A Psalm of Praise
Music and Singing have been very much a part of my life since childhood, and although I no longer sing solo in public, I did so for many years. I recon that too much preaching has robbed me of my singing voice so that these days – instead of sounding like a “nightingale” I sound more like “a gale in the night”!
The apostle Paul speaking of the “joy” of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, exhorts us to “speak to ourselves in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs, and to Sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord” (Eph 5:19)
Regardless of who might hear you singing, do it anyhow, for the Lord delights in your Praise, and as we shall see today, Praise can transform our lives? Yet Praise is more than just singing, it is something that comes from the very depth of the Believers Heart, it is a song of gratitude, inspired and installed there
by the Holy Spirit.
We are living in “testing” and “troubling” times, and if we believe the Bible, the Logos of Gods Word, which shows us prophetically that world events are not going to get better
in the short term, then in the future we may need a “melody in our hearts” to keep us going.
So, my Sermon today, entitled A PSALM OF PRAISE
will consider the “Song” that God promises to us in testing times, and the inspiration that comes for that song, from the Psalms of the Old Testament, and the theme of Praise that runs through most of them. While many Psalms are attributed to David, the Shepherd Boy who became a musician at the court of King Saul and then became King himself, not all of the Psalms are his. Some are offerings of Solomon, his Son, while others are attributed to the Priestly Patriarchs and Prophets of the Old Testament.
Yet all of them are clearly songs of worship. Many of us will have learned from infancy the words of the Psalm 23, (The Shepherd Psalm) and will have gained much comfort and cure from its inspired words. So I will omit it from today’s study, but will begin instead with
Psalm 22, where in verse 22 the psalmist says …
“I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in
the midst of the congregation will I praise thee”.
Here the Psalmist indicates that Praise is infectious, it is not something merely to do alone, rather it can become a shared experience. Every day we live we are liable to infection, not just from the hazardous bugs and germs that live in the atmosphere,
but also from the attitudes of those who work and walk around us. We can be infected and affected by gloom, by despair, by depression, by fear … and so on, and if these things take us down, how important then to have a solution, a Praise, a song that will lift us up and lift others up too!
The Psalmist indicates in the 28th Psalm that there is “Strength” in Praise … where he says in v7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusteth in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him”. Not only did he find a source of strength in praising God, but he found a shield? Yet what kind of shield was it? Praise has the effect of isolating us from the depressing news around us. It enables us to focus on God and make Him bigger, and in so doing, the problems and pressures of life automatically become smaller! I said a while ago in this broadcast that if your troubles were bigger than God, then you really were in trouble. Praise helps us to understand the greatness of God, of his power, his mighty acts, his merciful and wonderful ways.
Knowing that God inhabits our Praises ( Psalm 22:3) (he lives in them) the Psalmist came to an understanding before God, that it would be better for God to allow Him life, rather than an untimely death? He says in Psalm 30 verse 9
“What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?”
Here the Psalmist is reminding God that the “dust” cannot sing his praises, the dust cannot play the harp, the dust cannot find the harmonies, and the dust cannot make a sound. David was a skilled musician, as he played for King Saul, his music apparently brought a great measure of calm and comfort to the troubled Kings soul. I recon too that David used all his skills to the praise of the earthly King, and was nothing lacking either in his praise of the Almighty.
Have you gifts and talents that you are hiding away, … or are you willing to play a tune for the Saviour. Years ago as a child I would play Hymns on the old pedal organ in my Grandmothers sitting room, and while she dozed off to sleep under the sound, (which annoyed me since I was playing for her) … I would often say, “This one is for you Lord” knowing that if Grandmother was not listening, Jesus was? Psalm 33: verse 2 says “Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings”. I believe that even if you can’t sing, and even if you can’t play an instrument, you can still make a joyful noise unto the Lord.
No one may hear or appreciate you, but God will.
In Psalm 34: verse 1 we read a quite remarkable testimony concerning the praising heart. The Psalmist says here: “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth”. Does this mean that he went about all day every day saying “Praise the Lord” to all and sundry? I don’t think so, – for even if one had the desire to do so, the practicalities of
such a testimony are not always attractive. Rather, I believe that he had made up his mind, (as we should) not to say anything that was not praiseworthy of God.
