A meditation on Psalm 149
1 Praise the LORD!
Sing to the LORD a new song,
And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones.
2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
Let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King.
When Israel demanded that Samuel find them a human king, God punished them for rejecting Him as King. Yet, isn’t it interesting how this psalm was written during the reign of a king, namely King David. A good king will always point his people to worship the true King.
3 Let them praise His name with dancing;
Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre.
To praise God is to be glad in Him and to rejoice in Him (vs.2). This is the heart of what it means to praise God. The actions of singing and dancing and playing music (vs.3) are different outward expressions of this inward reality.
4 For the LORD takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.
And amazingly, the reason we are even able to enjoy God is because we have a God who likewise takes pleasure in His people (vs.4a). But lest you think that His pleasure in us is due to some innate quality in us, see that it is God who beautifies His people with salvation (vs.4b). Left to ourselves, we are marred and afflicted by sin and rebellion, but Christ washes us and sanctifies us with the water of His word and presents us to Himself as beautiful and holy, without spot or wrinkle (Eph. 5:25-27).
5 Let the godly ones exult in glory;
Let them sing for joy on their beds.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,
Having been saved from our afflictions by God and brought into a relationship with Him, it is supremely fitting that the praise of God is ever to be in our mouths and in our hearts.
Now, when I read this in my Bible this morning, the psalm ended on this note on the current page and continued on the next page as follows:
And a two-edged sword in their hand,
7 To execute vengeance on the nations
And punishment on the peoples,
8 To bind their kings with chains
And their nobles with fetters of iron,
9 To execute on them the judgment written;
This is an honor for all His godly ones.
Praise the LORD!
I had to check twice to see that I didn’t skip a page! How in the world does this part of the psalm fit with the rest? What does this section have to do with praising God? I had to think about this for quite some time, but in the end, this is what I came up with:
Praising God in a fallen world means that it is not only to be an occasion for celebration, but also an occasion for war. The children of Israel lived in a land surrounded by pagan nations that worshiped false gods and sacrificed their children and promoted wickedness. And just like the saints of old, if we are to love God in such a world, this will not only mean rejoicing in the truth, but hating evil (1 Cor. 13:6). In praising God, we must take up not only the timbrel and lyre, but also the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Praising God in a world of sin requires not only putting on the garments of praise (Is. 61:3), but also putting on the armor of God (Eph. 6:11) and waging war against sin and injustice and oppression and standing before kings and governors to bear witness to the truth (Mk. 13:9). And praising God in this world will be expressed not only in music and dancing, but very possibly in suffering and even the laying down of your life.
But the promise of the word of God is this: the life of praise to God will not be silenced by the grave, but will one day be raised again and will sit on a throne with Christ and execute judgment on the world with Him (vs.9, 1 Cor. 6:2). And this also will be to the praise of His name.