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(Sunday between November 6 and November 12)
Psalm 145: 1-5, 17-21 or Psalm 98

(Psalm 98 is set as an alternative Psalm for this week. For comment on Psalm 98 see Christmas Day 3)

Psalm 145 is in a significant position in the Book of Psalms. It brings the collection to a close with Psalms 146-150 then constituting a final great proclamation of praise. Each of those psalms begins and ends with the word hallelujah ‘Praise the Lord!’ and as one progresses through these psalms the chorus of praise expands to cosmic proportions. Some would see Psalms 146-150 as a development of the final verse of Psalm 145, v. 21: ‘My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.’ With this verse compare Ps 150:6 especially. Moreover, Psalm 146 can be seen as an individual response to the first half of 145:21. In Psalm 147, Israel and Judah join the chorus. In Psalm 148 the angelic host and all creation join in. Psalm 149 returns to the people of Yahweh who praise him for his accomplishments. Finally, in Psalm 150 there is a great hymn in response to Ps 145:21b with everything that has breath uttering praise.

Psalm 145 is an acrostic hymn of praise. That is, like Psalm 119 which we have read recently, it is structured around the Hebrew alphabet. Verse 4 of Psalm 145, in speaking of one generation declaring Yahweh’s mighty acts to another, epitomizes the Book of Psalms itself. It passes on the prayers and faith of one who trusts in the steadfast love of Yahweh, to succeeding generations. In tradition this one has been thought of as King David himself. The psalmist in Psalm 145, vows to meditate on the works of Yahweh and celebrate and proclaim Yahweh’s unsearchable greatness, abundant goodness and righteousness (vv. 1-9). Verse 8 quotes the divine qualities from Exod 34:6-7. The rest of the psalm sees the praise of Yahweh’s goodness, compassion and steadfast love etc. spreading out from the psalmist (vv. 1-9) to ‘all’ Yahweh’s works (v. 10) and to ‘all’ flesh (v. 21). The word ‘all’ occurs seventeen times in this psalm, pointing to the comprehensive nature of the praise of God and the ones who give it. Psalms 146-150 then could be seen in terms of spelling out what is proclaimed already in Psalm 145.

The end of the Psalm 145, vv. 13b-20, speaks further of Yahweh’s qualities – faithfulness, upholding those who fall, raising up those bowed down, supplying needs, acting justly and kindly, being near, fulfilling all desires, hearing cries, keeping those who love him (‘watch over’), and destroying the wicked; all things that happen in the Book of Psalms. At the centre of this acrostic psalm (vv. 11-13) we have the verses beginning with the Hebrew letters kaph (‘k’), lamed  (‘l’), and mem (‘m’). Reversed these three letters make up the word melek, ‘king’ in Hebrew. In each of these three verses the word ‘kingdom’ appears. All Yahweh’s works speak of the glory, power, splendour and the everlasting nature of his kingdom. It is that which governs all in the Book of Psalms and that to which all flesh vows praise (v. 21). In this sense Psalm 145 looks forward to the praise that follows in Psalms 146-150. But it also looks back as v. 20 closely resembles Ps. 1:6 providing an inclusio to Psalm 1 and thus concluding the Book of Psalms in one sense. The Book of Psalms is ultimately about our praise of God.

Suggestions for the use of the psalm in worship

Any of the verses in the psalm could be used in a prayer of adoration. Verses 1-3 would also make a fine call to worship.

Verses 8-9, 13b-14 could also form an introduction to the declaration of forgiveness:

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The LORD is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.
The LORD is faithful in all his words,
and gracious in all his deeds.
The LORD upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.
Hear the word of the Lord in Jesus:
‘Your sins are forgiven!’
Thanks be to God
Verses 15-16 can be used as an invitational sentence to communion if that is celebrated in the service.

Finally, vv. 17-20a can be part of the final blessing:

The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of all who fear him;
he also hears their cry, and saves them.
The LORD watches over all who love him,
and the blessing of God,
Father, Son and Spirit
be with you, now and forever.
Old Testament Reading: Haggai 1:15b-2:9

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