1 Praise the Lord.
Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
2 Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
3 Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
4 For the Lord takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with victory.
5 Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
and sing for joy on their beds.
6 May the praise of God be in their mouths
and a double-edged sword in their hands,
7 to inflict vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
8 to bind their kings with fetters,
their nobles with shackles of iron,
9 to carry out the sentence written against them—
this is the glory of all his faithful people.
Praise the Lord.
(Psalm 149:1-9 NIV)
Psalm 149, like the three before it, begins and ends with worship (“Praise the Lord”).
The psalmist begins by addressing the entire nation of Israel (vv. 1-2). This is not just a personal call to worship, nor a family call to worship – the call is to the entire nation!
At first glance, the logical thought is that everyone is gathered at the Temple to worship the Lord. The Temple, however, could not hold the entire population of Israel, so this was most likely either an outdoor celebration, or various communities of God’s faithful people wherever they gathered.
The phrase “his faithful people” occurs three times in this psalm (vv. 2b, 5a, 9b). The emphasis on being faithful to God was around loyalty to the Lord. Despite the enticement of neighboring nations to live selfishly or worship other gods, God’s people remained loyal to Him and Him alone.
So what did this worship look like?
- it was creative (a new song, v. 1)
- it involved singing, engaging all a person’s senses (v. 1)
- it was joyful (v. 2)
- it was dynamic, involving motion (dancing, v. 3)
- it included musical instruments (timbrel and harp, v. 3)
And what was God’s thought about all this? Verse 4 tells us that God delights in the praises of His faithful people, those who come together to humbly exalt His name and thank Him for all He has done for them and for all that He is.
Verse 5 captures the heart of this worship… this was not a mandatory “have to” worship. In fact, it was quite the opposite… this was a “get to” attitude toward worship.
To pause for just a moment, what is our attitude toward worshipping the Lord? Do we do so out of duty, or obligation, or even drudgery? Or do we approach our worship time (whether our personal worship time or our corporate worship time at church) as an “I get to” attitude of excitement and longing to do so?
The reference to singing for joy while on their beds does not refer to when a person was sleeping. The bed was often referred to as a place of contemplation, of thinking about the Lord or matters of life.
As we consider verses 6 – 9, we must be careful to understand the psalmist’s comments in the correct context. Topics like vengeance, punishment, and judgment are heavy topics, and must be understood in light of God’s teachings elsewhere in Scripture.
Note that these three topics (vengeance, punishment, and judgment) are initiated and carried out under God’s command and authority alone, not by human will or decision. Did God use the Israelites to protect their territory and keep their enemies from attacking? Yes. Did God use the Israelites to execute judgment on those nations that constantly opposed and attacked God’s people? Yes.
But all that happened under God’s initiating, not because the leaders of Israel decided they didn’t like their neighbors, or lusted after their land or resources, or didn’t worship the same God that Israel did.
Rather, these were actions of a holy and righteous God who dealt with blatant and deliberate sin against Him, and a holy and righteous God who protects and provides for His people. Sometimes God used His people to carry out the wishes of those who opposed Him; other times, God acted alone and told Israel to watch as He took care of matters on His own, without the aid or help of the Israelites.
While these examples are out of the Old Testament, the New Testament has similar stories of God sometimes calling His people to action, to care for and minister to those who oppose Jesus, and other times intervening supernaturally to take care of matters Himself.
Whether in the Old or New Testament, the learning, the lesson is the same. The focus is on our connectedness, our being “with” the Lord to determine whether God is calling us to do something, or whether He instructs us to stand aside as He intervenes on our behalf.
And how do we stay connected, or “with” the Lord? By spending time with Him through reading and practicing His Word, through prayer, aligning our will with His, and through interaction with others who are faithful followers of Jesus and have the spiritual maturity to help guide our thinking and ask questions to determine our motives (why we do what we do).
May our heart today be that of worship, and may our attitude be “I get to”.