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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:True Praise Comes From All He Made
Text:Psalms 148 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Worship
 
Preached:2007-05-06
Added:2009-04-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


PSALM 148
(Reading: Revelation 4)
 
True Praise Comes From All He Made
 
 
Congregation in our Lord Jesus Christ...
 
     There is nothing quite like the sound of a choir.
          To have all those singers together united in voice and pitched on the right key is simply beautiful.
             
     For there is no instrument quite like the human voice in song.
          And so many joined as one is far beyond any orchestra.
 
     The choir becomes even more astounding when it is very large or is combined with other choirs.
          Doesn’t the concert hall then throb right through its floor boards and ceiling joists?
 
     You see, I am amazed that they’re all singing the same song with such accuracy!
          How much practice must have gone into that!
              And that’s not counting all the years each of those singers has been training their voices long before that performance.
 
     So wouldn’t it be truly out of this world to have everyone everywhere singing from the same page?
          And then not only all of mankind but every creature here below and up there above!
              What a sound that would be!
 
     Well, that’s exactly what Psalm 148 is all about.
          The call to praise here unites all creation.
             
     And so what a psalm this is to continue the “Hallelujah” psalms!

          For what had began with individual praise in Psalm 146, through to include the covenant people in Psalm 147, now involves the praise of the Creator by all those created!

 
     There’s still something else, though, which comes from those massive choirs.
          You think about it.
              When you’re at that concert at which time do those voices have an extra awe-inspiring quality to them?
     Isn’t it when they sing in parts?
          Then it is as if the choir is singing back to itself in the song.
              And it is!
 
     Well, we meet exactly that also here.
          Here – where the biggest choir of all sings.
 
     So let’s turn to those singing the first part.
          For THE PRAISE RINGS OUT FROM THOSE ABOVE.
 

     You see, after the initial “Hallelujah” – the “Praise the LORD” which is at the beginning of each of these last five psalms – it’s clear where this part of the choir is singing from.

          “Praise the LORD from the heavens,” verse 1 continues.
              “Praise him in the heights above,” it adds further.
 
     So, this is starting right at the very top!
          And I don’t mean musically either.
              Because it’s clear that this is about the highest heaven – the place where God Himself is.
 
     Of course, this is the place where God is being constantly praised.
          Revelation 4 verse 8 loudly declared that.

              Those symbolic four living creatures never stopped saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

 
     Those symbolic creatures are also found in Ezekiel 1.
          There it is clear that cherubim are being referred to, just as we meet angels in verse 2 of the text.
              And the same song is sung.
     For they are declaring who He is and how that means He is over all things.
          They praise His triumph over all things!
              He is due every respect because of His qualities and attributes.
 
     Think about this.
          If a visiting dignitary receives a reception based on how important they are, what kind of statement is this about God?
              I mean, all the “heavenly hosts” are praising Him!
 
     And “hosts” means lots of them.
          We could also translate it as a multitude, which is the normal word for army.
 
     But as we meet the angels here, let’s also realise the part they play.
          Because while they are found in the choir up above, they are no different in being part of that choir than those here below.
              They are simply God’s messengers.
 
     That’s something to remember in a world that often deifies them.
          You only need to read the astrology advertisements and new age magazines to realise that.
              Not that any of you would!
     Still, in the Old Testament, and in the New, men have been tempted to worship angels.
          Colossians 2 verse 8 describes such a situation.
              But their true position is what we read about from the apostle John in Revelation 22.
     For in verse 8 there we read how he prostrated himself and was about to worship an angel who brought him the Lord’s message.
          And so in verse 9 that angel says to him, “Don’t do it!
              “I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book.
                   “‘Worship God!’” he cried out to John.
 
     And that’s indeed what’s happening in this psalm.
          They’re all doing the right thing.
              They are all worshipping God.
 
     So too are the heavenly bodies!
          Verse 3 goes on, “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars.”
 
     The sun and moon are a natural pair.
          One is the light of the day and the other the light of the night.
              They compliment each other – and so together profess to the Light above us all and behind us all and through us all!
                   And added to this are all those other lights – the stars.
         
     All up there are praising God.
          And that’s whether it is spiritual or physical.
              Because we find here they’re both intermingled.
     And they are also both huge assemblies.
          I mean, have you ever tried counting the stars of night?
 
