Psalm 148 for Audacious Praise

Written by Communitas staff member Wesley White:

In this time of international uncertainty, it is fitting that ardent worshippers of the God of the Bible give critical attention to Psalm 148.  As we might give historical considerations to the Psalter as a whole, this Psalm in particular features prominently in Hebraic liturgical traditions, most pointedly detailed in the Mishnah, that hermeneutically fertile collection of Jewish oral tradition that has been accorded such rigorous rabbinic attention in Judaism.

And rightly so, as it unabashedly calls for unilateral praise, distinctive in its recruitment of all parts of creation, animate and inanimate, to render repeated ‘hallelujahs’ to Yahweh.  Scholars rightly refer to Psalm 148 as an ‘imperatival hymn’ wherein subjects are impelled to praise the Lord.  Structurally, the Psalm could not be any clearer about this, beginning and ending with the common refrain, ‘Praise the Lord.’

Furthermore, verse one specifies praise that arises ‘from the heavens,’ and then lists many and varied subjects in fast succession; the heights, angels, hosts, sun and moon, stars, and the highest heavens.  It is partnered with verse seven that elicits praise, on the other hand, ‘from the earth,’ including sea monsters, elements of weather, mountains, trees, animals, kings, princes, judges, young men and old men, virgins, and children.  It is, indeed, a hymn invoking comprehensive praise-making!

Why?  Psalm 148 is built around two ‘for’ clauses, that supply the rationale for such all-inclusive praise of Yahweh.  The first of these is in verse 5, suggesting the power of God’s word.  He ‘commands’ creation into inception, and it is done.  So, praise the Lord!  The second is in verse 13, reminding us of the Lord’s standing.  The ultimate rationale for praise is none other than Yahweh’s exaltedness in relation to everything else in the entirety of creation.  So, praise the Lord!

An imperatival hymn is stretching, given our recent experiences with pandemic fears and the exilic feel of near worldwide lockdown.  Praising the Lord, in this sense, can rightly be thought of a statement of faith.  It is, however, our strong declaration that God’s word is trustworthy, as well as powerful.  It is no less our testimony and proclamation that God is over and above all.  Nothing, not even in the remotest corner of His own creation, catches Him by surprise.  There is no entity that has been named, not even the ‘highest heavens’ of verse four or the ‘highest places’ of verse one, that can match the exaltation of the Lord’s name, affirming His character as utterly faithful and His purposes as utterly unfailing.

So, praise the Lord!