Thrust Statement: Psalms 150 is a dramatic call for self-abandonment to God.

 

Scripture Reading:  Psalm 150; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16

 

 

                        Psalm 150 is a psalm calling for praise. Praise is the obligation and gladness of all creation. Praise is not only a human necessity and a human requirement, but it is also a human delight. One’s praise to God is one’s response to His power and mercy. It is inappropriate not to praise God. God should be praised because He is God. Praise does its work among humans as much as it does among the heavenly host. Psalm 150 is the fifth in the group of Hallelujah psalms that conclude the book of Psalms. Psalms 150 is enclosed by “Praise the LORD” (vv. 1, 6).[1] Sandwiched between the beginning and end of this Psalm, one observes ten imperatives—“praise God” is employed once and “praise him” is utilized nine times.

 

                        This Psalm as well as the preceding four calls upon God’s people to praise Him with all kinds of instruments. For instance, six imperatives occur within three verses in which several musical instruments are employed in praise to the LORD:

 

3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,

praise him with the harp and lyre,

4 praise him with tambourine and dancing,

praise him with the strings and flute,

5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,

                  praise him with resounding cymbals (Psalm 150:3-5). 

 

An analysis of the Psalm reveals that the Psalmist tells who is to be praised: “Praise the LORD” (v. 1); next, the Psalmist reveals why He is to be praised: “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness” (v. 2); then, who is to praise Him: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” (v. 6). And, finally, How should God be praised? The Psalmist does not leave this to the imagination. He tells how he is to be praised—the LORD is to be praised with music (vv. 3-5).

 

PRAISE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

One can say that God is a lover of music. Music is a witness to the power of God. Music has the ability to capture the beauty of God’s grace and love and to evoke feelings beyond the range of ordinary words. Praise is an outward manifestation of the gratitude of the one’s redeemed. Another one of the praise Psalms is quite clear: “Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make music (yavlate,[2] psalate, “to touch sharply, to pluck, pull, twitch”) to our God on the harp” (Psalm 147:7).  Singing and making music rekindles devout affection within the souls of men and women. Through melody God is able to convey divine light and warmth into our understanding of the unsearchable riches of Christ. God uses Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs as a means of remembrance upon what God has accomplished for sinful man through Jesus.

 

The Book of Psalms began with an emphasis upon the Torah of the LORD as the way of life and ends with an invitation to “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” (v. 6). Psalm 150 is a doxology from the beginning to the end. This Psalm begins with Hallelujah (Hy: Wll]h', h~l$lW y`h) and ends with Hallelujah (Hy:AWll]h', h~l$lW y`h). All creation is summoned to take part. The last five Psalms (146—150) are encased with the words: “Let every creature praise his holy name” (Psalm 145:21b) and “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” (Psalm 150:6).

 

As stated above, every half-line begins with an imperative form—“praise”:

1 Praise the LORD. 

Praise God in his sanctuary;

praise him in his mighty heavens.

2 Praise him for his acts of power;

praise him for his surpassing greatness.

3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,

praise him with the harp and lyre,

4 praise him with tambourine and dancing,

praise him with the strings and flute,

5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,

praise him with resounding cymbals. 

6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. 

Praise the LORD (Psalm 150:1-6).

 

            The Hebrew title for the Book of Psalms is myL!h!t= (f+h]ll]m, “praises” ), which is the equivalent of the Greek word yalmoi'" (psalmois). This term, f+h]ll]m, represents much of the contents of the Book of Psalms. The Hebrew word for Psalms is derived from the Hebrew ll~h` (h`l~l, “to praise”), as in Hallelujah (Hy: Wll]h', h~l$lW y`h).  In the English translations, the Greek word yalmovj" (psalmos) means “a twanging of bow strings or harp strings.”[3] Albert Barnes also notes that the Greek word for psalm (yalmovj") is from the Greek word yavllw (psallw) meaning

