Touching on every aspect of human thought, emotion, desire, and experience, both positive and negative, trial and triumph, the longest book in the Bible, The Psalms, nevertheless, emphasizes praise. The book concludes with a remarkably simple hymn of unmitigated praise that anticipates a future when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will have defeated all enemies, judged all sin, and will reign victoriously. Of course, the psalm is instructive for believers of every age, whose reason for existing is to glorify the Lord.
In our English translation (NASB), the psalm contains only seventy-two words, a striking thirteen of which are the word praise. Five of its six verses begin with that word, and the psalm begins and ends with the command: “Praise the Lord!” Let’s notice some of what it teaches us about praise.
1. Where should we praise the Lord? First, “in His sanctuary” (v. 1). The gathering of saints for preaching, teaching, and prayer should be characterized by praise to the Lord. Praise is not limited to “worship songs” or prayers and testimonies of thanksgiving. Properly offered and humbly accepted, exhortation, correction, reproof, and rebuke are given and received in a spirit of praise to God. Those who heed his Word are praising Him. Second, we should praise the Lord “in His mighty expanse” (v. 1). True worship neither begins when we enter the doors of the church on Sunday nor ends when we exit them an hour or two later. Believers should praise the Lord wherever we are under the whole dome of heaven. In fact, we’re in the wrong place, if we’re in a place devoid of praise to the Lord.
2. What should we praise the Lord for? First, for what He has done: “for His mighty deeds” (v. 2). The Word of God extolls the Lord again and again for His mighty work of creation. More than ever in this time of evolutionary rebellion against the Creator God, it is essential to praise God for bringing us and everything in the universe into existence. We honor Him because “in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). Then there is mighty work of redemption. As mighty as creation was, it cost God nothing. Our salvation, on the other hand, cost both the Father and the Son an infinite price. Only God was both able and willing to perform that mighty deed. Second, we “Praise Him according to His excellent greatness” (v. 2), that is, for who He is. As we mature in the Lord and draw close to Him, who He is becomes more and more precious to us. When we are young, we may love Him for His gifts, but as we grow in grace we come to value who He is and desire the blessed fellowship of His presence.
3. How should we praise the Lord? With every instrument in the orchestra! The psalmist mentions eight musical instruments (vv. 3-5). Sometimes praise should be audibly boisterous. Whatever else is being suggested, the message is that genuine praise is not mumbled, secretive, half-hearted. True praise is a force to be reckoned with. “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” Nehemiah observed (8:10). “Praise Him with dancing” (v. 4). Genuine praise invigorates and fills all our being. True praise does not begin and end with lip service; it energizes our arms and legs, hands and feet; it motivates us to serve the Lord, becoming self-forgetful and mindful of our Lord and of the needs of others. True praise is verbal, but ultimately it is expressed through active service.
4. Who should praise the Lord? “Everything that has breath” (v. 6). This experience will be purely and perfectly fulfilled in eternity. But even now, properly understood, all that happens praises God. God extracts praise from sinners whether they like it or not. “For the wrath of man shall praise you” (Psa. 76:10). God accomplishes His purposes even through rebellious mankind, revealing both His holiness, justice, and wrath, and His mercy, love, and grace. Believers have the unique and special privilege of freely and willingly from the heart rendering the praise and thanksgiving to God that He deserves.
“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15). And may our actions echo the words on our lips.
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