Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! (Psalm 117:1). Repeatedly in the Psalms, the reader is commanded to praise the Lord. It might seem strange that God would command people to sing his praises, as if he needs the encouragement. In fact, elsewhere in the Psalms we are told:
For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
The one true God is not needy at all. He is completely sufficient- lacking nothing and possessing everything. So why would he command our praise? Consider this: Isn't it natural to praise the things you most delight in? How much more then should the One most enjoyable be praised? Far more deserving is he than your favorite movie, music, or sports team. C.S. Lewis provided wisdom when he wrote:
"...the most obvious fact about praise – whether of God or anything – strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless . . . The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses [Romeo praising Juliet and vice versa], readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game. . . . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: 'Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?' The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value.”
In short, without praise, the enjoyment of an object is not complete. God desires for us to worship because when we do so, we glorify the One worthy of praise, and to glorify him is the highest peak of delight in the human experience. God is commanding our delight at the same time he commands our praise.
When we come together as a church to worship on each Lord's Day, we praise the God who has redeemed us and provided through Christ the ability to enjoy the Most Enjoyable forever. We add nothing to him in this act. We do not make him more glorious, or more loving, or more gracious. We, together in Christ, tell of his eternal character and worth as the overflow of our hearts come forth on our lips. Digging deeper into this experience, however, we see that not only do we not serve him (by doing something he needs or lacks, Acts 17:25) but he continually serves his people while leading them toward himself. What he commands his people to do, he enables by his Word and Spirit. Jesus purchased a people for God at the cross, and the Spirit applies his work to sinners in real time through regeneration, which is spoken of through the prophet Ezekiel:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:25-27, also 11:19-20, Jeremiah 31:33-34, 33:8)
God makes possible through Christ what sin and Satan had bound men from- true delight in God, right desires, and the ability to honor Him. In the Gospel, our Lord makes us able to praise Him. He has done this great thing, "so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:29-31).
As you stand in worship this Lord's Day, and you sing the praises of the Eternal King, know that he not only commands and delights in your praise, he also gives you the ability to do so, and in doing that, serves and builds up the church he gave his himself for, as the Scripture says, "for from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen" (Romans 11:36). As the multitudes stand in His glorious presence, magnify him with their hearts, and encounter his Word of truth, he binds the broken-hearted, comforts the anxious, gives peace to those far off, and brings to pass a thousand other applications. So, praise the LORD! Peoples of the earth! Glory be to God as he magnifies his glory and increases your delight in Him.