Psalm 148 – The Purpose of All Life

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” – John Piper.

Piper has been heavily criticized by his concept of “Christian Hedonism” summarized in the above quote. It appears to many to be saying that unless our needs and desires are met, God cannot be glorified. In other words, God is dependent on our satisfaction for His glory. Preposterous, arrogant, even blasphemous.

I agree. If interpreted from that assumption, of course. Is that what Piper really means? (See the following links for Piper’s explanation of this in three sessions: Session 1, Session 2, and Session 3).

Assuming you have taken the time to watch at least one of these videos, we can see that Piper is only reflecting what the whole of Scripture is about. We have been created for one purpose, and one purpose alone: to hallow/worship/exalt/glorify/magnify the name of the Lord. Furthermore, that is the true Christian’s ultimate satisfaction, his ultimate desire and goal. That is why Piper can unashamedly proclaim that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Psalm 148 is one of the best summaries of the purpose of all life: to put the name of the Lord on full display. That is the meaning of “glorify.”

As all theological studies should be, we start from the beginning to the end. Verse 1 establishes the nature of this Psalm as a doxology (a hymn or form of words containing an ascription of praise to God). All doxologies are a command for others to engage in that praise to God,

“Praise the LORD!”

Before proceeding to the structure of the Psalm, there is something very important we must notice. The name “LORD” is written with all capital letters. In the original Hebrew, this is the word “יָהּ or the transliteration (and shortened form) “Yahh” or “Jehovah.” This is the shortened form of the word “יְהֹוָה” or “Yĕhovah,” meaning “the existing One.” 
Exodus 3 (specifically verses 11-15) tells the amazing account of God’s first self-disclosure of His eternal name to a mortal being,

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.”

The self-sustaining, self-existent, eternal, uncaused creator, the one who was, is, and forever will be. That is what the name “Jehovah” means, in a nutshell.

The very fact that the Psalmist urges the beings where God reigns in heaven, the beings on the earthly heavens, the beings on the ground, and of the sea, the elements and the trees to worship the one whose name is eternal and “Holy, Holy, Holy” (Isaiah 6:3), should be enough to make all creation tremble and fall to their knees; for Christians, to bow the knee before their redeeming Judge, Father, and Husband; for unbelievers, to tremble in utter terror and fright before the consuming Holy fire that takes no pleasure in the wicked.

This is the name the Psalmist calls the whole of creation to praise.

The Psalm is divided into seven sections:

-Demand of praise from the heavens and the creatures in the heavens where God resides (vv. 1-2). (See Psalm 69:34; Matt. 21:9; Psalm 103:20-21).

-Demand of praise from the universe outside Earth (v. 3).  -Demand of praise from the earthly heavens (v.4). (See Psalm 68:33; Deut. 10:14; Nehemiah 9:6; 1 Kings 8:27; Genesis 1:7).

-Shift from demand of praise to reason for demanding praise (v. 5-6). (See Ps. 148: 13; Genesis 1:7; Psalm 33:6,9; Ps. 119:90,91; Job 28:26; Jer. 31:35-36; Jeremiah 33:25).

-Demand of praise from the all the created order on Earth (vv. 7-12). (See Genesis 1:21; Psalm 74:13; Psalm 18:12; Psalm 105:32; Psalm 147:16; Psalm 107:25; Psalm 103:20; Psalm 147:15-18; Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 49:13; Isaiah 55:12; Genesis 1:11; Psalm 104:16; Genesis 1:24; Genesis 1:20-21; Revelation 7:9).

-Shift from demand of praise to reason for demanding praise (v. 13). (See Psalm 8:1; Psalm 113:4).

-Demand of praise from His chosen people Israel (v. 14). (See Psalm 147:20; 1 Samuel 2:1; Deuteronomy 10:21; Jeremiah 17:14; Deuteronomy 4:7; Ephesians 2:17; Psalm 135:1).

The God of Scripture is not a God who demands blind faith. He has revealed Himself through a book (intelligible and ever-flowing with knowledge). He gives three reasons for why all living things must praise His self-existing, eternal name:

-God’s Sovereign creative power (Verses 5-6): His commandments will come to pass, and His decree will not be transgressed (literal rendering of verse 6b when it says “he gave a decree, and it shall not be transgressed). This is because He is sovereign and (Isaiah 40:8), nor will anything of his created order ever defy His decrees. God Himself uses His creation as proof that He is faithful to His name by being the cause and sustenance of His own decrees. The fact that all creation was created by Him is reason enough to be eternally indebted to praise Him. This is why all must and will worship Him.

