Ah, it’s summertime in Penticton. For some that means it is time for golfing, going to the beach, camping, and other adventures with God into the great outdoors. As I was planning and praying what this summer series should like I thought, hmmm… another summer in the Psalms perhaps?
Truly, the Psalms have become for me much soul care and even more. I can’t help but commune with God as I read and study this portion of Scripture. So to spend a quarter of our yearly church calendar preaching and teaching from them seems good to me. And I especially enjoy when you give me specific Psalms to go through.
So if you have a favorite Psalm that we haven’t gone through in the last couple of years let me know after the service and I’ll work them in over the summer if I possibly can. You can also email me or put a note in the offering or for those watching online you can use the chat box next to the video. But feel free to let me know which Psalms have impacted you and maybe even in a sentence or two say why they have. And together we’ll hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to our church. So this summer let’s do this journey together.
As I prayed about what to call this summer series our yearly focus of Give to God the Glory –GtGtG seems fitting but the more time I spent communing with the Lord the more the sub-focus of B.E.G.I.N. seemed to shape my direction.
B.E.G.I.N. with Praise. Bringing Every Gentile Intimate News with praise. That’s what the Psalms can do. Though the various Psalmists have moments of grief and sadness in their lives it seems that they chose to continue to praise God and somehow those heavy burdens seem to get lighter. And in time as they journeyed down life’s path they grew in wisdom on how to avoid many of the pitfalls found along the way.
So this year not only will we focus on the Psalms but also some Proverbs during the summer series. Perhaps we can glean some of that wisdom without having to experience all the pitfalls along the path. Then we can B.E.G.I.N. with Praise and Wisdom.
I realize the connection may not be immediately evident, yet these two characteristics of the Christian life develop together and often feed off of each other. And in my observation, God uses both the praises of His people and the wisdom they have been given to draw others into an intimate walk with Him.
Today we’ll begin in praise looking at Psalm 148. This Psalm is part of the “hallel” collection, which includes the last 5 Psalms in the Bible. They are labeled so because of the Hebrew word that both begins and ends the passage. That word is transliterated ‘hallelujah’ in the English and more often than not translated, “praise the Lord”. So let us B.E.G.I.N. to Praise the Lord as we read this passage and see if we can find some wisdom for our journey.
“Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created. He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away. Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens. He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the LORD” Psalm 148:1-14 (NIV).
Hallelujah, Hallelujah! What a magnificent sunset Lord! And just when I needed it too! My photo assignment on Facebook for that week was “Sunset”. And God gave me a beauty to shoot. The sky erupted into a song of praise for our Lord. It was a ten minute solo that was sure to make even a pagan go wow! And then as quick as it came on darkness filled the sky and I waited for a night shot as Gail said there may be aroha borealis that night. The rest of that week we were sopped in with rain but for that moment it seemed like the clouds and the sun just said ‘hallelujah’. And so I echoed the sentiment and praised the Lord as a snapped a dozen or so shots.
Lately Lynda and I have been doing more back country road trips. We hop in the ford head down some dust roads around our area. This shot is from high up the Anarchist, in the new sub division called Sasquatch. It overlooks the Canadian / US border towns of Osoyoos and Oroville. You can just see the praises going up to God can’t you? Ok…so it’s rain coming down but if you use your sanctified imagination you can get the picture.
I‘ve been struck once again by the amazing beauty that God has placed all around us. I don’t know about you but I can’t help feeling blessed living in this part of the world.
Pastor Scott coined a phrase that we use a lot around Grace, he said that we in Canada have “won the birth lottery”. But did you know as Christians in Canada we have won more than the birth lottery, we have been given a double portion! We have won the rebirth lottery! Not only do we live in the greatest place on earth but we have been given grace to live in the present with eternity in our hearts! God is truly awesome! Worth of all our praise! Amen?
The Psalmist, who some scholars attribute to David but most others attribute to anonymous, has narrowed the focus for this Psalm to one purpose. It is the purpose and calling of every human being and all off creation too. When we get this one right in our hearts our world with all its foibles fade into their proper places.
The Psalm begins and ends with “Hallelujah” – it’s a command not simply a statement. A call to the heart to do something it may not at that moment feel like doing. It insists a firm choice be made and not just thought about. The Psalmists cries, “praise the Lord!” Make the choice. When you do it’s like rain in the dessert land! Out of that dry ground will spring even more reasons to continue to praise the Lord.
