A Reflection on Psalm 148 verses 1 – 6 by Canon Rob for 15th May
Still in the Christian season of Easter, today’s psalm continues the theme of praise for the love of God made known in and through His Son Jesus, who is alive and present in our daily lives. Of course such an understanding would be unknown to the author of the psalm which is set for today in church services. Indeed Psalm 148 is primarily concerned with praising the Lord as Creator of all that exists and, especially in verses 1 – 6, with the universe and beyond. For most of us reading these words today, we will want to see it as poetry, and very beautiful it is. However the author will have probably believed his words were to be taken literally, as many still do. But in this scientific age in which we live, we can still see the great truth of them if we do not do so. God remains the Creator and the giver of life – even beyond death.
Looking at the picture and words above, we can be reminded that for millions of years the planets have remained in orbits revealing the harmony which exists. This psalm is, above all, a universal hymn of praise and all creation is called upon to join in the singing of it. Verses 1 – 6 concern “the heavens” but the later verses include creatures who live in the sea, all that lives on the land, and even mountains and hills! Everything that exists is called upon to praise the Lord!
It is not just in this psalm that we find the call to praise God. Even a brief look will show that we are coming to the end of the Book of Psalms and, like being at a concert, we are approaching a crescendo when everyone comes onto the stage for one last resounding chorus to lift our spirits and even fill us with joy. So with the psalms, the last few are hymns of praise and everyone involved in the worship is encouraged to sing their hearts out. Even the hills, mountains and seas are called upon to sing praise to God!
Perhaps that sounds as if the writer of such psalms is going over the top! How can the hills and mountains praise God? But they do by their very existence. David Attenborough and others remind us of the wonder of creation: the beauty we see (if we use our eyes) in flowers and plants; the joy we hear (if we use our ears) in the song of the black bird or robin in the trees.
None of this is meant to detract from the suffering we see in the world around us, or that which we undergo sometimes during our lives. The authors of the psalms were realists as is shown in that many of them contain real grief, isolation, pain and loss. But Psalm 148 (and others) serve to remind us that all is not lost. On the contrary, there is so much to celebrate. We can be overwhelmed by the news we hear, read about, or see every day, but the verses of Psalm 148 can restore the balance and remind us of the harmony which is God the Creator’s desire for all that exists. Many blame God, or reject God’s existence, because of the suffering which surrounds us. But so much suffering we bring upon ourselves although we are sometimes too slow to recognise it or too complacent to think we can do anything to lessen it. The poetry of psalm 148 can help us look at the world, at life, with fresh eyes. Here are some lines from another poem which I hope can help you do so too:
It is given to us to see only one aspect in the moment,
One facet of the prism. One colour of the spectrum;
That is enough of joy, but also enough of blindness
To bring humility and kindle in us faith: That one day we may see life in its fullness
In the constant light of eternity; Then may we know the whole of love blended in beauty,
Even as here on earth we see, for a passing moment only,
The rainbow with every colour alight with joy. [Lucy M. Green. “Looking at Things.”]