It’s easy to recognize the psalms as beautiful poems. But how do we understand their deeper meaning? How psalms are organized (both internally and within the book of Psalms) is just as significant to their meaning as the words themselves. In this episode, join Tim, Jon, and Carissa for a deep dive into Psalm 148, where we see Yahweh as the ideal king who restores order to all creation.
Fire, hail, smoke, stormy wind, the sea monster—these are the things on the land called to praise God. They are forces of decreation and chaos. So why is [the psalmist] calling them to praise Yahweh? The point is that Yahweh is king over it all. These are the forces of decreation, and, in this creation narrative world, these are the things that might be a threat to that order. And so the point is that Yahweh is the king over it all. And they praise him! They’re called to praise him.
In part one (00-8:30), Tim, Jon, and Carissa begin discussing Psalm 148, which will be part of our Visual Commentary series.
While individual psalms have meaning within themselves, the book of Psalms is arranged to tell an overarching story. In fact, the ordering and organization of psalms—both internally, within a single psalm, and in the grander scheme of the whole Psalter (book of Psalms)—is just as significant to the meaning of a psalm as the words it contains.
Psalm 148 is the third part of the conclusion to the book of Psalms.
In part two (8:30-16:45), the team explores the five-psalm conclusion of the Psalter.
Psalms 146-150 all start and end the same way, with the invitation “Hallelu-Yah!” (hallelujah) or “Praise Yah” (a shortened version of God’s name, Yahweh). Usually, when we say or sing the word hallelujah, we consider that word the praise itself. In Hebrew, hallelujah is actually the term used to command or summon someone else to praise the Lord by singing a song or recounting his faithfulness.
Psalm 148 consists of two main sections, bookended by those hallelujahs: praise for Yahweh from the skies (verses 1-6) and from the land (verses 7-14).
In part three (16:45-26:00), Carissa leads us through an exploration of the horn mentioned in Psalm 148:14.
The raised horn imagery relates to an ox’s or bull’s horn being lifted up in victory after a battle. It originally comes from the way the animal would lift its horns after goring another creature. This imagery is fairly common in the psalms (e.g., Psalm 92:10).
Sometimes the exalted horn is a metaphor for other non-battle victories, like in Hannah’s song of praise when the Lord removes her barrenness and gives her a son (1 Samuel 2:1, 10).
When we read Psalm 148 and see this important horn imagery, we should ask: what is the horn referring to? Is there a specific battle victory being commemorated, or has Yahweh exalted a person—a victor—to lead his people? It takes careful consideration of context to answer this question. In the case of Psalm 148, the best interpretation is to consider this a celebration of victory for Israel.
In part four (26:00-37:30), the team explores how Psalm 148 fits into the story of the Psalter as a whole.
Psalms 1-2 open the book with a look back to God’s ideal world: humanity flourishing in a garden, in an unbroken relationship with Yahweh. Psalm 2 looks ahead to a king from David’s line (whom the Lord calls “my son”) who will give victory to Yahweh over his enemies.
The promised Messiah of Psalm 2, the formerly-barren Hannah, and the victorious king that Hannah looked forward to (David) all share the experience of being people from the lower tiers of society whom God exalts to a place of victory.
The story of the Psalter traces the rise and fall of the kingdom of Israel, as well as the rise and fall of Israel’s trust in Yahweh. The Psalter itself has five books within it. The first book (Psalms 1-41) follows the rise of the kingdom. In the second book (Psalms 42-72) and third book (Psalms 73-89), Israel is conquered by enemy nations and the kingless people are thrown into exile. The fourth book (Psalms 90-106) expresses a renewed adoration for and trust in Yahweh as Israel’s king. The Psalter concludes in the fifth book (Psalms 107-150) with a restoration of the Davidic king.
Recognizing the threads woven throughout the book of Psalms is necessary to make sense of the details of individual psalms.
In part five (37:30-46:00), Tim, Jon, and Carissa turn their attention to closely examining Psalm 148, starting with verses 1-6.
In the context of the Psalter as a whole, suddenly Psalm 148’s call to praise Yahweh takes on a new meaning: Yahweh is worthy of praise because he is Israel’s king and because he has reestablished Israel as a nation with a human king from David’s line.
Psalm 148 is the centerpiece of a collection of praise psalms, and it focuses on the skies and the land—an allusion to Genesis 1:1.
Psalm 148 also quotes other specific language from Genesis 1, effectively leading readers through each day of creation. The psalmist pictures God’s creation as operating in a fixed, orderly pattern, all in obedience to Yahweh’s commands.
In part six (46:00-end), the team examines Psalm 148:7-14, which focuses on the land praising Yahweh.
The psalmist begins with the outer reaches of creation praising God, from the depths of the sea up to the wind, snow, and rain. As the psalm progresses, we move inward to fruit trees, mountains, animals, and humans.
At the beginning of this section of verses, the psalmist calls on the agents of chaos and decreation (sea monsters, fire, hail, stormy wind) to praise Yahweh. Yahweh is king and controller of the chaos too. Now, just because these agents of chaos are described as “doing his word” in Psalm 148:8, that does not mean Yahweh wills evil to happen. Instead, the psalmist is proclaiming that no force of darkness or evil can thwart Yahweh’s plans and purposes.
Yahweh is pictured as the ideal king who restores order to all creation––this is the hope and victory God’s people are celebrating in Psalm 148.
Interested in more? Check out Tim’s library here.
Show produced by Dan Gummel, Zack McKinley, and Cooper Peltz. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.
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