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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
Title:Anticipating a Trillion Hallelujahs
Text:Psalms 150:1-6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

Psalter 270 - Gladness in Worship
Psalter 409 - A Summons to Praise
TH 640 - My Tribute

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

In the book of Revelation, we catch a glimpse of what worship is like in heaven. In Revelation 5, the Apostle John said that he “heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” What were they saying? They were saying - they are saying now - worthy is the lamb. But one day when the end of the ages come? In Revelation 19:6 tells us that the same angels - ten thousands times ten thousands of them will be saying Hallelujah - “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Worship is the service - the work we will be doing in heaven. Those who are in heaven do this work now - already. But it’ll be even more spectacular in the New Heaven and New Earth. Trillions of souls shouting Hallelujah. Glorious! 

But worship on earth isn’t like that now. In fact, God’s people don’t always sing nor break forth in praise. But this psalm instructs us about worship. And if our main preoccupation in heaven is praise - if that’s going to be our work - then we need to take worship seriously here. But when we have the right frame of mind, our worship here can also be glorious, as we anticipate a trillion Hallelujahs in the New Heavens and Earth.

There are 5 parts to this Psalm. Firstly, the object of praise is the only living and true God. Secondly, the subjects who praise are his people. Thirdly, the reasons for praise are his character and his acts. Fourthly, the places of praise are sacred and ordinary. And fifthly, the methods of praise are sacred and ordinary.

Firstly, the object of praise is the only living and true God. The Book of Psalms in Hebrew is Tehillim, or literally “songs of praise.” In this last Psalm of the songs of praise, we hear God’s summary words on this subject. It’s also the “grand finale” of the five “Hallelujah Psalms” which are Psalms 146-150. They are named because all begin with Hallelujah - or “praise ye the Lord” in Hebrew. Psalm 150 contains 13 instructions to praise. 3 of them are literally Hallelujahs. Another time, it’s “praise God” and the other 9 times, it’s “praise him.” So the emphasis of praising God is clear. He’s the object of worship. And it’s not just any God, it’s the LORD God - YAH! Hallelujah! The God that’s praised is named Yahweh. The name means the one who is. The self-existing one. He’s the living God. When God called Moses at Sinai to rescue his people from Egypt, Moses asked God whom he should say sent him, if they asked. God told him - tell them “I am that I am” sent you. This name tells us that he was self-existent. He didn’t need to create, he was fine on his own, he doesn’t need his creatures to affirm him. That’s why there are no idols of him - he can’t be portrayed. He explicitly commands no images of him be made. However, other gods people worship need people to make idols of them. Yahweh is self-existent. And also at Sinai, his first commandment was - “Thou shalt have none other gods before me.” Now, this commandment doesn’t affirm the existence of other gods. It forbids the worship of them because they don’t actually exist. They’re not real. So in the Christian worldview, while people have worshiped Zeus, he doesn’t exist. While people worship Buddha today, a historical figure, he’s not actually a god. While people worship Ganesh, he’s only a figment of the imagination of his worshipers. Only Jehovah is true. He’s the self-existent God. That’s why praise is only given to him. 

Secondly, the subjects who praise this God are his people. Verse 6 says, “Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD.” While this psalm speaks about praising God with the trumpets, timbrels, tambourines, etc - only those with breath can praise God. In other words, only people can praise God. A side note - that’s why we have no instrumental offering in worship. It’s not worship - it’s just nice music. Praise is always verbal. But who are these who have breath? God’s people. Yes, in other psalms, God commands everyone to praise him. Psalm 100 says, “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.” God also commands angels. Psalm 148 says, “Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.” The same psalm commands inanimate things to praise God - like fire, hail, winds, mountains, and trees. Also beasts - like cattle, insects, and birds. Yes, God commands all to praise him, but this psalm specifically calls God’s people. Those who have breath. When God created Adam, he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living spirit. This is why all over the world, only mankind that has the concept of worship. Animals don’t. But sin has corrupted God’s image in man. This is why God must regenerate man by giving him his Spirit. Jesus said in John 3 to Nicodemus - “except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” That’s why he said in John 4 to the Samaritan woman that “true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Meaning, only true believers can properly worship God - those forgiven of their sins. John 9:31 says, “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.” This is why dearly beloved, we don’t dare to take praise lightly. He’s our Lord - the only living and true God that has redeemed us. His command is serious, but also a delight and a privilege. We need to fill our lives with singing and praise - individually and together to praise God for who he is and what he has done. This is especially a call to those of you who are young - to sing with vigor to the Lord. He has given you life and strength. And this leads us to the next part - the reasons  for praise.

