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Summer in the Psalms: Learning to Praise

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Big Idea:

Tension: Why should we praise the LORD?
Resolution: Because of his steadfast love and his faithfulness to us.
Exegetical Idea: We should praise the LORD because of his steadfast love and faithfulness to us.
Theological Idea: God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to his people ought to lead them to praise him.
Homiletical Idea: All people should praise God because of his faithfulness and love towards them.
Big Idea: The LORD is worthy of all the praise of every person because of his faithful love in Christ.

Introduction: Why should we praise God?

There are many people today who do not believe the words of this Psalm. They do not believe that God is wrothy of praise. Why, they say, would we worship God? Why give my time every week to gather with his peoiple to worship him? Why make a dsiciplien out of reading his word? Why dedicate my energy and my time and my hopes in getting to know him better? What’s the point of it? I just don’t get it? Sure, that’s good for you, but do I really need to obey it, they say? yet, our passage today tells us both that God is indeed worthy of our praise and it tells us why God is worthy of our praise.

The LORD is worthy of all the praise of every person

Hallel Psalms
Hallel Psalms: Now, this Psalm is what is part of a group of Psalms called the “Egyptian Hallel” Psalms. ANd these are a collection of Psalms that would get sung aroiund passover. would be sung before the passover, and then psalms 116-118 would be sung as they were finishing the meal. So the posture of this Psalm is to celebrate teh God who has rescued his peopel from slavery.
Hallel Psalms: Now, this Psalm is what is part of a group of Psalms called the “Egyptian Hallel” Psalms. ANd these are a collection of Psalms that would get sung aroiund passover. would be sung before the passover, and then psalms 116-118 would be sung as they were finishing the meal. So the posture of this Psalm is to celebrate teh God who has rescued his peopel from slavery.
From lament to praise: So as we’re reading this Psalm, we need to recognize we are reading this Psalm as it is getting ready to wind down. In fact, a few Psalms after this one, the Psalms of Ascent begin. And the Psalms of Ascent are the songs that they would sing as they were making their annual trips up to Jerusalem. After the Psalms of Ascent there are approximately a dozens Psalms of praise. So this Psalm is kind of part of the beginning of the end of the Psalms that crescendo in praise. But the beginning of the book of Psalms has a very different tone. You see, thorughout all 150 Psalms, there is a general movement from lament to praise. It’s not all lament, just like the end is not all praise. But we see a general progression as the book of Psalms continues. It begins by lamenting what is wrong with the world and it ends with praising what is right with God. In the beginning of the Psalms, you are far more likely to hear the cries of the Psalmist like in , “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and towards the end of the Psalm, you are far more likely to hear words like the last verse of : Let everything that has breath praise the Lord, praise the Lord!” When you look at the Psalms as a whole, it is this magnificent tapestry where the beginning are dark deep shades of pain and the end are bright reflective shades of praise. The book of Psalms is one of the most beautiful collections of books ever. and this is one of the reasons.
What does it mean to praise? We see here that this first verse is what is called a synonymous parallelism. A synonymous parallelism is where there are two lines in the Psalm which are using different words to express the same idea in approximately the same way. So when we get to this Psalm and we see the words, “Praise” and “extol” we should recognize that they are not talking about two different ideas, but they are essentially talking about the same thing. These two words are used elsewhere in a similar way to kind of hit on the same meaning. So that leads us to a question, what in the world does it mean to praise? Does it mean to sing a song? Does it mean to just play a song? What does it mean to worship God?
