Friday, November 6, 2009

Psalm 145 – The Beginning of the End of Praise

On a warm summer’s evening, as the crowds sift away and take their seats on a grassy bank, they quaff wine and soft drink and await poignantly the sun’s predestined surrender, giving way to the washed moonlit night. Then the display commences with bangs, crackles, sparkles and whistles—light, colour, smoke—all in abundance; and then after several minutes it’s gone as suddenly as it arrived. This is the modern fireworks display.

As in a rapturous fireworks display, Psalms 145 – 150 end the corpus of the book of Psalms with a glittering, awestruck crescendo. And “praise” is the chrysanthemum-mark of this penultimate firework, from the hand and heart of the people of God (and even beyond, perhaps, to all people) to their God, the LORD.

Psalm 145 is a fuller song of praise—even to a unique superscription, tehillāh—meaning, ‘song of praise’; it extends the benediction from all humankind to God. It’s a song recognising the fullness of God’s goodness and love; his personified character. In such a recognition there can only logically be praise.

Ten of this psalm’s twenty one acrostic[1] verses feature the personal divine name, Yahweh, and not simply the more generalised name for God, Elohim. This is the LORD who’s in view, and the praise is directed at him and him alone.

Psalm 145 is the cannon-charge for Psalms 146 – 150; psalms that have hallelujah (‘praise the LORD’) written all over them. It’s the leader of the pack, trumpeting praise to the masses as it proclaims the eulogised entrance of the final five songs of praise.

Some of the adjectives of praise that come to mind in considering Psalm 145 are:

- Mystery and mysticism in verse 3: his greatness no one can fathom.

- Character of God in verses 8-9: we can trust God.

- God’s power and goodness in verses 4-7: both are awesome.

- God is protector in verses 14, 17-20.

Scroggie[2] finds the following structure reminiscent in this psalm:

1. The greatness of God (vv. 1-6).

2. The goodness of God (vv. 7-10).

3. The glory of God (vv. 11-13).

4. The grace of God (vv. 14-21).

The end of praise is of course the time when all people will see and praise God, bar none. This psalm has a mature, almost regal, authority about it. It stands prominently at the head of the queue.

It’s the cornerstone of praise only worthy the Most High God.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] James L. Mays, Psalms – Interpretation (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1994), p. 437. Mays highlights that verse 13 is split into two verses in English versions, completing a comprehensive acrostic; each verse comprising a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet (apart from the technical non-appearance of the Hebrew letter nun).

[2] W. Graham Scroggie, A Guide to the Psalms – A Comprehensive Analysis of the Psalms (Vol. 4) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1995), pp. 108-11.

No comments: