Expository Sermon on Psalm 150
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 10/1/2022
©2022 by Maylan Schurch
NOTE FROM PASTOR MAYLAN: As you’ll see if you watch the YouTube version of this worship service, Daniel Spencer–who has Down Syndrome–became a bit overwhelmed as it came time to be baptized. The following Wednesday, away from the pressure of the crowd, and in the presence of his family and a few friends, he was able to take part in the ceremony. Congratulations, Daniel!
(To watch the entire worship service, click the link below.)
Please open your Bibles to Psalm 150.
As I mentioned before, the Spencer family chose this passage for this morning’s service. I actually grinned when I saw which Psalm it was, because it seems to me that when Grandpa Doug was music director at Kirkland SDA school, he would often introduce his band worship concerts by reading this psalm.
As you will see as we go through this brief Psalm, it has a lot of music in it. In fact, praise is the only thing it has. Other Psalms might start out by crying to the Lord in distress and finally settle down into a state of spiritual calm, but this Psalm starts happy and ends happy.
Does anybody know what a “primer” is? It’s spelled like the kind of primer you use before you put on a final coat of paint, but this is pronounced “primmer.” A primer is a little book that teaches you something simply. Schoolchildren of 100 years ago or more would learn out of primers.
I thought of the word “primer” as I read through Psalm 150. I found that this psalm is a primer on praise. In fact “Praise Primer” is actually a better title for this sermon than the one you see listed in the bulletin. (I didn’t think of “Praise Primer” until the bulletin was printed!)
Once in a while as I would read through the Psalms, especially when I was younger, I would find myself wondering, “Okay, just exactly what does it mean to ‘praise the Lord’”? In fact, there is a whole group of Psalms – and this is one of them – which starts and ends with “Praise the Lord.” But how do we do this?
Well, Psalm 150 will give us some specifics.
First of all, what is praise? In a spiritual sense, the Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible says that praise is “An expression of worship which recognizes and acknowledges God as the ultimate source and giver of all good gifts.”
After all, humans naturally know how to praise. A couple of nights ago Shelley opened a cedar chest which has some of our mementos, and pulled out our baby books. I hadn’t seen mine for a long time, but as I looked inside, I saw that Mom had written down all my little accomplishments, such as when I took my first steps, when I said my first word, and so on.
I evidently had two first words, plus a phrase. I said “Momma,” and “Dadda,” and also “That’s the boy!” I’m sure I said that last phrase because dad always said it to me. My parents were proud of me, and wanted to record those little “firsts” so they could rejoice in my progress.
When it comes to praising God, this happens all through the Bible. In Job 38, starting with verse four, God challenges Job this way: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determines its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Evidently, creation was so astonishing, that God received immense praise for it.
At Jesus’ birth, a sky full of angels saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace goodwill toward men!”
And of course in Revelation 19, we hear these words: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!”
As I studied through these six short verses of Psalm 150, I actually found five helpful how-to’s about praise. And I believe if we can remember these, and put them into practice in the week ahead, this will deepen our encouragement.
Let me show you what I found, and see if you agree. If Psalm 150 is our “praise primer,” what does it tell us about praise?
Psalm 150:1 [NKJV]: Praise the LORD! . . .
Those are the first words in the Psalm, and also the last words. In Hebrew, the Psalm starts with “Hallelujah” and ends with “Hallelujah.”
And if you break that word down, you discovered that it’s a plural word. If you translate it literally from the Hebrew, it’s “praise you the Lord.” But the “you” is never singular – it’s always plural. A better translation would be, “Praise the Lord, y’all.”
So let’s lay down Sermon Point One. What’s the first thing we learn from Psalm 150’s “praise tutorial”? It’s this:
Praise God plurally.
Sure, we can praise God all by ourselves, with nobody else around, and we should. But remember that “Hallelujah” is plural, not singular. That means that we shouldn’t ignore or sidestep opportunities to get together and praise the Lord with other people. Our Rosario church retreat is coming up starting October 21, and few experiences fill me with more joy the hearing a lot of people singing together songs that praise the Lord.
