Passage- Psalm 150
Praising God is relatively easy when things go to plan- whether it is a successful bedtime routine with our children; decent school grades for our youngsters; signs of genuine spiritual life in our offspring; successful careers; material provision; asset values on the rise; good health etc. As followers of Christ, we recognise these blessings as coming from God and we are very thankful for them and duly praise Him.
But what happens when things don’t go to plan? When our parenting feels like a train wreck; the school grades take a dive; our youngsters give church a wide berth and begin to party hard; the job doesn’t work out; finances are squeezed; the stock market crumbles and house prices begin to fall; our health falters. How easy is it to praise God in these circumstances? It’s not so easy is it.
As a very keen football follower there’s a chant that you’ll often hear from supporters as they taunt the opposition fans- “Sing when you’re winning, you only sing when you’re winning!” Sadly this is often the case for us as Christians. We praise God when life is good and he’s coming up with the goodies, but it all goes quiet when life takes a turn for the worse. The present upheaval is humbling for us all as many of our plans lie in ruins. So what are we going to do? Are we going to grumble at God like the Israelites did whenever they hit problems in the Wilderness? Are we going to withhold our praise until the Coronavirus pandemic passes and normal routines are resumed? Are we going to show him that we’re made of tough stuff and can handle whatever he throws at us? None of those responses will ultimately do us any good.
Here is the root of the problem- we praise God for what He does for us rather than for who He is. Psalm 150 is a great reminder of who our God is and why he is worthy of all our praise, no matter what our situation. Let’s look at some of the content as there are some helpful pointers for our praise here! *
- The Where of Praise- “Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.” (v1b) Those old enough to remember Live Aid in 1985 will remember that it started in a packed Wembley Stadium and then later in the day the UK was joined by even bigger crowds at JFK stadium in Philadelphia. Two locations, one aim. Our Psalm gives us two locations, his earthly sanctuary (where his people gather) and the heavens (where his heavenly host gather) but one aim, to Praise Him! Earth and heaven are joined together in this act of worship. This should not surprise us as his glory fills the universe that He has made.
- The Why of Praise- “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.” (v2) God is worthy of his people’s praise for his mighty acts of deliverance, ultimately fulfilled in our rescue through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross for our sins. But he is also worthy of praise because of who he is- He is great! He is Sovereign over our world and the universe he created. Psalm 29:10 says “The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King for ever.” You could replace ‘flood’ with ‘coronavirus pandemic’, and it still holds true. No matter what we might be facing and how we might be feeling, God remains in complete control.
- The How of Praise- “Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and the lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with the resounding cymbals.” (v3-5) There’s a big box of musical instruments by the Toddlers Together equipment at church. Occasionally we get the box out in Sunday Services for the children to pick an instrument to accompany a song. It may be bedlam to us, but it’s music to God’s ears. The psalmist is not giving us here a list of approved instruments to use in public worship but telling us to worship God with everything we’ve got!!
- The Who of Praise- “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.” (v6a) In case we need clarity we’ve been given a list in Psalm 148. Everything = angels, heavenly hosts, sun, moon, shining stars, highest heavens, waters above the skies, sea creatures, all weathers, mountains, hills, trees, wild animals, cattle, small creatures, flying birds, kings, princes, rulers, young men, maidens, old men, children. Everything and everyone are included! All creation in praise of God is ultimately where this world is heading- “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Rev 5:13)
*These four parts appear in Derek Kidner’s Commentary on Psalms 73-150 (Tyndale)
Points to Ponder
- We don’t have to have everything squared away to be able to praise God. Begin praising Him for what you know of Him now.
- Be wary of being led too much by your feelings. You won’t always feel like praising Him but do it anyway!
- We will all know times of spiritual dryness, inexplicable suffering and heavy burdens. The Psalms address these (eg Psalm 88). In such times it is even more the case that we need to focus on who God is rather than our present circumstances. He is with us.
- Whenever you read a bit of the Bible get in the habit of asking the question- what does this tell me about God before asking how does this apply to me?
Dear Lord God. Thank you for who you are, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thank you that you made us in your image, redeemed us in your Son, and filled us with your Spirit. Forgive us for too often relating to you based on our circumstances and not on the basis of who you are. Thank you that you are always good, always faithful, always always loving. Soften our hard hearts that we’d praise you. In Christ’s name. Amen