A Lesson in Praise (Part Two)

Psalm 145:1-3

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom (NIV).

Proper worship requires a correct perspective (145:3). To use painting as an illustration again, can you paint a portrait or a landscape without some knowledge of what you’re trying to paint? Can you paint in the dark? How well can you paint with while wearing smudged glasses?

For this reason, we must know the reason for praise.

  • We have a perpetual reason for praise in the character of God. Consider this, does a weak, immature view of God cause weak, immature praise? If you love and know the living God, you ought to have much to say about him! Here is the foundation of David’s ongoing, daily commitment to praise. He was a human like we are. He had both good days and bad. He had joys and sorrows. But the source of his praise did not come from the varying circumstances of his life. They came from the being and character of the Lord.
  • Another reason is the awesome greatness of our God. We cannot fully search out the majestic greatness of God. God is too much to explore, since he is infinite. This does not mean that we do not explore. America is filled with scenic wonders. What a beautiful land we have! I do not expect to see this whole country. It’s too big. That does not stop me from viewing its beauty where I can look. Even so, as we explore the glory of God’s greatness, we will see new wonders.

Our praise is to correspond to its object. Give great praise to our great God. Ponder the scene in Revelation 5:9-14. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped
(ESV).

The God we praise is infinitely greater than the praise we are able to offer. We should search out God’s greatness, but after doing our best, we must confess it to be unsearchable.

George Whitefield, an evangelist during the First Great Awakening, used to say, “Anoint my stammering tongue to tell thy love immense, unsearchable.” We ought to have his desire to praise. A true believer does not need a “holy day” for an occasion to praise the Lord. While we should give thanks on Thanksgiving Day, every day is a day of thanksgiving, every day a day of praise. Observe also the repetition of David’s determination to praise God. Do we share his viewpoint?

Grace and peace, David

The Believer’s Happiness a Reason for Praise (Part Two)

img_4412Psalm 146:1-10

In this psalm, we read of praise to the true and the living God. The Lord’s praise ought always to be on our lips, but sometimes we might feel lethargic or even depressed. The psalmist knew this and spoke to his own soul to stir himself to praise. Next, the spiritually invigorated psalmist gave a warning, a warning against an empty hope. Do not trust in nobles, in man, who cannot save. When his breath leaves him, he returns to the ground; on that day his plans die (146:3-4 HCSB).

He warned against making a fatally wrong investment (146:3). A person’s faculty of trust or confidence is like the money of the soul. Be sure you make a wise and sound investment. People are prone to trust in human power, because we rely on our physical senses. Yet the Bible gives such confidence a bad rating (Jeremiah 17:5-6), and points us to a better place (Psalm 118:8-9). He explained the reason that human power is such a bad risk. It cannot save. Yes, even though the godless person sneers, every humans great need is to be saved or rescued.

The psalmist elucidated the reason for this warning (146:4). Humans are a bad risk, for we are victims of mortality. “His breath goes from his body, and his body goes to the grave. His spirit goes one way, and his body another. High as he stood, the want of a little air brings him down to the ground, and lays him under it.” [Spurgeon] Humans are a bad risk, because our plans do not outlast us. For long years a philosopher is hailed as the greatest thinker of the age. But then he dies. After he is dead, a new intellect appears who ridicules all the ideas of the former great one, who can no longer defend his views. Soon the dead philosopher is only remembered to be dismissed as incorrect. Therefore, who would put his money in a bank that was sure to fail? Who would invest in a company that soon was to go bankrupt? Yet many do this everyday. What a valuable asset we have: life given and sustained by God! Yet how easily we throw it away on the world that passes away. O my friends, especially my young friends, do not act so foolishly!

Eager to ensure the happiness of his readers and the honor of his God, the psalmist points us in the right direction. He gave reasons for the blessedness of the believers (146:5-10) Verse five is his thesis, the point he wants to convey and the truth for which he praises God. How happy is the man who has the living God as his help and hope! This is the last of the 25 or 26 times that this “blessed” formula occurs in the Psalms.

