Praise and Worship is a topic on the minds and lips of many Christians today, even though it often seems they have a hard time agreeing on exactly what “Praise and Worship” is. One thing all seem to agree on: praising God makes us feel good. Some speak of “feeling the spirit descending on the room,” others of the feelings evoked in their hearts.
They might be surprised to discover that God’s Word has very little to say about feelings. It does, however, have much to say about praising God.
Since we are interested in praising God, perhaps we should take the time to discover what God says about it. A good place to start is in Isaiah 55.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
God’s ways and God’s Word are higher than man. We could never, on our own, attain to them. But God has chosen to reveal them to us, and in that revelation great blessings abound to us. Just as a fruitful earth requires and must be preceded by rain from heaven, our fruitfulness as a people requires and must be preceded by God’s revelation of truth.
In other words, God moved first. Joy and peace, singing and clapping are certainly an appropriate response. But they are a response only. They did not bring us the blessing. Who would ever be so foolish as to think that a fruitful harvest brought the rain?
A similar truth is taught in Psalms.
Psalm 47:6, 7
Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.
A man or woman wearing earplugs may sit in a room where magnificent music is being played. They may tap their feet, clap their hands and applaud with the rest of the crowd. They may even enjoy the experience. But, in truth, they have missed the point. They have no real understanding.
True praise of God is not something that is learned from others; it is not something that we need to “work up.” True praise is something which is evoked, due to understanding Him. He does not desire ignorant praise, but He delights in praise that is given in response to Him.
Specifically, the Scriptures tell us time and time again that we are to praise Him due to our knowledge of two things: 1. His works (what He has done), and 2. His character (Who He is).
I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.
Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.
I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works.
And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness.
We are to praise Him for His mighty acts, for His wondrous works.
They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness.
The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.
The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.
God is good and He is righteous. He is gracious, compassionate, merciful. He is good to all. Do I know these things? Have I seen them? Then I certainly have something to praise Him for.
Even more than the Old Testament believers, the Christian has cause to praise God. And we have greater means of doing so: we can praise Him not only in our native languages, but in the spirit as well. In truth, our entire lives are to be lived in praise to Him, in response to all that He has done for us in Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
Note that He would not have us only praise His glory, but be to the praise of His glory! We stand in unity because it glorifies Him (Romans 15:5, 6); we give of our material goods in order that He might be thanked (II Corinthians 9:6–13); we serve in the church to the end that He will be glorified (I Peter 4:10, 11).
The Word of God speaks of certain angelic beings whose whole responsibility, in so far as the Scriptures reveal, is to be in the presence of God, day and night, forever. And they never seem to tire of proclaiming, “Holy, holy, holy.”
We can learn something from them. If it is our desire to grow in praising and worshipping God, in all we say and in all we do, perhaps we should be less concerned with imitating man and more concerned with beholding God. He has chosen to reveal His Word in order that we might know His ways, His thoughts, His works, His character. As we learn and understand these things, as they become real to us, our response too will be to cry out, “Holy, holy, holy.”
Ephesians 3:20, 21
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.