By Mark Scott
“All Creatures of our God and King” was created around the 1900s, but the lyrics go all the way back to St. Francis of Assisi (1225). The hymn contains several stanzas. In the first five stanzas a portion of creation is beckoned to give God praise (one—sun and moon; two—wind and clouds; three—water and fire; four—fields and flowers; five—people and nations).
The last few psalms of the psalter gave rise to what St. Francis did—beckoned all creation to give praise to God. In fact, Psalms 146–150 all begin and end the same way: Praise the Lord. The Hebrew word for praise is “halal.” It means to glorify, boast, or even shine. The theme of Psalm 148—and really Psalms 146–150—is that humankind should join the chorus of the rest of creation in giving praise to the Lord.
The psalmist first takes us to the heavens (one of the most beautiful of all Hebrew words, “shamayim”). The heavens are the sky, the place of the stars, the clouds, the atmosphere, and even the abode of God. The parallelism of thought—seen throughout our study this past month in these selected psalms—is very evident.
In verse 1 the psalmist calls for praise to the Lord from the heavens and adds to that line by saying in the heights above. Verse 2 calls angels to praise the Lord and adds all his heavenly hosts (maybe stars or angelic armies). Verse 3 calls sun and moon to praise the Lord and adds shining stars. Verse 4 calls for the highest heavens to praise the Lord and adds waters above the skies (rain or atmosphere).
Verses 5 and 6 give the reasons why the heavens are summoned to praise the Lord. The first reason is that God created (commanded, bode, or gave orders to) them. Can they do anything else? Praise for the Lord is embedded in their nature. The second reason is that God established them for ever and ever. In fact God issued a decree as to their eternality.
Next the psalmist takes us to earth. The earth takes its cue from heaven in giving praise to the Lord. We start in the ocean. In verse 7 the large sea creatures (serpents, sea monsters, or dragon-type animals) are beckoned to start the praise. In verse 8 the weather systems are beckoned. Lightning, hail, snow, clouds, and winds all do God’s bidding (accomplish or fulfill his word).
In verse 9 mountains and hills are beckoned to praise the Lord. On those hills grow fruit trees and all cedars. In verse 10 wild and domestic animals are beckoned to praise the Lord. To these larger animals are added small animals such as small creatures and flying birds. In verses 11 and 12 people who live on earth are beckoned to praise the Lord. Rulers and royalty, young and old, male and female are all beckoned to join the animal kingdom in giving praise to God.
Identical to the first section of the psalm, the psalmist closes this section with reasons for why earth should so praise the Lord. First is that God’s name alone is exalted (set exceedingly high). God’s name stands for his character or person. When Israel would worship the Lord they would say, “The Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). This could be an affirmation of his Trinitarian nature, but it could also be understood in a majestic sense—God is unique; there is no one else like him. Perhaps this last meaning is in view here. The second reason why earth should praise the Lord is because his splendor (glory or majesty) is above the earth and the heavens. Both earth and heaven are drawn together here.
Humans have been mentioned already as joining the earth praising the Lord. But the last verse draws in God’s covenant people, Israel, his faithful servants. Since heaven and earth praise God, the “apple of his eye” should follow suit. Perhaps they should create the crescendo. Maybe they should even lead the rest of creation.
Two reasons are given for drawing in Israel to this praise. First God raised up a horn for them. This means God has manifested his power to this people. After all, he redeemed them from Egypt. Second, these people are close to his heart (near to him). He loves them with an everlasting love. What else can be said but Praise the Lord?
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.