is a heart on fire with reverent love to the Lord over all, who is to be blessed for ever.
Verse 1. Praise ye the LORD. Whoever ye may be that hear this word, ye are invited, entreated, commanded, to magnify Jehovah. Assuredly he has made you, and, if for nothing else, ye are bound, upon the ground of creatureship, to adore your Maker. This exhortation can never be out of place, speak it where we may; and never out of time, speak it when we may.
Praise ye the LORD from the heavens. Since ye are nearest to the High and Lofty One, be ye sure to lead the song. Ye angels, ye cherubim and seraphim, and all others who dwell in the precincts of his courts, praise ye Jehovah. Do this as from a starting point from which the praise is to pass on to other realms. Keep not your worship to yourselves, but let it fall like a golden shower from the heavens on men beneath.
Praise him in the heights. This is no vain repetition; but after the manner of attractive poesy the truth is emphasized by reiteration in other words. Moreover, God is not only to be praised from the heights, but in them: the adoration is to be perfected in the heavens from which it takes its rise. No place is too high for the praises of the most High. On the summit of creation the glory of the Lord is to be revealed, even as the tops of the highest Alps are tipped with the golden light of the same sun which glads the valleys. Heavens and heights become the higher and the more heavenly as they are made to resound with the praises of Jehovah. See how the Psalmist trumpets out the word "PRAISE." It sounds forth some nine times in the first five verses of this song. Like minute-guns, exultant exhortations are sounded forth in tremendous force -- Praise! Praise! Praise! The drum of the great King beats round the world with this one note -- Praise! Praise! Praise! "Again they said, Hallelujah." All this praise is distinctly and personally for Jehovah. Praise not his servants nor his works; but praise HIM. Is he not worthy of all possible praise? Pour it forth before HIM in full volume; pour it only there!
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Psalms 148:1-150:6 . The last three Psalms are a triad of wondrous praise, ascending from praise to higher raise until it becomes "joy unspeakable and full of glory" -- exultation which knows no bounds. The joy overflows the soul, and spreads throughout the universe; every creature is magnetized by it, and drawn into the chorus. Heaven is full of praise, the earth is full of praise, praises rise from under the earth, "everything that hath breath" joins in the rapture. God is encompassed by a loving, praising creation. Man, the last in creation, but the first in song, knows not how to contain himself. He dances, he sings, he commands all the heavens, with all their angels, to help him, "beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying fowl" must do likewise, even "dragons" must not be silent, and "all deeps" must yield contributions. He presses even dead things into his service, timbrels, trumpets, harps, organs, cymbals, high sounding cymbals, if by any means, and by all means, he may give utterance to his love and joy. -- John Pulsford.
Whole Psalm. In this splendid anthem the Psalmist calls upon the whole creation, in its two great divisions (according to the Hebrew conception) of heaven and earth, to praise Jehovah: things with and things without life, beings rational and irrational, are summoned to join the mighty chorus. This Psalm is the expression of the loftiest devotion, and it embraces at the same time the most comprehensive view of the relation of the creature to the Creator. Whether it is exclusively the utterance of a heart filled to the full with the thought of the infinite majesty of God, or whether it is also an anticipation, a prophetic forecast, of the final glory of creation, when at the manifestation of the sons of God, the creation itself also shall be redeemed from the bondage of corruption ( Romans 8:18-23 ), and the homage of praise shall indeed be rendered by all things that are in heaven and earth and under the earth, is a question into which we need not enter. --J.J. Stewart Perowne.
Whole Psalm. Milton, in his Paradise Lost (Book 5, line 153, & c.), has elegantly imitated this Psalm, and put it into the mouth of Adam and Eve as their morning hymn in a state of innocency. --James Anderson.
