Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the name of the LORD; praise him, O ye servants of the LORD.
I. We can only understand praise when we see in it the fulfilment of at least two great lines of human emotion; the mistakes about it arc, perhaps, all traceable to an attempt to explain in terms of one or the other what is really blent of both. (1) The first of those instincts is admiration. (2) The other has no such definite single name; but assuredly this is not because it plays a small part in our nature and our life, but rather because its forms and objects are so many. I suppose that there is only one word which we can take as its generic name: the word "love;" but, however we name it, what is meant is that attraction of spirit to spirit which is tinctured, in the different forms in which we know it, with varying amounts of instinct, and conscious of choice, of passion and emotion, of duty and even of interest. It is the mightiest thing in human life.
II. Praise is a constant corrective of the earthliness which hangs about the words and even the thoughts whereby it is contained. And the praise of God is for us the expression of a perfect admiration blended with a perfect love. It is the admiration of a Being who claims all our hearts in personal devotion, while containing or being Himself all that we speak of in abstract categories as the ideals of goodness and beauty. It is the most ennobling exercise of the human spirit.
III. But questions of difficulty spring up around us. (1) Is not such an account of praise purely ideal? Is not the praise of religious people a very different thing, and one very far less noble and disinterested? (2) And, after all, is not such praise as has been described impossible for the best of reasons; viz., that there is no such object as I have described? Is the God of whose dealings we have experience in nature and in life One to evoke unmixed love and admiration? Has not our praise got to submit itself to the fatal necessity of idealising its object in order to praise Him? Does it not, therefore, conceal within itself a canker of insincerity, if not of abjectness and servility? (1) The first of these questions is the easiest to answer, because it merely touches our human infirmity. Unquestionably praise may easily be adulterated with some amount of human selfishness. But this is not the question; the question is, What is the ideal exhibited and striven for? what is the form towards which Christian praise tends in proportion as it realises itself more adequately? And about this there can be no mistake. Christian instinct and teaching has always placed praise as the highest part of worship, precisely because it has most of God and least of man, most of what is abiding and eternal and least of what is associated with the things of time, most of love and adoration and least of self. (2) Notice, next, the objection that the God of such a world as this is no fit object for our praise. Watch the history of praise. Nature carries us some way in praise, but does so only by help of some instinct which refuses to let what seem the evil, and the confusion, and the injustice in her destroy the witness borne to a good God by her beauty, and her order, and her kindly provisions, and the good that comes even of what we call her evil. Such an instinctive praise, natural in its origin and persistent against difficulties, yields one element of the praises of the Old Testament; but for its crown and justification it had to wait for a manifestation which shows God's sympathy with the dark things of life and nature, which enables us to trust God for the solution or conquest of those dark and oppressive things of which in the Cross and Passion of Jesus Christ He took upon Himself the burden and the weight.
E. S. Talbot, Oxford and Cambridge Undergraduates' Journal, Nov. 6th, 1884.
Psalm 135:4-6I. In the covenant which God made with the Jews, and in the strange events, good and bad, which He caused to happen to their nation, not only the great saints among them were taken care of; but all classes and all characters, good and bad, even those who had not wisdom or spiritual life enough to seek God for themselves, still had their share in the good laws, in the. teaching and guiding, and in the national blessings which He sent on the whole nation. They had a chance given them of rising, improving, and prospering as the rest of their countrymen rose, and improved, and prospered. And when our Lord came to visit Judaea in flesh and blood, we find that He went on the same method. He did not merely go to such men as Philip and Nathanael, to the holy and elect ones among the Jews, but to the whole people, to the lost sheep as well as to those who were not lost.
II. Now surely the Lord cannot be less merciful now than He was then. He cannot care less for poor orphans and paupers and wild, untaught creatures in England now than He cared for them in Judaea of old. He orders all that happens to us; whether it be war or peace, prosperity or dearth, He orders it all; and He orders things so that they shall work for the good not merely of a few, but of as many as possible, not merely for His elect, but for those who know Him not. As He has been from the beginning, when He heaped blessings on the stiff-necked and backsliding Israelites; as He was when He endured the Cross for a world lying not in obedience, but in wickedness, so He is now: the perfect likeness of His Father, who is no respecter of persons, but causes "His sun to shine alike on the evil and on the good, and His rain to fall on the just and on the unjust."
C. Kingsley, Sermons on National Subjects, p. 226.
References: Psalm 135:5.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 84; J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 389. Psalm 136:17-22.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii., No. 1285. Psalm 136:25.—R. L. Browne, Sussex Sermons, p. 61; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 1st series, p. 46. Psalm 136—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii., No. 787. Psalm 137:1.—E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, 2nd series, p. 484. Psalm 137:1-6.—R. M. McCheyne, Additional Remains, p. 437; Parker, Expository Sermons and Outlines, p. 248. Psalm 137:3.—E. J. Hardy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 56.
Ye that stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God,
Praise the LORD; for the LORD is good: sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant.
For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.
For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.
He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries.
Who smote the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast.
Who sent tokens and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his servants.
Who smote great nations, and slew mighty kings;
Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan:
And gave their land for an heritage, an heritage unto Israel his people.
Thy name, O LORD, endureth for ever; and thy memorial, O LORD, throughout all generations.
For the LORD will judge his people, and he will repent himself concerning his servants.
The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.
They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;
They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.
They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them.
Bless the LORD, O house of Israel: bless the LORD, O house of Aaron:
Bless the LORD, O house of Levi: ye that fear the LORD, bless the LORD.
Blessed be the LORD out of Zion, which dwelleth at Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.