1 O praise, O praise the LORD! Praise him from heavens’ height! 2 All angels, give him praise; Praise him, you hosts of light. 3 Praise him, sun, moon and stars on high, 4 You highest heavens and cloudy sky.
5 O let them praise his name, The name of God the LORD, For he created them By his almighty word. 6 He set their place eternally; For ever fixed is his decree.
7 The LORD praise from the earth, You creatures of the deep, 8 Fire, hail, snow, clouds and winds, Which his commandments keep. 9 You hills and trees, beasts wild and tame, 10 Small creatures, birds, exalt his name.
11 All nations and earth’s kings, Princes and all who reign; 12 Young men and maidens too, Both children and old men: 13 The LORD’s great name by them be praised; His name alone on high is raised.
His glory shines abroad Above the earth and heaven; 14 And he to his own folk A mighty king has given. Let Israèl give praise to God; They are his people. Praise the LORD!
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing the last two verses here
In January 2004 Patrick Moore introduced an episode of The Sky At Night called “The Music of the Spheres”. Now, to my 20th / 21st century understanding that seemed entirely sensible. We know the solar system, with its large and small planets swinging round the sun, is blown by the wind from the sun, battered by stray rocks. It makes sense to us that an object hit by another goes “boing”. It is said that to Pythagoras the sight of a working blacksmith provided a new revelation of the way the vibrations of music are produced. Pliny the elder [77AD pp. 277–8, (II.xviii.xx)] wrote: “…occasionally Pythagoras draws on the theory of music, and designates the distance between the Earth and the Moon as a whole tone, that between the Moon and Mercury as a semitone, …. the seven tones thus producing the so-called diapason, i.e.. a universal harmony”.
The idea that all things can and should praise the Lord may be based not only on poetic imagination but also on the musical theories of the time. With more science and the use of his xylophone Patrick demonstrated the musicality of the solar system.
Similarly, the Psalmist’s use of “sun” “moon”, which might contain an idea based on the mythology of Greece or Babylon, allows a progressive structure to the Psalm in praise of the Lord who creates all. This takes us from angels (greater than other gods), down through the spheres (lesser gods), through the inanimate, to the flora and fauna. The order is similar to that of Genesis ch. 1 reflecting the understanding that all things owe their existence to God. Praise is the proper response, due even from inanimate objects. The voice of each is acknowledged and all are commanded to praise the Lord. Finally, all people are also commanded to give praise.
All things praise thee, Lord Most High. Heaven and earth and sea and sky, all were for thy glory made, that thy greatness, thus displayed, should all worship bring to thee; all things praise thee: Lord, may we. Amen (George William Conder, 1821-1874. CMP 24)
The Rev’d Ruth Browning, Retired Minister worshipping at Thornbury URC
Sing Psalms! (C) The Worship and Psalmody Committee of the Free Church of Scotland
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