In Psalms 146-150 the Psalmist is saying look around you! Look at what God has created and give Him Praise! Like a conductor leading the choir, the psalmist is purposely calling all of heaven to bear witness by joining their voices together in that song of praise. It is the highest and holy calling of all of creation. And it gives us a glimpse into what Heaven is all about.
In Isaiah chapter 6 we see another glimpse of heaven. I should interject that this is one of the few glimpses into heaven that God has given mankind. Beware of those false images painted by people who supposedly died and came back to tell us what heaven is like.
Those images are purely imagination and likely not at all reality. We know this because they seldom make mention of and more often than not conflict with what the Bible has clearly shown that heaven looks like. So don’t run out and buy the latest ‘true story’ about someone who died and went to heaven and back expecting to find ‘divine revelation’. Expect imagination and lots of creative license and you won’t be sucked in or disappointed by their biblical misrepresentations. But know this too, Isaiah, a proven prophet of the Lord, was invited to receive this revelation of what truly happens in heaven.
And he wrote about what he saw in the temple of the Lord: “Above God were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:2-4). Seems this praise fest was profoundly loud and apparently had a great bass section that shook the whole temple!
The angels around the throne were doing exactly what the Psalmist was inspired to ask of them. They were praising God for what He has shown throughout creation.
The moon, shining stars, and those things we see in the upper atmosphere and beyond were all created to show forth the glory of the Lord. They were not created to be objects of our worship. But rather to remind us of whom we worship. In case you missed it week before last Gail caught this meteorite flying through the heavens. And this spring we saw that the sky was alive with praise. You can almost see the angels dancing can’t you?
All this that we can see in the heavens did not happen by chance. All of it brings praise to God who “commanded and they were created” (5). It was “He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away” (6). God the intelligent designer like no other, that’s who we are to “hallel”. The angels announced to Isaiah “the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3).
Likewise, in verse 7 the Psalmist said you don’t have to look up to see something to praise God for just look around. And there too, if we open our eyes, we can see God’s creation waving in praise, and if we listen closely we may even hear their song.
When I was in Hawaii, I swam with the sea monsters. That’s what the NASB calls them here in Psalm 148. Sea monsters! Those majestic beasts! I was diving in about 30 to 60 feet of water off the coast of the Big Island at Kapua Bay. It was a gloriously beautiful Hawaiian day. So I was already praising the Lord for this tremendous blessing He provided. I had much to praise God for in just being there. But that day was full of so much more to praise the Lord for.
It was that day I had lead my friend Lynn to know Jesus and frankly I didn’t think that the day could get any better.
I was so filled with the joy of the Lord as I swam along gazing at the tropical fish and sea turtles around me. But my heart nearly burst as I heard those sea monsters songs cry out in praise to the Lord. And I might have soiled myself just a little when I noticed how close they were! Yikes! Those whales are huge! But my God is so big so strong and so mighty…and He created those monsters too! Their songs from the deep brought even more praise from my lips. I even praise the Lord some more now as I look back and remember that day.
But less we think it is only during the mountain top experiences of life that we can praise the Lord the Psalmist in verse 8 also suggests that even the storms in life bring Him praise.
Now I don’t know about you but I really enjoy a good lightning storm. I think they are better than the finest fireworks shows man can come up with. But to be perfectly frank I’m not that fond of cloudy or rainy days! The kid in me wants every day to be suitable for at the beach playing in the water and on the slides. Hot sunny days with enough cool water to increase the joy…those days I find it easy to praise the Lord.
Yet if we can learn to praise God throughout the storms in our lives then there is nothing in all of nature that can separate us from God’s love. However, being able to PTL as we watch a lightning storm or see hail pummel the vineyard maybe easier than when we are standing in the path of the storm and we are witnessing its destructive power especially on the ones we love.
I suspect for Michael Schultz (the Pastor at the Lutheran Church) it is difficult to PTL as he watches his young son battle with cancer, and all the awful treatments that seem to make Davis sicker yet. But let me read to you just a portion of his blog. This dated just before Easter 2014.