Thirdly, the reasons for praise are his character and his acts. Why do we praise the only living and true God? Verse 2 says, “Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.” God’s to be praised because of his excellent or surpassing greatness - that’s his character. So we praise him for who he is. No one surpasses him in his ability. He is the Most High God. He is the highest in rank, greatest in power, richest in wealth and possession, and wisest in counsel. No one surpasses him in virtues. He’s greatest or infinite in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. He’s even greatest in his humility - that such a great God would consider his creatures and take care of us. Psalm 113:4-6 say, “The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens. Who is like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high, who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!” And this is also why we praise him for his acts.

Because of who he is, he acts. And his greatest act is the salvation of his people. He saved us when we were sinners. When God’s people lift our voices in praise, our songs of praise are filled with the acknowledgment of the activity of God. Not only is he our creator and sustainer, he’s our redeemer and judge. We think about the things that he has done - how he’s saved us by sending Jesus to die for our sins; but how he along with Christ, gives us all things. He works in us to make us holy. He forgives our sins. Even in trials, they’re not meant to destroy, but purify. This is why we praise - for all the wonderful things he has done; for who he is. And that’s why, where we worship God and how we worship God matters. 

Fourthly, we see the places of praise are sacred and ordinary. Since God fills the universe, we worship God in all areas of life. This psalm makes it clear in verse 1 - “Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.” We praise God in his sanctuary and also in the mighty expanse under the heavens. The sanctuary can refer to his temple - his holy place. In the Old Testament, this was the building in Jerusalem. But Christ told the Samaritan woman that one day, God’s people won’t need to worship him in the temple at Jerusalem, because the people of God are the temple themselves. Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” So wherever God’s people are gathered as an assembly to praise, they are God’s holy temple. This is why there’s this sacred hour of praise - where we call together God’s people with the call of worship to praise. And we signify the sacredness of this hour. In the morning this is done with God’s greeting; and we end it with God’s blessing. It’s a sacred hour. Whether under a tree, sitting on the floor, or even in this fine building - we are in the very throne room of God. While only the priests in the Old Testament could enter the temple, and only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, we as New Testament priests can enter the throne room of God anytime. Hebrews 10 says we have boldness to enter the holiest because of Christ. He made the way possible because he entered into the Holiest. This is why we can draw near. 

Dearly beloved, when we worship, even though we are here on earth, we are spiritually and positionally in heaven. We are before the throne of God. That’s why we are told not to forsake church. It’s amazing that God would already receive us into his presence. This gives our praise more meaning. You know, I don’t want to be controversial - but many churches try to make their worship spectacular by worldly means - of sound, light shows, smoke, candles, robes, and bells. Why?! Christ has made our worship spectacular already. We’re in the very presence of God. When we praise God in our spirit, knowing what Christ has done - that pure worship is more spectacular than any light and sound show. We just don’t think sacredly. Nothing but the Christ can make our worship spectacular.

But our worship of God extends beyond these times of sacred worship. We are to worship God under the expanse of his mighty heavens with our lives. This is why 1 Corinthians 10:31 says - “whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do to the glory of God.” If you look at the various instruments listed in Psalm 150, not all were appropriate for the temple. The temple had prescribed instruments. So we mustn’t look at Psalm 150 as a blank check to do whatever we want in sacred praise. These instruments were used elsewhere. So, when we live life under the sun, all that we do should be done in praise of God. And so this leads us to the final point - which is also related.

Fifthly, the methods of praise are sacred and ordinary. When we consider how we praise God in the places under the sun, it’s not the traditional praises we think of. Let’s consider what the Bible says about these ordinary times. Psalm 149 says in verse 3 - “Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.” Israel had their national feast days and harvest feast days. They would sing and dance. Psalm 149:5 - “Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.” Sleep is a wonderful thing given by God. We thank God for sleep. We must have good sleep. The Lord giveth his beloved sleep. We glorify God by our sleep - by not shortchanging ourselves, by not overdoing it like the sluggard who says, one more minute. Psalm 149:6 says, “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand.” As Israel went to war, they did it to the praise of God. They were doing his will. When you’re cleaning your house, do it in praise to God. When you’re at war or in national service, do it for the glory of God. When you’re threshing grain, do it to the glory of God. When you’re doing your zoomba or Brazilian jujitsu, do it to the glory of God. When you play tennis, do it for his glory. So it’s important that we see these verses in context. Many people try to apply verses that pertain to life worship to our worship of God in a sacred context. People will hold up the Bible in their hands to proclaim their faithfulness to it, because it’s the sword of the Spirit. Wrong application. Superstition. Likewise, they will give themselves permission to use whatever instruments to beautify their worship because this psalm speaks of tambourines and timbrel and dances. It’s confusing spheres of worship. In life, we can live it for God’s glory under the liberty he has given us. So when we listen to our music, watch a movie, go traveling, apply for a job, vacuum - we glorify God. We do it in praise of him. To be clear, this does not mean we only listen to Christian music or watch only Christian movies, but we listen to music and watch movies in a Christian way - to glorify God. And what this means, is that there are things we can listen to or watch.

But how we worship God in sacred times is also important. We don’t come in with beds to the public worship of God (although some of you sleep in worship), neither swords, nor hold up cups of coffee to praise God in worship. The hour of worship is sacred. God calls us to sing, read, preach, hear, and pray his Word. Now, in Psalm 150, we see many instruments. But not all instruments were used in the worship of the sanctuary. Only the trumpets, psaltery, harp, and cymbals. These were employed in a way to accompany the singing in the temple. The trumpets were played at the morning and evening sacrifices - to accompany them and to call the people to worship. The psaltery and harps were used to accompany the giving of prophecies or offering of sacrifices. They were also used to accompany the singing of the Levites. These instruments accompanied the gospel in the Old Testament. The gospel was taught by sacrifices. But today, it’s the gospel in words. This is why we focus on the Word. So when we look at this, we shouldn’t be looking at making a list of how we should praise the Lord, as if we need these instruments. The pious Israelites who heard this psalm would know when the instruments were used. And the Old Testament temple was never supposed to be a pattern for Christian worship. This is what the Catholics misunderstand with their bells, and robes, and incense, and candles, instruments, and choirs. This is also what modern evangelicals misunderstand with their skits, light shows, smoke blowers, drums, keyboards, guitars - you can’t use worldly things to enhance your worship. But our worship is verbal. Let everything with breath praise the Lord - and we are believers by the blood of Christ before the very throne room of God in worship. Our verbal praise is sufficient and already beautiful - whether disciplined by a simple instrument so we can sing together and in tune or led a cappella by a powerful voice.

How we worship matters. It shows we are anticipating that trillion Hallelujahs one day. If we’re saved to be there in heaven one day, then let our praises demonstrate that - that we are grateful to God for regenerating us by his Spirit. So let us sing about his wondrous character and tender mercies, and his great acts of redemption through Christ. Let us live our lives for him - in every area to give him glory - to serve him faithfully in our work places, in our leisure, in our families. And to worship him here as God’s temple. This is the privilege as God’s people. Dearly beloved, would you not sing loudly and with feeling, to remember what the Lord has done? Because one day there will be a trillion Hallelujahs. In fact, isn’t it exciting, that now, we are before God’s throne - with the four and twenty elders, all the cherubim, all the hosts - along with Christ himself in the midst of this congregation worshiping?

One day there’s only one sphere - heaven and earth are one - sacred and ordinary are one. The normal is sacred.

And to our friends who are not believers - God won’t accept your worship unless you repent and believe. Join our merry band of Christians to sing to him about this redemption in Christ. One day may you be counted in the midst of those trillions of people in the New Heavens and Earth.

Sermon Outline:

  1. The Object of Praise
  2. The Subjects Who Praise
  3. The Reasons for Praise
  4. The Places of Praise
  5. The Methods to Praise

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Mark Chen

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