Reasons for Praise
What reasons do you have to praise God?
Some people find ingenious ways to thank others. Cards and gifts, public recognition and ceremony, surprise visits and parties. They want to make their thanks memorable for the recipient; they also want to build a relationship with the person they thank.
We believers need to thank and praise God. We owe everything to him, for everything comes from him. We can find creative ways to thank and praise the Lord, from a simple prayer to an elaborate ceremony. When we put our hearts into our praise and thanks, we encourage others to join us in our gratitude. We praise God, in order to come closer to God.
Psalm 66 was a prayer of such praise and thanks. It began by rousing nature itself to lift up song to the Lord and ended with a very personal hymn. In-between, it recounted the reasons for praise, cosmic, national, and individual.
For the Chief Musician. A song. A Psalm.
1 Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
2 Sing to the glory of his name!
Offer glory and praise!
3 Tell God, "How awesome are your deeds!
Through the greatness of your power, your enemies submit themselves to you.
4 All the earth will worship you,
and will sing to you;
they will sing to your name."
5 Come, and see God's deedsó
awesome work on behalf of the children of men.
6 He turned the sea into dry land.
They went through the river on foot.
There, we rejoiced in him.
7 He rules by his might forever.
His eyes watch the nations.
Don't let the rebellious rise up against him.
World English Bible
66:1-7 was an imperative to praise, first from nature, then from the nation. However, one word in the psalm accented the difference between the faith of Israel from its neighbors: "terrible" or "fearsome" (66:3 and 66:5). The deeds of God were "terrible." In other words, God acted upon nature (66:3) and the affairs of humanity (66:5) in a way that distinguished him as different, unique, "holy." The nations around Israel worshiped gods of nature and fertility; they emulated the cycles of the seasons to insure agricultural prosperity. The affairs of these nations were tied to these cycles. While Israel was no less an agricultural society, the nation believed in a God that disrupted the natural flow in a dramatic fashion. (66:6 reminded the people of the Exodus and the return from exile in Babylon with natural miracles.) YHWH's mastery over the elements were the reason for nature itself (66:1-3) and the nation (66:4-7) to worship.
8 Praise our God, you peoples!
Make the sound of his praise heard,
9 who preserves our life among the living,
and doesn't allow our feet to be moved.
10 For you, God, have tested us.
You have refined us, as silver is refined.
11 You brought us into prison.
You laid a burden on our backs.
12 You allowed men to ride over our heads.
We went through fire and through water,
but you brought us to the place of abundance.
66:8-12 encouraged the people to praise God for his faithfulness, despite the trials endured. The Living God kept his people among the living, even through testing, and led them safely into a "place of space." Again, notice the implied images of the Exodus and the return from exile.
13 I will come into your temple with burnt offerings.
I will pay my vows to you, 14 which my lips promised,
and my mouth spoke, when I was in distress.
15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fat animals,
with the offering of rams,
I will offer bulls with goats.
16 Come, and hear, all you who fear God.
I will declare what he has done for my soul.
17 I cried to him with my mouth.
He was extolled with my tongue.
18 If I cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord wouldn't have listened.
19 But most certainly, God has listened.
He has heard the voice of my prayer.
20 Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer,
nor his loving kindness from me.
66:13-20 was a personal response for God's fidelity. In 66:13-15, the psalmist (the high priest or local ruler?) worshiped God with sacrifice; the speaker made requests to God, backed by personal vows, and now would thank and praise God with Temple ritual. 66:16-20 became more personal still; God answered the prayer of the individual in a way that reaffirmed his covenant with Israel.
Psalm 66 gave us reasons to praise God. The Living God who acts in awesome ways on a cosmic level intervenes in the affairs of the nation, and is present in my life. The God of the universe is my friend and companion. He who controls out there is close to me. That is reason enough to shout out to friends, family, community, nation, even nature itself, "Praise God!"
Take time this week to praise God for his activity in your life. Encourage others to do the same.