People whose help and hope is the Lord are blessed because…

  • The Lord is the Creator (146:6). The God who could create all things out of nothing is surely able to save and to uphold those who put their confidence in him. This is a sound investment, one with unlimited resources. The God who designed the universe surely understands how it operates. Therefore, we do not need to fear the as-yet-unseen. Investment counselors my make “educated” guesses about the economy of 2017, but no one really knows what will happen.
  • The Lord is the Controller (146:7-9). To continue our analogy, here is a company with a perfect performance record. The Christian has good and substantial reasons for trusting the Lord. First is God’s benevolence (146:7a-b). The Lord does what is good for his creatures (cf. Psalm 145:15-16). “For all grow hungry, man and beast, and it is God who satisfies their hunger, not the independent operations of the law of nature.” [Leupold] God is also able to reverse circumstances (146:7c-8b). God is able to help those in the greatest, most desperate need. The Lord “consoles the bereaved, cheers the defeated, solaces the despondent, comforts the despairing. Let those who are bowed to the ground appeal to him, and he will speedily up raise them.” [Spurgeon] These abilities are clearly seen in the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 7:22; cf. Isaiah 35:5; 61:1). And God’s rule is righteous (146:8c-9). God loves those who do right. This should inspire confidence in God’s people as we live in a world where so many do wrong. He cares for those in poverty, and he opposes the wicked (Proverbs 19:21).
  • The Lord is eternal (146:10; cf. Exodus 15:18; Revelation 11:15). Here is a business that will never close or go bankrupt. Your spiritual money is safe here. In spite of all the bitter malice of the powers of evil, God’s kingdom endures forever. “There will always be a Zion; Zion will always have Jehovah for her King; for her he will always prove himself to be reigning in great power.” [Spurgeon] “They who have such an everlasting kingdom awaiting them in the end can afford to bear trials patiently, not yielding to despair on the way.” [Fausett]

All who have the Lord God as their help and hope listen! We have a great joy, a wonderful privilege, and a delightful responsibility. Let us join together to praise the Lord from the depths of our hearts. Our God is worthy of all our praise! To you without hope, there is good news in the Lord Jesus Christ. You may have his salvation today. He offers himself to you today. Do not refuse him. How happy you would be if Christ saved you today. This then would be your best Thanksgiving weekend ever! You will be surprised by the joy he gives, an inexpressible and glorious joy. Trust the Lord Jesus today!

Grace and peace, David

The Believer’s Happiness a Reason for Praise (Part One)

dscn3658Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Psalm 146:1-10

The closing psalms are the outposts of heaven. In the Psalms the ruin of sin has been discussed and the glory of God set forth over all. At the end of the collection, the Psalms conclude with praise to the Lord. “Come, rejoice with me; let us magnify his name together!” is a worthy theme for the ending of this collection of writings. This psalm of praise also has an instructional purpose: to urge people to put their trust in the Lord, for only then are we humans truly happy.

The psalm opens with determination to praise the Lord. Hallelujah! My soul, praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing to my God as long as I live (146:1-2 HCSB).

The writer provides a lesson in self-exhortation (146:1; cf. Psalm 103:1; 104:1). Spiritually, we must be self-controlled; that is, we must not allow the events and circumstances of life to dictate our spiritual tone. This requires us to talk to ourselves. “Why are you so depressed or lethargic, my soul? You are a child of the King, an heir of heaven, and one who will reign with Christ!” This involves the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as we will see in our series of articles about the Spirit of God. “O Holy Spirit, enlighten my eyes with the glory of my blessed Redeemer. Control me with the truth that is in Jesus, and then I will be self-controlled.” Practically, we must start here, because we will never be able to encourage others to praise the Lord until praise for him flows out of our own hearts.

We read of the response of the writer’s soul to his self-exhortation (146:2). A fire has been kindled in the psalmist’s soul. And not only is that true, but the fire has intensified so much that he resolves to praise God as long as he lives (cf. Psalm 104:33). This is like being “bit” by the physical fitness “bug”. Those bitten by it desire to do their selected activity repeatedly, whether it is swimming, walking, running, cycling, hiking, or skiing. (Let it snow!) When godly aspirations govern the soul, a person does not think about growing weary of them or of them ever losing their freshness. Even now, for example, I can sense the excitement of putting on the skis and taking off in eight to twelve inches of fresh powder. The problem is that too few have tasted the majesty, the glory, and the goodness of God, so that they long to praise him. Do you crave the glory of the Lord?