 

to touch, to twitch, to pluck—as the hair or beard; and then, to touch or twitch a string, to twang, that is, to cause it to vibrate by touching or twitching it with the finger . . . an instrument for striking the strings of a lyre, as a quill. Hence the word is applied to instruments of music employed in praise, and then to acts of praise in general.[4]

 

 

PRAISE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

The verb psallw is also employed in the New Testament as expressing praise. The verb psallw has its primary meaning ‘“to sing’ with at least the possible nuance of ‘to sing’ with instrumental accompaniment.”[5] The New Testament writers employ the word yavlmo" (psalmos) in two senses: (1) the Old Testament psalms, and (2) songs of praise and joy.[6]  For example, Paul in writing to the Romans declares:

 

For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: “Therefore I will praise (yalw' psalw, “I will sing praise”[7]) you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name” (Romans 15:8-9).

 

By the use of the word psalmos, Paul is not excluding instruments, even though the singing may be without musical accompaniment. The citation, in Romans 15:9, is from Psalm 18:49, which appears to be a Psalm sung with instruments. This statement of Paul is about Christ’s ministry to the Jews to confirm God’s mercy to the Gentiles. Just as David praised God for his victory over the surrounding nations, so Christ celebrates His victory over satanic powers that brings about redemption for the Gentiles.

 

Because of God’s mercy, Jesus is saying, “I will praise (yalw' psalw) you among the Gentiles,” and “I will sing hymns to your name.” This is not related just to the congregational gathering of the corporate body of believers, but also to individuals in their every day walk with God. This perception of God’s mercy is one of the reasons that Christians sing Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. This outburst of joy, assembled or not assembled, is to praise God for His mercy. Paul’s and Silas’ singing in prison is an example of this explosion of joy in song to God (Acts 16:25). Do you praise God in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs because of His mercy? Do you praise God for His spiritual blessing made available through Christ? Prior to Paul calling upon the Ephesians to “sing and make music,” he burst forth in rapturous language to capture the hearts of men and women in gratitude.

 

Praise (EujloghtoV", euloghtos, “blessed”) be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love  he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace  that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.  And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.  In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:3-14).

 

Ephesians 5:19 is reminiscent of the praise in Ephesians 1:3-14.

Again, one also finds the word psallw employed by Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians: “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I also will pray with my mind; I will sing (yalw' psalw, “I will sing praise”) with my spirit, but I will also sing (yalw' psalw, “I will sing praise”) with my mind” (1 Corinthians 14:15).  As one reflects upon this verse, one is conscience that the word yallw' (psallw, “to pluck, pull”) is employed in the Septuagint (LXX, the Greek translation of the Old Testament—translated between 285—250 BCE) to translate the Hebrew word /g^^n` (n`g~n, “to play a stringed instrument”) and rm~z` (z`m~r, “to make music in praise to God”).[8]  The usage of psallw in the Septuagint is used to translate the Hebrew word n`g~n twelve times. On the other hand, the word psallw in the Septuagint is used to translate the Hebrew word z`m~r forty times.[9]

 

                        Did Paul exclude the use of instruments in his use of the word psallw? Every Christian’s life should be one of praise. Every Believer’s life should be one of praising God in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs for God’s unsearchable love. In Paul’s letters to the Christians in Ephesus and Colossae, he compares the behavior of the unbeliever with the believer. Toward the close of the Ephesus epistle, he writes:

 

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing (a[/donte", adontes) and make music (yavllonte", psallontes) in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:15-21).