     This spiritual-physical combination continues in verse 4.
          And isn’t it all so superlative?
              “Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the sky.”
         
     The “highest heavens” are a similar description to “holy of holies.”
          Solomon in 1st Kings 8 verse 27 spoke of God in this spiritual place.
         
     And the “waters above the skies” are a poetic term for the rain clouds.
          Right at the beginning of the Bible, Genesis 1 verses 6 till 8, we find this expression.
 
     Charles Spurgeon describes this scene so well.

          He says, “By these are meant those regions which are heavens to those who dwell in our heavens; or those most heavenly of abodes where the most choice of spirits dwell.

              “As the highest of the highest, so the best of the best are to praise the Lord.

     “If we could climb as much above the heavens as the heavens are above the earth, we could still cry out to all around us, “Praise the Lord.”

          “There can be none so great and high as to be above praising Jehovah.”
 
     This is all epitomised in the beginning of verse 5.
          For praising “the name of the LORD” means praising all that God is.
              His name stands for all He is.
                   It’s His name written upon all He has created.
 
     You think about it: Believing in evolution means you are most probably atheistic.
          But believing in creation can only mean you worship Him.
              Those who were made by His command are under His command.
                   The voice which said, “Let them be,” now says, “Let them praise.”
 
     How far away from what we think we can do!
          Verse 5 continues into verse 6 proclaiming He is their Creator, Sustainer, and Controller.
 
     Man, what a choir!
          And that’s only the first part!
              Yet to see all those faces is to realise you cannot begin to see any of those faces!
     But you can sure hear them!
           This is the most celestial of songs!
              These voices are just out of this world!
 
     Which they are, of course!
          Because up there it is all in perfect harmony.
              It’s what’s coming from down here that we are inclined to think would have to be definitely out of tune!
 
     So we turn to the second part of the greatest of all choirs.
          Let’s hear the answering antiphon from earth.
              For THE PRAISE ECHOES BACK FROM THOSE BELOW.
 
     Now, you’re really wondering.
          I used that word ‘antiphon’.
 
     Where does that fit in?
          Well, ‘antiphon’ refers to what is sung between two groups.
 
     The first group was the part of the choir singing from up above.
          The second group is all that is down here below.
              So now we’re going to hear you sing!
 
     In case you’re a bit concerned you might have to do a solo, the “you” is definitely plural!
          Verse 7 quite clearly states that.
              And it doesn’t begin with us directly either.
                   It actually speaks of “great sea creatures and all ocean deeps.”
 
     ‘How do they fit in, though?’ you may ask.
          Well, the divide is between heaven and earth.
               And the earth has a most distinct character.
     Because it is far from reflecting what’s happening gloriously up there.
          Indeed, Romans 8 even speaks of it as being most inglorious.
              For, as verse 21 says there, this world is in bondage to decay.
 
     And when verse 7 of Psalm 148 brought in “great sea creatures” we thought of something which isn’t the most safest of creatures.
          In the old translations they are called “dragons”.
              So something which we couldn’t really imagine being part of the choir praising God.
     Yet it will!
          Because how else did it get there first of all!
              And who has given it a specific role to fill?
 
     We only need to turn to the very first chapter of the Bible.
          Genesis 1 verse 21 is quite clear about where it fits in.
              It says, “God created the great creatures of the sea.”
     And it goes on to add, “and every living and moving thing with which the water teems.”
          This is what verse 7 in our psalm also speaks of with the phrase, “all ocean deeps.”
             

     So as those singing the first part began in the very highest zone here we have the echo being sung to them from the very lowest zone!

          It couldn’t be a far greater contrast and yet it is describing what equally stands before its Maker.
 
     The psalmist then continues describing further parts of the earthly choir.
          In verse 8 he speaks about “lightning and hail, snow and clouds,” and “stormy winds that do his bidding.”
              These are all the forces of nature.
 

     For while “lightning and hail” might seem to be describing what happens at the same time, the “lightning” is, in the original, bringing out the concept of fire.

          That’s how it has been translated.
              In other words, “fire and water.”
 
     Then with “snows and clouds” we may think again at first that they are describing the same thing.
          But it is most likely that the clouds are those produced by hot summer days.
              In other words, “winter and summer.”
 