If your soul has been saved from eternal wrath, then come, let us praise God together! Certainly, we have something we can share together, because we know the joy of sins forgiven and the wonder of Christ’s perfect righteousness, and the Spirit living within as the Spirit of adult sonship. We cannot tell how long or short our lives may be, but as long as we live, we may glorify the Lord!

The key to such praise is knowing that God is yours—that he is in covenant with you in Christ by the blood of his cross. Can you say, “The Lord is my God; I will praise him forever?”

Grace and peace, David

The Desire to Worship and Praise Fulfilled

dscn15662 Chronicles 20:20-30

November is the month of Thanksgiving, although I must admit that in a store yesterday, November 1, I heard Christmas music. Other customers remarked that it was too early. I agree. Why not some Thanksgiving music? But apart from hymns, Thanksgiving songs are rare. I once bought an album of “99 Thanksgiving Classics” to have playing in the background on Thanksgiving Day. Almost all were classical pieces; none were hymns. I could not figure out the connection with Thanksgiving, except that they were nice songs.

This month we should think about the opportunity to express our worship and praise to God. Jehoshaphat and his people found it in an amazing act of deliverance for his people.

It sprang from the obedience of faith (20:20-21); prompt obedience. They did what the Lord told them to do “early in the morning”. In this way, they imitated the obedient faith of Abraham (Genesis 22:3) when he took Isaac to the mountain. The Lord responded to his faith by providing a lamb in place of Isaac. God sets forth the examples of believing men and women in his word, in order that we might learn from their walk of faith. For example, read and meditate on Hebrews 11; think about the difficulties they faced; observe how they believed and obeyed.

The point is that they did not delay or procrastinate to obey the Lord. They did not wait till they had finished their “to do” list. They did not allow anything to distract them from believing and acting in conformity with God’s message to them.

Jehoshaphat encouraged his people to believe (20:20). He urged them to have faith in the Lord. Jehoshaphat pointed them to God who is able to save or rescue people. Let us clearly understand that walking out to the wilderness without weapons to face a vast army was foolishness, unless God could save. God was not calling them to a leap of faith, but to total reliance on his mighty power. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10 NIV).

Jehoshaphat also urged them to have faith in the Lord’s prophets. Jehoshaphat pointed them to God’s message given through his prophets like Jahaziel (20:14-17). I repeat. Let us clearly understand that walking out to the wilderness to face a vast army without a message to do so was foolishness, unless God had spoken. The Lord does not tell us to invent ways that we suppose will bring salvation. He wants us to trust his way. Paul acted on God’s way during a difficult time of physical persecution. Though he suffered, he learned that God saved people through the gospel. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:16-17 NIV). We need to relearn his confidence in our times.

An army of praise formed. After encouraging the people, Jehoshaphat decided to make the most of God’s promise by appointing men to sing to the Lord at the head of his army. This was acting in faith on God’s promise of victory. While the exact translation for the phrase “for the splendor of his holiness” is unclear, what is clear is the recognition of God’s holiness. God is over all, doing what is right, pursuing his glory as God. When you know that the Holy God is with you, you can sing!

What did they sing? They gave thanks to the Lord for his unfailing, covenant love. We can trace this song back to the time of David (1 Chronicles 16:7-36, especially verses 8-11 and 34-36), and from there to two other psalms (Psalms 105:1; 136:1).

Why do people sing to the Lord? We sing to the Lord when we are convinced that his promises are true. God has made his promises of eternal salvation true to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20). Only when you know that your sins are forgiven and God has accepted you are you truly able to rejoice, give thanks, and sing! Can you rejoice in the Lord’s enduring love? Our goal is for you to become a person who rejoices in the Lord. Why should anyone rejoice in the Lord Jesus? We should rejoice because he has defeated our worst enemies: sin, Satan and death! How did this happen? It happened when he died on the cross for sinners and rose again the third day. Believe in him, and he will give you the free gift of eternal life.

Grace and peace, David