 

Many Christians associate Ephesians 5:19 with public worship, but there is nothing in the context to identify this as an act that only takes place on Sunday morning between 9am and 10am. While this verse no doubt includes activities that take place in the corporate assembly, the text does not suggest such a restriction.[10] Believers are to instruct one another through psalms (yalmoi'", psalmois), hymns (u{mnoi", Jumois) and spiritual songs (wj/dai'", wdais). Paul encouraged them to “sing and make music.” The words sing and make music are from the Greek words a[/donte" kaiV yavllonte" (adontes kai psallontes), which is translated by R. C. H. Lenski as “singing and playing.”[11]

 

He further states: “Singing is done by the voice; playing by means of an instrument. Yavllw means to let a string twang and thus to play a lyre or a harp, and then to play any instrument as an accompaniment to the voice.”[12] In other words, the Christians at Ephesus were to “sing and make music.”[13] This would be applicable not just to formal (corporate) worship, but also on other occasions. Paul’s use of the word Psalms appears to refer to the Old Testament psalms.[14] This is the most logical conclusion, since this book as well as the other thirty-eight books was looked upon as the word of God (see 2 Timothy 3:14-17).[15] 

 

The writers of the New Testament cite the Psalms frequently. For example, Luke records a conversation between Jesus and the religious leaders in which Jesus cited from Psalm 110 (Luke 20:41-44). Also, Jesus before His ascension called attention to the Psalms in His farewell instructions to the disciples (Luke 24:44). Prior to the day of Pentecost, Peter stood before a group numbering about one hundred and twenty and cited from two psalms (Acts 1:20-21):

 

 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms,

‘May his place be deserted;

let there be no one to dwell in it,’ [Psalms 69:25]

and,

‘May another take his place of leadership’” [Psalm 109:8]

Again, when Paul proclaimed the good news to those in Pisidian Antioch, he cited Psalm 2:7: “‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father” (Acts 13:33). The Book of Psalms is one of the most quoted books in the New Testament. Paul not only instructed the Ephesians to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, but he added the phrase, “sing and make music” (a[/donte" kaiV yavllonte" (adontes kai psallontes). Why did Lenski translate the word psallontes as “playing”? Before responding to this question, perhaps it would be helpful to observe what Charles Hodge has written:

 

a[/donte" kaiV yavllonte" (adontes kai psallontes), singing and making melody, are two forms of expressing the same thing. The latter term is the more comprehensive; as ai[dein (aidein, “to sing”—RD Burdette) is to make music with the voice; yavllein (psallein, “to play”—RD Burdette), to make music in any way; literally, to play on a stringed instrument; then, to sing in concert with such an instrument; then, to sing or chant. See 1 Cor. 14, 15; James, 5, 13; Rom. 15, 9.[16]

 

Is there any evidence for translating the word psallontes as “playing”? To help solve the problem of translation, it would be helpful to examine a passage in First Samuel in which David was summoned to comfort Saul:

 

                    Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.  Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you.  Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the harp (r/NKiB' ÷G«n"m], m+n~gg}n B~kkh!nnor). He will play when the evil spirit from God comes upon you, and you , will feel better.” So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.”  One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play (÷G«n" ['deyœ y)d}~a n~gg}n) the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him” (1 Samuel 16:14-18).

 

The Hebrew words in First Samuel: “can play the harp” is translated into the Greek text as eijdovta yavllein ejn kinuvra/[17] (eidota psallein en kinura, “skilled to play on the harp”). The Greek word psallein (“to play”) is equivalent to the Hebrew word  m+n~gg}n (“play”).  Then the phrase “know how to play” (y)d}~a n~gg}n) is translated into the Septuagint Greek text as eijdovta yalmovn (eidota psalmon, “understands playing on the harp”). Thus, when Paul told the Ephesians to engage in adontes (“singing”) kai psallontes (“psalming”), he is utilizing a word (psallontes) that the Jewish Christians in Ephesus understood.[18]

 

The believers at Ephesus were encouraged to “sing and play,” frequently translated as “make melody.” Since the Septuagint was the Bible utilized by Jesus and the apostles, it is logical that they would have employed the word psallontes as the Jews currently understood it. The translators of the Septuagint utilized the Greek word psalmon (“playing on the harp”) to express the Hebrew word m+n~gg}n (“play”).  When Paul says, “sing and make music,” is he not reflecting upon musical composition associated with the Psalms?

