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  A RESPONSE TO ENVIRONMENT PSALM 149:1-9: “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation and adorn the wretched with victory.” (v4)

We are saying that the first step to good spiritual and mental health is to realise that we function in the way God intended only when Lord Jesus Christ is received into the centre of our lives. But to do this; which is receiving Christ in your life requires on our part a realisation of our spiritual poverty –a willingness to empty our hands of whatever we are holding or worshipping and reach out with those empty hands to accept Christ. Life has been defined as ‘a response to environment’. You and I live physically when we respond to our physical environment by breathing in oxygen, drinking fluids and eating food. When that response is shut-off then we die physically. Take a plant, for example: how does it live? By being proud, self-sufficient, unrelated and unresponsive? No, it lives by surrendering, adjusting, receiving. This might stretch your imagination a bit but suppose, just suppose, a plant tried to live by asserting itself, by ignoring the environment in which it is placed, by refusing to absorb moisture from the soil. What would be the result? It would quickly die because it lives only while it responds to its environment. The plain truth of what Lord Jesus is saying in the first of the Beatitudes or Be- attitudes is that we thrive as we humbly choose to give up the idea that we can make life work on our own, and allow Him God to flood our lives with His presence and power guiding us with His Word and expecting implicit obedience from us. A highly cultured and wealthy woman, after reviewing her life, once said, ‘I have everything –and nothing.’ Everything in the way of comforts and riches –yet emptiness of heart. To find contentment and happiness is to find Lord Jesus with a ready mind and heart to follow as He leads. But we will never find Him unless first we are willing to surrender our pride and foolish wisdom.

  Psalms of Praise; The Victory of the Faithful - Psalm 149:

The foregoing Psalm was a hymn of praise to the Creator; a hymn of praise to the Redeemer. It is a psalm of triumph in the God of Israel, and over the enemies of Israel. Probably it was penned upon occasion of some victory which Israel was blessed and honoured with. Some conjecture that it was penned when King David had taken the strong hold of Zion, and settled his government there. But it looks further, to the kingdom of the Messiah, who, in the chariot of the everlasting gospel, goes forth conquering and to conquer. To Him Lord Jesus Christ, and His graces and glories, we must have an eye on, in singing this psalm, which proclaims, i. Abundance of joy to all the people of God as seen in Psalms 149:1-5 ii. Abundance of terror to the proudest of their enemies as seen in Psalms 149:6-9. Let’s begin by taking it verse by verse, Verses 1-5, New mercies continually demand new songs of praise, upon earth and in heaven. And the children of Zion are not only to bless or praise the God who made them, but to rejoice in Him, as having created them in Christ Jesus unto good works, and formed them saints as well as men, meaning you can be man and not saint. The Lord takes pleasure in His people; they should rejoice in Him. When the Lord has made sinners feel their wants and unworthiness, He will adorn them with the graces of His Spirit, and cause them to bear His image, and rejoice in His happiness forever. Let His saints employ their waking hours upon their beds in songs of praise. Let them rejoice, even upon the bed of death, assured that they are going to eternal rest and glory. This is the consolation of the saints! Verses 6-9, Some of God's servants of old were appointed to execute vengeance according to His word. They did not do it from personal revenge or earthly politics, but in obedience to God's command. And the honour intended for all the saints of God, consists in their triumphs over the enemies of their salvation. Christ never intended His gospel should be spread by fire and sword, or His righteousness by the wrath of man. But let the high praises of God be in our mouths, while we wield the sword of the word of God, with the shield of faith, in warfare with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The saints shall be more than conquerors over the enemies of their souls, through the blood of the Lamb and the word of His testimony. The completing of this will be in the judgment of the great day. Then shall the judgment be executed. Behold Lord Jesus, and His gospel church, chiefly in her millennial state. He and His people rejoice in each other; by their prayers and efforts they work with Him, while He goes forth in the chariots of salvation, conquering sinners by grace, or in chariots of vengeance, to destroy His enemies. Let us begin by reading Psalm 149:1-9: 1 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, praise Him in the assembly of His saints! 2 Let Israel rejoice in Him, their Maker; let Zion’s children triumph and be joyful in their King! 3 Let them praise His name in chorus and choir and with the [single or group] dance; let them sing praises to Him with the tambourine and lyre! 4 For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation and adorn the wretched with victory. 5 Let the saints be joyful in the glory and beauty [which God confers upon them]; let them sing for joy upon their beds. 6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and a two-edged sword in their hands, 7 To wreak vengeance upon the nations and chastisement upon the peoples, 8 To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron, 9 To execute upon them the judgment written. He [the Lord] is the honor of all His saints. Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!)

