262 - The Final Hallelujah (Psalms 148–150)
The book of Psalms could not end on a higher note. Psalms 148–150 call us to fulfill our ultimate purpose in life—to praise the Lord.
The Final Hallelujah
I mentioned in our Wisdom Journey back in the book of Deuteronomy, the composition by George Handel we usually refer to as “Handel’s Messiah.” The official title is simply Messiah, as it sings of our Lord, the Messiah.
Perhaps the best-known portion of Messiah is what we call the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Handel simply named it “Hallelujah.” That’s because the word hallelujah would be sung 167 times during the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
Hallelujah is a Hebrew word that comes from hallel, which means to praise, and yah, which refers to Yahweh. Hallelu-jah means “praise Yahweh,” or “praise the Lord.”
Now as this inspired hymnal—this great book of Psalms—comes to a close, the theme of praise reaches a grand finale. And I must tell you, I hear the “Hallelujah Chorus” being sung over and over again. In fact, in these last three psalms, the word praise is repeated some thirty times. We are called to sing hallelujah—“praise the Lord.”
And praise for God is not to come just from our lips, but from all of creation. Psalm 148 opens by singing, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him all his hosts.”
Even the angels are tuning up for this grand finale. One author wrote:
If we could borrow Jacob’s ladder and climb that shining staircase, we would see the angels with faces aglow . . . in perfect harmony singing, “Hallelujah.”
And with the angels, the sun, moon, and stars are singing (verse 3). The highest heavens and the “waters above the heavens” (verse 4), the sea creatures hidden in deep ocean waters (verse 7), all the forces of nature (verse 8), and mountains, livestock, and fruit trees (verse 9) are somehow granted the privilege of singing in their own unique way praise to their Creator. All creation is joining in on this hallelujah chorus.
Now the composer moves from poetry to prophecy in verses 11-13:
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted, his majesty is above earth and heaven.
This is a reference to the coming kingdom when Christ reigns upon the earth. John writes of his vision of the Lord Jesus in Revelation 19, descending from heaven to reign from Jerusalem, as promised. And he writes that on the Lord’s garments are embroidered the words, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
That reminds me of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” where Handel wrote, “He shall reign forever and ever; King of kings and Lord of lords.”
In verse 14, we read that the Lord “has raised up a horn for his people.” “In Scripture, a ‘horn’ is a symbol of power . . . a king or a kingdom.” This looks ahead to that time when the horn of salvation, our King Jesus, reigns in His kingdom on earth.
Psalm 149 is the nation Israel’s response to their Messiah and His coming kingdom. They start singing as well, beginning in verses 1-2:
Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, [sing] his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion [Jerusalem] rejoice in their King!
The psalmist then includes something that might confuse you as a Christian living in the New Testament dispensation of grace:
Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples. (verses 6-7)
If you have been sailing with me on this Wisdom Journey for a while, you know Israel’s role, living in this theocracy as God’s representatives, was to execute judgment on those who defied God. Sinners were judged immediately in those days, and Israel was the tool of judgment in the hand of God.
In verse 9 we are clearly told that Israel was “to execute on them the judgment written!” In other words, Israel did not write the verdict of judgment; God did. But during that dispensation, Israel was to carry out the verdict.
Today, in this dispensation of grace, the role of the church is not to carry out God’s judgment on sinners. The apostle Paul writes in the book of Romans that sinners are presently storing up divine wrath for themselves for the judgment to come (Romans 2:5).
Just because sinners are not immediately judged for their wickedness and defiance—just because they seem to be getting away with it—does not mean God doesn’t care about sin any longer. No, we are living in a day of great patience and grace, but also a day of warning. Our gospel includes a warning of God’s coming judgment.
When the apostle Paul addressed the leaders in the city of Athens, he spoke these words:
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world.” (Acts 17:30-31)
Judgment day is coming—that is the warning. But the gospel also gives us a way out—a way to escape God’s final judgment. If we repent and believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, we will be forgiven and cleansed from the guilt of every sin; we will be given the gift of salvation. If you have not done so already, ask the Lord to save you—to forgive you—right now.
With that, we come to the final psalm—Psalm 150. Thirteen times we are told in this psalm to praise the Lord—to start singing the “Hallelujah Chorus,” in essence.
And all these wonderful instruments are to accompany us as we sing. We have the trumpet and the harp here in verse 3, the tambourine and stringed instruments and pipe in verse 4, and finally, the cymbals in verse 5. In fact, the composer makes sure to call these “loud clashing cymbals.” We are not to be quiet in praising God!
This is like giving your third-grader a set of drums for Christmas—you are going to hear about it. Well, the psalmist is effectively telling us not to keep quiet but let the world hear the joyful noise of our praise to God.
Finally, the choir, the host of all the redeemed, are led to sing this final statement, this final hallelujah in verse 6: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord.”
Beloved, I don’t know what is happening in your life today. I don’t know what is happening in your world today where you live, but I do know that this is where the story of human history is heading, as Jesus Christ finally descends to establish His kingdom on earth.
And what are we singing when we arrive with Him? Revelation 19 tells us. The apostle John writes in verse 1, “I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.’” And in verse 6, they are singing, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns.”
After three straight weeks of composing his great oratorio, George Handel was finally interrupted by a friend who found George in his apartment, sitting at his piano, with sheets of music lying about everywhere. Having just completed the “Hallelujah Chorus” and with tears streaming down his face, he looked up at his friend and said, “[It’s as if] I did see heaven before me and the great God Himself seated on His throne.”
My friend, your story isn’t finished today. The story of human history isn’t finished yet either. Oh no, we are heading toward an eternal day when all the redeemed will sing “and He shall reign forever and ever, forever and ever . . . hallelujah.”
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