September 19, 2021. It Is Good to Praise the Lord!

First Mennonite Church

September 22, 2021

It Is Good to Praise the Lord

Text: Psalm 147

Praise the Lord.

Last Sunday, I said that prayer is the offering of the whole self to God. Today, we will consider the nature and elements of praise. According to Psalm 147, praise is the joyful affirmation of God’s sovereignty and the celebration of his goodness and care for everything he has created. Praise is the declaration that the entire cosmos, its people, creatures, and the natural beauty of creation belong to God. Praise is the declaration that we belong to this God. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture, as the psalmist exclaims.

Psalm 147 is part of the closing theme of the book of Psalms. It is one of five praise songs—called the Hallel Psalms. The word “Hallelu-yah,” literally means, “Praise the Lord” in Hebrew. Praise is the closing theme of the book of Psalm. Just as most sections/chapters in the book of Psalms, whether it is a prayer for safety or of thanksgiving or lament, ends with praise, the entire book of Psalm, itself, follows that pattern and ends with praise.

The psalmist declares that praising God is not only good, but it is also pleasant and fitting for God’s people to do.

Life is not always easy and rosy, thus, sometimes we might feel down. Yet, many in their low-moments in life are given the advice to “stop feeling sorry for themselves,” to chin-up and to keep pushing forward. We know it is not easy to avoid self-pity entirely.

We, the people of God, are reminded that praise is good. And you might wonder why. Well, as we also know by experience, praise is born out of gratitude. Having a grateful heart is not only good for religious reasons, in that it prepares us to praise God. With having a grateful heart comes a host of other benefits. Researchers have found that gratitude enhances our emotional health. Thus, it becomes easier for us to have good relationship.

Feeling grateful is good because it helps the body to produce the right balance of chemicals that is necessary for good physical health.

Gratitude increases our mental health and helps to heal traumatic experiences.[1]   

How good it is to sing praises to our God! Says the psalmist.

Praise is also pleasant. Nobody has to tell us that when we sing we do not sound like the West Coast Mennonite Men’s Chorus or The Tabernacle Choir, yet we still feel the joy of praising God. By praising God together in song, we experience the joy and pleasure of spiritual unity and harmony before God. God does not expect congregational singing to be four part harmony, not that such singing is not accepted by the Lord. The Lord loves when we sing with our heart and mind focused on what we are singing, but most importantly, when we sing to him.

Psalm 150, verse six reads: Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Imagine the sounds when a toad praises God with its song!  

Praise is also fitting for God’s people, says the psalmist. Who else will praise God? Jesus said it quite clearly. If his people were to stop praising God the rocks would lift up their voices in praise. God does not expect the unbeliever to praise him, but God does expect it from us. Praising God is the most appropriate response from us in light of God’s sovereignty, love and care.  

There are two kinds of praises. One is when we speak about who God is or what he has done, like the first and third choruses we sang this morning. The song “His name is Wonderful” tells about the character of God and the second the song, “He has made me glad,” tells what God has done for us. Therefore, one way we praise God is by declaring what God has done for us or by describing the character of God, his love, faithfulness or power.

The other kind of praise is that in which we give direct exaltation to God. The second song we sang does that. Through the song “I love you Lord and I lift my voice . . . .” we address God directly. Through this kind of praise, we tell God of his beauty, love, and character, as we have experienced them. We tell God how much we love him and of our desire to be faithful to him. Another example of direct address to God is the song “You are my hiding place.” Through this kind of praise, we address God in song, like we do in a prayer and we tell God what he means to us.

Psalm 147 is the kind of praise that speaks about God. The psalmist declares what God has done. And as we can see, the God who is involved in the cosmos is also very intimate and personal. Yahweh is the God who builds Jerusalem, but is also brings back his people from distant places. Yahweh God is portrayed as a nurse who is carefully dressing the wounds of his beloved children and who comforts the brokenhearted, like the therapist or counselor in an intimate setting. Yet, the next description about God, who although being intimate with those who needs his care, he is also busy keeping the course of the sun, the moon and the stars. What Abraham could not do, which is to count the stars, God not only knowns and determines their number, but he also gives each star a unique name.

Verses 8, 9 15-18, tell of God’s activities in and for creation. He dresses the sky with clouds, appoints the time for the rain, the snow and the wind. He causes vegetation to flourish, thus providing food for the beasts of the field. He is concerned for the baby ravens when they are hungry. And as Jesus says, not even a sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing of it (Matthew 10:29).

God is also present among his people. He not only heals the brokenhearted, but he is also like a protective wall around his people. God is in its midst. He makes his people dwell in peace and security. God delights being with his people and in giving them security and sustenance. Therefore the psalmist gives this warning:

10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
11 the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love.

12 Extol the Lord, Jerusalem;
    praise your God, Zion.

Horses in the biblical language are always compared to machines of war. God does not find pleasure in those who put their trust in power or violence. But he delights in those who trust and fear him. The Lord delights in those who place their hope in his unfailing love. Therefore, when praise and worship the Lord, we are not only declaring his goodness and power as if these were abstract forces, but when we praise and worship God, we affirm our dependence and trust in his unfailing love, power and sovereignty. When we praise the Lord, either in singing or prayer, tell God we are his completely.

Let us be attentive to our surrounding. If we only take the time and care to see the world around us, we would find plenty of reasons to praise God. Praise the Lord for the butterflies, bees, and even grasshoppers you find in your garden. Praise the Lord for the cool breeze that blows in the evening after a hot day. Praise the Lord when your family gathers around the table at the end of the day. Give praises to the Lord for the joy, peace, and even rebuke his Spirit gives you.

How good it is to sing praises to our God,
    how pleasant and fitting to praise him! Amen!

Pastor Romero

[1] Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003 (quoted in  7 Benefits of Gratitude.