Praise the Lord!

PRAISE THE LORD!

By Wayne S. Walker

     “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.  Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 150:6).  The Hebrew name for the book of Psalms is “Tehellim” which means “Praises.”  Not every Psalm is specifically a Psalm of praise, but many of them are, and Psalm 150 certainly is.  Based upon this Psalm, Henry F. Lyte, author of the beloved “Abide With Me,” wrote another hymn which, when set to the majestic Welsh tune Gwalchmai, begins, “Praise the Lord, His glories show, Alleluia!  Saints within His courts below, Alleluia!  Angels round His courts above, Alleluia!  All who know and share His love, Alleluia!”

     We should praise the Lord God because of who He is and what He has done.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  Joachim Neander wrote a hymn which I love; it has not been in many of our older hymnbooks but is thankfully finding its way into some of our newer ones.  As translated into English by Catherine Winkworth, the first stanza reads, “Praise ye the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation; O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation.  All ye who hear, Now to His temple draw near; Join me in glad adoration.”  Of course, whenever we praise God, we are praising the Father, just as Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9).

     However, when we praise God, we are also praising Jesus Christ because of what He has done for us.  “…For you have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).  Fanny Crosby wrote, “Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer; For our sins He suffered and bled and died.  He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation, Hail Him! Hail Him! Jesus the crucified.  Sound His praises, Jesus who bore our sorrows; Love unbounded, wonderful, deep, and strong.  Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His excellent glory; Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song.”  Jesus deserves our praise because of who He is.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

     Also, when we praise God, we are praising the Holy Spirit as well because He is the one whom Christ sent to guide the apostles into all truth and through whom they revealed the will of God to mankind (John 16:13, Ephesians 3:3-5).  Brethren have debated through the years whether it is scriptural to sing songs addressed to the Holy Spirit, but how often have we all sung the well known doxology by Thomas Ken, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”?  The Holy Spirit is equally worthy of our praise because He too is God, divine in nature (Acts 5:3-4).  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all fit objects of our praise.  Therefore, when we sing, when we pray, and when we live our daily lives, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD”!

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Instrument of Your Choice?

INSTRUMENT OF YOUR CHOICE?

By Wayne S. Walker

     “Let them praise His name with the dance; let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and the harp” (Psalm 149:3).  We understand that many things were allowed and even commanded in worship under the old covenant, such as burning incense, offering animal sacrifices, dancing before the Lord, and instrumental music in worship, which are not authorized for the church under the new covenant.  An otherwise good book of devotions on the Psalms made the following comment about Psalm 149:

     “What’s the right way to praise the Lord?  Do you use a stringed instrument or a tambourine?  Do you sing a beautiful melody or recite an eloquent speech?  Do you bow your head or raise your hands?…David himself praised God on an instrument, with dancing, and through writing psalms.  He didn’t limit the creative ways he could express his adoration for God.  Neither should you.”

     Well, the fact is that David did limit himself.  He didn’t try to praise God by committing ritual fornication, which was characteristic of many ancient religions of his day.  He didn’t seek to praise God by offering his children as burnt offerings, like many of the nations around Israel.  He limited himself to praising God only in ways that were authorized by the covenant under which he lived.

     Therefore, we need to be very careful that when we strive to praise and worship God, we do only those things which God has said in His new covenant are acceptable to Him, and do them only in the way that He has authorized.  Just because something makes us feel good or expresses our exuberance does not necessarily make it right with God.  “There is a way that seems right [i.e., feels good or sounds fine] to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).  Let us be most concerned with God’s choice.

Hallelujah!

HALLELUJAH!

By Wayne S. Walker

     “Praise the LORD!  Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights!” (Psalm 148:1).  Do you know what the word “hallelujah” (or its somewhat Latinized form “alleluia”) means?  According to the New King James footnote on Psalm 148:1, it means “praise the Lord” or “praise Jehovah.”  In the famous song based upon this psalm, with music by William J. Kirkpatrick, the unnamed author begins with the transliteration of the Hebrew term and then follows it immediately with the English translation: “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah!”  The last six Psalms are called “Hallelujah Psalms” because they all begin, “Praise the Lord!”

     Many other hymns and gospel songs use this term or a variation of it.  Philip P. Bliss wrote, “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”  John E. Thomas wrote, “Hallelujah! We Shall Rise.”  In another hymn, “Praise the Lord, Ye Heavens Adore Him,” also based on Psalm 148, attributed to John Kempthorne, the chorus reads, “Hallelujah! Amen! Hallelujah! Amen! Amen, Amen.”  One of my favorite hymns, though not in many of our books, was written by William C. Dix and entitled, “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus.”  And there is the ubiquitous praise song often just called “Alleluia.”

     There is certainly nothing wrong with praising the Lord using the word “Hallelujah” whether in song or prayer or common speech.  However, we must be very careful that we do not allow “Hallelujah” to become just another interjection of surprise.  Since “Hallelujah” literally means “praise the Lord,” is there any difference in shouting out “Hallelujah” when startled than in saying, “O my God” or “Good Lord”?  It seems to me that using “Hallelujah” as an everyday exclamation comes rather close to taking the Lord’s name in vain.  Those who truly wish to praise the Lord will want to avoid that.

Do You Fear God?

DO YOU FEAR GOD?

