The Psalms are among the best-known and most-read sections of Scripture. In the Psalms, we are given testimonies of praise, lament, repentance, and worship. We are given a preview of who the Messiah will be, and how his salvation will reach throughout the world.
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How Do the Psalms Bring God Praise?
God is glorified in the praises of His people, and the Psalms have been a blueprint for His praise for the last several thousand years. The word Psalm is simply a translation of the Hebrew word meaning, ‘song’. Throughout the centuries, many songs have been written based on the soaring language found in the Psalms, and the music and melody of the words themselves draw us toward God and the beauty of his creation. The Psalms remind us of his deep love for us (Psalm 36:5) and his glorious majesty that existed before time and will continue forever (Psalm 102:12).
Jesus referenced the Psalms throughout his ministry on earth, and several psalms point directly to him and his ministry. Even on the cross, in anguish he cries out the words of Psalm22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus quotes Psalm 110 as a reference to his messianic mission, pointing out that while he is a descendant of David, David also refers to the Messiah as ‘my Lord’.
More Than Music
While it is true that the Psalms were originally written to musical accompaniment, we no longer know exactly what that music would have sounded like. The lyrics have survived as divine Scripture, but not the musical notations. It can be argued that God allowed this to happen: while musical concepts come and go, the timeless words of inspired praise are applicable and reliable for every generation.
These seven Psalms in particular express fervent praise and honor for God, making them worthy of our regular reading.
1. Psalm 145
“My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” - Psalm 145:19
Depending on your Bible, you may have noticed that many Psalms have an introduction, such as “A Psalm of David”, “for the director of music”, and so on. Although praises are found throughout each of the Psalms, Psalm 145 is the only one introduced and specifically designated as, “a psalm of praise”, and a song of praises it is indeed!
Psalm 145 is a powerful symphony of praise and testimony. It is a cry of joy, proclaiming God’s kindness, righteousness, faithfulness, majesty, glory, and love. This Psalm comes from the heart of one who is in complete awe of God, and the admiration and praise is contagious.
Verse 4 says, “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts”. There is a beauty in knowing that we are not the first generation to sing God’s praise, but we know and sing his praises because of generations that came before us, faithfully proclaiming the Lord. We seek to be that same kind of generation, who can say to God that we “speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty”, who “tell of the power of your awesome works”, “proclaim your great deeds”, “celebrate your abundant goodness”, and joyfully sing of your righteousness”.
2. Psalm 146
“I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” – Psalm 146:2
This Psalm seems to flow directly out of Psalm 145, as its opening admonition to praise continues where 145 ends, with David’s call to “let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever”. In verses 7 and 8, there is a prophetic attribute setting the stage for the ministry of Jesus, “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous.”
As in many of the other Psalms, 146 reminds us that the God who we trust is the God who is the “Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— he remains faithful forever”. Our God is not a trend, not a neat idea, and not a crutch for weak people. He is the Almighty maker and sustainer of all things. We trust him and praise him for his faithfulness even when we are unfaithful. Psalm 146 inspires us to praise and honor a God who is more than worthy of our praise.
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3. Psalm 40
“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.” – Psalm 40:3
Psalm 40 begins with a proclamation of faith and trust, “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry”. How many times have we all wondered if God is really there? If God really hears our cries for help? Psalm 40 reminds us he is there and he does hear. Verse 2 continues, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”
We are reminded in Psalm 40 that not only does he hear us, he cares for us individually and will act in his time and according to his will. Knowing that the all-powerful, universe-creating God of Psalm 8 cares for each of us, hears our cries, and pulls us up out of the pit inspires us to sing and praise. We see this response in verse 3, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”
4. Psalm 8
“LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” - Psalm 8:9
Psalm 8 holds a special place in the hearts of many believers, as it asks a question we have all likely asked; why does an almighty God even care for us? Verses 3 and 4 state this beautifully, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”. It is a reminder of the wonderful truth that we are sinful and fallen, yet each of us is created in the image of God, and as his creation bearing his image, he cares deeply for each and every one of us. It is humbling and draws us into worship and praise.
Verse 2 makes the amazing statement that “through the praise of children and infants” God has, “established a stronghold against” our enemies. This calls to mind the image of Jesus accepting the children unto himself, and teaching us that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those of us who approach him as children.
This Psalm opens and ends with the same refrain, “LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” As we face the storms of life, we remember his endless love and majesty.
5. Psalm 65
“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.” – Psalm 65:8
Psalm 65 is a Psalm of praise for creation. God cares not just for us, but for the earth. He is the God who created the mountains, the roaring seas, the meadows, and the flocks that graze upon them. Verse 8 proclaims, “The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy”. The simple act of looking out our window at the creation of God and the balance of nature should create in us a heart of praise and songs of joy.
Our God is not absent or inattentive to our lives, but he is the God who answers us, “with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas." He is the God who provides our needs and shows it every day through his care of creation.
6. Psalm 98
“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;” – Psalm 98:4
Psalm 65 tells us of the glories of creation, and in Psalm 98 we see creation responding in praise! When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he said that if we did not praise him, the very rocks would cry out in praise. These words of Jesus are an echo of what we read in Psalm 98. We are given just such a picture of all creation praising its maker, shouting forth in jubilant song: “Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy”.
Verses 2 and 3 of this Psalm remind us that even when life seems unfair, “The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God”.
Our God is eternal and faithful to his promise to bring us salvation. In response, the entire earth gives him praise.
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7. Psalm 150
“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD”. – Psalm 150:6
It is fitting that the final chapter in Psalms should finish this list. This Psalm is the favorite of many worship leaders and musicians in general. The word praise is repeated 13 times in these 6 verses and speaks to our passionate celebration and praise to God. We praise the Lord for his holiness, and praise him, “in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens” (150:1).
While the Psalms span our expression of praise from quiet laments to loud celebrations, this Psalm stands out as perhaps the loudest and most celebratory! Psalm 150 leaves little doubt that loud instruments have been an important part of worship throughout the history of God’s people:
“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. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”
While some of these instruments are familiar to us, others are not. The lyre was a stringed instrument, with characteristics of a harp or guitar, and the timbrel was similar to a tambourine. These instruments are combined with trumpets, pipes, cymbals, and even dancing, giving us a picture of loud, vibrant praise. The Psalm then culminates with the greatest instrument of all, the human voice, lifted up in praise and honor to our God.
Let These Psalms Fill Your Days with Praise and Encouragement
The words of the Psalms have drawn us close to God for centuries, and we continue to find peace, solace, joy, and hope in these sacred songs. There are many more wonderful expressions of praise to be found in the Psalms, and this is just a glance at the treasures that are to be found. As we seek to praise God with our songs of praise, and with all of our lives, let us call to mind the words of these Psalms. Commit to reading one or more of them daily. Take time to memorize them. Read them to your children and hide them in your heart. These words which have inspired praise for generations will continue to do so for generations to come.
Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and author of A Journey to Bethlehem: Inspiring Thoughts for Christmas and Hope for the New Year. He serves as worship pastor and in Colorado and spends his weekends exploring the Rocky Mountains with his family. Connect on Twitter, Instagram, or at JasonSoroski.net.