Scripture Reading: Psalms 146 - 148 …
What exactly does it mean to "praise the LORD"? As Christians we talk about giving God "praise" and the Psalmists are continually telling us to "praise Him"!! Can you explain what that means? Do you know HOW to PRAISE God? The definition of "praise" includes the following: to "express warm approval or admiration of; commend, express admiration for, applaud, pay tribute to, speak highly of, compliment, congratulate, admire, worship, honor, glorify, exalt, magnify …" You get the idea. You and I can praise other people for something they have done or accomplished. We can even admire them for their character … for "who they are" as a person, for their behavior, how they live their lives.
Of course, God doesn't need such accolades. God doesn't need anything to encourage Him, to lift up His spirits, to inspire Him. He is not dependent upon us for anything … but He delights in our praise and is worthy of our worship!! What so few understand is that WE are blessed when we praise the LORD, our God.
It is difficult at times to live in this world. We are surrounded by temptation and sin and evil and our thinking and our emotions are easily distracted from thinking good thoughts and living a "righteous" life. It is very true that life is about self-control and that begins in the mind, with what you are thinking about. You can look at and think about all of the negative "stuff" of life and get discouraged and depressed, OR you can set your mind on the LORD, your God, and in doing so discover the fruit of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). Which is better?
Psalm 146 tells us not to put our trust "in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save …" (146:3). Rather, "Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth … who remains faithful forever" (146:5-6). Notice how specific the writer is. This is not just any god. This is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was this God, the only true God (there can be only ONE Creator!), whom Isaiah wrote about in Isaiah 61 … the One Who would come as the Messiah, the Savior. "He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous" (146:7-8).
Read Isaiah 61:1-3 and then read Luke 4:18-19, as Jesus claims to be the fulfillment of the One whom Isaiah wrote about. God has revealed Himself in His Son Jesus Christ so that in knowing Him we would find all we need in HIM and having received His salvation, we, of all those who live in the world, would PRAISE Him! Do you understand that those who don't know God don't praise Him?! They don't praise Him because they don't recognize His character, they don't know His love in Christ, they haven't experienced the peace and joy that come only from trusting in Him, believing that Jesus died on the cross to pay our debt, to bring us forgiveness and life!!
But WE who believe are moved to praise God from whom all blessings flow!!! "How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise HIM!" (147:1). You have to know God and His love in order to praise Him. This is more than singing some songs, praying or going through the motions of religion. This is a heartfelt response to who God IS and what He has done and what He is doing! To praise the LORD, "Jehovah," “Yahweh,” you must acknowledge that He alone is God, there is no other. You must know Him as loving, compassionate and merciful … but also as holy, just and righteous. And such knowledge must humble you before Him. "Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground" (147:5-6).
We have seen over and over that humility is required to come before God, and it is this same humility that moves us to praise God because He is so far above and beyond us, and yet He has come to us in Jesus to redeem us and to adopt us as His children by grace through faith in Jesus. "The LORD delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love" (147:11). To “fear Him” is to respond in awe and reverence. Praise is the response of a heart touched by the grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus!
So you and I are called to "Praise the LORD!" (148:1). God deserves the praise of all that He has created, but it is human beings, the high point of His creation, those created in His image, in which He delights. Only through the power of His Spirit and His Word can the heart that was dead be moved to praise the Lord! "He has raised up for His people a 'horn,' the praise of all His saints, of Israel, the people close to His heart" (148:14). The Psalmist points to the One who will come as our Savior, who Himself will do all that is necessary to move His people to praise the Father, who sent Him to do the work of salvation. It is in Him that the praise of God will become perfect, for one day, by the Father's plan, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that HE is Lord, to the glory of the Father.
Until that day comes, the very best thing you and I can do is "praise the LORD!" Praising God lifts US up and sets our minds and hearts on things above, where even at this moment Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Praising God takes our minds off of all that Satan and evil attempts to do to distract us and moves us to live in this world by His Spirit, declaring that in spite of what people may see at the moment, Jesus is Lord and He is reigning, because He reigns in our hearts!! Praise Him today and discover the joy you seek!
"O LORD, our God, the Great 'I Am,' You alone are worthy of praise, and I find my joy and my delight in giving You the praise that only You deserve. Nothing else in life compares to You, and loving You and praising You is the desire of my heart. As I live in this world, help me to turn away from the things that grab my attention and to live in such a way that my mind is fixed on giving You praise in everything I do … in the way I speak, act and live … My life is Yours, my Redeemer and my King. In Jesus' name, Amen"