1 Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the name of the Lord; praise him, O ye servants of the Lord.
2 Ye that stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God.
3 Praise the Lord; for the Lord is good: sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant.
4 For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.
5 For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.
7 He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries.
8 Who smote the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast.
9 Who sent tokens and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his servants.
10 Who smote great nations, and slew mighty kings;
11 Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan:
12 And gave their land for an heritage, an heritage unto Israel his people.
13 Thy name, O Lord, endureth for ever; and thy memorial, O Lord, throughout all generations.
14 For the Lord will judge his people, and he will repent himself concerning his servants.
15 The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.
16 They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;
17 They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.
18 They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them.
19 Bless the Lord, O house of Israel: bless the Lord, O house of Aaron:
20 Bless the Lord, O house of Levi: ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord.
21 Blessed be the Lord out of Zion, which dwelleth at Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord.
The gods of the heathen and the humanists are all ridiculous idols, and only the sovereign God over heaven and earth is worth worshiping.
There is nothing more delightful than to gather with the saints and lift praises to our God. All other worship is profoundly unsatisfying and vain. In our worship, we will boast in the works of the true and living God and mock the gods of the heathen.
Some psalms dedicate themselves almost entirely to the praise of God, and this is one of them. Repeatedly, the psalmist exhorts us to praise God. When we say these words with the psalmist, we are instructing ourselves and every person to lift praises to our God.
The psalm is captured by two bookends, instructions to praise at the beginning and more instructions to praise and bless the Lord at the end. These words are best shouted out to the entire assembly, because the goal is to see that everybody joins in. It is directed towards those who are servants of the Lord, and those who stand in the house of God. Too much worship is performed while sitting today, and this may be another sign of anemia and irreverence. If our hearts are thinking reverently, we will want to express that reverence by standing—or kneeling—either way. These are the natural expressions of the heart. If we are standing out of rote ritualism, and if our thoughts are anything but Godward, then we have fake reverence and it is worth nothing.
The praise described in this psalm is pleasant. There is something satisfying in work, because we are created to work. But there is something even more satisfying in worship—it is the highest endeavor in all of human existence. The dung beetle is created to consume dung, and the vulture is created to clean up carrion, but the human is created for a wholly different purpose. When men dedicate their lives to self-consumption, idolatries, and degrading sexual practices, they act the part of the dung beetle instead of the part of the human made in the image of God. When we finally make it to the congregation of the saints and our minds soar with meditations on the holiness, majesty, and love of God, we have achieved the ultimate purpose of our creation. We take to the heavens like the bird who knows how to use his wings and fulfill his Creator’s intent for him.
These verses present the overarching theme of the psalm, offering two prime reasons for praising God. First, we praise God because He has chosen us as His peculiar people (1 Pet. 2:9). He has “chosen us that [we] should show forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light!” Secondly, we laud His Name for His greatness and His transcendence above all other gods. This becomes the theme for the rest of the psalm. It is crucial that we know God’s authority over all of the gods of the earth. Either these are authorities among men, powerful institutions within the created world, or they are false gods constructed in the imaginations of the hearts of men. Whatever the case, we must be absolutely convinced in our minds that God is the absolute sovereign over all.
Look up and take in everything around you, and then consider that these are all the purposes of God in action. He is accomplishing His will everywhere. The dew that falls gently on the earth and the violent storms are all according to His plans. He has ordered our days. He arranges the weather patterns, the sentient life, the birds flying through the air, the microbes that introduce disease to the body, and the powers of government. The same thing can be said of the storms on Jupiter that have been raging for hundreds of years. The storm seen from our planet as the eye of Jupiter is the size of our globe, and would wipe out all life on Earth in ten minutes. God does whatever He wants to do, and there is no force greater than He that can overrule His purposes. Thus, we conclude that the Creator of Heaven and Earth is the One who is ultimately qualified to receive our worship.
This next portion of the psalm speaks to God’s supremacy over the great empires of the earth. Sometimes man will attempt to compete with God for His worship. After all, man has intelligence and assumes authority over his fellow creatures. Man was created for dominion over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air (Ps. 8:6-8). Initially intended to act as God’s vice-regent on the earth, man revolted against God, formed his own kingdoms, and began to tyrannize his fellow men. God does not allow this to continue indefinitely, however. He brings these rebellious kingdoms down. Most spectacularly, He brought the great Egyptian empire down at the Red Sea. He did this in order that He might save His people and establish His own kingdom. Old Testament Israel was only a microcosm of God’s program on earth. Throughout history, He continues to bring the kingdoms of men down, while preserving His own people in the process.
There are only two types of gods that attempt to displace the true God in the mind of man and compete for his worship. Humanist man presents himself as god, and attempts to usurp God’s worship. That was the subject of verses 8-14. Then there is the god that men create in the imagination of their hearts. In this section, the psalmist goes after these false gods, contrasting them with the true and living God. Baal, Ashteroth, Pele, and a thousand other gods have faded away, but Jehovah God is still served and worshipped by His people 6,000 years later. Of course, the gods that are formed by men’s hands and imaginations are ridiculous gods. It is all a farce and a pretense, though not many idolaters would want to admit to it.
Why would the creator of a god fall down on his face and worship the god he just created? These gods are very important to the idolators, but they have not created heaven and earth. They are not sovereign over the entire universe. Materialists worship their houses and cars (which they have built for themselves), but these creations are less impressive than the men who created them. They have no arms or legs. They cannot reason. Their mechanical parts cannot repair themselves, as in the case of man’s cellular systems. Unless men constantly maintain and repair these gods, they will deteriorate over time. What a contrast with the true and living God who Himself providentially sustains His whole creation and who endures forever!
These three verses constitute the second bookend of the psalm. The first three verses open with instructions to praise God, and now the psalm ends with instructions to bless Him. The Hebrew word for “praise,” (halal) connotes a glorious, exalting boasting performed in the standing position, while the word for “bless,” (barak) you will remember represents more of a humble, warm, adoration often expressed in the kneeling position.
Let us submit to God’s authority, first, by refusing to create any other gods or give any credence to any other gods at the expense of the true and living God. Let us also express reverence to God—by kneeling, lifting our hands, or standing in worship. When we mumble our prayers in a half-hearted or rote manner, we act as if we are speaking to a God who is hardly God, or a God whom we hardly believe exists. First, let us identify the God we worship and then let us appeal to Him as if He is that God.
In our worship, we must set aside all of the other concerns that battle for our attention. These are competing gods, and they must be cast aside if we are to worship the true and living God. This includes our concern for our health, our lives, our children, our wealth, and indeed even our own spouses.
1.What are the bookends to the psalm? What is the difference between the words “praise” and “bless”?
2. Why is worship pleasant to us?
3. What are the two types of gods that compete for our attention, mentioned in this psalm?
4. How does Jehovah God differ from the old gods of the heathen?
5. Why must we consider it so ridiculous that people turn their material possessions (as in cars or houses) into their gods?
1. Are there any gods that compete for our attention and worship? How might we correct our thinking about these gods? How do we speak and how should we speak about these false gods?
2. How much do you reverence God in your worship? When you stand before God or kneel before Him, are you expressing your humble service to the Lord Jesus Christ?