top of page

Psalm 145:1-8

Psalm 145 inaugurates the high praise that concludes the psalter. Classified as a “tehilim” the only psalm, noted as such in subscript, this Hebrew word translates as “praises,” and is also the Hebrew name of the book in which it is found. The theological depth of the psalter, the personal and corporate expressions of reverence are a major reason why the psalms are important in the life of the church. As the hymnbook/Book of Worship for the synagogue, the Book of Psalms seeks to present these themes in light of a larger reality, that God, our King and Lord, deserves the praise, adoration and devotion of all that God created. For this reason, when preaching this psalm, one must ensure that the integrity of this reality remains in tact, and is clear to the hearer. Verses 1-10 of this psalm are a dialogue, between Creator and creation, Lover and beloved, it is a look into the intimacy of praise, a window into how we connect to our sovereign, our Lord, God.

There are quite a few technical aspects of this psalm that are worth noting. Psalm 145 is an acrostic poem, representing a form of wisdom literature utilized in ancient Israel to assist in memorization, as well as presenting comprehensive nature of a theological truth. Scholars such as Goldingay,[1] offer that although it is an incomplete acrostic, the psalm maintains praise of the sovereign God from A-Z, or rather “aleph-tav,” the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. For those looking for a Christological connection, the words of Revelation 1:8, (“’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and was and is to come, the Almighty.”) come to mind. Here the same sovereign God declares His identity, and utilizes the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet to identify how humanity comes to the knowledge and understanding of God, that is through words, and even further, The Word. For some preachers, it is important to wrap a sermon in the words, actions and sacrifice of Christ. This is an important reality as we are Christians, and as Christian preachers, we must offer the Good News to our congregations. Still, preachers from Trinitarian denominations should consider the tension behind preaching majorly on one person of the Trinity. Psalm 145 is great opportunity to use one’s theological imagination to consider a Trinitarian approach of this psalm.

When making further hermeneutical decisions about this psalm, decide how you will work with the fullness and vibrancy of the text. Will you allow yourself and the people to be overwhelmed by the majestic nature of the words, the repetition, the tense of the verbs, the fullness intended in the expression of the first of the six praise psalms. Praise is not simple, it is complex and overwhelming and lends its exhorters/expressers dumb, as we consider the inadequacy of language to fully express and explain the goodness of God. We will continue to debate the “correct’ expression of praise, but to debate is to miss the call to take up the action of praise as the various synonyms of the psalm suggest. God is called great, gracious, merciful, good, compassionate, faithful and righteous. One could decide to look at the wonderful language of the psalm and use the repetition, the parallelism and dynamic nature of the words to illumine the importance of words in conveying theological truths, but also to describe the importance of the words we use to speak about God. Further, we cannot allow the members of our congregations and even ourselves to rest on the words we offer in praise of God.

The author of this psalm offers movement and action as a part of this relationship. In Robert Alter’s translation of this psalm, verses 1-2 are translated as follows:

Let me exalt You, my God the king, and let me bless Your name forevermore.

Every day let me bless You, and let me praise Your name forevermore.[2]

In Alter’s translation is inherent action that does not translate in the NRSV or other English translations. It may seem a trivial distinction for most, this distinction teases out an important nuance in how we relate to God. The future tense presented in “I will extol you, my God and King,” offers a passive engagement, a future promise, as opposed to the jussive tense found in Alter’s translation. The jussive is a response to a command. We see the psalmist’s intent to fulfill the command to praise, or bless. This may not seem like an important distinction, but responding to command means that there are established allegiances, as opposed to determining independently that one will decide or plan to complete a task. Alter’s translation provides a greater understanding of the response required of a lowly subject to a seat of authority and power. We are to exalt the Lord, and to express not only desire, but also the will to fulfill God’s commandments; it gets to the heart of covenant relationship. It is not only important for God to express devotion to us, but it is even more important for us to express devotion and act on that devotion.

Whether by experiential or other means, we as creation need a tangible static truth to begin to wrap our feeble minds around God’s benevolence. Both approaches lead us to the reality of our lower position in God’s divine economy. Simply, we are creation and God is creator. And we need assistance in understanding our place. When we understand our place, it can lead some to fear God, but as the Proverb 9:10 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Our praise is tied to our position and relationship with God. We must know that God is our sovereign, we must understand that relationship with God is dictated by God’s commands, God’s ethical boundaries for our interactions with God and one another, and finally we must present our praise to God not just through platitudes but through meaningful words that our matched by our actions.

[1] John Goldingay, Psalms, Vol. 3: Psalms 90-15 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 693-700.

[2] Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007), 500-502.


Additional Resources