Summary: For the psalmist, “praise the Lord” was definitely not a cliché but an ecstatic expression of unbridled joy! In six short verses, he uses the phrase 13 times in Psalm 150.
The Instruments of Worship
Our language is filled with clichés, isn’t it? Just listen to athletes who are interviewed after a game. The winners say things like this:
We came to play
We brought our A-game
We played our hearts out
Things sound a bit different in the losers’ locker room:
We beat ourselves
We didn’t get the job done
They wanted it more than we did
A cliché is really an overused metaphor that doesn’t really mean anything, or help anyone. Here are some more that we hear on a regular basis:
Time will tell
No news is good news
Live and let live
What goes around comes around
One step at a time
When at first you don’t succeed, try try again
Don’t worry, be happy
We also use “Christian Clichés” far too often. While many of the things we say represent profound truth and real sentiments, religious jargon comes flying out of our mouths without much thought behind it. Terms and expressions like, “fellowship,” “I’m praying for you,” “koinonia,” “agree with God,” and even “Praise the Lord,” can lose their impact because of overuse and repetition.
As we come to the end of the Book of Psalms, we notice that each of the last 5 Psalms begins with, “Praise the Lord,” and each Psalm increases in praise and joy until we come to the last one in the holy hymnbook Psalm 150. For the psalmist, “praise the Lord” was definitely not a cliché but an ecstatic expression of unbridled joy! In six short verses, he uses the phrase 13 times. Every sentence starts off with “Hallelujah” (which is the Hebrew way to say, “Praise the Lord”) and is very short it’s as if he can’t wait to get to the next opportunity to say, “Praise the Lord” again.
The word, “praise” is derived from a Latin word which means to prize. When we praise, we are expressing our approval by valuing something or someone who has worth or merit. The word also means to “shine” or “make a show by raving and celebrating.” To praise the Lord is to prize Him and rave about Him as the only one worthy of glory and honor.
Where to Praise
Verse 1 begins with a bang: “Praise the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens.” The word used here for “Lord” is “Jehovah,” which means, “the self-existent and eternal one.” The psalmist than shifts his focus to another name and calls him, “God” or “El” in Hebrew, which means, “Strong and mighty.”
We are to praise the eternal, strong and mighty God in “His sanctuary,” which is a reference to the temple, where God used to dwell. Since Jesus died and rose again, God now “tabernacles” within His people, choosing not to dwell in a building. We are His temple and should therefore live out the implications of what that means. While God does not reside in this auditorium, He does reside within us.
The call to praise also extends to the “mighty heavens.” The psalmist is calling the firmament, and everything above it, to break out into a celebration of praise. Verse 1 is really saying, “Praise God in heaven and on earth.”
And so, verse 1 answers the question, “Where are we to praise Him?” We’re to do it everywhere. Verse 2 gives us the answer to the question, “Why are we to praise Him?”
Why We Praise
We’re called to rave about God for at least two reasons. First, we praise Him for what He does. We see this in the first part of verse 2: “Praise Him for His acts of power.” This is the theme of many of the psalms. The phrase, “acts of power” carries with it the idea of God as a champion because of the victory He has won. His acts of power are displayed in creation and in our own lives as we enjoy the benefits of His grace, forgiveness, and salvation.
Some of you have great reason to praise the Lord for some recent ways in which He has demonstrated His acts of power in your life. You’ve seen Him restore a relationship, give you victory over a sin, renew your health, or answer a specific prayer request. You’re praising Him today for what He’s done in your life and you should.
But, we’re also to praise Him for who He is in the second part of verse 2: “Praise Him for His surpassing greatness.” This is especially evident in the last group of praise psalms. Psalm 145:3 says, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” Psalm 147:5: “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.” When we praise God for who He is, we are recognizing his surpassing greatness, or as the Hebrew indicates, for His “muchness of greatness and abundant magnitude.”