Transfiguration-b

Preached: February 15, 2015

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
Psalm 148:1-14

Other listening options or try the podcast at iTunes (You will be leaving our website.)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit draws us to Jesus is Psalm 148

Hallelujah!

Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights.

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts.

Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all shining stars.

Praise him, heaven of heavens and waters that are above the heavens.

Let them praise the name of the Lord.

For he commanded, and they were created.

He established them forever and ever.

He gave his statute, and none shall cross it.

Praise the Lord from the earth, sea creatures and all depths,

fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy winds that obey his word,

the mountains and all hill tops, fruit trees and all cedars,

wild animals and all cattle, crawling creatures and winged birds,

kings of the earth and all peoples, officials and all leaders of the earth,

young men and also young women, old men and youths.

Let them praise the name of the Lord.

For his name alone is exalted.

His splendor is above earth and heaven.

He has raised a Horn for his people,

praise for his devoted,

for the children of Israel,

a people near to him.

Hallelujah! (Psalm 148:1-14)

This is the Word of the Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

“Hallelujah” means “praise the Lord.” It’s the first and last Hebrew word in this Psalm. As the book of Psalms comes to a close, these last Psalms call on us to shout “Hallelujah” and praise the Lord. Notice this is not the regular word for “lord” but the special Hebrew word that’s translated into English with capital letters. Sometimes it’s transliterated as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.” You see it in the letter “j,” “a,” “h” at the end of “Hallelujah.” This is the special name that the one true God has chosen to use to reveal himself. It means that he is the “HE-IS” God, the eternal “I-AM” who does not change. He is independent to do whatever he pleases. He is the Lord. And what has he chosen to do? He’s chosen to make his gracious promises that save. That’s what pleases him. And since he is constant and does not change, he keeps his promises. The Lord is the God of all grace. He freely makes his promises and faithfully keeps them. He is the Lord.

That name alone gives us every reason to praise him and shout “Hallelujah”--and not only us. The Psalm calls on everything and everyone to praise the Lord. It starts in the heavens calling on the angels and heavenly hosts to praise the Lord. It calls out not only to the heavenly sentient creatures of God but also to his inanimate creations in the skies above: the sun, moon, stars. Then it moves from the heavens to call forth praise from the earth. First the inanimate and non-rational creatures: ocean depths, lightening, hail, snow, and winds; fruit trees and cedars; wild animals, cattle, crawling creatures and birds. And finally reaches us humans from the most powerful kings and rulers to the youngest and least. Let all praise the Lord.

But this Psalm does more than simply urge us to praise the Lord and shout “Hallelujah.” It also reminds us of the reason why. And that’s the key. For you see, all the words of praise and shouts of jubilee mean nothing if we don’t know why we’re doing it. What’s more, the reason why we praise the Lord gives us not only the right motivation but also the content. It gives us /what/ to be praising him for. So, dear friends, take to heart the reason we praise the Lord and shout “Hallelujah,” for it gives us both the why and the what of our praise.

A. Who has created us

The first part of the Psalm gives us one reason for the why and what of our praise. “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created. He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away” (Psalm 148:5, 6 NIV84). Praise him! Why? Because he is your Creator. Praise him! By saying what? That the Lord God has made you and all the exists, that he gave you your body and soul, your eyes, ears, and all you members, your mind and all your abilities.

We live in a world where denying evolution leaves you labeled as unscientific and backwards. For example, this past week when Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin and potential presidential candidate in 2016, ducked the question of whether he accepted evolution. Many in his political base believe in creation, but the majority of American do not. In fact nearly three-quarters of young people said they accepted evolution, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. (http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/02/12/how-different-groups-think-about-scientific-issues/)

But to praise the Lord means to praise him as our Creator, to give him the full credit for creating all things in six regular days out of nothing by his mighty word. “He commanded and they were created” (Psalm 148:5 NIV84), the Psalm says. It means to give him the full credit for sustaining his creation, for giving us life and breath and keeping us living and moving.

