This psalm, which consists entirely of calls to praise, forms a fitting conclusion to Book V of the Psalms and, indeed, to the entire Psalter.
Comparison with the 1st Psalm. ‘The first and last of the Psalms have both the same number of verses, are both short and very memorable; but the scope of them is very different; the first Psalm is an elaborate instruction in our duty, to prepare us for the comforts of our devotion; this is all rapture and transport, and perhaps was penned on purpose to be the conclusion of those sacred songs, to show what is the design of them all, and that is, to assist us in praising God.’ (MHC)
‘In view of all that has been disclosed about God, about his religion, about the manifestations of his mercy and grace to his people, there is occasion for praise. After all that has been experienced, observed, and recorded in this book—all of trial, sorrow, temptation, conflict, disappointment, sickness, bereavement, persecution, war, captivity, bondage, exile, tears, pain, darkness, trouble—there is, as the result of the whole, as there will be at the end of our own troubled and chequered lives, occasion for exultation, praise, triumph,—songs, rejoicings, raptures, hallelujahs.’ (Barnes)
J.A. Motyer (NBC) sees this psalm as calling for praise that is (a) appropriate to God, vv1f; and (b) proportionate to humanity – using every means, vv3-5, by every person, v6.
According to Kidner we have in this psalm the ‘where’ (v1), ‘why’ (v2), ‘how’ (vv3-5), and ‘who’ (v6) of praise.
For Mays, ‘the liturgical cry, “Hallelujah,” [is] turned into an entire psalm.’
For Origen, ‘various musical instruments, when used in praising God, reflect different aspects of Christian life, such as obedience to God’s commands, suppression of sinful physical desires, unity of belief, moral excellence and desire for Christ and his salvation.’ Thus, ‘ the trumpet is the contemplative mind or the mind by which the teaching of the spirit is embraced. The harp is p 430 the busy mind that is quickened by the commands of Christ. The timbrel represents the death of fleshly desire because of honesty itself. Dancing is the agreement of reasonable spirits all saying the same thing and in which there are no divisions. The stringed instruments suggest the unison of the voices of moral excellence and the unity of the organ which is the church of God resting on reflective and active minds. The melodious cymbal reflects the active mind affixed on its desire for Christ; the joyous cymbal the purified mind inspired by the salvation of Christ.’ (ACCS)
Psa 150:1 Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
His sanctuary…his mighty heavens – ‘The place of worship where God specially hears prayer and accepts praise, and the firmament where angels fly at his command, and veil their faces in adoration, are each a sanctuary. The sanctuary is manifestly here looked at as the temple of grace, the firmament as the temple of power. So the verse proclaims both grace and glory.’ (Martin Geier).
Psa 150:2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Psa 150:3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
‘The praise of God is not simply contemplation, confession, and prostration—it is also music, and so engages the mind, voice, body, and heart.’ (Broyles)
The harp and lyre – These are both hand-held stringed instruments.
Psa 150:4 praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,
The tambourine is particularly associated with dancing, Ex 15:20; Judg 11:34; 1 Sam 18:6; Jer 31:4.
‘There is enough in our holy faith to create and to justify the utmost degree of rapturous delight. If men are dull in the worship of the Lord our God they are not acting consistently with the character of their religion.’ (Spurgeon)
Psa 150:5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
‘What about instruments? Surely, Psalm 150, alone, should have definitive bearing on this question. The arguments against them say that, in the temple worship in Israel, musical instruments were used only when the sacrifices were being offered. Today, since the sacrifices of Israel have been abolished by the completed sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the music that was associated with the ancient sacrifices should be abolished, too. That is, certainly, special and (I would say) unpersuasive pleading. Were instruments really used only when sacrifices were offered? How could we possibly know? What about this psalm? It tells us to praise God with a variety of instruments and says nothing about sacrifices. What about the worship of God in heaven, according to Revelation? There are harps in heaven (Revelation 5.8) and trumpets (Revelation 8.6-8, 10, 12; 9.1, 13). There is singing, all of it in words not found explicitly in Psalms. How can we deny that Psalm 150 endorses the use of new songs and instruments in worship?’ (J.M. Boice)
Boice’s argument is weakened by the fact that musical instruments are no-where mentioned in the NT except in a symbolic way.
Psa 150:6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.
‘Who else should praise Yahweh? If there is to be divine praise in the Jerusalem temple and in heaven (v 1), no less are the creatures of earth so obliged (v 6). The whole of humanity is invited to the celebration of believers and angels. Every being is to fulfill his or her highest function by praising the creator. Only the incorporation of such a total terrestrial choir can come anywhere near to reflecting the greatness of Yahweh.’ (Allen, WBC)
Allen reflects on the contentless praise that characterises certain contemporary worship songs: ‘In contemporary church services those praise songs that lack solid reasons for praise assail thinking worshipers with empty noise. In the context of the Psalter, however, the literary function of the psalm as a doxological response to earlier theological content is a redeeming factor. Reasons galore have been supplied readers to justify God’s grandeur, to which v 2 refers with catch-all expressions. It only remains for us, having savored such reasons, to recognize our cue in the open-ended “all who breathe” and to add our bravos in fervent acclaim.’
‘God calls Christians today to delight in and meditate upon the story of God’s dealings with our ancestors in the faith. God also calls us to delight in and meditate upon God’s hesed care for us and our communities of faith. When we accept the story as our own, accept God as our Lord, the only response is unbridled praise. Hallelujah.’ (Nancy Declaisse-Walford, NICOT)
‘What a day will it be when all things in all places unite to glorify the one only living and true God!’ (Spurgeon)
‘There is nothing in the Psalter more majestic or more beautiful than this brief but most significant finale, in which solemnity of tone predominates, without however in the least disturbing the exhilaration which the close of the Psalter seems intended to produce; as if in emblematical allusion to the triumph which awaits the church and all its members, when through much tribulation they shall enter into rest.’ (Joseph Addison Alexander)