For many Christians, worshipping God has turned into a bland routine, a burdensome chore, and a senseless enterprise because they have lost touch with the heart of God and the grandeur of His character. Through a spiraling series, people lose sight of the focus of their ardor and so cease to love God as they once did. They assemble with the saints out of habit but not out of conviction. They worship in physical form but not with spiritual force. They exude some shell of Christendom but not Christ. In reality, they have lost touch with God as He truly is and exchanged Him for the diminished caricature promoted by the hollow version of Christianity so popular among general American society and yet so lacking in spiritual depth—so much so that God Himself has become only a vague apparition in thought even among those who lay claim to Him in faith. Years of watering down doctrine and seeking acceptability through generic appeals have not only left people wanting spiritually but also stripped away reverence and awe for God.
Israel regularly fell into such a trap as this, ignoring Yahweh and toying with idolatry from practically the moment they crossed the Jordan. The LORD had sent them to destroy a wicked and pagan people, but they ultimately became wicked and pagan themselves, first integrating pagan practices into Judaism, then adding idols into an expanding pantheon, and finally turning to Baal and Molech in a crescendo of spiritual decadence. However, the melancholy reality of this history gives the message of Psalm 135 greater depth as a hymn of praise delivered under consideration of lessons learned the hard way. After living through the confusion of idolatry and witnessing its full decadence in a foreign land, the contrasting power, richness, and splendor of Yahweh in who He is and what He has done became not only a motivation for national worship but also a conviction for personal devotion.
Praising the LORD springs from a heart overwhelmed with the LORD’s greatness with a desire to worship Him and let all others know that He is indeed there and there for us, that His record is impeccable (Psa. 135:1), that He is more than worthy of all the attention we can give (Psa. 135:2), and that He is good to us in every way (Psa. 135:3-4). Thus, the grace that makes it possible to belong to Him beckons the heart not only to praise but to appreciate, and not only to worship but to adore. Moreover, we need not imagine ancient deeds and create myths to justify our confidence in the LORD, for the LORD Himself has done more than enough to demonstrate His power, His might, and His will. When the LORD separated Israel from among all other nations, He put His distinctiveness on display. He proved He had power over nature that the pagans can only attempt to assign to their gods (Psa. 135:5-7). In the ten plagues through which he delivered Israel from Egypt, He displayed signs and wonders that defied the imagination (Psa. 135:8-9). He defeated nations considered invincible (Psa. 135:10-11) and gave a land that belonged to entrenched nations to a people who had no training in combat (Psa. 135:12). Therefore, the LORD has earned His reputation and has every right to judge, yet He is also compassionate by nature as well (Psa. 135:13-14). This personal history presents a contrast well worth remembering. Idols are made; Yahweh is the Maker (Psa. 135:15). Idols are crafted with human features, but God alone sees and speaks, listens and lives (Psa. 135:16-17). The LORD alone can offer life to man because He alone is living (Psa. 135:18).
The psalmist opened with a call to praise, a picturesque word expressing the radiant glory of God—with the accompanying imagery of Moses’ face shining from having been in the LORD’s presence. But now at the close, the psalmist employs another word, bless, which offers the picture of kneeing before God. Praise is thus for the benefit of others in drawing attention to the LORD’s character, but to bless is to acknowledge Him for all that He has done for you personally and how everyone should want to serve and worship such a God. Consider what He has done for His people (Psa. 135:18)! Consider what it means for the priests of old to enter His presence (Psa. 135:19)! Consider the privilege the Levites had to serve so close to Him (Psa. 135:20)! Consider how wonderful it is for all who acknowledge Yahweh as God to worship Him (Psa. 135:20)! Consider the access the LORD has given to His people today and how He wants to be among them! O that all would know what the LORD has done, how great He truly is, and what it means to be His people (Psa. 135:21)!