The Psalms are a collection of songs that were to be used in public and group worship. They can be divided into many kinds. For instance, there are psalms of lament, and psalms of wisdom, and psalms of confession. David wrote many of the them. Psalms of praise are very common throughout the collection. In fact, praise in general, is a common element of many of the psalms, even in those that are songs of lament. So praise is important to the psalmists.
Praise is an expression of strong approval or admiration. It takes many forms, but among God’s people it usually appears as song. It can be done individually when a person praises God in solitary prayer, but it’s power is most recognizable when people do it musically together as a unified body. There are many examples throughout scripture of a song leader moving people toward unified group praise in the form of music. David does this with his poetry throughout the psalms. Consider one of his more powerful psalms of praise: Psalm 103.
The very first verse of that song is deeply, spiritually, and theologically profound. He writes, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! (Psalm 103:1)” The word “soul” is the Hebrew word, nephesh. It means the very life of a man, as well as the seat of his emotions, and appetites, and passions, and desires. David is asking his people to praise God – to show their admiration and approval of him – by devoting everything in them, including their lives, to that purpose. He then spends almost all of the rest of the song pointing out why God would be worthy of that praise.
The very first thing he mentions is that God is worthy because he forgives all of the wrong things we’ve done toward him, his creation, or his people (Psalms 103:2-3). Then once he’s done that, he heals us from our diseases, lifts us up from the pit, loves us, and provides us with good things (Psalms 103:3-5). David describes how his love for us is infinite (Psalm 103:11), and how he infinitely separates our sins from us (Psalm 103:12). Imagine that! God expressed the attributes of David’s psalm in the physical form of his son, Jesus. That means that Jesus is the embodiment of David’s psalm of praise!
Can you join David in that song? What can you praise God for in your life?