-God’s pursuit to glorify His own name, which is above all things (Verse 13): This verse says that all creation must praise the name of the LORD because (“for”) “his name alone is exalted” because “his majesty is above earth and heaven.” There is no one else who shares this majesty, therefore all creation must praise Him. 

-God raised a “horn,” or king for Israel; God’s faithfulness to His own chosen people: Though Israel asked for a king when her true King was God, He still raised kings to rule over His people and guide them unto His laws and decrees, for the enjoyment of His people.

Ultimately, the glory of God was manifested fully in the cross of Christ. John 17 tells of how Christ asks the Father to glorify Him with the glory He had before He left His Father, and this before He was crucified. I’d like to expand on that passage on another entry, because it would be a lengthy study of how Christ’s main objective was not to save sinners, but to glorify Himself. (NOTE: I am not saying that was not His purpose. Certainly He came to die for His elect, but not for their sake, but for the glory of His own name. That is what I’m saying).

God and God alone is to be praised and glorified. This is the reason why we were created, to reflect back to God His own perfection, holiness, and majesty above “heaven and earth.” Furthermore, He has revealed Himself through a book, and as such we owe it diligent, painful, sleepless, continual study, as one would a regular book. Yet, not a regular book, for the source of all scholarship and study comes from the Holy Spirit Himself. No amount of study is anything without the aid of the Spirit, yet the Spirit never works apart from what is revealed in Scripture, and that must be dug out by engaging both the mind and the soul. In order to know why we must praise Him above all, and why He demands such a thing, we must study the Scriptures! To think that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us the meaning of Scripture without actually studying the Scriptures is the gate for relativism and postmodernism. That is the legacy of death and darkness that we are creating for the next generation. We must flee from this. We must return to the Scriptures so that we may be able to teach the next generation how and why we must praise Him who is forever Holy, amen.

“This will be written for the generation to come; That a people yet to be created may praise the LORD” – Psalm 102:18.

“One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts” – Psalm 145:4.

“The sum of all our goods, and our perfect good, is God. We must not fall short of this, nor seek anything beyond it; the first is dangerous, the other impossible” – St. Augustine, Morals of the Catholic Church, VIII, 13.

“How sweet all at one it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose….You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, you who outshine all light, yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, you who surpass all honor, though not in the eyes of men who see all honor in themselves….O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation” – St. Augustine, Confessions, IX, 1.

“In this psalm [119] David always says that he will speak, think, talk, hear, read, day and night and constantly – but about nothing else than God’s Word and Commandments. For God wants to give you His spirit only through the external Word” – Martin Luther, Preface to His 1539 Works.

“It is a sin and shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God; it is a still greater sin and loss that we do not study languages, especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study, and desires his Bible  to be an open book. O how happy the dear fathers would have been if they had our opportunity to study the languages and come thus prepared to the Holy Scriptures! What great toil and effort it cost them to gather up a few crumbs, while we with half the labor – yes, almost without any labor at all – can acquire the whole loaf! O how their effort puts our indolence to shame!” – Martin Luther “To The Councilmen of All Cities in Germany that they Establish and Maintain Christian Schools.”

“Let the pastors boldly dare all things by the word of God….Let them constrain all the power, glory, and excellence of the world to give place to and obey the divine majesty of this word. let them enjoin everyone by it, from the highest to the lowest. Let them edify the body of Christ. Let them devastate Satan’s reign. Let them pasture the sheep, kill the wolves, instruct and exhort the rebellious. Let them bind and loose thunder and lightning, if necessary, but let them do all according to the word of God” – John Calvin, Sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians.

“Set before [man], as the prime motive of his existence, zeal to illustrate the glory of God” – John Calvin.

“Let us exult over the exposition of the truth of the Gospel and herald the glory of Christ for the joy of all peoples ” – John Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy – God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin.

“Let churches ring with expository exultation! Let laypeople love the hearing of this great God-saturated sound! Let seminaries breed the passions of Calvin, Luther, and Augustine for the majesty of God that takes the soul captive and binds it to the Word, which reveals Christ and wakens sovereign joy. If a worshiping heart and a holy life are the fruit of sovereign joy, and if the written Word of God is the deposit of historical truth where the glory of Christ wakens this joy, then let us pray that God would raise up generations of preachers who give themselves, with Calvin-like devotion, to expository exultation over the glory of Jesus Christ for the joy of all peoples” – John Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy – God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin.

All for the purpose outlined for us in Psalm 148, to “praise ye Jehovah!” (Psalm 148:1).

Soli Deo Gloria,

Eliezer Salazar


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s