  Introduction:

Have you ever been in a situation where there is a sense that there is a new day dawning? It might be when you are in a family situation and there is an incredible breakthrough in a difficult family situation. It might be that it is in the context of a health crisis and you are not sure if someone is going to survive and then the sun rises on the next day and the person is stronger and you know that they have made it through the night. It might be that you are part of a community, perhaps a town that has been struggling for a while and then one or two things changed. Someone takes a risk and makes a new investment, they open a shop, something different, something which no one has tried before and they manage to attract some new trade to the town or had a huge success in what they are chasing. Perhaps a derelict building is demolished in preparation for something new and then someone else joins in and the whole town is transformed. I have seen this happen in a town and what is even more exciting is to see this happen in a congregation. There is a new sense; something big is beginning to happen. God is about to do a marvellous thing and it shall be marvellous in our eyes! In Psalm 149:1 we see this, We see the Jubilant Praise of a Secure People -Psalm 149:1-5: Psalm 149:1–5 says, 1 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, praise Him in the assembly of His saints! 2 Let Israel rejoice in Him, their Maker; let Zion’s children triumph and be joyful in their King! 3 Let them praise His name in chorus and choir and with the [single or group] dance; let them sing praises to Him with the tambourine and lyre! 4 For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation and adorn the wretched with victory. 5 Let the saints be joyful in the glory and beauty [which God confers upon them]; let them sing for joy upon their beds. The expectation of Israel as a secure people - Psalm 149:1-5; Throughout the history of the people of Israel there has been an expectation, the expectation of a new day, a day when the Lord God will bring His people into an eternal victory over their enemies. Psalm 149, as one of the last five Psalms which form what is known as the Psalms of Praise, speaks explicitly of this expectation. In its historical context it was most likely written when the nation of Israel returned from the Babylonian captivity. There was an expectation, a new hope of a bright future. A future where the temple worship would be restored, the nation’s fortunes improved and peace would reign, as we know things didn't turn out this way but... But beyond this there is something more, something which looks beyond their current experiences and hopes for the immediate future to the end of all time. Psalm 149 is a hymn or a song that looks forward to the end of time the day when the Lord Jesus will finalize all of history in a great victory. This victory will be so complete, so overwhelming that it will be celebrated in unexpected ways. If you have a look at verse 5 you will see the strange idea of singing for joy as people lie on their beds. Now I have heard of people singing in the shower, screaming out a favourite song at a concert or the team song on a bus trip to a sporting match. Or singing on the church bus on the way to a camp, although it does get rather annoying after a while. I have even heard of teenagers singing whilst jumping on their bed with a group of friends. But the idea of singing for joy in praise of God whilst lying on your bed is...... different. The hope of the people of Israel when they read this Psalm was one of an expectation of peace and this is the idea that verse five is communicating. You can't sing for joy whilst lying on your bed if you dare not even lay down to sleep because the enemy is outside the walls of the city laying siege to it and looking to storm the walls. This is why this Psalm speaks of a security which the people waited for expectantly. They looked forward with joy to a time when there would be praise for the Lord God because He was and is King over all. A time when there would be dancing and singing, instead of war and fear of being besieged by enemies round about you. A time when there would be celebration instead of death. When we look at the type of instruments mentioned, the harp and the Tambourine or Timbrel there is something that we don't often realize. This dancing and music isn't the normal worship of the temple. We actually believe that the tambourine wasn't allowed as an instrument of worship in the temple because it was associated with women dancing and possibly with Canaanite religion. But it was an instrument that the people used in processions and times of fun. When Psalm 149 talks of dancing and joyful celebration it is talking of a party. A party which continues forever, a party where people can sing for joy as they recline, lying on their bed's or couches as was the custom around a celebration meal at a festival or