Photo credit to Joymarie Cayetano.
“Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.” Psalm 47
What is so important about praise that it is mentioned in Scripture over 200 times? In this verse alone, it’s mentioned four times. If You repeat things that are important, then I suppose when You repeat something four times, I ought to really pay attention. And I suppose I ought to ask myself if I actually praise You as You deserve to be praised?
Now, I wanted to know what brought forth this Psalm, this song of praise. And research boiled it down to probably one of two events. Either this song issued forth after the Ark of the Covenant was brought from Obededom or it issued forth after the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrians in the middle of the night, causing Sennacherib, king of Assyria to turn back from destroying Israel. I’m pretty sure that either of those situations would usher forth great praise.
But then I had to ask myself, what do You mean by praise? What does real praise look like and sound like to You? And I have to think about that because in verse 7 I’m reminded that God is the King of all the earth, not just some of it, and that I need to sing praises with understanding. Jeremiah 9:24 helps me with this. “But let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord which excercises lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight , says the Lord.” I must understand You and know You in order to have a true relationship with You. It is going to take real, deep, intellectual thinking and grappling with hard questions. It’s going to take meditating on things, piecing things together, struggling, and waiting, seeking, and praying, and this thing called continuing praise. If I’m not thinking deeply about You, am I really following You at all?
Yet, understanding alone is not enough. I must understand and know You. And it ‘s not enough to know the answer like 1+1=2 or reciting some verses or books of Scripture. It’s like Adam knew Eve. And I’m not just making this up. Remember, God is the one who told us that true religion is knowing Him. What does that mean? I like the way Skip Moen puts it, ” He means that the intimacy of deep relationship, the friendship, the honesty, the confrontation, the instruction, the familial bonding, are all part of ‘yada’ [know] YHVH. He’s your best friend, your protective parent, your mentor, your examiner, your guide, your lover, your comforter, your doctor, your judge and a host of other close connections. Understanding who God is is not enough. Understanding who He is and experiencing intimacy with Him is the essence of true religion.”
Now let’s jump from that point. Here is what creates the desire to praise You in me. When I experience You, when I think of the lovingkindness You bestow upon me and others, when I see the greatness of You name, Your righteousness shining forth, and when I just remember or fall at Your feet, it wells up in me as a song. It doesn’t matter if the Ark is finally coming home or if I feel like You are not listening to my cries, I can still have a song in my heart and praise You because I know You even in the times You are silent. You are my hiding place even in those times. You still encompass me about with songs of deliverance. You still guide me even when I can’t hear because I already know You and I already understand.
Psalm 33 tells me to rejoice in You: for praise is comely for the upright. I don’t think that means it just makes me look lovely. I think that is telling me that praise issues forth and bubbles over no matter what from those who have been made upright by the Upright One. If I am truly in awe of You, praise will bubble forth no matter the circumstances. Can I be like Job who could say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him”? Job had it. He understood You and knew You. When his wife gave up, he held fast. Even David before Abimelech, when he was being pursued by Saul, understood and knew You. In the midst of all that seeming junk, he praised You. “I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord…”
Praise. I need it. You, God, don’t need it. It just belongs to You naturally. You evoke praise. But I need to be involved in praising You. Praising You keeps me knowing You and understanding You. It keeps my focus right. Praising You no matter what helps me to draw others in to praising You and to refocus them on You. Praising is for my benefit, for our benefit. You don’t need our praises. You don’t need anything. See, the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many. From before time began as we know it, You, God, were excelling any expectation that man ever could have. Your ways are above our ways yet You invite us to get to know You by them glimpse by glimpse. And here’s the exciting thing. Every glimpse of You is absolutely praise worthy! And all I’ve gleaned is a glimpse of praise today, just a miniscule glimpse. But it’s enough to show me how much more there is of You to know and understand that I adore You and that You deserve, more than words can tell, praise upon praise. And the more I know You, the more You will bring it forth naturally no matter the circumstances in my life because You are greater than all the circumstances in life that have ever existed or will exist.
“Sing unto the Lord, O you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness…hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be my helper. You have turned my mourning into dancing: You have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to You, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto You for ever.” (Psalm 30) Because You are my God, You rub off on me, just like You rubbed off on David. And when Your glory touches a person, it is worthy of singing about. When You do it, it can’t be hid, and I must praise You. A veil won’t cover it. I won’t be able to stay under a bushel. Your praise is too great. Your glory will burst forth. Why? Because I wasn’t the one who displayed it or made it. You did it all, whether in me or around me, and Your light must shine not because it’s commanded but because that is what and who Light is. It’s not that I won’t want to put it under a bushel like that kids song. It’s that when You are God in my life, well, You WILL be God. The Light WILL shine because it’s what You are and what You do. Praise is inherently due You. It flows out of those who see and know and experience You. May I continually sing praise to You according to Your mercy!