Back before the pandemic happened, there would be a gospel sing-along on the second Sabbath afternoon of camp meeting down in Auburn. More than 100 people would gather, many of them bringing their own instruments, and for a couple of hours we would just sing gospel songs. God designed us to be encouraged and inspired by music.
So what’s the next thing we learn in this Psalm 150 prayer tutorial?
Verse 1: Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
Here comes Sermon Point Two.
Praise God plurally, and praise God in and out of church.
Notice how it says, “Praise God in His sanctuary”? What’s interesting is that you and I, this morning, have already sung some songs in this sanctuary. But the Israelites couldn’t literally go inside the tabernacle sanctuary and sing there.
So why did the Psalm writer say to praise God in His sanctuary? It is a good chance the Israelite people might have known the answer to that. Even though they couldn’t literally walk with their unclean, unsanctified feet into the holy place, they knew that they were already there. Each of the 12 loaves of bread on that table symbolized one of the tribes. And since everybody was a member of a tribe, they were in the sanctuary. And the priests were their human representatives there.
And they knew that day by day, month by month, the blood that represented the forgiveness of their sins had been sprinkled in that sanctuary also. So, thanks to the intercession of the priests, and the substitutionary sacrifice of a lamb or goat, the average person was in that sanctuary. And that’s where they were supposed to praise God.
This morning, you and I cannot literally stand in the great sanctuary in heaven, but again, we have a human representative there. Jesus, after He had become our sacrificial Lamb of God, became our high priest, and He is ministering there for us in the heavenly sanctuary. So this morning, when we sing our praises, it’s like we’re actually singing them within the heavenly sanctuary—which is where we’re told to sing them.
But notice what else verse 2 says:
Verse 1: Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
How are we going to do that? Isn’t the “mighty firmament” way up there, way out there?
By now you’ve probably seen the James Webb space telescope’s first “deep field” image, where the telescope focused on one spot in the universe, and held that focus for quite a while. The result is unforgettable – a galaxy-studded panorama. And according to what NASA says about this image, “Webb’s image covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground – and reveals thousands of galaxies in a tiny sliver of vast universe.”
So if you can picture yourself standing holding a tiny grain of sand between your thumb and index finger and aiming it at the sky, that’s how many galaxies you would see. But then if you took that same grain of sand and pointed it at another part of the sky, there would be just as many galaxies covering that little grain of sand in that direction. And if you took a trip down around to Australia and held that grain of sand up against the sky down there, it would cover just as many galaxies.
So what does that tell me about this verse? This verse says, “Praise Him in His mighty firmament!” It’s not like we need to get on spaceship and head out there – we are already in God’s great universe. So now that we’re here, we need to praise the Lord!
I think I’ve mentioned how Shelley and I walk pretty much every day a little way along the Lake Young Water Reservoir, which is actually a large lake. Along that trail are the backyards of the houses we pass. Most of these yards have wooden fences.
And we always pause when we come to one specific back yard. The homeowners there love birds, and within their yard they have hung up several birdfeeders, including hummingbird feeders. There are always birds there, and gray squirrels, and little red squirrels. But we always pause there and watch a certain set of bare tree branches, because we often see hummingbirds land there.
I’ve gotten into the habit of making a high bird-whistle type of sound, along with the type of sound that one of those squirrels make, as we get closer and closer. I have no clue whether these sounds really summon hummingbirds or squirrels, but I do it every time, and often they show up.
It’s always such a joy to see those little creations of God. They are marred by sin, as we are, but they are still amazing. And I’ve gotten into the habit of saying a silent praise to the Lord as I think about how wonderful they are.
If you want to see how a number of our church members look at nature and find God there, you can always pull up our Daily Photo Parable blog on our church website. Each person has his or her own day, and the photos are always one they’ve taken, and the brief devotionals are ones they’ve written. I think we’ve been doing those daily devotionals for something like 18 years by now.
Now let’s learn something more from our Psalm 150 praise tutorial. Let’s find out more about why we should praise God.
