Over and over in today’s Bible reading* the psalmist encourages God’s people to praise the Lord. Why? Because praise is the only appropriate response to God’s Person and provision!
So what does “praise” mean?
The Hebrew word is the basis for Halleluiah. Actually, Halleluiah literally means, praise the Lord. The word means to boast about or to rejoice.
Something that doesn’t translate well as we move from Hebrew to English is the verb stem the psalmist uses. By using this verb stem, he adds intensity to the verb. One way of translating the verb stem is to use the qualifier really to describe the verb. But doing so sounds a little awkward in English.
If you were using the verb to hit, using this verb stem, it would signify that you’re intensifying to hit to be translated as to really hit or to smash. So, when the psalmist says, “Praise the Lord”, he’s saying, “Really praise the Lord” or “Really rejoice about the Lord”.
In other words, praising God isn’t something you can do in a casual way. It requires active, enthusiastic participation!
As we read the final Psalm (Psalm 150), the psalmist begins telling God’s people where to praise the Lord: in the Temple and out in nature. (Psalm 150:1) In other words, everywhere!
Next, he tells God’s people what to praise the Lord for: His powerful acts and His greatness. (Psalm 150:2) In other words, for everything about Him and everything He does!
Next, he tells God’s people how to praise the Lord: with everything at their disposal. He lists musical instruments like a ram’s horn, harp, lyre, tambourine, strings, flute, resounding clashing cymbals and dance. (Psalm 150:3-5)
Finally, he concludes by telling everyone who has breath to praise the Lord. (Psalm 150:6) In other words, as long as you’re still breathing, you have a purpose: to praise God.
Summarizing the entire Psalm, the psalmist exhorts all of God’s living people to use everything at their disposal to heartily and enthusiastically boast about God.
I remember a fund-raising event on a Christian radio station many years ago. The station management said that they were proud of the fact that the music they played was “God’s music” and it didn’t include “rock and roll instruments” like the devil’s music. I agree. It didn’t sound like any contemporary music on any other radio station. I told my mom that her favorite radio station’s music sounded like Christian funeral music. She wasn’t pleased with my evaluation!
Notice in verses 3-5 that the psalmist encouraged enthusiastic boasting of God’s with every musical instrument at his disposal. Including loud cymbals! Perhaps the devil took his lead in using drums and cymbals from the psalmist’s style, not the other way around!
In 1972, Contemporary Christian Music pioneer, Larry Norman released an album titled, “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” In the title track, he includes the line,
Why should the devil have all the good music
There’s nothing wrong with what I play
‘Cause Jesus is the rock and he rolled my blues away
A church member once remarked that she didn’t like the way some churches use drums and guitars in their worship services. She said it sounded like a rock concert. Perhaps she should go back and read the Psalms!
The Book of Psalms was the hymnbook of the early church. If you have a Bible with cross-references, look at how often the New Testament writers (including Jesus!) quote from or refer to the Book of Psalms.
While we’re on the subject of Psalms as being the hymnbook of the early church …. Some churches claim to be “New Testament Churches”. They claim that since the New Testament doesn’t speak of using musical instruments, churches shouldn’t either. They argue, “To be biblical, Christian worship should never be accompanied by musical instruments!”
I beg to differ! So does the Apostle Paul!
Paul describes Christian worship as an overflow of the filling of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling of God’s Word in the life of the Believer. (Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16-17) He says the form of this overflow is “speaking to each other in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody”. The Greek word for psalms means to pluck or to twang. Making melody means to sing, accompanied by a musical instrument. So Paul says that stringed instruments are a legitimate (and necessary?) tool of Christian worship! Biblically speaking, a guitar is just as legitimate as a pipe organ as a proper worship instrument.
Now, I don’t want to argue over the types of music we should use in our worship services. But if we’re going to debate what music types we should use, we should consult the Bible as our authority, not what “agrees with our spirit”.
Regardless of the style of music we use to Praise the Lord, the Bible makes it clear that we should use everything at our disposal to focus our attention on the praise and glory of God. He alone is worthy of such extravagant, enthusiastic celebration!
Let everything that breathes
enthusiastically praise the Lord.
* Chapters covered in today’s reading: