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Psalm 148

Brother sun, sister moon

Secularists claim they belong to themselves, not God. The psalmist calls everyone to join the rest of creation in worshipping the God who made it all. That’s where we find true freedom, joy, and rest.

Praise Yahveh!
Praise Yahveh from the heavens
praise him, heavenly heights.
2 Praise him, all his angels
praise him, all his heavenly armies.
3 Praise him, sun and moon
praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, highest heavens
and you cloud-seas of the sky.
5 Join together in praising Yahveh’s name
for he commanded and they were created.
6 He assigned them their places forever
setting boundaries that cannot be crossed.

7 Praise Yahveh from the earth
you sea monsters and all you ocean deeps
8 lightning and hail, snow and fog
storm winds that obey his commands
9 mountains and all hills
fruit trees and all cedars.
10 Animals wild and tame
crawling creatures and all flying fowl.
11 Kings of the earth and all the nations
the powerful and all leaders on earth
12 young men and women
seniors and children alike.
13 Join together in praising Yahveh’s name
for his name alone is exalted
and his majesty towers over
everything in heaven and earth.
14 He has lifted high the horn of his people
the praise of all those devoted to him
the Israelites, the people near him.
Praise Yahveh!

The inspiration for St. Francis’ “Canticle to the Sun,” this psalm issues the third of the Psalter’s last five calls to praise Yahveh, Lord of all. Evoking Genesis 1, it begins by calling everything in the heavens to praise God: his angel armies, sun, moon, stars, and the rain-filled cloud-seas he created. We moderns consider such things as stars and clouds mute, inanimate objects. But the psalmist knows that, since God fires the sun, its glorious light ascribes greatness to him moment-by-moment. Likewise, the clouds attest to his power and glory.

The psalm’s second half brings in the earthly chorus: oceans, forces of nature, landforms, flora and fauna, and all earth’s peoples. The storm winds so beyond our control unfailingly obey God’s command. Indeed, everything he’s created ascribes glory to him by doing what he created it to do. Thus, as choirmaster, the psalmist cues humankind—earth’s most powerful people included—to join the rest of creation in ascribing unmeasured glory to God.

The psalm ends declaring that Yahveh has raised up the horn of the Israelites who are near him, their horn, surprisingly, being their praise of God. That is, his people’s strength, dignity, fame, and joy lie in their determination to honor God as he deserves.

When you came to reign over your creation, Jesus, we all—Gentile and Jew—rejected you as king. But your unfailing love overcame our hate and won you the name above every name. Lord, let me glimpse more of your glory so that I may wholeheartedly join creation in worshipping you. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Join together in praising Yahveh’s name
for his name alone is exalted
and his majesty towers over everything in heaven and earth.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.