Psalm 148 – Let Heaven and Earth Praise the LORD
Psalm 148 calls upon all creation to praise Yahweh. “What a wonderful song this is! Look over it again, and note the fact that there is no reference in it, from first to last, to the mercy, or pity, or compassion of God. But that is because there is no reference to evil in any form.” (G. Campbell Morgan)
Alexander Maclaren wrote that Psalm 148 continues “…a line of thought which runs through Scripture from its first page to its last – namely, that, as man’s sin subjected the creatures to ‘vanity,’ so his redemption shall be their glorifying.”
This call to all creation to praise Yahweh is not an empty wish. Revelation 5:11-13 tells us specifically that it will be fulfilled. “O what a hymn of praise is here! It is a universal chorus! All created nature have a share, and all perform their respective parts.” (Adam Clarke)
A. Praise from the heavens.
1. (1-4) Calling upon heavenly things to praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
Praise Him in the heights!
Praise Him, all His angels;
Praise Him, all His hosts!
Praise Him, sun and moon;
Praise Him, all you stars of light!
Praise Him, you heavens of heavens,
And you waters above the heavens!
a. Praise the LORD: Like each of the last five psalms in the Book of Psalms, Psalm 148 begins and ends with hallelujah, which is both an exclamation of praise to Yahweh and an encouragement to praise Him.
b. Praise the LORD from the heavens: The psalmist considered that all heavenly beings and bodies should give praise to Yahweh. The God of Israel was not a local deity who only expected honor from Israel. He was and is God over all, and as such deserves such praise in the heights.
i. Psalm 19 told us that the heavens declare the glory of God by their very nature and being. Here the psalmist speaks to the heavens that they continue this praise.
ii. “As God in framing the world began above and wrought downward, so doth the psalmist in this his exhortation to all creatures to praise the Lord.” (Trapp)
iii. In the heights: “The very ‘heights above,’ where God rules…together with outer space and the atmosphere of the earth, are invoked to join in Israel’s praise.” (VanGemeren)
c. Praise Him, all His angels: The psalmist called upon all angelic beings to give God praise. This is the constant occupation of the living creatures surrounding God’s throne (Revelation 4:8). The company of faithful angels is like a great army (all His hosts).
i. Other angelic beings fell because they would not properly honor God (Isaiah 14:12-15).
ii. “Not only in Old Testament times but in the Christian era, men have been tempted to worship angels (Col. 2:18), who are our fellow servants (Rev. 22:8f.), and to treat the stars as arbiters of destiny. The psalm sweeps away such folly.” (Kidner)
d. Praise Him, sun and moon…all you stars of light: Heavenly bodies should also praise God, shining in their radiance for His honor and moving according to His plan.
i. The idea of creation praising God is found in many places in the Scriptures (such as Psalm 98:7-8 and Isaiah 55:12). This is the only place where specifically it is said that the sun and moon and the stars should praise Him.
ii. “Though they have neither speech nor language, and [lack] the tongue of men, yet by their splendor and magnificence, their motions and their influences, all regulated and exerted according to the ordinance of their Maker, do, in a very intelligible and striking manner, declare the glory of God.” (Horne)
iii. “In these starry depths obedience reigns; it is only on earth that a being lives who can and will break the merciful barriers of Jehovah’s law.” (Maclaren)
iv. You stars of light: “…the brightest and most luminous stars: probably the planets may be especially intended.” (Clarke)
e. Praise Him, you heavens of heavens: In the mind of an ancient Hebrew, the blue sky, the night sky, and God’s dwelling place could all be thought of as an aspect of the heavens. The singer here looks to the ultimate of heaven, and all the heavens, to praise God, including the clouds with their waters.
i. Heavens of heavens: “Ye highest and most glorious heavens, the place of God’s throne and glorious presence, as this phrase is used, Deuteronomy 10:14,1 Kings 8:27,Nehemiah 9:6,Psalm 115:16. Or, ye starry heavens, which also may well be so called, because they are above the air, which is often called heaven in Scripture.” (Poole)
ii. Adam Clarke speculated that these heavens of heavens were of them being other planets or solar systems. “Heavens exceeding heavens. Systems of systems extending as far beyond the solar system.”
iii. “The waters above the heavens are a poetic or popular term for the rain clouds.” (Kidner)
2. (5-6) Reasons why the heavens should praise the LORD.
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For He commanded and they were created.
