Let Everything that has Breath Praise the Lord!

Jul 02, 2023

         Today we are doing “something completely different” at 10:30 a.m. worship; those attending will participate in an interactive sermon and a service project during worship. While we can’t do all that in 9 a.m. worship, I am using the same text – Psalm 150 – and our topic is praising the Lord – who, where, why and how.

     So, I thought I’d begin by telling you a story about how efforts to praise the Lord went awry. In a sermon on praise, Dr. Madana Kumar told about a pastor whose tradition was to exclaim, “Praise the Lord” and “Amen”, often. So, he taught his horse to start running when he said, “Praise the Lord,” and to stop when he said, “Amen”.

     After many training sessions, he decided to go for a long ride in the country. “Praise the Lord!”, he proclaimed once on his steed, and the horse began walking. The pastor was so pleased that he said, “Praise the Lord!” again, and the horse increased his speed. This was great! The pastor was so excited that he kept saying, “Praise the Lord!” until the horse was running at a very high speed. This was not good …  the pastor became anxious, and so confused that he forgot how to make the horse stop.

     They were headed toward a cliff at the edge of a deep ravine, and if the pastor did not manage to stop the horse, both would be headed to eternal life. But, what was the word? He began praying, and ended his petition with a loud, “Amen”! The horse came to a screeching halt at the edge of the cliff; just one more step and they would have gone over. The pastor then heaved a huge sigh of relief and shouted joyfully … “Praise the Lord!” (1) (Perhaps that was not the best timing for doing so!)

          (9 a.m. only) Seriously, though, there are times in our lives when we are not inclined to praise the Lord, while there are other times when praise comes easy. You probably can think of examples of each one. Yet, Psalm 150 repeats the word, “praise” 13 times, and each one is in the imperative tense, which means that it’s a command.

     One commentator says it represents the psalmist “getting in your face,” as if the writer is shouting, “You there! Yes, you! Grab an instrument, open your mouth, and get going! Praise Yahweh! I mean it! Move! Sing! Dance! Show some respect!” (2)

     I don’t know about you, but I don’t find that to be particularly helpful. What, after all, is our motivation for praise in challenging times? Why is the psalmist so insistent that we praise the Lord? This is where it is important to remember that Psalm 150 is the finale of the book of Psalms. It is the doxology. All the reasons to be hesitant to praise God, but also to express gratitude, have already been given in the previous psalms. There has been a lot of:

  • Weeping and lamenting - “For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing: my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones wase away. (Psalm 31: 10)
  • Complaining – “In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever. Yet, you have rejected us, and have not gone out with our armies. You made us turn back from our foe and our enemies have gotten the spoil.” (Psalm 44:8-10)
  • Pleading - “Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion!” (Psalm 22:20-21)
  • Doubting – “Oh God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?” (Psalm 74:1)
  • There also has been devotion and gratitude. “Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty….” (Psalm 104:1)

     Given all that, the Book of Psalms ends with a call to praise. It’s a reminder that when all is said and done, there will be reason to praise; in the end, all there is is praise.

     (Both) In Psalm 150 we are reminded who, where, why and how to praise the Lord. The “Who” has two sides - who is praised, and who does the praising. The first is, of course, God – the creator of all that exists, the Alpha and the Omega (the beginning and the end), the supreme sovereign, that is who is praised. As to who does the praising, the Psalmist writes, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” It’s not just Israel; it’s all nations. It’s not just humans; it’s all of creation. It’s not just earth’s inhabitants; it’s the host of heaven.

     As to where, there are no limits; the place of worship is a primary place to praise the Lord, but also in creation, in the cosmos, wherever life takes us is a place to praise the Lord.

     Then we turn to “why”, which should be obvious from the “who”. The second verse is, “Praise God for all mighty deeds; praise God according to God’s surpassing greatness.” It tells us why, but also weighs in on the question of how. We praise God for the mighty things that God has done, creating everything out of nothing; being a guiding presence in life, imparting us grace and forgiveness and bringing life out of death.

     The second half of the verse addresses how. It says God should be praised “according to God’s surpassing greatness”, that is, in a way that takes into account, that reflects, God’s greatness. Praising God should not be a half-hearted effort.

     And now we come to the fun part of the “how”. We should praise God with everything we have available to us; once again, there are no limits. This could point to our abilities and our resources in a broad sense, but the psalmist puts emphasis on music and dance.

     The Psalm lists seven instruments; some scholars say that listing represents all of the musical instruments that would have been available at the time: trumpet, lute, harp, tambourine, strings, pipe and cymbals. Played together, they could create quite a cacophony; the point being that in Israel all musical instruments could be used to praise God, nothing was considered too loud or too clanging. Could be said today, do you think?

     You’ll note that dancing is on the list, which I particularly like to see since I’m inclined to move with the music, especially at Informal Worship. Also, the human voice is not named, but given the fact that the psalms were sung, it is probably the most significant instrument that can be used to praise God.

     Please note that while these means of praising God can be offered by individuals, the group effort is perhaps more significant. So, we praise the Lord with congregational singing as well as choirs, bands, orchestras and liturgical dance; people cooperating to share their gifts in a crescendo of praise. I cannot imagine praising God without them.

     Now, please look at the handout you’ve been given and consider these questions:

  1. Share concerning instruments you play (or have played), or the experiences you have had with singing or dance. Or, what do you wish had been the case.
  1. If you could praise God with music, song or dance, what would you do? (Imagine you were miraculously given the ability to do it.) 

The 9 a.m. worshippers are encouraged to share their responses to these questions in the Kinship Café. The 10:30 a.m. worshippers will discuss among themselves and will be invited to share with the entire group as time allows.

     And one final comment, that seems obvious, but should be said. When we praise the Lord, whether it’s with music, dance or some other means, it’s not about us, but God, who gave us the breath to praise in the first place. So, hear the psalmist again proclaim, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord”! AMEN


  1. “Praising God” by Dr. Madana Kumar, Feb. 26, 2018, www.sermoncentral.com
  2. “Sermon Commentary on Psalm 150” by Scott Hoezee, April 24, 2022, www.cepreaching.org