other great event...in those days. You can only do this when you are assured of your security. The experience of the church as a secure people - Psalm 149:1-5: What was true of Israel as they looked forward expectantly to a time of security is partially fulfilled in our experience. For this reason we are to praise the Lord Our victory is not like that of Israel who were restored from exile. Our victory is Salvation; the victory of Christ over sin and death. Our security is far more than the security of the absence of war; our security is the presence of the King Lord Jesus Christ in our midst. Our security is far more than the security of a people who have learnt to be obedient to the law through the trials of exile, our security is the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in our hearts who writes His law on our hearts giving us the zeal and His fear to obey these laws even without anybody watching us. This Psalm calls the church of today to sing a new song. A song to our King, our Creator. As verse 5 puts it God has honoured or glorified us. He is the one who has acted; He is the one who has cleansed us from sin. He is the one who has brought about this state of peace which we are honoured to enjoy. There can be no greater security than the security which the Lord Himself has brought about. This security though comes with a sting for those who are not part of the Kingdom of God. When we talk of a security that comes with a sting for those who are not part of God’s Kingdom, the insecure condition of the world today readily comes to mind. I do not know how many of you heard Femi Falani Kayode popularly known as FFK when he described why President Trump should win a second term in office, saying that Trump is working for God. I do not also know how many of you heard what Hilary Clinton said about Christianity; making a mockery, saying that Christianity should have a look at itself, and continue by asking that she does not know why Christianity should be so judgmental, chasing poor little ones who would have liked to come to her with those judgmental! Can you now see the enemies of God, the people who have besieged God’s children, the very builders of the new world order and why they hate God and Trump including other leaders who are on the side of God? Have you heard that China is about to bring a law which will compel all churches in China to replace the cross with stars? We see the Militant Praise of A Victorious People - Psalm 149:6-9: 6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and a two-edged sword in their hands, 7 To wreak vengeance upon the nations and chastisement upon the peoples, 8 To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron, 9 To execute upon them the judgment written. He [the Lord] is the honor of all His saints. Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!) Do you hear that, God wants a high praise of Him to be in the throats and a two-edge sword which is the word of God to be in His people’s hand, wreaking vengeance upon the nations and chastisement upon the people and binding their kings or presidents with chains, their nobles with fetters of iron with judgment on them. How do you think this will be fulfilled? The expectation of Israel as a victorious people - Psalm 149:6-9: Unlike the church of today Israel was given a militant role. Israel was God's agent of judgment on the Canaanite peoples for their incredible evil idolatry. When God promised the land to Abraham and his descendants there was a specific statement that the Canaanite peoples were to be wiped out for their evil as seen in Genesis 15:16 which reads “16 And in the [a]fourth generation they [your descendants] shall come back here [to Canaan] again, for the iniquity of the [b]Amorites is not yet full and complete”, He continued in Deuteronomy 20:16-18 saying “16 But in the cities of these people which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes. 17 But you shall utterly exterminate them, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded you, 18 So that they may not teach you all the abominable practices they have carried on for their gods, and so cause you to sin against the Lord your God” and in Leviticus 20:2-5 it says “2 Moreover, you shall say to the Israelites, Any one of the Israelites or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech [the fire god worshiped with human sacrifices] shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3 I also will set My face against that man [opposing him, withdrawing My protection from him, and excluding him from My covenant] and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given of his children to Molech, defiling My sanctuary and profaning My holy name. 4 And if the people of the land do at all hide their eyes from the man when he gives one of his children [as a burnt offering] to Molech [the fire god] and they overlook it or neglect to take legal action to punish him, winking at his sin, and