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I’ve been asked to speak this morning on the subject of praise. What I have to say will not be altogether new but as I reworked through the message last night, it was born in upon me personally how essential it is to keep praising the Lord. And God spoke to me about the necessity of maintaining a life of praise. I was going through some deep inner conflicts myself at the time and I was asking God to show me the way out and the resolutions. I really believe it came when I began to study this theme of praise once more.
There are three concepts we find in scripture that are somewhat closely related and yet they’re distinct. That’s worship, praise and thanksgiving. You’ll find all those words occur very frequently in the Bible. They’re related and yet they’re distinct. I would like to begin by just giving you a few key thoughts to distinguish these three concepts. All the words in scripture for worship describe primarily an attitude of the body. Every single word, whether it be Hebrew of the Old Testament or Greek of the New, they describe a physical attitude. I think we need to understand that worship is primarily an attitude. The three main attitudes that are spoken of in scripture are bowing the head, bowing the entire upper part of the body and then prostrating yourself on your face on the ground. Those are the three primary pictures of worship. When Moses returned from his absence of forty years in the wilderness and brought to the elders of Israel that God was about to deliver them from Egypt it says they bowed their heads. That was an attitude and an act of worship. They just bowed their heads in the presence of God. And so I believe that we need to think about worship always in terms of an attitude. Not merely a physical attitude but also a spiritual attitude. I often say to God when I’m alone, “Lord, I bow in my spirit before you.”
Praise is an utterance. Everything in the scripture shows that praise must come out of the mouth. People sometimes talk about praising God in their hearts. I won’t say anything against that but that’s not the kind of praise the Bible talks about. The Bible is very insistent and emphatic that praise must come out of the mouth. Praise is an utterance. Essentially we praise God for who he is.
Then thanksgiving, I believe, comes when we thank God for what he has done. I think there’s a simple distinction there. We praise God for who he is. We thank God for what he has done. Now that’s not a hard and fast distinction, it’s just a way of looking at the different aspects of a total relationship.
And then I think you can say that in worship and praise and thanksgiving we relate respectively to three different attributes of God’s eternal nature. In worship we relate to God’s holiness. In praise we relate to God’s greatness. In thanksgiving we relate to God’s goodness.
Now I’d like to turn to Isaiah 6 and look at a picture of worship and praise in heaven. This is the uncorrupted eternal pattern. It describes a vision that Isaiah had and in this vision he saw the Lord high and lifted up. It says his train filled the temple. And then he saw the seraphims. The Hebrew word is seraphbut the plural comes from adding im, seraphim. So seraphimis a plural word. You can say seraphor you can say seraphim. The word seraphis directly related to a primary Hebrew verb which means to burn or to blaze. So the seraphimare the burning, blazing, fiery creatures that immediately surround the throne of God. And this is how they worship and how they praise. I think it’s very instructive. Beginning in verse 2:
“Above it [that’s above the throne] stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, with two he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.”
First we have the picture of worship, the attitude. Two wings covering the bowed face in the presence of Almighty God. Two wings covering the feet and the remaining two wings used to fly with. Flying we could describe as service. The covering of the face and the feet as worship. And notice the order and the proportions. Worship comes before service and it’s twice as important as service. There are four wings for worship, two wings to fly with.
I think that lines up with the answer that Jesus gave to Satan in the wilderness when he was tempted in Matthew 4:10. Satan wanted to make a bargain with Jesus. He showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory in a moment of time and he said, “Now, all this is under my control. All you have to do is fall down and worship me and I’ll hand it all over to you.” And notice again it’s an attitude that he demanded of Jesus. To fall down before him.
I want to say we ought to be fearfully careful about any kind of attitude that represents worship in any way that’s directed to anyone but God. Sometimes the attitude of some people who follow pop singers and rock singers almost transfers to a human being something that belongs uniquely and solely to God. And it’s terribly dangerous because the thing you worship takes control of you. Whatever you worship controls you. The more you worship the true God, the more he controls you. But if you divert that worship in any other direction, the thing you begin to worship will take control of you.