How do we praise the Lord, who created us? Not only by confessing him as our Creator, not only by boldly denying evolution even if others label us as unscientific, but also by the way we live. We can learn from nature here. How do the sun, moon, and stars praise the Lord and shout “Hallelujah”? By following the paths their Creator has set out for them. Each morning the sun rises, as the Lord placed it to do. Each month the moon goes through its phases, as the Lord placed to do. They follow his decree. Do we always follow the paths the Lord gives us? Do we always make our choices in line with his written word, his decrees? Do we know his word so thoroughly that we can apply it in whatever situation in life we face? Or does our sinful self-will get the better of us?

Or look at the birds and wild creatures, they don’t worry about food or clothes. Their Creator sustains, preserves, and provides for them. Why don’t we trust our Creator to take good care of us? Why do we feel the need to hold on to so much of our earthly stuff for future security? Praising the Lord is so much more than words. It’s how we use our earthly stuff and our attitude toward it all.

Also, notice how the stormy winds are described in the Psalm: “stormy winds that do his bidding” (Psalm 148:8 NIV84). Even the greatest disasters and the fiercest storms are under the control of the Lord, our gracious God who freely makes his promises and faithful keeps them. Everything must in the end serve his good purpose and carry out his bidding. So why do we fear? Why do suffering, failures, and disasters lead us to question God’s goodness, wisdom, or power? Why do we fail to trust that he is defending us from all danger, guarding and protecting us from all evil?

Oh, how perfectly the angels in heaven praise him in all they do, such perfect obedience and trust! How imperfect our praise! No wonder Jesus taught us to pray: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” For only in heaven do God’s creatures carry out his will without fault or blemish. How far we here on earth fall short! How far from God our fallen race is! Who is powerful enough to bring sinners like you and me back to God?

B. Who has raised up our Horn

Here take careful note of the last verse of the text. “He has raised up for his people a horn” (Psalm 148:14 NIV84). It’s so easy for us to pass over this picture language. When I was growing up, “horn” brought to mind a musical instrument, like a trumpet. But that’s the wrong picture. The reason “horn” is used for musical instruments is that originally some of them were made out of animal’s horn, for example the shophar or ram’s horn used for sounding a signal. But animal’s horn is not a picture of music but a picture strength. If a bull is charging, you want to stay away from its horns. So the picture here is power. The Lord raises up for his people a Horn, a mighty One who is strong to save.

You know who that is. At the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, his father Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied of the work John would do preparing the way for Jesus. He said, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us, in the house of his servant David” (Luke 1:68, 69 NIV84). And so God sent his Son, born of the family line of David in the town of Bethlehem. He raised up a Mighty One, a Horn, for us. On the mount of Transfiguration today, we glimpsed his mighty glory, mighty to save. On Easter that glory will shine out once again. For through the weakness and foolishness of the cross, Jesus is our Horn, our mighty Savior.

Yes, as our Horn, Jesus is the foundation of our praise. He is “the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart” (Psalm 148:14 NIV84). For he alone has brought us close to God, so close that he calls us his saints, his Israel.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13 NIV84). Our sin separated us from God. But Jesus sacrificed himself for all sins, including all of yours. Through faith in him you are close to God. His blood washes your clean. God calls you his saints, his holy ones. For through faith in Jesus, his holiness counts as yours. And so you are his people, his Israel. “Israel” means “wrestles with God” and as a young son wrestles with his father, so also we wrestle with God. We don’t fight against him as our enemy, but we hold on to him as wrestlers do, grabbing on to his promises, not letting go of him. For through faith in Jesus we are God’s dear children and he is our true Father. We know and believe that he is the Lord, the faithful God, who keeps his promises. So we, his Israel, hold on to him.

Jesus, our mighty Savior, he is the Horn the Lord has raised up for us. He has taken away our sin and washed us clean in his blood so that we are close to God. We are his saints, his people, his Israel. Doesn’t that give us plenty of reasons why to praise the Lord and plenty of things to praise him for?

And even as we praise him now here in time, we look forward to eternity when we and all creation will praise him anew. Then this Psalm will truly be fulfilled in all its splendor. What eternal praise that will be! For sin and death will be gone. The Lord our God will be with us in his splendor and glory, better than the mount of Transfiguration. And we, with all his saints and angels, with heaven and earth made anew and all the hosts within them--we will praise him forever and ever. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah. Amen.’

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

To leave a comment click here.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

Top