do not kill him [as My law requires], 5 Then I will set My face against that man and against his family and will cut him off from among their people, him and all who follow him to [unfaithfulness to Me, and thus] play the harlot after Molech”, all of the above statements by the Lord God shows us that Israel was to be a militant warrior nation used as God's agents to rid the land of the sin of child sacrifice which defiled the land. This concept of a holy war continued throughout Israel’s history. God was on their side when they walked in obedience to Him and He would fight on their behalf against their enemies. This is why we shouldn't be surprised when Psalm 149:7-9 speaks of two edged swords, vengeance and punishment. God punishes wrong doing -sin, this is a matter of justice. How can we declare that we believe in justice being done here on earth when someone does wrong; yet deny God the right to execute judgment against individuals and nations for their acts of evil? Psalm 149:9 says “9 To execute upon them the judgment written. He [the Lord] is the honor of all His saints. Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!)”speaks of the judgment that is written against nations. The law of the Lord God has been given, it needs to be obeyed and in any aspect a people or an individual fails in it, judgment must be expected. The experience of the Church as a victorious people - Psalm 149:6-9: But the church needs to be careful. All often we have fallen into the trap of thinking that we are Israel, called to be God's divine agents of judgment on some modern day Canaanites. This has been a huge mistake made by the church and also by nation states which have a Christian heritage. Listen to just two examples where passages such as Psalm 149 have been misused to justify a militant Christianity. Militarism which has always ended in disaster, Commentary on the Old Testament Psalm 149: It was by means of this Psalm that Caspar Scloppius in his Classicum Belli Sacri, which, as Bakius says, is written not with ink, but with blood, inflamed the Roman Catholic princes to the Thirty Years’ religious War. And in the Protestant Church Thomas Münzer stirred up the War of the Peasants by means of this Psalm. We see that the Christian cannot make such a Psalm directly his own without disavowing the apostolic warning, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” as seen in 2 Cor. 10:4 “4 For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds”. The praying Christian must therefore transpose the letter of this Psalm into the spirit of the New Covenant; the Christian expositor, however, has to ascertain the literal meaning of this portion of the Scriptures of the Old Testament in its relation to contemporary history. We have to be very careful, this is why when our people begin to urge Nnamdi Kanu to allow them retaliate on the Fulani, I have always been very happy that he will tell them that it is not done that way, the Lord God knows how to go about things in which He is involved and He does so at the appropriate time. Psalms 73–150: An Introduction and Commentary: The Church Militant (149:6–9) By contrast, the church’s enemies are ‘not … flesh and blood, but … the spiritual hosts of wickedness’; and her weapons are not those of the world Our two-edged sword as seen in verse 6 is the word of God, created to ‘destroy arguments (or ‘sophistries’, NEB) and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God’. Our equivalent of binding kings with chains as seen in verse 8 is to ‘take every thought captive to obey Christ’ as can be seen in 2 Cor. 10:5 “5 [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One)”; also see Eph. 6:12 “12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere”; Heb. 4:12 “12 For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the [a]breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart”. The Apocalypse, for all its fiery imagery of final judgment, describes the church’s victory as congruous with that of Calvary. ‘They have conquered … by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death’ as seen in Rev. 12:11 “11 And they have overcome (conquered) him by means of the blood of the Lamb and by the utterance of their testimony, for they did not love and cling to life even when faced with death [holding their lives cheap till they had to die for their witnessing]”. This is the judgment written by the cross against ‘the ruler of this world’ as seen in John 16:11 “11 About judgment, because the ruler (evil genius, prince) of this world [Satan] is judged and condemned and sentence already is passed upon him”, who is the power behind the kings of verse 8. God has appointed glory for all His faithful ones at a higher level than was clearly visible in the Old Testament victories which Israel had over all the nations they confronted with the Lord God. Such are the battle-honours of the genuinely holy war. Yes we will one day see that ultimate victory, but