Psalm 150 — uncontainable praise!

A can of soda was a rarity in the super healthy home I grew up in. But occasionally, my friends and I would get ahold of some pop cans. And after we’d each guzzled one, we’d start shaking up the rest. The upshot was a sticky mess.

A well-shaken can of soda has explosive results, as the carbonated sugar water rushes through even the smallest opening.

The book of Psalms is an odd collection of prayers, songs, liturgies, and wisdom poems gathered without seeming order. It’s broken into five books, but there is no uniting theme or author for any of the books. It seems as if there are five simply to match the five books of the Torah at the beginning of our Bibles. And there are little collections of psalms clustered throughout the Psalter, especially toward the end. And when we get to the very end, the last five are a final cluster, each one starting and ending with the word Hallelujah! (Hebrew: Praise the Lord!)

These last five psalms are like the shaking up of a can of soda, with Psalm 150 pulling the tab and letting the praise of all 150 psalms spray out into the world, covering us and everything and everyone else with the praise of our glorious God.

Here’s Psalm 150 from The Message translation by Eugene Peterson:

Praise God in his holy house of worship,
    praise him under the open skies;
Praise him for his acts of power,
    praise him for his magnificent greatness;
Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
    praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise him with castanets and dance,
    praise him with banjo and flute;
Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
    praise him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!

Every single line begins with the imperative: Praise! It’s not so much a command as it is an urgency. Just like the shaken can, what is inside longs to be outside, to be expressed. It’s almost painful to hold it in. The praise must be let loose, be unrestrained.

As with the psalm, so with our lives: Praise begins in the sanctuary, in a single building set aside for worship, but it doesn’t stay there. The psalmist has us moving out into the world, praise spilling over. From the four walls of the sanctuary, we are now under open skies and nothing can now constrain our praise. What filled up the sanctuary will now fill up the world.

If anything, this has always been the biblical vision: praise covering the entire earth.

Genesis 1 is the building of a temple for our God and Revelation 21 is the completion of that temple.

In Genesis, God pushes back the chaos with firmaments above and below, creating a holy space. Inside that space, he puts lamps (the words for sun and moon, which were the names of pagan gods aren’t used) like the menorah in the tabernacle and temple. Then an image is placed in the middle of the space, focusing the worship which will take place there.

In Revelation, God banishes the chaotic elements of the deep and the dark. And then the new Jerusalem descends. Its dimensions are that of a cube, which would make for an odd city. But the only other cubes in the Bible — perfectly equal in all three dimensions — are the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle and the temple. And the size of this new Jerusalem cube is the size ancient people believed the entire world to be: 12,000 stadia. In other words, the entire earth has become the holiest place in the temple, the place where God’s Presence dwells.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. … I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (Rev. 21:3, 22)

Psalm 150 moves us toward the biblical goal of our praise: Filling the entire earth with the glory of God.

In the sanctuary, as we tell the story of what God has done as recounted in the Scriptures and repeated in smaller ways in our own lives, we put into words his power and his magnificent greatness.

But words aren’t enough. Only art can express the exuberance of worship at its highest. And of all forms of art, only music can elevate our praise to its zenith. Music is physical with its vibrations. Music is evocative, expressing might in its major keys and expressing longing in its minor keys. And the psalmist calls for massive notes blaring out from trumpets and for the crashing din of the loudest cymbals. This is the pipe organ with all the stops pulled. This is the praise band turned up to eleven.

This is sheer noise in excelsis.

The earth trembles. The sky is shaken. And every living, breathing creature joins in the chorus as we all together vibrate with the single word: Hallelujah!

The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with this simple question and answer:

Quest. 1. What is the chief end of man?
Ans. 1. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.

Psalm 150 is the soda can explosion which sets us in motion, launching us with joy into glorifying praise which will keep expanding into every corner of eternity.

A few questions this brings up for me: What keeps my praise small and contained? What would it be like to truly let loose? Have I had a taste of that already? How would my view of creation change if I thought of this whole earth as God’s temple, the venue for his praise? What would be different if the whole earth were filled with the glory of the Lord?

Glorious God, do indeed fill this whole earth with your glory! And so fill me that I burst with your praises. May your Church end its pettiness and overflow with joy. To the praise of your glorious grace. Amen.