Michael writes, shortly after his son had an operation to remove cancer from his liver, “… for now I just want to highlight the amazing job the surgical team did, and to point out the extraordinary skill and work the surgeons and all the support team have and do. I wouldn’t wish medical trouble on any child, but if any child has to go through it, BC Children’s Hospital provides the highest level of care. We heard that when we first came down here, and we’ve certainly seen that be true for us.
Thanks for making it this far with me …, and Easter blessings to you all. “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!” “Alleluia!”(http://michaelschutz.com/blog/2014-04-22/back-at-the-bedside).
“Alleluia!” That would be the Greek word for “Hallelujah”.
So Michael, even after months of trials and heart wrenching moments walking along side of his very ill son, is still able to “praise the Lord” to bring “hallel” for what God has blessed him with in this storm of life.
Perhaps that’s why the Psalmist reminds us that even the storms of nature ring out praises to God.
In fact it seems as though the Psalmist was reading the creation account found in Genesis 1-2 and realized that every created thing we can gaze upon brings praise to its creator.
By Verse 11 the psalmist is bringing it home. He is calling upon those in authority, “kings, princes and rulers” together with those they lead, “men & maidens, both young and old” (12): “Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens” (13).
God alone is to be exalted. Yet somehow we often fail to remember that. We worship that which is created rather than He who created it. We give to men praise that is fit for God alone. We honor man’s accomplishment and forget Who it was that inspired them to that greatness.
The Creator is so far above the creation is He not? God is more valuable than anything we can behold. Nothing in all of creation compares in value to knowing the Creator. Without Him is all just passes into obscurity.
Humanly speaking we get that concept… at least somewhat. Go to the art gallery and you’ll find that pieces by certain artists are worth infinitely more than by other artists. But why is that?
What makes a landscape by Ansel Adams any better than a picture I took with my cell phone? I mean really…is it his full frame camera? His excellent lens? Maybe his subject matter or layout that gives is its worth?
Yet his pictures still get more recognition and praise than mine ever will. Not only that but if you had, by some good grace, in your photo collection an original picture by Ansel, you would have an object valued between $8,000-$50,000 USD.
As long as provenance can be established; so long as you can prove it was truly a picture by Ansel, you would have something of real monetary value. And this is simply because of the photographer’s name. Ansel’s reputation and the fact that he pressed the trigger and he produced it or in essence he created it makes the photograph worth something. So humanly speaking we somewhat get the concept that the creator is above the creation because Ansel’s works regardless of the quality of the individual images are worth something simply because they are Ansel’s. People in know can tell the difference and can praise the merits of owning an Ansel. The Psalmists calls upon those who should be in the know, “kings, and leaders” those who have been blessed with much to lead the praise.
So far, the Psalmist has shown us that all of creation ought to be seen as that which brings praise to its Creator but as he brings this psalm to a close he turns his focus to those that have “won the rebirth lottery”. Those of us who are double blessed as Christians as I said in the beginning, regardless of where we live or our station in life.
The Psalmist wrote, “He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the LORD” (14).
Not only is God worthy of praise for being higher than His creation but especially because of His covenant relationship with His chosen people. If you are one of His chosen people you my friend have been given something of infinite value.
In raising a horn for them, the Psalmist is speaking of a mighty deliverer. A King, in fact the King of kings. God has given His chosen people the King of kings to lead them in this song of praise.
Moses wrote, “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” Deuteronomy 4:7 (NIV).
We Christians, more than all of creation, have something to give praise for. We are the people close to his heart. God has chosen us for intimate relationship with Him through this horn that was raised up.
In those days when the battle was won the victory was announced with the blast of the horn. It showed who ultimately had the strength to win. But it was usually followed by loud praises and shouts from all the people.
That horn is Jesus Christ. He became “the praise of all His saints” when he defeated Satan on the cross. His victory bought us our freedom.
We can look back through 2000 years of history and actually see that praise well up over and over again.
The fact is, every new believer gives God praise for Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of their sins that came through His sacrificial love restoring us to a covenant relationship, making us Israel; a people close to the Father.
We are truly double blessed. We were not only created to bring God praise but we were chosen to lead the world to do the same. For we have been chosen by God to Bring Every Gentile Intimate News with Praise so that all of creation can choose to join with us and praise the Lord. Hallelujah?