Year C – Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – For Heav’n O Praise the Lord (Psalm 148)

Summary–Over the past month, our attention has focused on Godly men who used their talents for translating early writings into Christian Hymns.  This week, we shift our eyes from the translator to the tune writer.  Traditional Psalters, to include “The Book of Psalms for Singing, 1973” puts Psalm 148 to the tune, St. Catherine’s written by Horatio R. Palmer (1834-1097).  Mr. Palmer started his musical career at a very early age through persistent prodding from his father who conducted their local church choir.  The apple didn’t fall far from the tree in his case and from the early age of seven, Horatio fell in love with music.  He would eventually direct choirs of his own in Chicago and New York in addition to teaching and composing music.  Palmer was most well known for his leadership in the Church Choral Union, a federation of church choir singers from New York City drawn from more than 200 congregations.  One combined concert in Madison Square Garden featured nearly four thousand singers.  For Palmer, music was an instrument of praise to the God who created all things from nothing; his music praised the God who saved His own people from their sins.  How appropriate it is for the man whose life was centered on praising God to write the tune for this praise-filled psalm.
Insight–When you go to church, who is worshipping with you?   Your family is, of course, in the pew next to you.  Sitting behind you are your friends, neighbors, classmates, and teachers.  There in front of you is your pastor, your elders, and your deacons.  Is there anyone else worshipping with you each Lord’s day?  What about the congregation down the street?  Yes they are worshipping with you.  How about your Aunt on the other side of the state?  Yes, her too.  Anyone else?  Today’s psalm exhorts us to see how the Triune God is worshipped in every part of creation; from heaven above, from earth below and  from among His people, which the psalmist calls ‘O Israel’s race’.  Look at how each part of the psalm builds layer upon layer of praise to God.
The first two stanzas direct our attention heavenward to hear the angels praise in one accord.  The psalmist sees two entities he urges to praise God.  Angels sing His praises.  The sun, moon and stars praise Him.  No matter how God’s enemies try to hide our worship from the world, they can’t stop these heavenly bodies from praising their creator.  They are a constant presence, they are not hidden.  “Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Ps 19:4).
The third stanza calls earthly creatures to worship and praise their creator.  Watch the flow of thought in this psalm.  Not only do animals praise God, but all of creation does.  The psalmist begins with creatures found in the ocean depths, moves up to speak about lightning and hail, then the mountains and hills, trees and animals of all kinds worship God.
But praises don’t stop there.  The heavens declare God’s glory.  The earth picks up the praises and finally the fourth and fifth stanzas climax with us, those made in God’s image.  Not only are those immediately around you praising God, but all His church as one body are shouting forth His praises.
Do you see this picture?  You are not alone in your small church each Sunday.  The sun joins in.  The clouds add their praise.  Trees add to the chorus and wind adds its melody.  Each church on your block joins together, all in its way praising God who deserves all praise.  And this praise will increase until the glory of God covers the earth, as the waters cover the sea.  What a privilege it is to add your voice to this choir of praise.  Sing psalm 148 loudly, God will hear you even if those mountains are getting a bit loud.  He will hear your praises.
From heav’n O praise the Lord;
Ye heights, His glory raise.
All angels praise accord;
Let all His host give praise.
Praise Him on high, Sun, moon and star,
Sun, moon and star, Ye heav’ns afair
And cloudy sky.
Yea, let them glorious make;
Jehovah’s matchless name;
For when the word He spake
They into being came.
And from that place where fixed they be,
Where fixed they be, by his decree
They cannot pass.
From earth O praise the Lord,
Ye deep and all below;
Wild winds that do His word,
Ye Clouds, fire, hail and snow;
Ye mountains high, Ye cedars tall,
Ye cedars tall, beasts great and small,
And birds that fly
Let all the people praise,
And kings of every land;
Let all their voices raise
Who judge and give command.
By young and old, by maid and youth,
By maid and youth, His name in truth
should be extolled.
Jehovah’s name be praised;
Above the earth and sky.
For He His saints has raised
And set their power on high.
Him praise accord, O Israel’s race,
O Israel’s race, near to His grace.
Praise ye the Lord.
Contributed by Mike Fenimore
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