Daily Praise

11/23/08

 

 

Psalm 145:1-3

1 I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.

 

Imagine with me today that we are living in ancient Israel during the time of the First Temple, also called Solomonís temple. We gather with Godís people and go up to worship. We go through the outer courts of the temple and enter the central structure. We see a high ceiling supported by massive columns. The walls are covered with intricate carvings inlaid with gold. Clouds of incense ascend from the altar. Lamp stands all around give off a soft light. It is an awesome scene, and Godís people gather here to praise God.

I Chronicles 23:30 records that one of the offices of the Levites was "to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at even." We do not know much about how temple services were done. But we imagine every morning, choirs of Levites leading the people in a praise service. They sang the psalms, they read the psalms, they raised up their voices in praise. And so should we.

PS 146:2 says, "While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praise unto my God while I have any being." A multitude of other verses encourage us to lift up our voices and glorify God, to say with PS 145:1, "I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever." This is praise-prayer. Praising God is a type of prayer. We should pray every day. We should praise every day.

One of the gifts the wise men brought to the baby Jesus was frankincense. Frankincense was burnt on the temple altar, and the smoke rising up represented the prayers and praises of God's people rising up to God. Frankincense has a sweet smell as it burns, and Scripture tells us that the ascending praises of God's people are a sweet smell to the Lord. This is figurative language, of course; nevertheless, the meaning of the figure is a spiritual truth. We should lift up our prayer praises to God.

Of course, we can glorify God in ways other than prayer. If we can sing, or even if we cannot, we can lift up our voices in song. God accepts the hymn of praise that we sing with our heart, whether it is on key or not.

The first word of Psalm 145 is "I." This tells us who should praise God. "I will extol thee, my God." The Psalmist says to us, "I am not going to tell you to praise God. I am going to praise God. this is sort of like the old story about the deaf man who came to church. Someone wrote him a note to ask why he came. He replied, I want to show which side I am on.

I want to magnify and exalt God because God is my king. In this Republic of the United States of America, we do not have a human king, but we have a king, and the Psalmist rejoices to have such a king. To the Psalmist God alone is king. He will accept no other ruler. He is content with God because God is not a tyrant. God is not some monster up in the sky who might destroy us without reason or to punish us on a whim. God's ways are ways of pleasantness; Godís paths are paths of love. Thus, we love to make much of God and to glorify all the things of God.

I lift up my praise to God not because he is the God of the nations, though he is, and not because he is the God of the universe, though he is. I praise the Lord because he is my God.

After the Resurrection, the Lord appeared to doubting Thomas, and said, "Touch me and prove to yourself that I am real and believe," but Thomas did not touch Jesus He no longer needed that proof. Instead, he said, "My Lord and my God." Thus, he affirmed his belief that Jesus is a personal expression to us of divine power. And if Jesus is that, then we are bound to praise him, as "My Lord and my God."

In the first two verses of Psalm 145, the Psalmist uses the word ďwillĒ four times. "I will extol thee." "I will bless thy name." "Everyday will I bless thee." "I will praise thy name." The Psalmist says that this is my personal God who moves upon my soul, and thus I will persist in praise--today, tomorrow, and forever.

In every circumstance of life--in poverty and in sickness, in success and in triumph--I will praise God. The devil may tell us that we are wasting our time, that God does not exist. How do we respond to that? Do not argue with the devil, just praise God. If we argue with the devil, we do waste our time. It is better just to praise the Lord.

The Psalmist says, "Whatever others may do, my mind is made up." I do not doubt that the Psalmist was glad when others praised God, but he still attends to his own heart, and to his private praise. This is not selfishness. Selfishness is a refusal to offer ourselves to our God and king. We are selfish if we praise ourselves and not God. The psalmist has a better way. He praises God and not himself.

And if others refuse to praise God, then we are not to waste our time grumbling about them. We are to stir up ourselves with a double diligence, so that with greater zeal we may extol our God and king. If other people go off to serve other gods, or make other gods in their own image, or worship themselves as God, we should do what we are supposed to do; We should praise God.