I cannot hear him being negative, or fearful, or hurtful, or argumentative, or bitter, or resentful, or covetous, or unkind, … in his mouth were only Praiseworthy comments, and as Psalm 40 verse 3 he testifies,…
“And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD”. There was something so attractive about this kind of Praise that “many would see it and turn to God”. In pressing and perilous times, the world will usually look to the Christian for inspiration, may God grant that our Praise will be
resourceful and relevant in such times.
In Psalm 42, my next choice, we see something of the “human” side of the Psalmist in his words from verse 5. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?
hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance”.
Even the Praising Soul can sometimes get down, if the focus of ones life moves away from the Creator to the Creature. Jesus himself acknowledges this in his helpful words, “Let not your hearts be troubled” and again “come unto me all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
The Spirit of Heaviness, casts down the praising soul, but there is only one “cure” for that heavy spirit, it is the garment of Praise” (Isaiah 61:3)
In Psalm 51: verse 15, the cry comes “O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise”.
Here, I see the Psalmist as one “tight-lipped” unable to Praise, not wanting to be vocal about his faith. We have all found ourselves in this dilemma, fearful of what we might say, and
fretful of what others might think? So we say nothing! We remain as “silent witnesses”. But Gods promise is that when we “open our mouth wide, He will fill it” (Psa.81:10) and here the Psalmist tells us that He will fill it will Praise. Can I let you into a secret? In such moments when I find myself a little hesitant to speak up for God, I immediately think of some praiseworthy topic or subject. On a rainy day I might say “Praise God its not always like this” or when someone is “over the moon” with joy and excitement about something, I can add
“and Heaven is better than this” So Speak up for Jesus today!
Remember the words of the Children’s Hymn that says:
“The little lips can praise and pray and gentle words
of kindness say: such grace to mine be given.”
Don’t be afraid to say Hallelujah, it means “Praise the Lord.”
Next, In Psalm 63, we focus our attention on the “loving kindness” of God, which the Psalmist says “is better than life”
63:v3 “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee”. What exactly does he mean when he says “better than life”? I believe He is acknowledging that this life, and every beautiful thing in it, is fragile, and fleeting. Life has its finality, its ending, but not so with the loving kindness of God. Pleasures end, Holidays end, Careers come to their end, Relationships end, the things we enjoy as well as those we don’t usually have their end; but not so with the Loving Kindnesses of God – they will never end. We may lose our health, our wealth, our position and possessions, our ability and mobility, yet we cannot lose His loving kindness, undeserved and unmerited though it may be, yet it remains permanent.
Usually it is because of Gods grace that we are “favoured” we don’t deserve it, we didn’t earn it, nor can we buy it. But the Love of God is “new every morning” and whatever sort of day
today will be, as the sun rises until it sets, He will set His love upon us! Thank God.
That’s the real reason why we should come into the house of God with gratitude in our hearts and a “Hallel” (a song) on our lips.
As Psalm 100 verse 4 says:
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name”.
Is this how you come to Church on a Sunday? Do you come reluctantly, grudgingly, or religiously? Shame on you if you do. There are a thousand blessings resting on you already today, and the half of them you haven’t even noticed. The Hymn writer says “count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you the things that God has done.”
Did you notice the “sun shine” this morning, and do you realize that the sun shines every morning? If it didn’t we wouldn’t have daylight! Did you breath in fresh air, and have a drink of water today? Did you get out of bed by yourself, without help, did you breakfast without someone having to “spoon-feed” you? Did you see or notice your wife, your children, your friends or pets, did you thank God for sight? Did you hear the birds sing early before the neighbours were up? and as you changed another number on the Calendar, did you thank God for another day? Do you see what I mean? We do all these things every day without a thought, yet there are many who would dearly love to do what you can do, and love to have what you can have, but instead will spend today in a Hospital ward, being unable to see the sky or smell the flowers. Thank God for his blessings, come into His House today with Praise and tell him just how grateful you really are. All these things are reason enough to be thankful, yet for the Christian there is an even greater reason.
We find that in the next choice of Psalm, the one I call
the Double Cure Psalm, psalm 103. Here we read;
“Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgives all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases”; Did you see it… the double cure?