it is a victory which Christ has already won on the cross. Do you now have an idea why China wants all churches in China to replace the cross with stars-that ultimate victory which the world would soon experience? We know from Revelation that it is Christ who has fought and won the battle; our responsibility is not to be militant and take up arms; rather to allow Him Christ to take the initiatives and lead as He wants issues to assume His divine purpose. And someone may ask how do we know, we will know because He will give us a divine shove which will propel us to start with one issue that we do not know how it starts from issue to issue until things will progressively be taking diverse dimensions that human understanding will profess that even though we are the humans carrying out these actions but we can’t even know how and where the propensities are coming from but we can attest that they are good and we have no apologies but praise that Whoever that is doing this and we know that it is You God and we ask that You should go ahead and that we have surrendered to You God. Our responsibility; is to be a faithful people to the Lord God: If we want this security and victory we need to understand that it comes not from militancy or exuberant celebration, it comes from faithfulness, faithfulness to the Lord God. The New Testament church had to understand this truth or they would have given up as soon as persecution struck. 2 Thessalonians 1:4–12: 4 And this is a cause of our mentioning you with pride among the churches (assemblies) of God for your steadfastness (your unflinching endurance and patience) and your firm faith in the midst of all the persecutions and crushing distresses and afflictions under which you are holding up. 5 This is positive proof of the just and right judgment of God to the end that you may be deemed deserving of His kingdom [a plain token of His fair verdict which designs that you should be made and counted worthy of the kingdom of God], for the sake of which you are also suffering. 6 [It is a fair decision] since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with distress and affliction those who distress and afflict you, 7 And to [[a]recompense] you who are so distressed and afflicted [by granting you] relief and rest along with us [your fellow sufferers] when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in a flame of fire, 8 To deal out retribution (chastisement and vengeance) upon those who do not know or perceive or become acquainted with God, and [upon those] who ignore and refuse to obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 Such people will pay the penalty and suffer the punishment of everlasting ruin (destruction and perdition) and eternal exclusion and banishment from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 When He comes to be glorified in His saints [on that day He will be made more glorious in His consecrated people], and [He will] be marveled at and admired [in His glory reflected] in all who have believed [who have adhered to, trusted in, and relied on Him], because our witnessing among you was confidently accepted and believed [and confirmed in your lives]. 11 With this in view we constantly pray for you, that our God may deem and count you worthy of [your] calling and [His] every gracious purpose of goodness, and with power may complete in [your] every particular work of faith (faith which is that [b]leaning of the whole human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness). 12 Thus may the name of our Lord Jesus Christ be glorified and become more glorious through and in you, and may you [also be glorified] in Him according to the grace (favor and blessing) of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). We proudly tell God’s other churches about our endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships we are suffering. And God will use this persecution to show His justice and to make us worthy of His Kingdom, for which we are suffering. In His justice He the Lord God will pay back those who persecute you. And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord God and from His glorious power. Would you say that from history you do not know that many nation’s name have forever been removed from existence? When He comes on that day, He will receive glory from His holy people—praise from all who believe. And this includes you, for you believed what we told you about Him; do you not? So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of His call. May He give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honoured because of the way you live, and you will be honoured along with Him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ. A new day has dawned! The day when we the church through the work of Christ now live in security and victory. The security of Christ who has saved us from the penalty of our sin. The victory of Christ who has defeated death and given us eternal life.