     Congregation, these are all phenomenon of nature.
          The phenomena which are messengers and servants of God.
              We see how they too are, just as much as angels, part of the choir.
     Which is how verse 8 ends.
          Together with the “stormy winds” they do what He tells them.
 

     So by being what they are and by being in the place where the Lord has placed them and by doing what He tells them, the forces of nature all praise the Lord.

          How arrogant Al Gore is to claim otherwise.
              As if man is the one who controls this planet!
     The serious experts are clear about that.
          The forces of nature are a far greater force than any one creature.
 
     And the psalmist moves on through the rest of creation.
          In verse 9 he brings in the physical world.
             
     He’s certainly not alone among the psalmists is doing that.
          A number of other times the mountains are described as witnessing clearly to the Lord.
              And certainly God’s provision in fruit trees for food and cedars for building our homes, are declaring who He is.
 
     Then having drawn in the flora, verse 10 adds to the choir the fauna.
          “Wild animals and all creatures,” and “small creatures and flying birds” bring them all in.
             
     Who doesn’t remember the days of dissecting those tiny insects at school?
          What incredible and intricate patterns their bodies were.
              You can magnify the smallest flower hundreds of times and the design is still perfectly clear.
 
     And in verses 11 and 12 the poet reaches his own kind.
          He pictures the wide variety in mankind’s participation in this choir.
              No matter how they are – great and small, rich and poor, male and female, young and old.
    
     Perhaps the modern church should learn something here.
          For many churches today say they have something for everyone.

              There’s the traditional services for the seniors, the contemporary services for the families, and then youth services for the young adults.

     The only thing they’re not offering is actually everyone being together praising God!
          And what a loss that is!
              For it’s only when we are all together that we make truly bring out that fullest sound of singing.

              In the words of Galatians 3 verse 28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

 
     Congregation, in this way we are brought to the most fitting end.

          For while all the hosts of heaven and earth are shown in their rightful place to be singing God’s praise that can only be by using the song of the gospel.

              That’s the only tune which brings us altogether.
 
     This is why verse 13 can call upon them all.
          There is none like the Lord – indeed there is none apart from the Lord!
              Indeed, so amazing is the Lord that He thought before creation to love us even though we would reject Him.
    
     That’s why we need to keep the picture of the huge massed choir before us here.
          The choir singing in two parts.
              And in verses 13 and 14 this is the part that earth sings in response to what heaven sang in verses 5 and 6.
     You see, in verse 5 the celestial bodies are called to praise God simply by the fact of their existence.
          It says there, “for he commanded and they were created.”
 
     But in verse 13 man may praise the Lord consciously.
          By saying “his name … is exalted” declares this.
 
     In the same way, in verse 6 God’s glory in the natural world is the reign of law.
          But among His people God’s glory is redemptive love.
              He’s raising up a “horn” for them as verse 14 says.
     And what is this “horn” but the coming Messiah?
          He is the strong deliverer Zechariah prophesies of in Luke 1 verse 69.
              He will bring them “close to his heart.”
 
     The calling of the Church is so clear here.

          The work of God’s grace in drawing a people to Himself despite all that they so sinfully are, couldn’t be more definitively stated.

              The King of kings is His own Son, who has come!
 
     There could be no more fitting climax to what this choir sings.
          It brings the most beautiful song in the world to the most marvellous end.
              It really blows you away!
 
     This is how the Lord wraps it all up.
          It’s a foretaste of what Revelation 21 will describe most graphically symbolically.
              As verse 3 there proclaims in the voice from heaven, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.
                   “They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
 
     Dear friends, such a performance brings tears to your eyes.
          But they’re far from tears of mourning or crying or pain.
              They are tears of joy!
                   Amen.
 
 
PRAYER:
Let’s pray…
     O Great and glorious and gracious God!
          With all creation we cry out Your praise.
              For marvellous things You have done.
     And marvellous things you keep on doing!
          Our lives are all living testimonies to that.
 
     O Lord, help us to be on earth as we will one day be with You in glory.
          Give us Your Spirit to so praise You in the things here below that those around us will have to look up!
              And this we all pray in the Name of the One You have raised up – the horn of your salvation.
                   In Jesus’ precious Name we pray, Amen.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2007, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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