This month we are going to look at the topic of Worship and pastor has asked me to start the topic off with the subject of Praise.
Praise is a commonly used word, and it simply means to say or write or express something good about others, or commend something good in others. In the corporate world, we trainers especially teach managers to praise more and criticize less. Praise in public but criticize in private etc. Many of you also would have heard about the sandwich principle, which basically teaches people to cover up any criticism by saying something nice before and after the criticism.
And of course all of us who are married know the significance of praise in marriage. It is one of the unbreakable commandments in marriage. “Thou shalt praise thy spouse no matter what”. If you don’t praise your wife enough, you might get broken instead. So immaterial of how the food tastes, you better praise the cooking of your spouse !!
And just for those of us who are from Good’s own country, there is a Mammooty film by the name Praise the Lord, released in 2014. I have personally not seen it and hence cannot comment on it, but some of you might have.
So, do we really need a sermon on Praise? As Christians, don’t we know praise? Praise and worship is one of the most commonly used terms in Churches, isn’t it? “Praise the Lord” has become a commonly used greeting in Churches and when Christians meet. Of course there are many Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists who might say that it is a Pentecostal habit. Fortunately at BBF we are an interdenominational congregation and hence it is OK to say Praise the Lord, and also OK, if you just say good morning without saying Praise the Lord!! But hey, it is not a bad thing to say isn’t it? There cannot be too much of Praise the Lord? There cannot be a wrong time to say Praise the Lord. Can there be?
There was this truly Pentecostal Pastor, who wanted to make sure that he used the “Praise the Lord” and “Amen” terms as much as possible. So he taught his horse to start running when he said “Praise the Lord” and to stop when he said “Amen”. After many trials, he finally succeeded, and he decided to go on a long ride in the forest. So he got on to the horse and proudly said Praise the Lord. The horse started walking and when the pastor said “Praise the Lord” every time, the horse increased his speed. The pastor was so excited that he kept saying “Praise the Lord” and before he knew, the horse was running at a very high speed. The pastor started to get worried and in the confusion forgot how to make the horse stop. He tried different words, but nothing worked. He knew that the horse was running towards a deep cliff and if he did not manage to stop the horse soon, both the horse and the pastor would go down the cliff to eternal life. But he just could not remember the word the make the horse stop. So as a good pastor, he prayed, and God gave him a revelation with the answer. He shouted “Amen” and the horse came to a screeching halt. The pastor looked over and saw that the horse stopped just inches before the cliff, one more step and they would have met with certain death. He heaved a huge sigh of relief and shouted joyfully “Praise the Lord”.
Let us examine the topic of Praise in the context of Worship. Worship is never complete without Praise. Praise is a very important and integral part of worship. Praise is probably one of the most extensively used word in the Bible. Instances of praising the Lord can be seen in almost all books of the bible. Psalms of course overflow with Praises. A quick search will show you that in the NIV version the word Praise is found more than 180 times in the book of Psalms alone.
Praise could mean many things to each of us. And that is shown in the various different ways that we express praise to our Lord. It could mean singing, it could mean clapping of hands, it could mean shouting, it could mean quietly thanking the Lord, it could mean dancing, it could mean being still.. the list can go on. Each of us express our praises in different ways. And the Lord loves each of those ways.
For a common understanding of Praise in the context of worship, let us turn to the last Psalm in the book of Psalms, i.e., Psalm 150. It is a sweet 6 verses long Psalm. Praise the Lord., Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. (NIV)
This offers a quick but comprehensive study of Praise. It starts with the question of “Where” should we praise God. The Psalmist says, praise Him in his sanctuary, Praise Him in his heavens. What do we understand by Praise Him in his sanctuary? Is this building His Sanctuary? To understand the full meaning of His Sanctuary, let us turn to Ezekiel 37:26-28 (NKJV) , Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” ‘ ” We have just finished the Christmas season, and we should be remembering the manner in which God set the everlasting covenant with His people. We just celebrated the Lord’s supper this morning, and we did that in remembrance of the everlasting new covenant that was set up through Jesus’ blood. So putting these together, where is God’s sanctuary? It is among His people, it is among us, wherever we are, not just in the church building, He said, I will set up my sanctuary in their midst. God’s sanctuary is everywhere. Thus we are called to Praise God everywhere. And Vs 28 above makes it clear that it is not even just among believers, the verse says, “nations” will know that my sanctuary is amongst the believers. The term nations is generally used in the old testament to indicate the pagan nations around Israel. So that answers our question of “Where” should be Praise God? The answer is simple, Everywhere!!
