A Guide For Praising God

Bible Book: Psalms  150
Subject: Praise; Joy; Worship

Someone has described Psalm 150 as the “grand finale” of the Psalms, like those final bursts of light and color at a Fourth of July fireworks display.

I call this Psalm “A Guide for Praising God.” But I also like the title another minister, Danny Barker, used when he preached on it. He entitled his sermon, “Let Your Balloon Go!” In explaining that title, he told about a conference at a Presbyterian church in Omaha. People were given helium-filled balloons and told to release them at some time in the service when they felt like expressing the joy in their hearts. In other words, releasing a balloon was intended as a unique way of expressing praise to God. All through the service balloons ascended, but when it was over 1/3 of the balloons were unreleased. After giving that explanation, Danny Barker said to his congregation, “Let your balloon go!”

The Psalm begins with the words, “Praise ye the Lord.” The Hebrew term translated “Praise ye the Lord” is a compound word consisting of two Hebrew words: halal, which means “praise,” and another Hebrew word, yah, which is an abbreviated form of yahweh, the personal name God chose for himself and which is first mentioned in Genesis 2:4 .

So, those two Hebrew words together form halalyah, from which we get our English word “Hallelujah.” That word halal is used more than 150 times in the Old Testament, and much of the time is combined with yah as it is in Psalm 150--and when that combination occurs, as it does here in Psalm 150, it is generally translated as it is here: “Praise ye the Lord.”

This Psalm answers four of the basic questions about praising God—and there’s nothing original about my outline, for it naturally falls into place because of the way the Psalm is written


A. In the Sanctuary

Verse 1: “Praise ye the Lord; Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.”

The Hebrew word for “sanctuary” means, literally, “a place set apart”--and is generally used in the Bible to refer to a specific place where believers gather to worship the Lord. Throughout the Scriptures God makes it clear that he intends that believers be diligent and faithful in regularly assembling for corporate worship--although not as a substitute for our private times of worship, when we’re alone with God reading the Scriptures and praying. It’s not a matter of “either private worship or public worship”--it’s “both, and.”

There are numerous elements that can, and should, be included in a public worship service in the sanctuary of God. The Lord wants us to bring our petitions to him, he wants us to intercede for others, and he wants us to open our hearts and let him minister to our hurts and other needs--but all of that must never obscure the fact that a major part of every worship service should be praise.

B. In the Firmament

But the sanctuary isn’t the only place where God is to be praised. The last part of verse 1 says, “praise him in the firmament of his power.” The Hebrew for “firmament” means, literally, “expanse,” and in Genesis 1:8 we read that when God created a great expanse between the waters that were above the earth and the waters that were on the earth, he called that expanse “heaven.”

However, the inspired author of Psalm 150 he doesn’t seem to be referring to that specific expanse; he seems to be using the term firmament--expanse--in a much broader sense. He says that God is to be praised “in the firmament--literally, the expanse--of his power.” In other words, wherever God’s power reaches, he is to be worshipped there.

Where does the expanse of God’s power end? It doesn’t. The expanse of his power covers all creation. It certainly includes that expanse immediately above the earth which God named “heaven” in the Genesis creation account, and it also includes what Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians 12:2 as “the third heaven”--in other words, the place where God and the angels dwell, and where redeemed people who have passed from this life dwell. But it goes far beyond that--the expanse of his power means everywhere. So, the bottom line is this: Everywhere that you and I go, we should offer praise to God, because the expanse of his power includes the whole universe.

Obviously, there are some places that God would not have us go, but wherever it is appropriate for a believer to go, we should find praise welling up in our hearts, and we should express that praise. In fact, praise unexpressed is not really praise.


There are multitudes of reasons why we should praise God. Verse 2 says , “Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him for the excellence of his greatness.”

A.    For What He Does

So, we are to praise him for what he does--his “mighty acts.” Those mighty acts are more numerous than any of us could name. His power was demonstrated when he performed a whole series of mighty miracles in order to convince Pharaoh to set the people of Israel free from the bondage of Egypt. But then, after having let them go, Pharaoh changed his mind and pursued them. However, God with his supernatural power opened up the Red Sea and let the Israelites go through on dry land--but when Pharaoh and his soldiers tried to follow, God commanded the water to engulf them and they were drowned.

His mighty acts continued all through the centuries. On Mount Carmel, when Elijah confronted the false prophets of Baal, the Lord miraculously acted in Elijah’s behalf by sending fire from heaven, which consumed not only the sacrifice Elijah had offered, but also consumed the wood, the stones, the dust, and the water surrounding the sacrifice. He delivered Jonah from the belly of a great fish. The list could go on and on, of how on many different occasions God performed mighty acts.

Jesus, who was God in the flesh, miraculously fed thousands of people with only five loaves of bread and two small fish. He caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, and even raised the dead. Miracle after miracle is recorded in the Old and New Testaments.

But God’s mighty acts didn’t end with the ascension of Jesus, and the death of the apostles. God continues today to perform mighty acts. He performs mighty acts of healing. It obviously isn’t in his plan that every sick person be healed in this life, but he heals many--sometimes through medication or surgery, and sometimes miraculously without the aid of any of those things.

He performs mighty acts of deliverance from harm, and from death. Some of them we know about, and others we don’t.

He performs mighty acts in nature. God still controls the forces of nature, and--just as Jesus stilled the waters on a turbulent sea--sometimes today God miraculously causes the forces of nature to take an unusual turn, for man’s benefit.

