This past week I had a conversation with a friend, part of which had to do with music in worship. We both agreed that the most meaningful music has theological content, words that tell about God and his goodness. If I were to ask you to shout, “Hallelujah!,” you might do so, but you also might reasonably ask, “Why are you asking us to shout, ‘Hallelujah’?” To encourage others to shout out “Hallelujah”—which, as we’ve noted before means “Praise to God”[1]—without providing any context or reason for doing so can feel like an attempt to reach someone’s emotions without bothering to reach their mind. Now make no mistake. We’re to praise the LORD, yes; but our praise is far more meaningful if we’re able to offer reasons why we praise him. Well fortunately, Psalm 145, David’s song of praise that we’ll be considering this morning, provides us plenty of reasons to praise God. As one commentator notes, this psalm is a “magnificent hymn to the Lord, the Great King, for his mighty acts and benevolent virtues, which are the glory of his kingly rule.”[2]

David begins by whetting our appetite in the opening verses in declaring, “I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.” To exalt is to “hold (someone) in very high regard.” Throughout this psalm it’s evident that David holds God in very high regard. And the fact that David refers to God as “the King” suggests that this exalting, this holding God in very high regard, arises from a recognition and acknowledgement of what the created order’s relationship with God is intended to be. King David, who at one time was head over and held in high regard by the united kingdoms of Israel and Judah, had a proper perspective about his kingly position. Knowing his place in the world, he humbles himself to the only One worthy of being held in the highest regard. He humbles himself to his God who is the greatest and most perfect ruler and King for he rules over the entire universe that he has created. This King is to be praised and exalted forever. He is an eternal King whose reign will never end. Therefore David, whom God chose to be king due to his “being a man after God’s own heart,”[3] will exalt his God the King “for ever and ever.”

After establishing the theme of his song, the exalting and praising of God, David places himself in the historical context of praise among his people. He begins with a general observation in verse 3: “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.” Important to note here is that though it’s possible for us to have a true knowledge of God, that is, to know that he is a great and awesome God, nonetheless we can never have complete or exhaustive knowledge of him. For his greatness is so great that no one can fathom it. It is so great that no one can completely comprehend it. Yet this LORD who is beyond our comprehension has nonetheless chosen to make himself known to us for he created us in his image,[4] he created us like himself, in order that we might know him; in order that we might have a relationship with him. As his creatures, we have been made with the ability to know him and his greatness. And this in and of itself should be a cause for praise.

God is so great that, verse 4, “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” Passing on the knowledge and praise of God is something that should occur within families. Worship is a family activity. Though I wasn’t raised in a home that knew Jesus Christ, I know that there are those here this morning who received this priceless gift from parents and grandparents. Again, knowledge of God and his works has ever been meant to be passed along within families.[5]

But commending others to God is meant to occur not only within our biological families but also beyond them. Praise is a communal act for we were made not only for our LORD but also for each other. Ultimately all who know God belong not only to him but also to all who know him, to all who are strangers to him and each other no more. As we might tell others of a great friend or movie or play or sporting event—sharing what makes these so great—so, too, knowledge of our Maker should lead us to praise him as we tell others about what makes him so great; as we tell others of his “mighty acts.” This is the power of testimony, of sharing with others what we have seen God do in our lives and in the lives of those we love. And even if we are stumped at times as we try to come up with examples of “mighty acts” we’ve seen God do in our lives, the very fact that our eyes have been opened to the wonder and beauty of who God is, is a mighty act about which we can tell others. As we sing at the end of each communion service, the most mighty act we can bear witness to and profess is “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.” Our being saved by God is a mighty act that is so great that “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.” There is no greater act of God than our salvation, than our being brought from darkness to light, from spiritual death to spiritual life! And his mighty acts are meant to be shared.