The next verse in the Psalm 150 answers the question, “What” should we Praise Him for? The verse asks us to Praise Him for what he does, and who he is. Praise Him for his acts, his act of mercy, his act of Grace, his act of justice, for what He has provided for us. For his act of creation, for the redemption of the world, and most importantly for sending his only begotten son to live among us and die for our sins. Praise Him for who he is, for his surpassing greatness, according to the “multitude of his magnificence”. We can never add anything to His greatness, and hence there is no limit as to how much we can Praise Him. There is nothing called too much Praise , when it comes to our Lord.
The next two verses, answer the question of “How” we should express our Praise. Don’t worry if you cannot fully comprehend the type of instrument listed here. This has to be seen in context. These instruments were the most commonly used instruments to express joy and love and celebration. So that is what we should understand from here. Praise Him joyfully, praise Him with all your love and affection. Spare no cost or pain in Praising Him. In 2 Samuel Chapter 6, when the Ark of the covenant is finally brought into the city, David forgets himself and dances shamelessly (2 Samuel 6:14 (NKJV) Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod.) much to the displeasure of his own wife, who thought that he was belittling himself in front of the lower class people. When he comes home she taunts him 2 Samuel 6:20 (NKJV) And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”. It is very interesting to read David’s response 2 Samuel 6:21-22 (NKJV) So David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the LORD. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. David clearly knew that there is no shame in Praising God, and he was willing to humble himself, to be even more shameless in Praising God. If the King of Israel could be shameless in Praising God, should we hold back? We live in a time where political correctness is considered very important. We live in a time where Christmas season is increasingly being called Holiday Season, so that we don’t hurt the “feelings” of those who do not believe in Jesus Christ. Should we be “Careful”, or “politically correct” while “Praising God”?
The last verse of Psalm 150 answers the question of “Who” should Praise God, and the answer is very simple and straight forward. “Everything that has breath”. Praising God is everybody’s business. It is not restricted to any particular position or role. It is not just the role of the pastor or the worship leader in a church. It is everybody’s business. John saw this being fulfilled in his vision in Revelation 5:13 (NKJV) And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”. Let us not be left behind. Let us use this opportunity that is given to us today to Praise Him.
One question that is not answered in Psalm 150 is “When” should we Praise God”? I want end this message on that note.
There was this poor old lady who was in the habit of Saying “Praise God” for everything. Her neighbor happened to be an atheist, and he used to get angry at this lady and kept shouting at her “there is no God, you are wasting your time praising him”. The lady just used to smile and say Praise God and walk away. One day the neighbor heard the old lady pray, “Lord, thank you for everything. I have run out of rations and there is nothing that I can cook with tomorrow, but I trust in you to provide. Thank you and Praise you”. True enough, the next day morning when the old lady opened her door, there was a huge basket in front of her door, with all the provisions that she required. She happily picked up the basket, and shouted joyfully, “Praise God”.. The atheist neighbor was standing nearby and he pounced on her saying. “Ha!! I told you there is no God, it was me who bought you those provisions, not your God.” The old lady joyfully looked up to heaven and said aloud, “Praise you God, You not only provided for me, but also made the devil pay for it.. Thank you”
All of us know that is easy to praise God when things are going well, when things get done, when prayers are answered, when sickness is healed, when finances are made available, when jobs are got.. you get the picture, we are generally good at praising God when Good things happen to us. Is that when we should, Praise him? In Acts 16:22-26, we see Paul and Silas start praising God at Midnight, not because they received something great or they were in a great place, or they had a great meal. They were put in a very badly maintained prison and their feet were tied to the stocks. They were in a miserable condition and they chose to praise God in that condition and you know the result of such praise.
In closing let us read Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV) Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. This answers the final question, When and in what manner is Praise to be offered. This firstly asks us to make a sacrifice. Generally Praise is considered to cost us nothing. The writer of Hebrews is asking us to go beyond that. Praising God when everything is going well does not cost us anything, but praising God when things are not going well requires personal sacrifice. It requires ultimate faith. This verse also asks us to make praise continuous. It is a not a “reward” we give when something good happens to us, it is not just an appreciation of good work done by God in our lives, it is something that we offer continually knowing fully well that even when we pass through the valley of shadow of death, His presence is still with us and He is Praise Worthy.
Let us Praise God continually!! Let us Praise God sacrificially!!