Churches have praise teams to lead in congregational singing. We have prayer and praise services. Scripture speaks of praise to the Lord over 300 times. God speaking through Isaiah said, “… my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”(Isaiah 43:21) It can almost sound like God is an egotist demanding praise of His people, but this is the farthest from the truth. He is certainly worthy of our praise for all that He is, and all that He has done. God doesn’t need our praise, but we need to praise. In praise we draw near to our Lord who is the source of our life. In praise we find our identity as children of our Heavenly Father. In praise our eyes are turned from the trials of life to the source of our strength. No, God doesn’t need our praise, but He knows that as we come to Him in praise we are open to His life, and in His life we find life.
The shortest psalm among all of the 150 in the Book of Psalms is number 117. “Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD.” Only two verses but the greatest of expressions that if truly followed by all nations would reveal the greatest measure of God’s grace upon all peoples. The word LORD in capitals is the word Yah in Hebrew, the one true God, the creator of the heavens and the earth. It is before Him that we are all called to humbly bow. It is this God who loves us, and has shown us His faithfulness through all our lives. It is this God who has worked through all the centuries since creation to form a people for a living and eternal relationship with Himself. It is this God, our God, who has shown Himself faithful even in the midst of our unfaithfulness. It is this God who is the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of all mankind. Our God is worthy of all praise. Praise the Lord.
The word “praise” is used 340 times in the NIV translation of the Bible. If you add “glorify”, “magnify”, and “exalt” there are another 48 expressions using these words. Do you think Scripture is trying to tell us something? Our Lord is worthy and due all our praise. “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.”(Psalm 100:1-2) That’s all well and good when things are going along smoothly, but it is more difficult to praise the Lord in tough times. Yet it is these times that we need praise the most. The writer of Hebrews says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.”(13:15) Yes, sometimes praise is a sacrifice, but the very point of sacrifice is to humble ourselves and focus our eye completely on the Lord in worship. Tough time are when this it really needed. It is in praise that we know the Lord is near, and we remember again all that He has done for us. Praise the Lord!
“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.”(Psalm 18:1-3) David gives us a wonderful prayer of trust in this Psalm. He is clear in saying that life is a struggle. There are many battles and enemies to the point where he feels overwhelmed, but the Lord is always there bringing him through to life. This is our trust in all times, and all conditions. Life in our fallen world is not easy. There are many things that try to separate us from our trust in the Lord. Circumstances don’t turn out as we would like, or even as we can understand. Yet, God is there. He is our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer. He is worthy of our praise in all times, and our praise turn the eyes of our heart to Him.
What is worship? Well, of course, it is something you do when you go to church on Sundays. You sing, listen to scripture, hear a sermon, and maybe receive communion. That is all part of worship, but worship is far more. It is by no means limited to Sundays. Worship is an attitude of the heart in humble submission to our gracious Lord. It is acknowledging and clinging in grateful love to the One who has made us. Worship is different from praise. Praise is the outward response in the words and actions of our daily life to the One we worship. Sunday is only one expression of worship. We live in worship every hour of every day as we bow in our hearts to the God of all creation. Look forward to your time of worship, fellowship and praise on Sunday, but live in the worship of our Lord always.
I’m always interested to watch the fans at a sporting event, especially a football game. Fans will do the most outrageous things to support their team. Painted faces, strange wigs, and other head gear, hold up signs, and wave banners, all manner of jumping, arm waving, and shouting. The excitement over a good play pours out of the crowd. I wonder why we can’t get that excited about the things of the Lord. We don’t have to paint our faces and put on funny hats, but when we realize all that the Lord has done for each of us, it should bring a thrill to our hearts, and expressions of praise to our lips. “Oh! but we are in church. We have to be dignified.” Jesus got excited. When the disciples came back from their mission to the towns of Israel reporting all that had happened, the text says, “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit,” prayed… The word translated “full of joy” really means “jumped for joy”. He saw his people beginning to take hold of God’s truth, and was excited. Oh, we do things “decently and in order” in church, but raise your hands once in a while in praise. When you have a chance to pray aloud, let the expressions of your heart glorify God. No football fan should have anything on us. We have the greatest God of all!
A song writer, perhaps a thousand years before Christ, wrote, “As a deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.”(Psalm 42) The psalmist is experiencing trials and persecutions. God seem distant, and not answering His calls. “My soul is in despair within me.” But he thinks back and remembers all that God has done, the God who has been good to his people for many generations. This God, his God, will not abandon him. In his darkest time he asks himself why he is in despair? He makes the declaration, “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him. The help of my countenance and my God.” We can identify with many of his words. We have times of looking for our God who seems so silent. Yet we have seen His hand, the goodness of his grace, many time in life. We have his visible presence in the bread and wine of the communion table. In the darkest of times God has His ways of letting His grace be known to us. We shall again praise Him, the help of our countenance and our God.
There are many passages that speak of the glory and praise of the Lord. “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.” (Ps.29:2) “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” (Is.42:8) Certainly, our Holy and Almighty God is due our worship and worthy of praise, but there is a question about why He seeks our praise. In human terms, it almost sounds like God is egotistical, and demands His servants to praise Him. That is not the case at all. C.S.Lewis makes the interesting point that we all praise that which we love and enjoy, whether it is our spouse, a leisure activity, or many things in between. These are the people we want to be with, the places we really desire to be. God seeks our praise, knowing that in it is our desire to draw near to Him. This is for our good, as the Westminster Catechism state. The purpose of men is to “Glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
What is worship? Well, of course, it is something you do when you go to church on Sundays. You sing, listen to scripture, hear a sermon, and receive communion. That is all part of worship. But worship is far more, and is by no means limited to Sundays. Worship is an attitude of the heart in humble submission to our gracious Lord. It is acknowledging and clinging in grateful love to the One who has made us. Worship is different from praise. Praise is the outward response in the words and actions of our daily life to the One we worship. Sunday is only one expression of worship. We live in worship every hour of every day as we bow in our hearts to the God of all creation. Look forward to your time of worship, fellowship and praise on Sunday, but live in the worship of our Lord always.
How do you feel at the beginning of each of your days? Last evening I read something by William Law, an 18th century Anglican priest,that I thought was very good, and wanted to share it with you. This is from his book entitled A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. “As the morning is to you the beginning of a new life; as God has then given you a new enjoyment of yourself, and a fresh entrance into the world: it is highly proper that your first devotions should be a praise and thanksgiving to God … Receive, therefore, every day as a resurrection from death, as a new enjoyment of life; meet every rising sun with such sentiments of God’s goodness, as if you had seen it, and all things, new created upon your account: and under the sense of so great a blessing, let your joyful heart praise and magnify so good and glorious a creator.” How contrary this is to the expression we sometimes hear, “Oh God, its morning!” It is certainly worth the thought to let Law’s words set the tone for our days.