1Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD! Praise Him, servants of the LORD,
2Who stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God!
3Praise the LORD, for He is good! Sing to His name, for it is pleasant!
4For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His particular treasure.
5For I know that the LORD is great, and above all gods.
6Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all the deeps.
7It is He Who causes the clouds to ascend from end of the earth, He makes lightnings for rain, and brings forth the wind from its storehouses.
8It is He Who destroyed the firstborn of Egypt, both man and beast,
9Who in the midst of Egypt sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants,
10Who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings.
11Sihon the king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan, and all the kings of Canaan.
12He gave their land as an inheritance, an inheritance for His people Israel.
13Your name, O LORD, endures forever; Your renown, O LORD, for all generations.
14For the LORD will vindicate His people, and have compassion on His servants.
15The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
16They have mouths but cannot speak; eyes but cannot see.
17They have ears but cannot hear; neither is there breath in their mouths.
18Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.
19O house of Israel, bless the LORD! O house of Aaron, bless the LORD!
20O house of Levi, bless the LORD! You who fear the LORD, bless the LORD!
21Bless the LORD from Zion, Who dwells in Jerusalem! Praise the LORD!
This is a cultic song of praise for those people who were devoted to the house of YHWH. It begins and ends with the Hebrew הַ֥לְלוּ יָ֨הּ, which is “hallelujah,” or “praise the LORD.” It is a reminder to those devoted to the ministry of YHWH that their task is special, for YHWH’s people are special. They are to praise Him and sing to Him, because He has chosen this people as His particular treasure. He has destroyed all who opposed them, and will ultimately vindicate and have compassion on them. It is a reminder that idolatry is futile, and all who engage in it become futile themselves. Contrasting such idolatry is the recognition that YHWH has blessed His particular people; He is real and endures forever. Therefore, He is worthy of human praise from His treasured people.
It cannot be overestimated how frequently the theme of the Psalms is pure praise of the living God. In the midst of woe or happiness, the psalmists all encourage us to engage in a habit of praise and worship of the One Who delivers, heals, protects, and provides. Much of the culture of praise is built around remembrance of what He has already done as a contextual continuity to what He will ultimately do. He has already delivered us from the slavery of sin, as He delivered Israel from the slavery of Egypt. He has already destroyed many enemies that held us back—sinful habits and ways—and He will ultimately vindicate us based on the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. He has compassion on us. As we look around at the lost around us, we note that their way is futile; it is idolatry. The same breath that we invest in praise of the living God, they expend in praise of themselves or their idols. They look to their politicians, their cultural icons, their musical heroes, their sporting figures, or their chemical substances as their deliverance from the woes of the fallen creation. They become futile, just as their false gods are futile. But we are set apart as a particular people to the Lord God Almighty, and He has not forgotten us. He is worthy of our praise, and we are to give it.
It is good to be reminded of what He has already done. This helps to build our faith in what He will yet do. Stand in the “already,” believe in the “not yet.” It is not in His character to let you down; He is the creator of the heavens and the earth. Praise Him for Who He was, Who He is, and Who He will yet be. He is the same, and His character doesn’t change. Praise Him in the face of your trouble. Praise Him in the face of your happiness. Praise Him in victory and in defeat. Praise Him, for the investment of your breath in His praise is never wasted.