As David goes on to say about each generation beginning in verse 5, “They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works—and I will proclaim your great deeds.” In other words, David joins the congregation, this great cloud of witnesses,[6] in dwelling upon and proclaiming the wonderful works, the great deeds, God has done. Keep in mind that from the beginning the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob made a covenant, a promise, that all the nations of the world would one day be blessed through Abraham.[7] And so we see in the book of Genesis and following how God sustained and provided for his people not only through these patriarchs—but also through Joseph in Egypt—and in the deliverance through Moses from those same Egyptians hundreds of years later. Over those many years God’s people had indeed witnessed wonderful and awesome works through the rule of God, their King, and so they passed on this glorious history and heritage to their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. Each generation commended the works of God to another as they told of the mighty and awesome acts that bespoke the glorious splendor and majesty of God, their King. This is why the people, verse 7, “celebrate [his] abundant goodness and joyfully sing of [his] righteousness.” Through thick and thin, through good times and bad, God’s people were witnesses to his character, his goodness and righteousness, as they experienced the many ways and times he watched over, provided for, and delivered them from their enemies.

This transition from to focusing upon God’s character, his benevolent virtues, upon noting the majesty and glorious splendor of his acts, continues beginning with verse 8 as David proclaims, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” This is precisely what the LORD initially disclosed about himself to earlier generations. Specifically, during the second time in which he gave his servant Moses the two stone tablets, when Moses “went up Mount Sinai early in the morning,”

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”[8]

Isn’t it wonderful to know that God isn’t only all-powerful, but is also gracious and compassionate? That he isn’t simply all-knowing, but is also slow to anger and rich in love? That he isn’t simply present everywhere but that he is good to all? That he has compassion on all he has made? God is so unlike us. Whereas human power can be disdainful of human weakness, divine power, knowing our weakness, displays compassion and kindness to his image-bearers And isn’t it wonderful to know that he wants us to know what he is like? That he has chosen to disclose himself to us in relationship with us? What a privilege it is to love and serve and praise such an awesome and patient and compassionate and kind LORD!

But knowing God is the privilege and purview not only of humans but of all creation. As stated in verse 10, “All your works praise you, Lord.” David makes a similar point in the opening words of Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” And indeed it’s difficult to observe the world of nature at the macro level—whether sky or ocean or mountain or valley; or at the micro level—a flower, a sparrow, a goat or donkey behind the Leslie House; and not be humbled and in awe of the God who made it all possible. Observing creation should cause us to ask, “Who created such beauty?” And the answer is “None other than our beautiful Maker and LORD and King!”

Yet it is especially in the human realm that this praise comes most into focus for, again, God has chosen to disclose himself to his people. As noted beginning in the second half of verse 10, “your faithful people extol you. 11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, 12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.” Our God is a King who rules with might—and righteousness—and grace—and compassion. And of his kingdom there will be no end because of our eternal God, our King, there is no end. The God who existed before the creation of the world; and the God whom Adam and Eve worshipped, is the God whom Noah worshipped—and Abraham—and Moses—and David all worshipped. Of this worship there will be no end for God will never end. And we, like David and the generations that preceded him, should speak of his kingdom and might again, “that all people [might] know of [his] mighty acts and the glorious splendor of [his] kingdom” (verse 12). Knowledge and praise of God is meant to be shared. Knowledge and praise of God is meant to be spread.

The latter part of verse 13 continues to address God’s character in stating, “The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.” Again, this has ever been the testimony of the community of faith. As Balaam testified early on in Israel’s history, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”[9] The greatness of God lies not in his being a promise maker for anyone can make a promise. The greatness of God lies in the importance of the promises he makes and, more importantly, in the promises he keeps. This has been the experience of God’s people throughout history. Because the LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does, we can have confidence in placing our faith in him. We can have confidence in knowing that he will never let us down. He will never leave us. He will never forsake us.[10] He will bring to fruition and completion every promise he has ever made.

And not only is God worthy of our trust but next David goes on to provide some tender and touching examples of who he is, specifically of his compassion and love in verses 14–16: “14 The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. 16 You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” Our LORD is not only our King, but he is also our kind and loving Father who picks us up when we fall; who lifts us up when we’re bowed down. He gives us this day our daily bread. He gives us himself and so satisfies our every desire. This is the source of every believer’s hope and confidence even in the midst of despair. As expressed in the piece sung by the voice ensemble this morning, our testimony is “Lead on, lead on, O kindly Light amid the encircling gloom, Though far from home in the darkest of night, still You will lead me on. The distant scene, the pathway before me I do not ask to see; But guard my feet o’er mountain and valley, one step sufficient for me.”[11] We as believers can have this confidence because we know that we love and serve a God, a King, who is ever on our side; we love and serve a heavenly Father who is ever moved to our aid in compassion and kindness in the face of our suffering and weakness.