Praise God because the practice of praise benefits us. The more we praise God, the more we receive a blessing. People ask, "How can I deal with the trivia of life? How can I bear the burdens of everyday living?" Here is the answer: Songs of praise for the Most High. When the band plays a peppy tune, the soldier marches briskly along. When old time sailors were pulling up the anchor of the ship, they chanted a happy song to make the work go quickly. This is a truth that we sometimes forget: Happy songs are oil for the squeaky wheels of life. They smooth out the bumps and potholes of our pilgrim road.

Of course, the admonition to praise God is directed to the elect, to the people of God. Those who are not children of God cannot rightly praise God. Psalm 50:16 gives this warning: "Unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth." The wicked are those who prefer the darkness of the devil and refuse the light of Christ. The Bible says that it does them no good to prattle on about God. The wicked are the enemies of God, and God will not accept either their prayers or their praises. The lesson then is that we are to be reconciled to God through the light of Christ, and then we can praise him.

We praise God because we appreciate who God is. Look at vs 3 "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable." The greatness of God is so far beyond our understanding that we can only adore and admire the Lord. Yet because this God is still our God, his very greatness is a source of happiness to us, and the more we think upon Godís greatness, the happier we become. God is great in love, God is great in holiness, God is great in power. God has created us; God is bringing his work to fruition through us. Thus, our praises should never cease.

But the problem today is that many people, instead of praising the God who has made us in his own image, want to remake God in their image. If they find something about the old God of our faith that they do not like, they want to change the lord or ignore the lord. Personally, I prefer the old strong God of the Scriptures.

I do not profess to fully comprehend God. "His greatness is unsearchable." He is the creative power, and we have trouble comprehending the universe he created. We look up at the night sky and see all those stars, but our scientists tell us that what we see is only a tiny fraction of what exists out there. Many scientists argue that the universe is infinite. It has no boundary, it goes on forever and ever. Imagine that. Well, I not sure that I can imagine that, and I am blown away by the very thought that God created that. I am astonished; I am in awe of God. Therefore, I praise the unknowable God.

I also praise God for what I do know about him. God has bestowed the sunshine of his love upon us. God has bestowed the gentle rain of his grace upon us. Should we not return unto him a harvest of worship and adoration and reverence and exaltation?

The psalmist praises God so much because he loves God so much. Perhaps if we do not praise, it is because we do not love. Jesus said that the first commandment is to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, and soul." Do we love God that much? The thing we love is the thing we are interested in, the thing we think about all the time, the thing we talk about all the time. If we do not talk much or think much about God, that probably says something about how much we love God.

Even our prayers to God may show a lack of love. If we are always praying "gimme" prayers, then the focus is on me and not God. "Gimme" prayers are prayers like "God help me get a better job, or God help me get this car or this house, or God give me more money or God heal me. God do this for me; God do that for me." If that kind of prayer is the sum of our prayer-life, that indicates that we pray not because we love God but because we want to get something from God.

Now, "gimme" prayers are not wrong. God told us to bring all our burdens to the throne of grace, and we should obey God, but if all we pray are "gimme" prayers, then that says that we love ďmeĒ and not God. Maybe it is time for us to grow up in our prayer life, and learn prayers of praise.

When the Psalmist says, "I will bless thy name," he means that he loves God so much that he wishes the very best for God. To bless a person is to wish that person well and to be willing to do what we can for them. To bless God is to praise God in word and deed. It is to devote ourselves to God's cause. Thus, we bless God by working for the fulfillment of his purpose. You see then that prayers of praise lead us to works of praise. If Jesus were here among us, would you not hasten to feed him and clothe him and shelter him. But he is here. He said that he is here in his church, which is his body. He is wherever two or three are gathered together to praise his name. And that is where you should be.

Let us conclude then. We should praise God here and now to prepare for the praising that we will do in heaven. Heaven is filled with praises. How can we hope to get to heaven if we have not begun to practice our praises down here? This life is a school. Here we prepare for graduation into heaven. Part of our preparation is praise prayer. If we flunk praising God in this life, how can we expect to be admitted to heaven where that will be one of our primary activities? Therefore, we should learn the essential elements of heavenly praise by practicing praise now. Thus, when we get to heaven we may take our place among the singers and say, "I have been practicing these songs for years. I praised God while I was in the world of sin and suffering, and now that I am set free from the bondage of the flesh, I take up the same song to sing more sweetly to the same Lord." .

 

If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant

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