By Wayne S. Walker

     “The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy” (Psalm 147:11).  The Psalmist tells us that the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him.  One of the reasons that Paul gave for why all people, both Jew and Gentile, are under condemnation by God is, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).  What does it mean to “fear” God?  The word “fear” is commonly used in two slightly different senses. 

     Sometimes it is used to mean a sense of terror or being frightened.  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).  This is not the kind of fear in which the Lord takes pleasure.  “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.  But he who fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).  This kind of fear leads to cowardice.  In fact, in Revelation 21:8, the term which in some versions is translated “fearful” in others is rendered “cowardly.”

     However, the word “fear” is often used in the sense of a deep reverence and respect for God that leads to obedience.  “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  This is the kind of fear in which the Lord takes pleasure.  “Therefore, since w are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28).  Indeed, Peter reminds us in Acts 10:35 that only those who fear God and work righteousness are acceptable to Him.  Do you fear God?

Do Not Trust in Princes

DO NOT TRUST IN PRINCES

By Wayne S. Walker

     “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help” (Psalm 146:3).  I have always been interested in politics because I believe that a Christian has a civic obligation to the government of the nation in which he lives (note Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17).  I also believe that my civic obligations are one way that I can fulfill my responsibility before God to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).

     One aspect of this responsibility is expressed by the statement, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).  Therefore, I choose the political party with which I identify myself and the candidates whom I support based upon how likely they are to reflect a respect for the principles of righteousness.  At the same time, I try very hard not to make my political convictions any kind of standard by which I judge others, especially my brothers and sisters in Christ.

     However, there have been times when I have been disappointed.  Politicians for whom I have voted have failed to do what they promised and what I expected of them.  Even the party in which I claim membership has sometimes strayed away from what it says that it stands for and what I believe to be right.  While this always perturbs me, I do not put my trust in these “princes” because they are but “sons of men” who are weak, frail, and subject to making mistakes.

     Rather, I put my trust in the living and true God who “rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Daniel 4:33).  He still sits on the throne of the universe and works out all things according to the good pleasure of His will to accomplish His divine purpose.  Oh, I still try to elect the people who I think will best represent His virtues, and am glad when they win.  But my trust is not in them.  “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God” (v. 5).

“I Will Extol You, My God, O King”

“I WILL EXTOL YOU, MY GOD, O KING”

By Wayne S. Walker

     “I will extol You, my God, O King; and I will bless Your name forever and ever” (Psalm 145:1).  The word “extol” means “To praise in the highest terms; exalt; laud.”  The Psalm expresses several reasons to praise, exalt, laud, and bless God in the highest terms.  Based on the first eleven verses of this Psalm, Richard Mant wrote a majestic hymn, which is usually set to a lovely melody attributed to Christian F. Witt.  It should be in every hymnbook published by brethren, but, alas, it is not (except three stanzas in Hymns for Worship Revised, set to a woefully mismatched tune). 

     Take the poem and put your Bible open to Psalm 145 beside it so that as you read the words you can compare the hymn to the Psalm.

1. (vs. 1-2)

God, my King, Thy might confessing, Ever will I bless Thy name;

Day to day Thy throne addressing, Still will I Thy praise proclaim.

2. (vs. 3-4)

Honor great our God befitteth.  Who His majesties can reach?

Age to age His works transmitteth; Age to age His power shall teach.

3. (vs. 5-6)

They shall talk of all Thy glory, On Thy might and greatness dwell,

Sing of Thy dread acts the story, And Thy deeds of wonder tell.

4. (v. 7)

Nor shall fail from memory’s treasure Deeds of love and mercy wrought:

Deeds of love surpassing measure, Deeds of mercy passing thought.

5. (vs. 8-9)

Full of pity and compassion, Slow to anger, vast in love,

God is good to all creation, And His works His goodness prove.

6. (vs. 10-11)

All Thy works, O Lord, shall bless Thee; Thee shall all Thy saints adore.

King supreme shall they confess Thee, And proclaim Thy sovereign power.”

     There now.  How is that for really offering up “the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15)?  In my estimation, it surely beats a lot of the currently faddish pop-culture “praise songs” which simply talk about how “I feel” about the Lord.  We could certainly use a lot more hymns in our books like this one!

A Breath

A BREATH

By Wayne S. Walker

     “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow” (Psalm 144:4).  How long does it take you to breathe?  Two or three seconds?  A little longer if you’re relaxed, and a little shorter if you just finished running the three minute mile!  David said that man is like a breath.  The parallel statement in the verse is “his days are like a passing shadow.”  Thus, David is talking about the relative length of our time on earth.  I just recently turned 56 years of age.  To my children, that seems incredibly old, but to me, it seems as if only yesterday I was their age.

     “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow, for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).  My father is 82 and seems to be doing well.  However, not everyone lives to be eighty, or even seventy.  My mother passed away around sixteen years ago at the age of 64.  Just this past week, the obituary column of my hometown newspaper contained the death notices of two people with whom I went to high school.  One was a couple of years older (we bought our house from his parents), and the other was three years younger (he was a freshman tuba player when I was the senior first chair tubist in band).

     “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).  A breath takes a few seconds.  A shadow passing by might be seen for a moment or two.  Steam from the tea kettle appears for just a little while and then disappears.  Life is like that.  The age of 56 seems like a long time—until you get there!  When compared to the history of earth, it is but a drop in the bucket.  When compared to eternity, it is even less.  “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we’d first begun.”