As David goes on to note in verse 17, the LORD is perfection itself. He is, “righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.” And this righteousness and faithfulness are extended especially to those who turn to him for, verse 18, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” There’s no greater tragedy than the tragedy of those who reject God without ever having sought him; who disbelieve in his existence without ever having prayed to him. For if they would but seek him with sincere hearts, he would make himself known to them. As those who have turned to him can testify, and as David states starting in verse 19, “19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. 20 The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” God is especially responsive to those who fear him, to those who seek to please him and live according to his will and ways. He saves all who call cry out to him. But those who reject him and do harm to the beautiful creation he has made, the wicked he will destroy.

Now the items stated in this psalm, in this song, are far from exhaustive. They present but a few of the reasons why David ends by proclaiming in verse 21, “My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” In this season leading up to Thanksgiving Day, I hope we will all join David and dwell upon some of the reasons we have to praise God and sing, “Hallelujah!” Again, if we were to put this question to David, I’m certain he would answer, as we’ve just seen, “Why should we praise God? Oh, let me count the ways!”

We praise God because he is our God, our King—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he is everlasting, of his reign there will be no end—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he is worthy of such praise, his greatness no one can fathom—Hallelujah!

We praise God because each generation of believers can attest to his mighty, majestic acts, his wonderful and awesome works, his great deeds—Hallelujah!

We praise God because of his abundant goodness—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he is righteous—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he is gracious—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he is compassionate—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he is slow to anger—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he is rich in love—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he is good to all—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he has compassion on all he has made—Hallelujah!

We praise God because we are part of his creation and so we join the chorus of all his works that praise him—Hallelujah!

We praise God because we are part of his faithful people who know the glory of his kingdom and might—Hallelujah!

We praise God so that all people may know his mighty acts and the glorious splendor of his kingdom—Hallelujah!

We praise God because his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and his dominion endures through all generations—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he is trustworthy in all he promises—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he is faithful in all he does—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he upholds all who fall—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he lifts up all who are bowed down—Hallelujah!

We praise God because the eyes of all look to him and he gives them food at the proper time—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he opens his hand and satisfies the desires of every living thing—Hallelujah!

We praise God, again, because he is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he is near to all who call on him, who call on him in truth—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he fulfills the desires of those who fear him—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he hears their cry and saves them—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he watches over all who love him—Hallelujah!

We praise God because he will destroy all the wicked—Hallelujah!

Dear sisters and brothers, these are but a small sampling of reasons why you and I are able to join with David and say, “My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.”

And all of God’s people said, “Hallelujah!” Amen!

Let us pray.

[1] See Sermon preached on May 19, 2019, Praise the LORD, on Psalm 148. The exclamation, “Praise the LORD!,” is the origin of our common word for rejoicing “Hallelujah!” which is an English transliteration of the Hebrew: “Hallelu” the 2nd person plural command for praise as in an older use, “praise ye”; and “Yah” a form of “Yahweh” the Hebrew word for “God.”

[2] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note to the introduction to Psalm 145.

[3] As Samuel told Saul in 1 Samuel 13:13–14:13 You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” The apostle Paul affirms this as well in Acts 13:22: After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

[4] Genesis 1:26:

[5] See Deuteronomy 6:20–25: 20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

[6] This is a theme that is carried into the New Testament. See Hebrews 12:1–3: 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

[7] Genesis 12:1–3: 1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

 

[8] Exodus 34:4b, 5–7.

[9] Numbers 23:19.

[10] Hebrews 13:5–6:Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”[Deuteronomy 31:6] 6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”[Psalm 118:6,7]

[11] Lead On Lead On O Kindly Light. Words and Music by Emma Townend and Stuart Townend. As noted by Stuart, this song is “Based on the famous hymn by Cardinal Henry John Newman,….” <https://www.stuarttownend.co.uk/song/lead-on-lead-on-o-kindly-light/>