He also established them forever and ever;
He made a decree which shall not pass away.
a. For He commanded and they were created: All creatures or creations owe honor and praise to their Creator, especially things created by the simple command of their Creator. Such a mighty maker deserves praise.
i. “Evolution may be atheistic; but the doctrine of creation logically demands worship; and hence, as the tree is known by its fruit, it proves itself to be true. Those who were created by command are under command to adore their Creator.” (Spurgeon)
b. He also established them forever and ever: These heavenly things – angels, the sun, the moon, the stars, the sky itself – were not only made by God, but they also continue because of His word (a decree). Their continued establishment gives them reason to praise the God who decreed it.
i. “Therefore ought the Lord to be praised because he is Preserver as well as Creator, Ruler as well as Maker.” (Spurgeon)
B. Praise from the earth.
1. (7-12) Calling upon earthly things to praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD from the earth,
You great sea creatures and all the depths;
Fire and hail, snow and clouds;
Stormy wind, fulfilling His word;
Mountains and all hills;
Fruitful trees and all cedars;
Beasts and all cattle;
Creeping things and flying fowl;
Kings of the earth and all peoples;
Princes and all judges of the earth;
Both young men and maidens;
Old men and children.
a. Praise the LORD from the earth: The first part of this psalm called upon things in the heavens to give praise to Yahweh. Earth should also not fail to give its praise to God, and all the earth should join in this praise.
i. Modern men and women make the mistake of worshipping the creation rather than the Creator. “We worship it [nature] in place of God, attributing creative powers to nature and virtually deifying the dynamic within living things. In opposition to this sad pagan error, the psalmist reminds us that the animals themselves worship God.” (Boice)
b. You great sea creatures: All things in the sea and all the phenomenon of weather (fire and hail, snow, clouds, wind) should praise God, fulfilling His word.
i. Great sea creatures: “…either, 1. Dragons and serpents, which abide in the deep caverns and holes of the earth; or, 2. Whales or other sea-monsters, which dwell in the depths of the sea, which are oft called by this name, as Job 7:12, Ezekiel 29:3, and elsewhere, as the word here rendered.” (Poole)
ii. “Its enormous inhabitants, which are under the command of Jehovah, and of none but him.” (Horne)
c. Mountains and all hills: Everything on the land, both fixed and moving – including all the animals of the land – should give praise to the LORD.
i. Beasts: “Those are worse than beasts who do not praise our God. More than brutish are those who are wilfully silent concerning their Maker.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Creeping things and flying fowl: “The lowest worm that crawls and the light-winged bird that soars, these all have voices to praise God.” (Maclaren)
d. Kings of the earth and all peoples: Yahweh’s praise should be proclaimed by all who are made in His image. All humanity – kings, princes, judges, young and old – all owe praise to the God who made them and sustains them.
i. “After the whole creation hath been called upon to praise Jehovah; man, for whom the whole was made; man, the last and more perfect work of God; man, that hath been since redeemed by the blood of the Son of God incarnate, is exhorted to join and fill up the universal chorus of heaven and earth.” (Horne)
ii. “The young man’s strong bass, the maiden’s clear alto, the old man’s quavering notes, the child’s fresh treble, should blend in the song.” (Maclaren)
iii. That all men and women will one day praise the LORD is certain: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)
2. (13-14) Reasons why the earth should praise the LORD.
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For His name alone is exalted;
His glory is above the earth and heaven.
And He has exalted the horn of His people,
The praise of all His saints—
Of the children of Israel,
A people near to Him.
Praise the LORD!
a. For His name alone is exalted: Yahweh deserves such praise from all things on earth because He alone is God. There is no other being that deserves the worship, honor, and praise that God deserves.
i. Let them praise: VanGemeren points out that this is in the form of a command. “By the use of the jussive [command], the psalmist restates the universal obligation of all of God’s creation to demonstrate their allegiance by praising him.”
b. His glory is above the earth and heaven: Yahweh deserves such praise from all things on earth because He is immeasurably greater and more glorious than anything on earth. We should reserve our praise for only that which is truly greater and more glorious, not for the lesser things (such as the idols of men’s hands).
i. “He is himself the crown of all things, the excellency of the creation. There is more glory in him personally than in all his works united. It is not possible for us to exceed and become extravagant in the Lord’s praise: his own natural glory is infinitely greater than any glory which we can render to him.” (Spurgeon)
c. He has exalted the horn of His people: Yahweh deserves such praise from all things on earth because He has rescued and established His people. Those who find their power (the horn of His people) established because of Yahweh owe Him praise.
i. “God loves and cares for all his creation, but he has a special affinity for ‘his people,’ ‘his saints’.” (VanGemeren)
ii. Of the children of Israel: “It is a nation of priests, having the privilege of access to His presence; and, in the consciousness of this dignity, ‘comes forward in this psalm as the leader of all the creatures in their praise of God, and strikes up a hallelujah that is to be joined in by heaven and earth’ (Delitzsch).” (Maclaren)
iii. “His goodness to all his creatures does not prevent his having a special favour to his chosen nation: he is good to all, but he is God to his people.” (Spurgeon)
d. A people near to Him: Yahweh deserves such praise from all things on earth because He has drawn near to His people. He is with and for His people, a blessing and a benefit greater than any other.
i. A people near to Him: “And in that respect happy above all people on the earth, Deuteronomy 4:7; Deuteronomy 33:29, because in covenant with him and near allied to him, as the word here importeth.” (Trapp)
e. Praise the LORD: The composer of Psalm 148 has persuaded us to do what we and all creation should do – give to Yahweh the praise due to Him. Hallelujah!
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org