I will praise Him!
A Song of Ascents. Of David.
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
Our feet are standing
in your gates, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up—
the tribes of the LORD—
to praise the name of the LORD
according to the statute given to Israel.
There stand the thrones for judgment,
the thrones of the house of David.
(Psalm 122:1-5, NIV)
I will praise Him!
ש Sin and Shin
Rulers persecute me without cause,
but my heart trembles at your word.
I rejoice in your promise
like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and detest falsehood
but I love your law.
Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous laws.
Great peace have those who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble.
I wait for your salvation, LORD,
and I follow your commands.
I obey your statutes,
for I love them greatly.
I obey your precepts and your statutes,
for all my ways are known to you.
(Psalm 119:153-160, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 113
Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD, you his servants;
praise the name of the LORD.
Let the name of the LORD be praised,
both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised.
The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the LORD our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people.
He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the LORD (NIV).
In today’s reading the psalmist has a question for you and here it is: Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?
Who indeed? Why would the exalted One, the enthroned One, stoop down? How undignified! Doesn’t the LORD know that kings and potentates don’t bend over or stoop down? They certainly don’t do that sort of thing in public—not where they can be seen by others. Rulers rule from the seat of authority. They sit; they don’t stoop down. But our God stoops down. If the truth be told, it’s even worse than that.
The LORD gets His hands dirty. Actually, He has been getting His hands dirty from the very beginning. The LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). Now that was a failed experiment, if there ever was one. Those living, breathing human dust bags showed no gratitude. They disobeyed God at the first opportunity and down through the generations, humanity has continued that pattern of disobedience and ingratitude.
Now in this psalm we read this: He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap. Why would God show such affection for fallen humanity—humans who keep plunging deeper into the mire? There is no greater mystery. Our God keeps finding treasures in the trash—the human trash.
Still I keep wondering why anyone would stoop so low. Why would the One, who sits enthroned on high, stoop so low—low enough to die a criminal’s death on a cross? Why did the Lord stoop to rescue me?
Response: Father God, your love is beyond comprehension. Thank you for stooping down and involving yourself in my life. When I reach out to you, Father God, you lift me up. I praise you, LORD. Amen.
Your Turn: Has the LORD lifted you from the ash heap? How did that make you feel?
Reading: Psalm 106
Praise the LORD.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD
or fully declare his praise?
Blessed are those who act justly,
who always do what is right.
Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people,
come to my aid when you save them,
that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may share in the joy of your nation
and join your inheritance in giving praise (NIV).
Let’s face the truth. We all want to live a blessed life. We desire God’s blessing, whether we clearly state it in those terms or not. In today’s reading, the psalmist begins Psalm 106 with a flurry of praise for the LORD. Then he makes this statement: Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.
I confess that I have a problem with that statement. I am certain there is great blessing in acting justly and doing what is right. My problem is with the word always. I’m not an always kind of guy. I would be far more comfortable if the verse read like this: Blessed are those who act justly, who ‘usually’ do what is right. I think I can achieve ‘usually’, but ‘always’ is setting the bar higher than I can achieve. I would like a little wiggle room, LORD.
It would appear that the psalmist was of a similar persuasion, because in the following verse he asks for the favor of the LORD. We desperately need the LORD’s favor because we cannot always achieve the high mark of God’s righteousness and justice. We fall short.
Consider the psalmist’s plea: Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them, that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may share in the joy of your nation and join your inheritance in giving praise.
In reality, this is a prayer for inclusion. The psalmist wants to be included with all those who experience the salvation and blessing of the LORD. He wants to be one of the chosen ones. I am reminded of the words of that old gospel spiritual ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’ O Lord, I want to be among the number, when the saints go marching in!
Our shortcomings or sins exclude us, but it is the grace of God—His unmerited favor—that includes us. It has always been this way. We are a people—a nation—in need of God’s favor. Our efforts and good intentions fall short. We need to rely on God’s favor. He is the true source of blessing.
Response: Father God, I call on you. Look on me with favor. I know I fall short of your standard. I need your mercy. I depend on you. I know my efforts are inadequate. I rely on your grace. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you an always, a usually, or a sometimes kind of person, when it comes to doing right?
Reading: Psalm 104
All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
When you hide your face, they are terrified;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.
When you send your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works—
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the LORD.
But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the LORD, my soul. Praise the LORD (NIV).
Recently, my wife and I attended the funeral of my brother-in-law, Victor. He was a man of deep faith, who was always active in the church. At no point was he ashamed to call himself a follower of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Victor loved his Savior and I am sure his spirit rejoiced to see Jesus face to face.