Well, one of my favorite explanations that I’ve come across for true worship recently is Martin Luther. Listen to how Martin Luther describes worshipping God:
“What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the whole heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust be right, then is your god also true; and, on the other hand, if your trust be false and wrong, then you have not the true God; for these two belong together, faith and God. That now, I say, upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god.” - Luther
You see, to worship God is so much deeper than the thigns that come out of our mouth. To worship God is to give him our heart. It is to say to him, “There is nobody else who can give me what you give me. There is no place higher than you, no king more just than you, no treasure more valuable, no person more real, noone more powerful, no thing more worthy.” To worship GOd is to say, You are worthy of every ounce of all my heart.
The call to set aside our idols - Now of course, what Luther’s commentary brings out is our inherent disposition to set aside our idols. Because if we are to start giving God all the praise and trust from our heart, we have to stop giving our praise and trust to other things. It means that we have to set aside the other things in our lives that we have a tendency to give our hearts to. It means we have to recognize that as fulfilling as our work is, God is the only thing who my heart ultimately longs for. It means that we have to accept that as good as our family is, God is better. It means that we have to recognize that as many good errands I have to run or things that I have to do, that the most important thing I can do is worship God. It means that we have to recognize that as important as rest and leisure are, that our hearts will be restless until they rest in Him alone. This is what the Psalmist is calling us to, to find all our good in God alone. God is worthy of all praise.
The nations: From enemies to friends: Now, who does God expect this kind of worship from? Well, he expects it from the “nations” and the “peoples.” Now, once again, we have to recognize that this Psalm is towards the end of the Psalter. And in teh book of Psalms, just like there is a movement from lament to praise, there is a movement in how the nations are spoken of. So in the beginning of the book of Psalms, the Psalms more often than not take this antagonistic view of God.
For example, we see in
But then, towards the end of the Psalms, we see statements like
You see in the Psalms, God invites those who are his enemies to become his friends. He invites those who are outside to come in. He invites those who are estranged to become his children. God wants all people to come into worship of him. God desires that those who worship their idols will set them aside, God desires that those who shake their fists at him to open their hearts, God desires those who run from him to run to him.
Who does this include: So who does this include? Does this include those in their 3 bedroom ranchstyle houses in Anderson, Indiana? Yes. Does this include those who live in tall high rises in Manhattan, New York? Yes. Does this include those who live in Western America? Yes. Does this include those who live in Eastern Iran? Yes. Does this include those who live in Hindu India? Yes. Does this include those who live in Islamic Pakistan? Yes. Does this include those who live in Zionist Israel? Yes. Does this include those who live in Militant Syria? Yes. Does this include those who the jungles who have never heard the gospel of CHrist? Yes. Does this include that person who has heard about God again and again and again? Yes. Does this include the person living in teh peace and prosperity of the West? Yes. Does this include those who live in the bombed out hollows of war-torn Africa? yes. The invitation to come in and find all our good in God alone goes out to God. God is worthy of all the praise of all people.
Now, on the face of this, doesn’t this seem arrogant? Doesn’t it seem arrogant to go up to a culture who for generations has worshipped another religion and say, “Worship our God.” Doesn’t it seem arrogant to go up to someone who doesn’t feel like giving this kind of worship to God and say, “You need to worship God”? What possible reason could God give for giving him our worship alone? Well he tells us in vs. 2.

Because of his faithful love in Christ

Great is his steadfast love: Now, look in vs. 2 right there, it says, “great is his steadfast love”. That word, “steadfast love” is perhaps the most important word in teh whole Bible. It is the Hebrew word, Hesed. And it is this really profound Hebrew word. It kind of means the fullness of love. It is this love that is kind, generous, steadfast, loyal, relational. Now, what’s interesting in teh Bible, is that it is this kind of love that is really relational and kind of binds two people together. In the Bible, God gives his Hesed before we ask for it. God’s Hesed is undeserved and it is purely an act of grace. God’s Hesed is his protective, loyal love for his people. It is the love of a good King for a people. God’s hesed gives life in death. It gives saftey in danger. IN the Bible, the only reason God does not totally destroy his people for their sin is because he has given them his Hesed. It is God’s Hesed that called Abraham out of the land of Ur. It is God’s Hesed that ransomed Israel from the land of Egypt. it is God’s Hesed that caused him to forgive David after chasing after Bathsheba. God’s Hesed, his loyal love for his people, is great. It rescues us from every danger.
Toward us: But, what is incredibly emphatic in this verse, is not that God’s love is great. God’s Hesed is great, but we wouldn’t expect it to be anything less. However, what is amazing is that God’s Hesed is toward us. In fact, in the Hebrew, you can tell this is really kind of the focus of this sentence. What is teh most amazing to the Psalmist is not that God has this love, but that God gives this love to us. I mean, aren’t we a totally undeserving people? How many times has he taken you back after you have turned to the right or the left? How many times has he called you home after you have run away? How many times has he called you his child after you have shaken your fist at him? You and I, are, as says, like sheep that have gone astray. We are like Jacob, deceiving our brothers. We are like David, sinning agianst the Lord. We are like Peter, rebuking Jesus for not being who we think he should be. Yet, God, in his great love toward sinners, receives us and does not reject us.
I was reminded about this story this week about DL Moody. DL Moody, the great American Revivalist was in England once. And he met a young Irish evnagelist named Henry Moorehouse. And he told Henry Moorehouse if he ever came to Chicago to look him up and he would let him preach at his churhc. Well, surely enough, later, Moorehouse was en route to Chicago and he sent Moody a message telling him he would be there. But Moody was out of town that weekend, so he told hte leaders of his church to let him preach. Well, Moody got back that Sunday night, and he asked his wife how this young Irish preacher had done. And his wife said, “Well, he’s better than you.” Which of course, no preacher wants to hear. And DL Moody shook his head. He said, Well what did he say. And she said, “He told us that God loves sinners.” Now, Moody had always thought that God did not love sinners, but that he hated them and wanted to kill them. He was a fire and brimstone preacher, who basically told people it was about to get real hot. So Moody said, “Well, that’s not true.” And his wife said, “Go listen to him yourself.” So Moody went to go listen to Moorehouse, and as he listened, his heart melted. For over a week and a half, Moorehouse was preaching on one verse in teh Bible, “For God so loved the world...” Now, DL Moody was not totally wrong, was he? I mean, God does have wrath for our sins. God is a holy God and, a Holy God hates sin. But yet, simultaneously God is a loving God. God not only hates sin, but he wants to rescue sinners. And as Moody heard Moorehouse preaching his heart melted like an ice cube in the sun. Great is his steadfast love for us indeed.
Faithfulness of the Lord: Now, there is none of us whose love has no limits, right? I mean, no human love has no breaking point. And because we know deep down that our love towards others will eventually run out, we expect God’s love to run out in the same way. So often, in our lives, we live our lives like we are expecting God’s love to run out. This is why you should be unbelievably thankful for the second line of vs. 2. It says the “faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” The Psalm says, why do you praise God? Praise him for his Hesed, but you should also praise him because his faithfulness endures forever.” His faithfulness has no end, no limits, no exhaustion. God never changes. says this… says… You see, God is not like us. He does not change. He does not run out. He cannot be exhausted. He endures forever. Which means that God’s love for us does not change. IT does nto run out. It does not exhaust. I love the line of that amazing hymn, Amazing Grace, “When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.” There will never ever be an end to God’s love for us, because he is faithful.
Endures forever