 

It is significant, at least to this author, that Paul, in the Ephesian epistle, unlike the Colossian epistle, adds an additional thought. In the Ephesian letter, he says to “sing and make music,” but in the epistle to the Colossians, he only says, “sing.”  Consider the following parallel:

 

EPHESIANS 5:19-20

COLOSSIANS 3:16-17

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

 

Does the phrase “sing psalms” in Colossians convey the same admonition that Paul expresses in “sing and make music”? The word “sing,” even today does not exclude “making music” through instruments. It is not uncommon for individuals to invite someone to go and hear individuals—quartets—sing, but it is understood that just the mention of the word “singing” does not exclude mechanical music. “Make music” is a common term among musicians to mean to “play” instruments along with their singing.

 

Paul says that this singing and making music is to be “in your heart to the Lord.”  How were they to give thanks? Paul says with “singing and playing.” But, Paul added the prepositional phrase, “in your heart to the Lord.” In other words, this singing and playing on instruments should not be mechanical. It is to be done with your hearts, that is to say, not merely with your lips and with your fingers. One sings and plays with his heart when he excites his mind to an understanding of the sentiments presented in the words repeated.

 

This thought—in your heart—is very similar to the words of Paul, as cited above, to the Corinthians: “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind” (1 Corinthians 14:15). Paul is saying, in essence, that the whole of men and women should be filled with praise. The psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs should be sung with a spirit of thankfulness, which spirit permeates the believer’s singing and playing—corporately or individually.

 

PRAISE: EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE

 

In Psalm 1, the Psalmist calls attention to an openness to the instructions of God’s law. In Psalm 2, David is calling upon all to recognize God’s sovereignty. One cannot read Psalm 2 without coming away with the idea that praise is the offering of one’s whole life and self to God. With this introduction to the Book of Psalms, it is fitting that this book ends with an enthusiastic invitation to all creation to yield themselves to God.[19] Is it any wonder that Paul calls attention to the necessity of worshiping God through  presenting of one’s life in service to God? Listen to Paul as he reflects upon what it is all about:

 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2).

           

 

CONCLUSION

Praise involves every aspect of life, which includes liturgy (activities engaged in for corporate worship and edification). If one is gathered with the people of God as a corporate body, then the liturgy should be participated in with all your heart. Psalms 150 clearly indicates that the praises offered to God are meant to be sung with the accompaniment of musical instruments. As stated earlier, praises with the accompaniment of musical instruments witnesses to the power of music and its amazing potential for evoking deep feelings of gratitude to the Lord. Is it any wonder that the “four living creatures and the twenty-four elders” praised God through singing and playing the harp in their delight over the accomplishments of Jesus for the salvation of lost humanity? Listen to the words of John as he describes this awesome burst of praise in heaven:

 

And when he had taken it (the scroll), the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  And they sang a new song: 

“You are worthy to take the scroll

 and to open its seals,

because you were slain,

 and with your blood you purchased men for God

 from every tribe and language and people and nation.

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,

                  and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:8-10). 

 

But this singing and playing was not all! John reveals more about the magnitude of praises for what Jesus had accomplished through the shedding of His blood:

 

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.  In a loud voice they sang: 

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and praise!”

 

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 

 

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be praise and honor and glory and power,

for ever and ever!” 

The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped (5:11-14).

 

            If God allows harps to be employed in heaven to sing about the blood of the Lamb, why should one think it is inappropriate to sing on earth with instruments to stir the emotions and ecstasy over the One “who sits on the throne”? Is this the reason that Paul told the Christians at Ephesus to “sing and make music” with all their hearts to the Lord? One cannot help but reflect upon this heavenly praise without understanding why Paul told the Ephesians to: “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:19-20). 

