The last half-dozen psalms in the book raise songs of praise to the creator, like a symphony rising to its finale.
In Psalm 148, the psalmist casts around the whole creation, summoning elements from all corners to join in singing praise to the name of God. It’s a nice picture of solidarity, including natural and heavenly elements, with animals,
… rulers of the Earth and all peoples, young men and maidens, young and old together; let them praise the Name of God. (vv. 11-13)
The psalm is like a shorter version of the song that Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego sang in the fiery furnace in the book of Daniel. These three refused to worship pagan Gods and went into the fire with resolve to sing praise, calling on the whole creation to join them in this act. They were unharmed despite the flames. Nebuchadnezzar saw a fourth form like the son of God walking with the three friends of Daniel. (1)
Under stress, it seems better to call for such solidarity than to withdraw. But then again, many monastic orders and philosophers have debated fight or flight for centuries. The final verse at least assures us that:
God has raised up strength for the people (v.14)
Here’s a brief collection of just a few options:
- Together in song has two settings, both in hymn form rather than responsorial. TiS 93 is AUSTRIA adapted from a Haydn tune; then 94 is a John Bell tune, and therefore tuneful and sufficiently repetitive in pattern and phrase to be easily learned and enjoyed. It could be responsive. TiS 181 and 187 relate.
- The emergent psalter uses verse 13 as the refrain in a simple and lightly syncopated tune that will roll along.
- In Psalms for all seasons, 148E (Indonesian) and H (Thalben-Ball) caught my eye but we’ve not sung them before.
- On Singing from the lectionary, there’s a fun version by Marilyn Rummell, and several others.
- Lassus used bits of 148 and 150 in the final praise song in his series of penitential psalms; see entry for Psalm 6.
Our own home-grown tune based on verses 11 to 13 might also suffice. It comes in two versions:
- a refrain which can be sung as a round, in two, three or four parts.(2)
- a shorter version for ease of learning on the spot (this avoids having to learn before or during a worship service). Here is the short version which we shall sing at SWUC on Sunday:
I have mentioned other aspects and music from Badev to Yoda previously (3) so enough for now.
(1) See Tom Wright, Finding God in the Psalms, 2014. The song is not actually listed in Daniel but added in the apocryphal Song of Three.
(2) Here’s the longer version: