Summary: The psalm exhorts everyone and everything to praise the Lord. It forces us to ask the question, "Why is praise important in our lives?"
The psalm today exhorts us to praise God. This is a simple command, but it is an exhortation that may inspire questions. We may ask, “What is praise?” Is it something more than a compliment? We may also ask, “Why should we praise?” What does praise do?
As a society, we have learned that praise works better than criticism. Parents are encouraged to catch their children doing good things and praise them, rather than simply punish them when they do something wrong. Supervisors are trained to surround constructive criticism with appropriate praise. Praise, in this sense, becomes a stimulus for improvement, or a method of control. Neither of these reasons for praise quite fit the exhortation to praise God.
It may be helpful for us to substitute the word, “praise,” in today’s text with “worship.” “Worship the Lord … Let everything that breathes worship the Lord!” Certainly praise is a part of worship. And when we talk about praising God, the word praise is synonymous with the word worship.
The psalms teach us a great deal about praising and worshipping God.
WORSHIP GOD EVERYWHERE
The psalmist first tells us where we should praise and worship God. In a word, we are instructed to worship God everywhere.
We worship God in his sanctuary. Temples, synagogues, mosques, and churches are called sanctuaries. They are houses of God. In earlier times they were places where it was believed God dwelt. It is fitting for us, as people of God, to gather together in our places of worship and praise God. There is beauty and majesty in lifting our voices with others in songs of praise and worship. Our worship, though, is not supposed to stop and the sanctuary doors.
We are called to praise and worship God in the firmament. In other words, we are called to praise and worship God in the world—our everyday lives.
In our compartmentalized lives, we have designated areas of work, leisure, and one hour of worship. The people of earlier times view all of life as worship and the Sabbath was a day of rest. This ancient teaching is more in line with the instructions of the psalmist.
Our protestant ancestors developed what is known as the protestant work ethic. They saw work as a way that they praised and worshipped God. They sought to excel in their crafts and vocations as a way to honor God. This is certainly a richer understanding of work than our one dimensional view that it is only a way to make money.
When all of life is seen as worship, worship and praise becomes as common in our lives as breathing. The way we interact with our classmates or co-workers is an act of worship. The way we drive down the highway and respond to other drivers are acts of worship. The way we care for our possessions and share our blessings are acts of worship and praise.
All places are suitable for worship and all thins can be used as instruments of praise.
WORSHIP GOD WITH EVERYTHING
Music is a valuable part of our worship experience. It is difficult for most of us to imagine what worship would be like without music. One of the changes that came as a result of the protestant reformation was that singing became a more important part of the worship experience. It is said that the Roman Catholics feared the singing of the Lutherans more than the feared the sermons of Martin Luther.