  Conclusion:

Finally, however, the major focus of those texts, prayers, and hymns is not the trials of sainthood, but rather the joys. We remember that the saints who have departed now “rest from their labours” as seen in Revelation 14:13 “13 Then I heard further [[a]perceiving the distinct words of] a voice from heaven, saying, Write this: Blessed (happy, [b]to be envied) are the dead from now on who die in the Lord! Yes, blessed (happy, [c]to be envied indeed), says the Spirit, [in] that they may rest from their labors, for their works (deeds) do follow (attend, accompany) them!”, and we are invited to sing with them, anticipating the bliss they already experience, basking forever in the fullness of God’s steadfast love. Psalm 149 would not yet have been able to sing of eternal bliss, but it was quite able to revel in the bliss of present worship. Israel’s praise, too, had what we might anachronistically (belonging to a period other than that being portrayed) call an eschatological dimension -- entering already, through ritual, song, and story, into the fullness of life that God has always meant for God’s people, but that is now frequently hidden by personal trials and communal distress. Psalm 149 is one of the “final Hallel,” those five songs of praise that conclude the Psalter (A psalter is a volume containing the Book of Psalms, often with other devotional material bound in as well, such as a liturgical calendar and litany of the Saints) -- five, perhaps, to match the five “books” of the Psalter, those in turn matching the five books of Moses. All things hang together in those “fives,” and the five final psalms sing of God’s works in creation and history, in our personal and communal lives, that eventually leave us to do nothing else but praise, along with “everything that breathes” as seen in Psalm 150:6 “6 Let everything that has breath and every breath of life praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!)”, the Psalter’s closing invitation. Psalm 149 describes worship as a time of exuberant song and dance. My daughter, a liturgical dancer, is always armed with a collection of Bible verses to foil those church people who seek to deny the validity of her art of dance says a narrator, and Psalm 149:3 is high on her list: “3 Let them praise His name in chorus and choir and with the [single or group] dance; let them sing praises to Him with the tambourine and lyre!” Still, though her reference is appropriate, the dance described in the psalm seems to have resembled the ritualized war dance of native tribes more than the gracious movements of young women and men in a church chancel: “. 6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and a two-edged sword in their hands,” as seen in verse 6. Indeed, many linguists trace the root of “hallelujah” onomatopoeically (the state or condition of a word formed to imitate the sound of its intended meaning, as rustle) to the ancient and present practice of repetitive ululation: “ha-la-la-la-la....” War dance, ululation, two-edged swords! To enter the worship of ancient Israel would have been for us a profoundly cross-cultural experience! The connection of Psalm 149 to tribal dance is appropriate. Israel, too, was a tribal culture, and its worship would have expressed those traditions, including enacting ritualized victories over real and mythic enemies as seen in verses 6-9. Such ritual victory anticipated and celebrated God’s own ultimate victory over wickedness, preparing the present congregation to recognize and share in the working out of God’s justice and righteousness in the present. This immersion in praise was by no means a retreat from the world; it provided hope, encouragement, motivation, and support to the congregation to join with God in gathering the outcasts, healing the broken-hearted, and lifting up the downtrodden as can be seen in Psalm 147:1-6 “1 Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God, for He is gracious and lovely; praise is becoming and appropriate. 2 The Lord is building up Jerusalem; He is gathering together the exiles of Israel. 3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [curing their pains and their sorrows]. 4 He determines and counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by their names. 5 Great is our Lord and of great power; His understanding is inexhaustible and boundless. 6 The Lord lifts up the humble and downtrodden; He casts the wicked down to the ground”; compare also with Psalms 146:5-9 “5 Happy (blessed, fortunate, enviable) is he who has the God of [special revelation to] Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God, 6 Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, Who keeps truth and is faithful forever, 7 Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets free the prisoners, 8 The Lord opens the eyes of the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the [uncompromisingly] righteous (those upright in heart and in right standing with Him). 9 The Lord protects and preserves the strangers and temporary residents, He upholds the fatherless and the widow and sets them upright, but the way of the wicked He makes crooked (turns upside down and brings to ruin)”. Healing the world off its heinous practices and inventions of destructive weaponry is serious work -- God’s work, of course -- and those who are called first to praise that divine work and then to participate in it will need metaphorical and sometimes perhaps real two-edged swords. Can we design worship that celebrates life as fully as does Psalm 149? Can our worship so fully prepare us to resist all forces that stand in the way of God’s justice, salvation, and shalom (is an exclamation used as salutation by Jews at meeting or parting, meaning ‘peace’)? Can our worship hear and echo the praise of all God’s creation, as does Psalm 148? All of this is brought together in the Psalter’s final Hallel, and all of us are called to join the dance and in the hallel!

  

My God and my Father, if any pride in me is preventing Your life flowing in and filling me with Your presence, Your holiness and Your righteousness then help me Lord to cast it away. Give me Your Spirit that will humble me and make me responsive to You. For this I pray in Your name Lord Jesus. Amen!