Whole Psalm. Is this universal praise never to be realized? is it only the longing, intense desire of the Psalmist's heart, which will never be heard on earth, and can only be perfected in heaven? Is there to be no jubilee in which the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands? If there is to be no such day, then is the word of God of none effect; if no such universal anthem is to swell the chorus of heaven and to be reechoed by all that is on earth, then is God's promise void. It is true, in this Psalm our translation presents it to us as a call or summons for every thing that hath or hath not breath to praise the Lord -- or as a petition that they may praise; but it is in reality a prediction that they shall praise. This Psalm is neither more nor less than a glorious prophecy of that coming day, when not only shall the knowledge of the Lord be spread over the whole earth, as the waters cover the sea, but from every created object in heaven and in earth, animate and inanimate, from the highest archangel through every grade and phase of being, down to the tiniest atom -- young men and maidens, old men and children, and all kings and princes, and judges of the earth shall unite in this millennial, anthem to the Redeemer's praise. --Barton Bouchier.
Verse 1. Praise ye the Lord, etc. All things praise, and yet he says, "Praise ye." Wherefore doth he say, "Praise ye", when they are praising? Because he delighteth in their praising, and therefore it pleaseth him to add, as it were, his own encouragement. Just as, when you come to men who are doing any good work with pleasure in their vineyard or in their harvest field, or in some other matter of husbandry, you are pleased at what they are doing, and say, "Work on", "Go on"; not that they may begin to work, when you say this, but, because you are pleased at finding them working, you add your approbation and encouragement. For by saying, "Work on", and encouraging those who are working, you, so to speak, work with them in wish. In this sort of encouragement, then, the Psalmist, filled with the Holy Ghost, saith this. -- Augustine.
Verse 1. The thrice repeated exhortation, "Praise ... Praise ...Praise", in this first verse is not merely imperative, nor only hortative, but it is an exultant hallelujah. --Martin Geier.
Verse 1. From the heavens: praise him in the heights. Or, high places. As God in framing the world begun above, and wrought downward, so doth the Psalmist proceed in this his exhortation to all creatures to praise the Lord. --John Trapp.
Verse 1. Praise him in the heights. The principle applied in this verse is this, that those who have been exalted to the highest honours of the created universe, should proportionately excel in their tribute of honour to him who has exalted them. --Hermann Venema.
Verse 1. Bernard, in his sermon on the death of his brother Gerard, relates that in the middle of his last night on earth his brother, to the astonishment of all present, with a voice and countenance of exultation, broke forth in the words of the Psalmist Praise the Lord of heaven, praise him in the heights!
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- What is implied in the invitation to the natural creation to praise God.
- That praise is due to God on its account.
- That it is due from those for whose benefit it was created.
- That it is a reproof to those who do not praise God who are actually capable of it. "If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out."
- What is implied in the invitation to innocent beings to praise God. "Praise ye the Lord from the heavens. Praise ye him all his angels, praise ye him all his hosts": Psalms 148:1-2 .
- That they owe their creation in innocence to God.
- That they owe their preservation in innocence to him.
- That they owe the reward of their innocence to him.
- What is implied in the invitation to fallen beings to praise God: "Kings of the earth and all people", etc.: Psalms 148:11-13 .
- That God is merciful and ready to forgive. "Not willing that any should perish", etc. They would not be called upon to praise God if they were irrecoverably lost. Our Lord would not when on earth accept praise from an evil spirit.
- That means of restoration from the fall are provided by God for men. Without this they would have no hope, and could offer no praise.
- What is implied in the invitation to the redeemed to praise God: Psalms 148:14 .
- That God is their God.
- That all his perfections are engaged for their present and eternal welfare. -- G.R.
Verse 1. Praise ye the Lord.
- The Voice -- of Scripture, of nature, of grace, of duty.
- The Ear on which it rightly falls -- of saints and sinners, old and young, healthy and sick. It falls on our ear.
- The Time when it is heard. Now, ever, yet also at special times.
- The Response which we will give. Let us now praise with heart, life, lip.
Verse 1. (second and third clauses).
- The character of the praises of heaven.
- How far they influence us who are here below.
- The hope which we have of uniting in them.