A God infinitely near, wholly other: You see, in this Psalm we see here a concise summary of who God is. God is, on the one hand, what we would call, “Transcendent.” God’s transcendence is his “otherness.” He is not like us. He is unearthly, unworldly, alien and foreign. We have limits, a beginning and an end, we are “finite.” But God has no limits, no beginning nor end, he is infinite. You nad I have some poewr, some ability, some potency, but God is allpowerful, nothing is impossible with him, he is omnipotent. We know somethings, God knows all things. We are in one place, God is in all places at once. God is transcendent, he is other. This is why God is faithful. You and I endure for awhile, he endures forever. But, simultaneously, at the same time, God is also “immanent.” God’s immanence is his closeness or his nearness. In other words, though God is different than us, he is never far from us. You could go up to the highest mountain, God would be there. Down to the deepest sea, God would be there. You could shrink to the level of bacteria and God would be there. Youc ould grow to the size of a planet, God would be there. You can shake your fist at God, he is still there. You can turn your heart to him, he is there. One way God shows his nearness to us is in his steadfast love for us. His Hesed is part of his nearness. He gives it to us when we don’t deserve it, when we don’t realize we need it, and when we long for it more than anyhting else we know. God gives us his steadfast love. God is, simultaneously, as the theologian Donald Bloesch said, Infinitely near and wholly other.
Israel after the golden calf: Because these two words give us such a glimpse into the nature of God, we see them show up together in Scripture 33 different times. Probably the best known time is in . Now, in Exodus, we see that Israel is enslaved in Egypt. So God sends his servant Moses, and through Moses, God brings 10 plagues on teh land of Egypt to loosen their grips. And Egypt is shocked into letting Israel go free. So Israel goes free, but a few days later, Egypt changes their minds. So they chase after Israel, and God brings Israel to the brink of the Red Sea, and Egypt is coming after them. So God opens up the Red Sea and brings Israel across safely on dry ground. Well, Egypt isn’t satisfied, so Egypt decides to follow them. ANd as Egypt is following Israel across, God lets the sea drop and it swallows Egypt whole. Now, God brings Israel to the edge of Mt. Sinai, and he pronounces over them 10 commandments. And then he brings Moses up on the Mountain so he can give Moses the written law. Now, Moses is up on the Mountain for 40 days and the people of Israel start to get a little fidgety. They’re a little freaked out. So they come to Aaron and they say, “Hey Aaron, where the heck is your brother Moses.” So Aaron takes all their jewelry and he makes for them a golden calf. ANd it says that Israel sat down and played. In other words, they whored after this golden calf and worshipped it rather than God. Well, God knows what is going on, and he tells Moses, and Moses goes down teh Moutnain and he sees what is happening and he throws the law down and breaks it in two. So after he calms down the people, God says, “get them away from the Holy Mountain.” So the camp moves a little bit away from Mt. Sinai, Then Moses goes back up on the Mountain to pray. ANd GOd says, “Moses, I’m going to kill them all and make you into a great nation.” And Moses pleads with God not to do that. And God says, “okay, but go up and take the promised land.” And Moses pleads with God that God would would be with Israel as they went up to take the Mountain. SO Moses has gotten everything he wants so far, and Moses prays to God and says “God, let me see your face.” And God says, “Moses, that is the one thing that i cannot agree to. But here’s what I will do. I will hide you in the cleft of the rock, and I will cause my glory to pass before you. And at the right time, I’ll let you come out of the ave to see the back of my glory. So Moses hides in the rock, and at the right time, God lets Moses comes out, and God proclaims his name before him, … you see, when says to praise him because great is his steadfast love towards us and to praise him because his love endures forever, what they are trying to tell us is we should praise him because he is the kind of God who shows forgiveness for the people who wuold do such a great sin.
Jesus Christ: And as amazing as this is, how much more do we see God’s steadfast love in Christ. After all, did not Christ come and give himself for us out of his great love for us? If God did not love you, he never would have borne your sins on the cross. If God did not love you he never would have died in your place. If God did not love you, he would not have paid your debts with the blood of his Son. If God not love you he never would have punished his son to show you mercy. If God did not love you, he never woruld have forsaken his own son so that he might adopt you. Yet, if God was not faithful, he never could have shown his love for you. If God was not faihtufl, he could not have endured the pain of the cross. If Christ was not faithful, he never would have lived an obedient life. It is by this faithful love of God in Christ that we are saved. Why in the world do we believe that God is worthy of all the praise of the world? It is because of God’s faithful love in the cross. IN the cross God’s love is faithful. And in teh cross God’s faithfulness is loving. In the cross, God has provided for us in a way we could not fathom or imagine.
Hallelujah Psalm: It is therefore fitting that this Psalm ends wiht the sentence, “Praise the Lord.” And in fact, this sentence is where we get the word, “Hallelujah.” Hallelujah means to praise the Lord. Praise the Lord for his faithful love in CHrist. Praise the Lord for his loving faithfulness in his Son. PRaise the lord because he forgives sinners, praise teh Lord that he endures sinners. All people everywhere, give all your praise to God alone for he alone is worthy of all the praise we can muster.
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