Verse 2: Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
Here comes Sermon Point Three.
Not only should we praise God plurally, and praise God in and out of church, but we should praise God for what He’s done and who He is.
We praise sports heroes for their mighty acts, don’t we? Yesterday, Shelley and I stopped briefly at our local public library, and as I was coming through the entrance I noticed a woman checking out some books at one of those self-checkout stations. She was wearing a Seahawks T-shirt with a large number three, and the name “Wilson” on it. I’m not sure if she was wearing it to actually honor our dear departed quarterback, or maybe it was the only Seahawks gear she had to show her solidarity with tomorrow’s game against the Detroit Lions.
But here was someone who was wearing her praise because of loyalty to her team. And anybody who wants to see and hear some high-powered praise can just go to a Seahawks game.
“Praise God for what He’s done.” What has God done for you? If you and I actually were nothing more than haphazard organisms scrabbling across the crust of this planet for a while before dying, that would be one thing.
But the more we learn – from Mars rovers and space telescopes and refrigerator-sized machines that we can send smashing into an asteroid – the more we learn about our universe, the more we realize how favored our planet is. As we gaze at that deep-field Webb telescope photo, ice chills our lungs as we realize how cold it is out there, and how probably few are the planets are just like ours.
Yet when we are tempted to shrink away from a God that powerful, we remember that He sent His Son to actually walk on our planet, and speak to us, and nourish us, and heal us, and finally die for us, and then ascend somewhere out amongst those galaxies, our hearts open in reverent praise.
And now we come to a couple of verses which I’m sure especially warm Grandpa Doug Spencer’s heart:
Verses 3 – 5: Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
Here comes Sermon Point Four.
Not only should we praise God plurally, and praise God in and out of church, and praise God for what He’s done and who He is, but we should praise God with all kinds of music.
I had a chance to watch a pre-recorded segment of the committal service for Queen Elizabeth. At the very end of the service, those attending suddenly heard the sound of a bagpipe in a hallway outside of the chapel. The sound grew louder, and we could briefly see the bagpiper as he passed in front of one of the entrances, but he kept playing while walking down the hall, and finally the sound died away.
And even though bagpiping will probably never be my favorite kind of music, it was an emotional moment. As we’ve just read in these verses, there are times for soft worship music, and there are times for loud worship music. There are times for simple music, and times for complicated music, there are times for grown-up choirs, and times for children’s voices.
One of my great joys is when someone I know either learns a musical instrument or returns to an instrument they had played at a younger age. I’ve seen people do this with the guitar, the violin, bass guitar, the saxophone, many other instruments.
One morning last week I was walking across a parking lot and spotted a little burgundy guitar pick on the ground. I took a picture of it with my camera, and you can actually see that picture on the Daily Photo Parable section of our church website. It’s last Sabbath’s entry, a week ago.
Just from studying the photo, I could tell that someone had actually strummed with that pick. And because they strummed with that pick, they had made music, and that music had been heard by someone – maybe a lot of people – and that music had brought pleasure and possibly meaning to those who listened.
People who have taken the challenge to learn, or return to, a musical instrument never regret doing this – I’ve never known anyone to regret it. And I believe the satisfaction is greatest when they use this renewed talent to help others praise the Lord.
Let’s look at just one more truth Psalm 150 can tell us.
Verse 6: Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!
You probably breathed once, or maybe twice while I was reading that verse. Whether you breathed those breaths within this sanctuary this morning, or while watching live on YouTube, or if you’re watching the recorded version later, that verse is talking about you.
Not only should we praise God plurally, and praise God in and out of church, and praise God for what He’s done and who He is, praise God with all kinds of music–and praise God if you’re alive!
If you and I are able to breathe, which we are, we need to make praising the Lord a part of our life. And you and I need to remember that “Hallelujah” is not singular, but plural. We need to join our voices with others’, in praise to God.
Which is what we’re going to do right now, with the closing song the Spencers have chosen to conclude this service, “To God Be the Glory.” This is definitely a “praise the Lord” song, and I would invite you to stand to your feet and make this a “plural praise” event.