In our Bible study on Thursday night, we looked at Psalm 149, another of the five ‘Hallelujah’ psalms which conclude the Psalter. In Ps 148 we saw that all of creation (including angels and the natural creation as well as mankind, from the highest to the lowest) is commanded to praise God and here in Ps 149, we see different ways to praise explored. Praise can, it seems, be both verbal and non-verbal, and in this psalm, dancing and music through instruments (in addition to singing) are both mentioned as being appropriate ways to praise. (Ps 149:3)

Dancing is mentioned in many places in the Bible, from Miriam leading the Israelites in joyful praise after God’s great deliverance from Egypt (Ex 15:20-21) to David dancing before the Lord with all his might on the ark’s return to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:14, 16). Earlier in the book of Psalms, we have been reminded that the Lord is the One who turns our wailing into dancing (Ps 30:11) and in the conclusion to the Psalter, we are again urged to praise God with tambourine and dancing. (Ps 150:4)

Musical instruments are also mentioned in many places in the Bible, from Jubal’s pipes and stringed instruments (Gen 4:21) to the many instruments listed in Ps 150. Ps 33 urges us to ‘play skilfully’ on a variety of instruments and trumpets, harps, timbrels, tambourines, lyre and ram’s horns all mentioned in different places (Ps 98:4-6, Ps 144:9, Ps 150:3). In the New Testament, making music is continued to be seen as a valid way of expressing praise to God (Eph 5:19-20) and in that great revelation of heaven, we see angelic harps and singing (Rev 5:7-10), perhaps the origin of the notion that angels live on clouds and play harps all the time!

It seems there really are no ‘set’ ways to praise God. We may prefer the simplicity of antiphonal chanting (as in some Catholic and Anglican churches), the vigour of charismatic worship (with a band of instruments and choirs of singers), the familiarity of the old or the challenge of the new, but as long as there is breath in us, we can all find ways to praise our amazing and holy God.