The psalter is peppered with songs of praise and celebration, and Psalm 148 happens to fall within a small collection of praise songs (146-150) which are grouped together to conclude the book in a string of hallelujahs. As the worshipping community moves through the psalter, they sing all kinds of songs and pray all kinds of prayers, and it seems significant that the psalter concludes with a series of creation hymns, where Heaven and Earth sing a common melody in a unified, glorious chorus: Praise the Lord! What else is there to say after you have made life’s journey “through many danger, toil, and snare” and seen time and time again that YHWH is with you, is faithful, is mighty to save. Let us say, alongside Francis of Asisi: “All creatures of our God and King / Lift up your voice and with us sing / Alleluia! Alleluia!”
This psalm begins and ends with a call to praise the Lord. In fact, the psalm is composed of two extended calls to praise the Lord (verses 1-4, verses 7-12), supported by reasons for that praise (verses 5-6, verses 13-14). Together, this is an invitation to the entire created order to praise God. The first call to praise reverberates in the Heavens: the heavenly host, angels, sun, moon, shining stars, waters above the heavens and all the highest heavens. The second call to praise resounds in the Earth: sea monsters in the watery depths, fire and hail, snow and frost, storms and winds, mountains and hills, fruit trees and cedars, wild animals and domestic cattle, creepy-crawly things and flying things, rulers and ordinary people, men and women, young and old.
Heaven and Earth are in harmony, and the song they sing together is always about YHWH’s good work– creating and saving this world, and creating and saving this people. The psalm is grounds the natural order of things within God’s divine reign over the universe (“God set them in place always and forever”), and eventually the messiah’s divine reign over God’s people (God raised the strength / horn of God’s people”). All of the created order brings glory, honor, and praise to God. What a joyful noise!
I love that the psalm gives a special command to God’s people, “the people close to God” or “close to God’s heart.” And yet, these creation psalms put humanity in proper perspective– last on the list and included as one part of a larger, inter-dependent whole. Catherine Kelsey writes: “All created things, that is, all things, are called to praise God by Psalm 148. Humans are put into perspective; we are one small part of what God has created… Praise becomes empty words when noticing does not move into gratitude for what we see… We resist gratitude in those moments in which we are unwilling to acknowledge our interdependence with the rest of creation in which God has placed us… Gratitude brings our noticing into the spiritual realm of trust, deepening our relationship with God by acknowledging our dependence on God and on the rest of creation.”  Catherine L. Kelsey. Daily Feast: Meditations from Feasting on the Word: Year C. page 256, 260.  Catherine L. Kelsey. Daily Feast: Meditations from Feasting on the Word: Year C. page 256, 260.