The End of the Line

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This is the last of my devotionals in the Psalms. I posted my first Psalms devotional on 14 April 2020. If I look at the document containing all these posts, I see that, before today, the document comprised 102,318 words. That’s toward the upper end word count of a commercial novel! In many ways, it feels like the end of the line.

Commentators have long observed that the book of Psalms follows a general trajectory from lament to praise. That is, the earlier Psalms (books 1–3) are lament while the latter Psalms (books 4–5) are dominated praise. We might be tempted to think that this is because circumstances improved: In the early psalms, the psalmists were generally unhappy, but in the latter psalms they are typically more upbeat. This, however, betrays a grave misunderstanding of lament and praise in Scripture.

In biblical categories, lament and praise have little to do with one’s emotional state. It is possible to lament while one is feeling upbeat and possible to praise when one is feeling downcast. Rather than emotional categories, lament and praise have more to do with recognition of the present fallen world and the promise of final redemption to come. God’s people lament because they live in a sin-cursed world. They praise because things will not always be that way. Psalm 150, therefore, becomes a fitting conclusion for the book because it holds out promise of a better day to come. In that sense, it, too, shows the end of the line.

Psalm 150 is perhaps the loudest of all the psalms. As in many of the psalms in the final hallel, God’s people are called to praise him “for his mighty deeds” and “according to his excellent grace” (vv. 1–2)—for who he is and what he has done. But then things get noisy, because the call is made to praise him with trumpet, with lute and harp, with tambourine and dance, with strings and pipe, and with sounding and loud clashing cymbals (vv. 3–5). Indeed, everything that has breath is called to join in this praise (v. 6).

This doesn’t sound like a typical BBC worship service, does it? (Except, perhaps, when Bobby is on drums!) I think most of us would be rather alarmed to walk into a loud worship service like the one envisioned in this psalm. It would betray, many of us might be tempted to say, too much emotionalism—too much spirit and too little truth. (Refer back to the devotion on Psalm 148.) In our more conservative moments, we might be tempted to accuse such worship of too much levity and too little reverence. But, in point of fact, even such deafening praise can be evidence of profound reverence.

The psalmist, I think it is fair to say, did not imagine that such praise was possible because all of life’s problems had been erased. He exhorted such praise because Yahweh transcends the problems and the laments that we face in this life. He is worthy of such praise when our hearts are filled with joy and when our hearts are filled with sorrow. Regardless of our circumstances, we should praise the Lord.

One reason we can do that is because the brokenness of the world will not persevere. We live in a sin-cursed world in which we face pain, hurt, sorrow, and tears. But in the end—at the end of the line—eternal praise will be our lot, because the God who permits our sorrows ultimately promises eternal joy for those who love him.

As you head into a new week, it will no doubt be a week of lament and sorrow. But look beyond the immediate. Look to the end of the line. Look to the day when, because of Jesus Christ, you will, for all eternity, offer unending praise to the one who wipes away every tear and removes every sorrow.