A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on February 15, 2015 by Pastor Dale Raether
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net
God’s Praise Pyramid
Psalm 148

Life is full of highs and lows. If you’re a sports fan, sometimes you’re sure your team is going to win – that’s a high. And then they loose in the last seconds – that’s a low. Or, if you’re an investor, one day everything is up, and you feel optimistic. The next day, everything is down again, and you feel pessimistic. Sports and finances are just things of this life. But we can also have highs and lows in our faith. That’s what was about to happen with Jesus’ disciples. Seeing Him transfigured was a spiritual high for them; they never wanted it to end. But actually God was using the high of Transfiguration to get them ready for their lowest low, when they would see Jesus on the cross. And then God would use that to get them ready for their highest high, when they would see Jesus alive on Easter evening. So it is, the highs get us ready for the lows, and the lows get us ready for the highs. Personally, I don’t enjoy roller coasters that much. I would prefer life be more even. However, God has a reason for all our highs and lows. Also in our text this morning He shows us how He keeps our faith from flying off the tracks. So, whether we’re going through a high or a low or somewhere in between, the key is praising Him. Psalm 148 gives us many reasons for praising Him. However, these reasons are in order of importance, and so reading Psalm 148 is like climbing up a big pyramid; and when we get to the top of God’s Praise Pyramid, may we all shout out, “Praise the Lord!”

Our text reads: Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. – Psalm 148:1-2. The very thought of heaven is reason to praise God. But this is at the base of God’s praise pyramid, because we can’t see heaven. We just know that it’s a place of intense beauty, and that the angels and the souls of believers are there with Jesus. We also know that in heaven there are none of the things that bring us down – no more hunger or thirst, or being too hot or too cold, or death, or mourning, or pain. We can’t imagine it! Still, just thinking about heaven helps keep our faith on track, because when times are good, we see our blessings in perspective; and when times are bad, we don’t lose hope.

And now we move up to the next reason for praising God. Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. – Psalm 148:3 The universe praises God just by how big it is. There are 100 billion stars like our sun making up our galaxy, which we call the Milky Way. And there are 100 billion galaxies or more, like our Milky Way, which make up the universe. For years people, who think they know more than God, have been saying that the universe came into existence by a big bang, and that everything we see now has evolved from that. This week, astrophysicists announced that the big bang theory can’t be true, because they’re finding too many problems with it. But we know what’s true. The heavens declare the glory of God. Just looking up at night makes us say, “Praise the Lord”, because we’re seeing with our own eyes proofs of His infinite power and wisdom – power and wisdom He’s also using in caring for us.

We read on in our text: Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding. – Psalm 148:7-8 It kind of blows our mind when we stand by the ocean and think about how vast it is and all the different creatures that live in the ocean. But do you realize that if it weren’t for the gravitational pull of the moon, we wouldn’t have tides. And if we didn’t have tides, there is so much water in the oceans that they would wash over us and we’d all drown. But God keeps everything in perfect balance, so that we don’t drown, or burn up, or freeze, because God keeps the earth always at just the right distance from the sun, which also gives us our seasons and controls our weather. Well, actually God is working through the forces of nature to control the weather. And so at times He sends us perfect weather, because He loves to bless us. At other times He allows terrible storms, or drought, or climate change, because He love us, and wants to call people everywhere to repentance. Praise the Lord!

We continue up God’s praise pyramid. Praise him, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds. – Psalm 148:9-10
Life is good! Who wouldn’t enjoy standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon or driving through the Rockies? And then if we get to see a bear or a moose from the safety of our car, that’s really cool. Or, who doesn’t enjoy seeing baby animals, like the baby giraffe that was at our zoo last year? Or, how ‘bout an elephant? Here’s a picture of our daughter who lives in China and is on vacation this week in Thailand. So, what does this big, beautiful creation say about God? He loves to bless us and give us good things, He loves watching us have fun. And for all of this all we can do is thank Him and shout, “Praise the Lord!”

We read on in our text: Praise the Lord, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth. – Psalm 148:11 Not to be cynical, but sometimes kings and rulers are godly people, and sometimes they know as much about God as a rock or a tree does. However, even when rulers do not acknowledge God, He is still ruling the nations. He still make every decisions rulers make, work together for the good of His Gospel. His goal is that ultimately many more will hear it and be brought to faith by it. For example, God used the Babylonians to discipline His people, Israel. Then He used the Persians to bring His people back to the Promised Land. Then He used the Greeks to give the world then a common language. Then He used the Romans give the world roads and law and order, so that the first Christians could carry the Gospel to every country. Then He used the persecutions by the Romans to strengthen the believers, and He used the conquest of Rome by the barbarians to bring the Gospel to the Germans and Norwegians. Ultimately He has used world events to bring the Gospel to the New World, and has so blessed us here with freedoms and resources, that now it’s our turn to get the Gospel out to many more. For each new mission that’s started, and for each new convert who confesses Jesus as Lord, what can we say but: “Praise the Lord?”

And now the reasons in our Psalm for giving thanks are going to get more intense. We read, Praise Him you young men and women. – Psalm 148:12a Here’s a picture of students worshipping at Martin Luther College, our pastor/teacher training school. The president of MLC, Pastor Mark Zarling told us at pastors conference that one of the great joys of serving at Martin Luther College is seeing the spiritual gifts God has given to the 700 plus young men and women training for ministry. This is exciting! When we see young people, who love the Lord, it makes old people like me wish I could be young again, and have that many more years here to serve Him. It also makes me thankful to know that in spite of everything that’s going on this world, the church is going to continue. And the church is going to keep growing in places and in ways, we could never have imagined. And so we say again, “Praise the Lord!”

Here’s another reason to praise Him. Praise Him, you old men and children. – Psalm 148:12b People of all ages are precious to God, but old people are especially precious to Him. Time and time again the Bible includes neglect of old people as among the worst sins a person can commit. Anyway old people praise God, because with the advantage of years, they have seen how God keeps His promises, and they are able to tell children and their children’s children the wonderful things God does. However, even when they get to the point where they can’t say as much anymore, they’re still precious to God. He promises them: Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. – Isaiah 46:4

And now we move a little higher up God’s praise pyramid. Another class of people that’s even more precious yet to God than old people is children. Children praise God by trusting in Him with childlike faith and being an example for others. Also, misleading a child into sin, or not teaching a child how to worship God earns a person having a millstone tied around his neck and thrown into the middle of the ocean. That’s serious, isn’t it.

And now we come to the peak of God’s praise pyramid. This is the most important and precious part, and from here we can see and understand everything else. We read: He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his faithful saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart. – Psalm 148:14 The word “horn” is picture language for His Son, because His Son would defeat all His enemies and will reign forever and ever. Also, all things were made through His Son and for His Son, so that all creation, each part in its own way, would reflect God’s glory forever and ever. However, what does God do with His most precious? He crucifies Him for the sake of those, who are close to His heart, and that’s you and me.

Seeing God’s love for us in all creation is a high for us. Yet we have rebelled against God. We have sinned and realizing this is a low! Yet when we can’t lift our eyes up to Him, in His Word He gives us glimpses of our highest high, when we too shall see Jesus in His glory! As we follow Jesus to the cross this season of Lent and as we praise Him on Easter morning, may God use all of this to keep our faith on their tracks in all the ups and downs of our life. Praise the Lord! And please say it with me, Praise the Lord! Amen.

Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net