 

Psalms 150 is a dramatic call for self-abandonment to God. It is a yielding of self, not only in liturgy, but also in every moment of life. God wills that every area of one’s life be a symphonic demonstration of praise—“ Praise the LORD” (150:1). All creation is invited to take part. What majesty in this close—“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” (150:6). Revelation 5:13 is an echo of what the Psalmist shouted:

 

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:  “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!.”



[1] All Scripture citations are from The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984, unless stated otherwise.

 

[2] Septuaginta, (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart) 1979. Yavlate is a verb—second person, plural, aorist, active, indicative—from yavllw.

 

 

[3] J. B. Payne, “Book of Psalms,” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 4, Merrill C. Tenney, General Editor (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 925.

[4] Albert Barnes, Psalms (London: Blackie & Son, 1872; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker 1998, ix (page references are to reprint edition).

[5] Ralph W. Harris, Executive Editor, The New Testament Greek-English Dictionary: Sigma—Omega, Word Numbers 4375—5457, vol., 16 (Springfield, Missouri: The Complete Biblical Library, 1986), 541.

[6] See Ibid., 542.

[7] The verb is first person, singular, future, active, indicative and means “to pull, twitch, twang, or play.”

[8] Ibid., 541.

[9] Ibid.

[10] See Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 394.

[11] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, and to the Philippians, Commentary on the New Testament (St. Paul Minnesota: Lutheran Book Concern, 1937; reprint Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1998, 620 (page references are to reprint edition).

[12] Ibid.

[13] See James Moffatt, The New Testament: A New Translation (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1950), where he translates Ephesians 5:19-20:

Converse with one another in the music of psalms, in hymns, and in songs of the spiritual life, praise the Lord heartily with words and music, and render thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ at all times and for all things.

[14] See Murray J. Harris, Colossians & Philemon: Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 169, where he says,

 

Yalmoi~" (psalmois) may refer to OT psalms or songs, u{mnoi" (jj&umnois) to NT hymns about Christ or Christian canticles, and wjdai~" (wdais) to spontaneous hymnody—songs from Scripture, songs about Christ, and songs from the Spirit. Also, since yavllw (psallw) originally meant “pluck a stringed instrument,” yalmovj" (psalmos) could allude to musical accompaniment (cf. Moffatt, “with the music of psalms”; Turner, Words 353).

[15] For a more detailed study of the relevance of the Law to the believer, see Dallas Burdette’s sermon: “Delight in the Law of the Lord: Psalm 1.” 

[16] Charles Hodge, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), 305.

[17] Septuaginta, (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart) 1979.

[18] See Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), 1295, where they comment on the word “psalm” and “making melody”:

psalms—generally accompanied by an instrument. . . . Making melody—Greek, “playing and singing with an instrument.”  In your heart—not merely with the tongue; but the serious feeling of the heart accompanying the singing of the lips (cf. I Cor. 14:15; Ps. 47:7).

See also Harold W. Hoehner, “Ephesians” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Editors, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Chariot victor Publishing, 1983), where he comments on the meaning of the words “making melody”:

First is communication with one another with psalms (psalmois, OT psalms sung with stringed instruments such as harps), hymns (&umnois, praises composed by Christians), and spiritual songs (a general term). Second is communication with the Lord by singing and making melody (psallontes, singing with a stringed instrument) in the heart.

See also Alfred Martin, “Ephesians” in Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison, Editors, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), 1314, where he writes about the Greek participle translated as “making melody”:

Psalms. This word usually indicates songs set to instrumental accompaniment, as does also the participle translated making music (psallontes).

[19] I am deeply indebted to J. Clinton McCann, Jr., Psalms in Leander E. Keck, Senior New Testament Editor, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Introduction to Hebrew Poetry, Job, Psalms: The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol., 4 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), 1278-1280. This work is not only scholarly, but it is also very practical. I highly recommend to everyone reading this sermon to purchase ($70.00) this commentary.