Saturday, February 22, 2014

Psalm 148

In Psalm 148, the Psalmist exhorts the angels and various sorts of creatures and phenomena of nature to praise the LORD.  Leslie Allen states that nature is summoned to praise the LORD because “God’s people need helpers, as it were, in their own praise” as they attempt to match God’s work, status, and majesty.  Perhaps Israel is so glad about who God is and what God has done for her, that she sees a need to marshal the assistance of creation to mount a praise of God that does God justice, or that adequately expresses her worship.  Imagine feeling that way about God!

Allen mentions another view, that of D.R. Hillers, that Psalm 148 is echoing a tradition about the deified state of parts of the creation: that gods are praising the LORD, as gods praise a particular god in Egyptian and Mesopotamian hymns.  That brings me to another point, that of W.O.E. Oesterley.  Oesterley notes v 7, which exhorts the dragons and the deeps to praise the LORD.  These often embodied evil in the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East.  Is evil being called upon to praise the LORD?  Oesterley mentions the elimination of evil, but does this elimination occur because evil becomes transformed into good as it praises God? 

Is this praise joyful and willing, or begrudging and unwilling?  The hymn in Philippians 2 talks about every knee bowing down and every tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord.  There are universalists who have appealed to this passage to argue that everyone will one day be saved.  Traditionalists, who believe that non-Christians will burn in hell, do not accept this: some of them may believe that the confession by the wicked is begrudging, reluctant, or perhaps even forced, but I have heard some traditionalists who have contended that the worship indeed is sincere, on some level: the unsaved will recognize the glory of Jesus Christ, but it will be too late for them to be saved.

I thought of Colossians 1:20, which states that God through Christ is pleased to reconcile all things—-in both earth and heaven.  Imagine that.  Is that saying that Christ’s work was not just for human beings on earth, but also for heavenly or spiritual beings, or perhaps also nature itself?  The natural phenomena that are called upon to praise the LORD in Psalm 148.  The “gods.”  Even the forces of evil.  What a vision!

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