But one of God’s mightiest acts is what he does when a person repents of sin and in faith turns to Jesus Christ. God forgives that person’s sin, cleans up his life, and writes his name in heaven’s book. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” George Beverly Shea put it like this:

 “It took a miracle to put the stars in place;

  It took a miracle to hang the world in space;

  But when he saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole,

  It took a miracle of love and grace.” 

B.    For Who He Is

But not only are we to praise him for what he does--we are also to praise him for who he is. The Psalmist said, in this second verse, “praise him according to his excellent greatness.” He is the Creator and Sovereign of this universe. He is all-wise, all-powerful, and he is loving and merciful. There is a chorus that I sometimes hear: “Our God is an awesome God....” and he is, indeed--and we need to praise him simply for who he is.


When the author of this Psalm tells us of ways to praise God, his list is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather is intended to be simply representative. In other words, he is giving us a couple of examples of how to praise God.

A.    With Instruments

Look at verses 3-5: “Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.”

He was saying, “Praise God with instruments”—and that would include other musical instruments that have been developed since Old Testament days. He was saying, in effect, “Praise him with the whole orchestra!” Make a beautiful, harmonious sound with all the instruments, in such a way that God is honored and people’s hearts are drawn to him.

B.    With Dance

Verse 4 says we are to praise him “with dance.” According to Ecclesiastes 3:4 there is “a time to mourn, and a time to dance”--and the inspired writer of this Psalm tells us that there is a time for praising God by dancing.

We’re not given any specifics as to how to dance so as to praise God; however, because of what the Bible teaches about modest and purity, we know that any dancing which praises God must be chaste and wholesome, and never suggestive or provocative. I think it is reasonable to assume that the dancing referred to here probably refers to joyous, spontaneous movements which express joy and gratitude.

When we get to the New Testament, we find no indication that dancing was a part of the worship of the early Christians--so it may be that God intended that particular type of praise expression only for the Old Testament era.

But be that as it may, we can be sure that if dancing is still to be used in praising God, it should be a joyful expression of praise by someone who is deeply committed to the Lord, who isn’t just running on emotion alone, and who is not trying to impress anyone else. There should not be even the slightest suggestion of immodesty--and, further, even if all of those criteria are met, dancing still should not take place if it is going to disruptive to the service.

1 Corinthians 14:40 says, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” The inspired writer made that statement in regard to speaking in tongues, which had become a problem in the church at Corinth--but the principle that he stated applies much more widely than simply to the issue of tongues. Anything--dancing, or anything else--which disrupts worship rather than enhances it, which causes confusion rather than encouraging commitment to the Lord, does not honor God.

But the Scriptures make it clear that there are many appropriate ways to praise God. For example, the author of Psalm 69:30 wrote, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.” We can praise him through speaking; Psalm 35:28: “And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long”—and the list goes on. So, let us praise God in all the various ways in which the Holy Spirit leads us. As Danny Barker would say it, “Let your balloon go!”


A. The Heavenly Hosts

Verse 6 says, “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.” The Scriptures make it clear elsewhere that the heavenly hosts are to praise God, and that even the inanimate parts of his creation are to praise him. For example, in Psalm 148:1-5:

“Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights.

Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, sin and moon:

Praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that

be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and

they were created.”

In other words, God’s glory and greatness are evidenced by all that he has made--and that brings praise to him.

B. The Human Beings

But here in Psalm 150:6 the emphasis is on everything that has breath--and undoubtedly the intended focus here is on man. Let everyone praise God. Regardless of location, age, race, background, economic status, health conditions, or anything else--everyone has reasons to praise God, if only they’ll look for them.  

Several decades ago, a Methodist minister, Harold Bosley, told a story from his student days at the University of Chicago in the 1930s. He and some fellow students went to a conference that was being held at a large black church on the North side of Chicago. The conference featured a panel of four speakers who were discussing how to deal with the problems of life. One of the speakers was the attorney, Clarence Darrow, who had gained recognition as the defense lawyer in the famous Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee.

Those were the dark, difficult days of the Great Depression in America. People were in desperate need, but couldn’t find jobs, and there was despair throughout the land--but, of all people, the blacks of Chicago seemed to be suffering even more than others. When Clarence Darrow rose to speak, he began to talk about those issues, and the hard times that the blacks were experiencing. In the course of his remarks he said, “But, I don’t understand it. You sing such great music. I have heard you singing here today. Amid all the woes of life, how can you sing? What in the world do you have to sing about in the face of all you’re going through?” He intended that as a rhetorical question, not expecting anyone to answer--but quick as a flash a woman stood up right in front of him and said, “Why do we sing? What do we have to sing about? We have Jesus to sing about!”--and all over the congregation people shouted, “Amen! Amen!”


If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior--if your life is linked trustfully and obediently to him--then however tough things get, and whatever losses you’ve incurred, and however much your heart may be breaking--in spite of it all, you can still sing through the tears, you can still sing in spite of the pain, you can still praise God--because you’ve got Jesus in your heart!—to strengthen you, sustain you, comfort you, and guide you, and then to take you home to heaven when this earthly struggle is over!

I love that hymn which declares:

“There is never a days so dreary, There is never a night so long,

 But the soul that is trusting Jesus Can somewhere find a song!”

In Philppians 4:6-7 Paul, writing under divine inspiration, said:

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving

let your requests be made know unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all

understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

In John 16:33 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Thomas Ken, a 17th century Christian, must have had Psalm 150 in mind when he wrote:

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;

 Praise Him, all creatures here below;

 Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;

 Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!”

If you’ve never done so, I encourage you with all my heart to repent of your sins and, in faith, to commit yourself to Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior—then you’ll be able in any and every circumstance to praise God, and to say as Paul did in 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!”