Two more reasons to come into His House with Praise and Thanksgiving. He forgives all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.
I must confess that my next choice of Psalm has a real challenge. It comes from the Bibles longest, the Psalm 119, where in verse
164, we read ” Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments”. Here the Psalmist testifies to getting into the place of prayerful praise seven times a day!
Some of us find it hard to get there even once a day, or twice a day, but seven times? If we spread this evenly, it would mean that on or about every four hours the man takes time out with God. What a wonderful way to live. Yet this is how God wants us to live, for He is concerned about every issue, every moment of our lives, every problem, every pressure and every pain. I have discovered to my shame that the reason why I have so many battles to fight with Satan is that I forget to expect God to fight them “in” me because I do not spend long enough in prayer, expecting the conscious and present help of the Saviour in times of trouble. Praise God he is always only a prayer away!
The next note of Praise is found in Psalm 139, where we read in verse 14 “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul
knoweth right well”. Did you know that there are at least 120 things that can go wrong with your thumb? Yes …the medical journals and dictionaries will list them, we are indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made” and when the Psalmist uses the word “marvellous” he is really admitting that we are all marvels of creation. I marvel at just how quickly my skin mends when after a cut or graze, I marvel at how my eyes are the windows through which I can see, and how in doing so, my optical nerves that are attached to my brain can differentiate between the colours of the spectrum, and I marvel at how the skin on the soles of my feet can take a constant pounding on floors and footpaths, roads and rocks and still support me after many years.
But do you see what I mean, what marvels of creative ingenuity we are? Praise God for the miracle that formed you in your Mothers womb, that brought you to world consciousness and that has sustained your heartbeat every second of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year of your life, even before the day you were born! Yes we are without doubt,
“Fearfully and wonderfully made.”
This brings me neatly to Psalm 145, and to verse 10 which reads “All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee”. Not only do I believe that the Psalmist was acknowledging the physical handiwork of God, but here he blesses God for “his works” and this I take to mean both His works “without” us and “within” us, i.e. the works of his Holy Spirit in us? In the new testament, the apostle Paul takes up a similar theme in his letter to the Ephesians in Chapter 2 verse 10, where he says
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus
unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Here, Paul is teaching the Ephesian Christians that God has a work to do in every heart and life, and like the Psalmist says, it is a Praise worthy work. God has before ordained or pre-planned the ways and works that we should follow. If we will walk obediently in such paths, then we will have much to praise God for. It may not always seem pleasing, in fact it might at times be painful, but did not our blessed Lord himself know both pain and pleasure on the path and road to His destiny?
I turn in closing now to the final three Psalms in the Book. 148, 149 & 150, where we find a real treasury of Praise, and where all and sundry are called to join in the chorus, the psalm of praise … we read:
148:1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights.
148:2 Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.
148:3 Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.
148:4 Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.
148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD:
149:3 Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.
150:1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.
150:2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
150:3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.
150:4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance:
praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
150:5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
(and then the final burst of song)
150:6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD.
Praise ye the LORD.
NOW THIS FINAL WORD
The story is told of a Presbyterian minister in Scotland, of the staid and orthodox type, who had a poor old woman in his congregation who was in the habit of saying, “Praise the Lord,” “Amen,” when anything particularly helpful was said, This practice greatly disturbed the minister and one New Year’s day he went to see her. “Betty,” he said, “I will make a bargain with you. You call out, ‘Praise the Lord’ just when I get to the best part of my sermon and it upsets my thoughts. Now if you will stop doing it all this year, I will give you a pair of
Betty was poor, and the offer of the blankets sounded good. So she did her best to earn them. Sunday after Sunday she kept quiet, never a word of praise. But one day a visiting minister came to preach who was bubbling over with the joy of his salvation , as he preached on the forgiveness of sin and all the blessings that follow! The vision of the blankets began to fade and fall, and the joys of Salvation grew brighter and stronger. At last Betty could stand it no longer and jumping up she cried, “Blankets or no blankets, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord”
Betty had learned the secret of Psalm 150 verse 6
“Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD”.
I trust and pray that you will follow her fine example. Amen.