There is a line from today’s reading from Psalm 104 which is particularly relevant as we think about life and death: when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
In context of this psalm, the author was speaking of all creatures, in other words the animal kingdom, but these words apply to all that breathe the breath of life, including humans. For Victor, who struggled for every breath during the last years of his life, the words of this psalm had true meaning. But the second part of this psalm reading is also pertinent in the context of a funeral: When you send your Spirit, they are created.
I believe in the resurrection of the dead. The grave is not the final end for those who have placed their faith in Christ. A great re-creation will happen. The grave could not hold Jesus, and a day is coming when it will not hold Victor, or any who have died in the faith. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Response: Father God, send your reviving Spirit. Come, Lord Jesus. I long for your return. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? Who do you long to greet on the other side?
Reading: Psalm 103
The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, my soul (NIV).
Have you ever found yourself in a chaotic situation where you immediately ask this question, “Who’s in charge here?” Sometimes I have walked into an unruly classroom where that question is very pertinent. The teacher may be nowhere in sight, or is absorbed with one or two students while bedlam reigns supreme all around. It takes very little to lose control of thirty thirteen-year-olds. Trust me on this point: It takes a wide range of skills to get a class of youngsters motivated, engaged and moving in the same direction.
Today’s reading from the psalms gives us an answer to that age old question, “Who’s in charge here?” The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
So there is your answer. The LORD is in charge here. He’s in charge of everything—the orderly and the controlled, and the seemingly random. Above this world and its mixture of order, routine, bedlam and chaos, the LORD sits enthroned as ruler over all.
Often the LORD is blamed for the bedlam and the chaos, but is that a fair assessment? Yes, He could control everything—every detail, but then there would be no humans on this planet—no free moral agents. To be human is to have the ability to choose both good and evil. If God sovereignly decided that we could only do good, then we would be robotic humanoids—not true humans at all.
Can there be true love, if love is enforced from on high rather than freely chosen? Can there be genuine worship, if this divine privilege is induced by the Creator rather than willingly offered by the created? No, the LORD calls for our worship, but He forces it on no one. Forced love isn’t love at all. The God I serve is not a rapist; He is a true lover.
So I will freely join with all creation to praise Him. I will join the angels, the heavenly hosts and all his works everywhere in his dominion. I will join in praising my Creator and my Redeemer, who was born in a stable and raised high to suffer on a cross, but now His throne is established in heaven and His kingdom rules over all. He is the One I will praise. How about you?
Response: Father God, I appreciate the free will that you have given me. I choose to worship you. You are the lover of my soul. Thank you for all you have done. I owe my life to Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Do we choose God or does He choose us, or are both answers correct?
Reading: Psalm 103
Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed (NIV).
Psalm 103 begins by David calling on his soul to praise the LORD. Many see praise and worship as a purely cathartic response to the manifest goodness of God. Something good happens to us. Unexpectedly, we get a thousand-dollar check in the mail. Quite naturally our response is praise to God.
For many people, praise to God never progresses beyond this natural, cathartic level. If God does not bless, no praise is forthcoming. Our praise for the LORD becomes, or simply remains circumstance dependent. But that was not the case with David. His praise extended beyond simple catharsis. He taught his soul to praise the LORD in all circumstances. True biblical praise and worship is after all a spiritual exercise, a discipline we grow in, just as we grow in the discipline of prayer.
The LORD, the object of our praise, does not change with our circumstances. He is forever the same. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is constant, hence our praise and worship of him should be constant, unaffected by weather conditions, world events, the gyrations of the stock market, our swings of mood or our personal situation.
Of course this constancy in praise is something the natural man simply rebels against. Our world needs to be right in order for us to praise God aright, or so we reason. The only problem with this logic is that the world has never been right since the Fall. Death, disease, war and misery have been raining down on the children of Adam, since wilful disobedience to God first took root among us. And this is one weather forecast, for all humanity, that is not about to change—not until Christ returns.
If we are waiting for a perfect world before we lift our voice in praise to God, we will never praise Him. In fact, if our eyes are on the world, or on ourselves, there will always be grounds to withhold our praise. But then, the whole purpose of praise and worship is to lift up our eyes. We desperately need to get our eyes off ourselves, off the world, and onto God our Maker.
Response: Father God, I genuinely want to learn to praise you in all situations. You are always good, loving and worthy of praise. Along with David I declare, “Praise the LORD, my soul!” Amen.
Your Turn: Have you learned to praise God even in difficult times?