The last five Psalms in the Psalter begin and end with the Hebrew word “Hallelujah.” It’s a command that means “Praise the Lord.”
Something in your heart might say, “No . . . you can’t command genuine praise!”
That may be right.
But the Psalmist doesn’t command you to praise; the Psalmist commands you to “Praise the Lord.” The Psalmist re-directs your praise.
The Psalmist is saying, “Don’t just praise your breakfast; praise the one who made the cook, the waitress, the farmer, the wheat, the rain and even the hunger in your stomach, which caused you to declare, ‘this is good!’”
“Praise the Lord” is not the antidote for praising nothing; it’s the antidote for praising anything and everything.
“Praise the Lord” is the antidote for idolatry.
Basically, every sin is idolatry in one form or another.
It was Israel’s besetting sin.
They made a golden calf . . . (You can keep a calf in a pen.)
But they couldn’t make a living calf . . . (or a living God.)
Men make idols and pretend that the idols make them. In this way, we all pretend that we make ourselves . . . and so, worship ourselves.
Emil Durkheim observed that tribal people often associate desired traits with particular animals and, over time, come to worship these animals—which Durkheim called totems.
He argued that all religion is “totemic.”
Since “the totem” is a symbolic representation of the predominant values of the society, all religion is just the way that society worships itself, according to Durkheim.
In the beginning, God made man in his own image . . . and man returned the favor.
That’s totemism according to Durkheim, and idolatry according to the Bible.
Man returned the favor, and everything got ugly—not good—and died.
Psalm 146: “Praise the Lord, O my soul . . . . Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man in whom there is no salvation.” Don’t idolize people.
Idolatry will destroy you and, then, you will destroy your idols.
If you idolize your wife, it will kill you, and then, you’ll crucify your wife.
If you idolize your kids, it will destroy you, and then, you’ll proceed to destroy your kids.
If you idolize your friends, you’ll be hopelessly disappointed, and you’ll find yourself forever alone, because no one can be God for you, except God . . . So, “Praise the Lord.”
Don’t worship your wife, but praise the Lord for your wife. Then you’ll begin to truly love your wife, for you’ll see that she isn’t your totem; she’s a temple.
She’s an earthen vessel that contains the breath of God.
“Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.”
Where is the Lord? He is the Kabod Hador, “The Glorious Splendor,” on the throne of God, in the inner sanctuary of the temple.
He is the Good, who is God, in human flesh.
He is the Lamb of God enthroned on a tree . . . or a pole.
In the wilderness, the children of Israel committed idolatry and were bitten by fiery serpents. Moses was commanded to make a bronze serpent and lift it on a pole in order that all who looked upon it would live.
God didn’t command idolatry; he commanded the confession of idolatry.
Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”
He had just said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up… and he was speaking of the temple of his body.”
How did they—how do we—destroy the temple that is Jesus?
I think we turned him into our totem and hung him on a tree . . . or pole . . . a totem pole. We idolized ourselves, crucified the Good in flesh, and everything died.
On the cross, we attempted to turn God’s temple into our totem.
And on the cross God turned our totem into his temple—actually he turned all of our totems, all our idols, into his temple.
Jesus didn’t just rise in one tomb in one place two thousand years ago.
Jesus rises in every tomb in every place through all of space and time, as God—who is the Good—fills all of creation with himself.
Creation is not your totem. It is God’s temple . . . and so are you.
Worship is your favorite thing to do.
When you begin to worship God in and through everything, you begin to see the Good, risen from the dead, in and through everything.
You begin to see a universe that constantly does your favorite thing to do, and does it with you: “Praise the Lord.”
Jesus is the Son of Man in whom there is Salvation.
We broke his Body and the “Glorious Splendor” poured out.
It pours from the throne and returns as praise; it is the river of Life.
“Hallelujah. Praise the Lord.”