Choir of Creation – Ps 148
July 24, 2011
We are nearing the end of our study of the Psalms. Just two more to go! Tonight’s offering was Ps 148, a beautifully crafted psalm, full of powerful thoughts concerning God and his relationship to his people. As I presented the material, I felt a little ‘flat’, not as engaged as I had anticipated in the study. As I was thinking the process over, I thought that this was one psalm that could have used some visual aids and perhaps a bit different style. I alternate between a preaching style and a ‘Question/Answer’ style for the Psalms. (The Q & A style is also known as “read my mind”, since I seem to come up with incredibly obscure questions. I need to learn how to write leading questions!)
Psalm 148 is called the Choir of Creation by Derek Kidner, one of the supreme commentators on the Psalms. His little work is just outstanding and has taught me an incredible amount about Hebrew poetry and how to pick out the features of the psalms, not to mention keen insights into each individual psalm.
The first thing to notice about this psalm is the ‘locale’ of each potential worshipper. The psalmist begins in heaven, calling the angels to worship (1-2). The first half of the psalm (1-6) descends ‘Jacob’s ladder’ to the realm of sun, moon and stars then to the ‘firmament’ and the waters above the ‘firmament’ (to use the Genesis 1 kjv terms!) — that is, the third stage refers to the clouds and the air above the earth. All things in the heights are called to praise our God.
The second half (7-14) of the psalm begins in the ‘deeps’ and works its way up through the earth and the creatures on it, to man, even man in covenant relationship with God, i.e., Israel itself, in the midst of the earth. You can see by this ‘movement’ that all creation is compassed by the various groups called to praise the Lord.
There is a precious kind of parallelism that we often see in Hebrew poetry called chiasm (that is, a parallel outline of the material looks like the left face of the letter X — the Greek chi — hence, chiasm). There is a majestic chiastic structure to this psalm, which intensifies the interest on the covenant people of God. I will try to reproduce it here (this is where a visual aid would have been handy).
Level 1 of the chiasm parallels the ‘sentient beings’ of creation. Level 2 parallels the things ‘on the surface’ of each sphere; sun moon and stars are just ‘above’ the atmosphere, as it were on the surface of the ‘firmament’; while hail and snow, mountains and hills, trees and beasts are on the surface of the earth. Level 3 parallels the things that are ‘below the surface’ of each realm – the waters that are above the heavens (clouds) and the highest heavens that are below the clouds, compared to the deeps and the creatures of the deeps.
The point of this structure seems to be the place man occupies in God’s mind – parallel to the angels in his regard. But notice that God goes a step further in the second summation and names Israel, a special class of men in covenant relationship with him. They are ‘a people near to him.’ (14, emphasis added)
There is one more thing to note about the structure of the psalm: the ‘summations’ are parallel in thought to one another. The creatures of heaven are exhorted to praise the name of the Lord on the basis of their creation by fiat (command). The whole of them are established and function according to the laws of God’s command. No wonder they reward fruitful study!
Great are the works of the LORD;
They are studied by all who delight in them.
But what of the men who are likewise exhorted to praise the name of the Lord in the second summation? Well, they are reminded of God’s great name, but it is great in their eyes because he provided for men “a horn for his people” (14) – a refuge, a place of salvation!
This is a word of redemption! Hear Zechariah after the birth of John the Baptist:
Luke 1:68 "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, 69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant
Here then we have the real heart of the psalm. All the Choirs of Creation are called to sing praise to the name of the Lord of Heaven because he has caused his people to be near to him through the redemption he himself provides. He is the horn of salvation!
Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,
Praise ye the Lord!