Psalm 150 says "let everything that has breath praise the Lord." Did those people believe that animals could sing?
Seeing the existence of animals . . .
Some animals sing (e.g., birds), others howl at the moon.
But none of them literally praise God.
So, perhaps this psalm suggests that we become the kind of people who can see the existence of animals—as well as the rest of life—as praise of God.
That would take some doing on our part.
But I personally think it would be well worth it.
Praising God in Psalm 150
As you may know, the Psalms themselves are songs. Many of them even have directions at the beginning for the musicians. As any musician can tell you, songs speak to our emotions and are not—either now or then—trying to make factual statements about science. Christian hymnody is full of similar themes. I grew up singing an American hymn from the early 20th century called “This is My Father’s World,” which contains the line, “All nature sings and ‘round me rings the music of the spheres.” It’s not an isolated reference.
And, I’ll be honest, when I saw your question the first thing I thought was, “He must live in the city.” I have always lived out in the country where it’s clear that birds sing, coyotes sing, and even trees have songs of a sort as the wind whistles through. No one living close to the land will question that all creation is perfectly capable of singing. Human song is just different from that of other species.
It’s also true that the word “praise" doesn’t mean “sing.” I’m sure you’ve praised something in your life without bursting into song. The Hebrew word is halal, which is most frequently translated as “praise” in the Bible, but is also translated as “glory,” “boast,” “shine,” and several other things. So the question underneath yours is “What does it mean to praise the Lord?”
My own answer to that question is that the ultimate praise of God is to become what we were created to be. That outcome looks different for humans than for a field of wheat or a bear or a bird, but it’s possible in each instance. By fulfilling our role in creation, everything that lives helps move the earth to the ultimate vision of the reign of God that the Bible gives us. When we fall short, we move the other way.
There is plenty of biblical support for the notion that God is concerned with all of creation and not just humans. The first actual covenant in the Bible is in Genesis 9:8-17, which reads:
All of creation is included. And by the time we get to the New Testament, Paul also says in Romans 8:19-23:
The created order is included in God’s covenant and awaits redemption along with the humans who are charged with tending it.
I don’t know what the person who wrote Psalm 150 thought about singing animals; that is unknowable. But at that point in history, it is likely that the person was close enough to the sounds of nature that the voices of non-human creatures could, at times, be considered “songs,” and that those non-human lives could offer, in their own way, praise to their Creator. Camp in the woods for a couple of weeks and see if you don’t agree.
-- Rev. Anne Robertson