But Jesus refused that bargain. He quoted Deuteronomy and said, “It is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve.” But notice again the order. Before you serve you worship. And I believe a great difference would come in our experience—all of us, myself included—we would never offer God service without offering him worship first. I think our service would be different. We’d do things better. Some things we wouldn’t do if we began by worshipping God.
Now with that introduction relating to worship, praise and thanksgiving, I want to spend the rest of the time this morning on the theme of praise. One key verse, for me at any rate, is Psalm 48:1.
“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.”
Great is the Lord and for that reason he is to be praised. Praise relates us to God’s greatness. And he’s to be praised in proportion to his greatness. Because he’s great, he’s to be greatly praised. And so I would say that praise is the appropriate response to God’s greatness. The Bible is full of exhortations to praise the Lord. I’ve never tried to count them but I imagine there must be several hundred. You might say why is God always demanding praise? Really, God isn’t demanding praise, he’s giving the privilege of praising him because praise is the only appropriate response to his greatness. He’s allowing us to make the correct and appropriate response which is evoked by his greatness.
I want to just give you a number of scriptural facts about praise. Probably about eight or ten. I won’t dwell on any of these, one could dwell on any of them and make a complete message out of them but I want to give you a general overview of the whole theme of praise this morning. I won’t dwell on any particular section at length. Turn to Psalm 22:3. The first thing I want to say is praise is God’s address. It’s where he lives. If you want to be where God lives, you’re going to have to offer him praise. It’s a very beautiful scripture which says:
“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.”
Thou who lives in the praises of Israel. The Hebrew word for to live in a place is the same word for to sit. We won’t go into all the reasons for this but to sit somewhere is to live somewhere. A settlement, a living place is a place of sitting. It’s used in modern Hebrew. I think we get the full idea if we also include the thought of sitting. God sits upon the praises of his people. And in the Swedish Bible they’ve got this beautiful translation: Thou art holy, thou who art enthroned on the praises of Israel. So praise is God’s throne. He’s a king anyhow. We don’t make him a king. But when we praise him we offer him his throne. We make him welcome. We recognize his kingship. Praise is God’s dwelling place and his throne.
Then again, praise is the way into God’s presence. Psalm 100:4–5:
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and is truth endureth to all generations.”
We notice there praise and thanksgiving are put very close together. And the way into God’s gates and into his courts is with praise and thanksgiving.
Then the scripture gives us three reasons why we ought to praise God in verse 5. The Lord is good, his mercy is everlasting, his truth endureth to all generations. I want you to see that all those reasons are always true. They never cease to be true. So there is never a situation in which is it not appropriate to praise God for those three reasons. It doesn’t depend on our visible situation or circumstances. It doesn’t depend on our feelings. It’s based on the eternal unchangeable fact that God is good, his mercy is everlasting, his truth endures to all generations. That’s true no matter what happens anywhere on the earth.
But if you want to get into God’s presence that’s the gate. And there is no other. If you’re not willing to praise God you can pray, you can cry out in your misery like the lepers who saw Jesus afar off and said, “Be merciful unto us” and he’ll hear your cry but you’ll have no access. Access is only through praise.
In Isaiah 60:18. We have this beautiful description of the place of God’s dwelling and his people’s dwelling.
“Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise.”
So God lives in a city surrounded by a wall that’s called Salvation. And the scripture is very clear and emphatic in many places that the only way through that wall is by the gates. It says no one will ever come any other way but by the gates. And every gate is what? Praise. In other words, no praise, no access to God’s presence and the place where his people dwell.
Then again, praise is the purpose for God’s blessing us. It’s what God gets back out of what he does for us. I’ll give you just two scriptures. Psalm 106:47. Here’s an inspired prayer:
“Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise.”
Notice again thanksgiving and praise closely joined together? Why does God save us and bring us together as his people in fellowship with himself and one another? What does God want as a response from us? It says to give thanks unto his name and to triumph in his praise. That’s the King James Translation. I think it brings out something the other translations leave out. We triumph in praising God. There’s a difference between a victory and a triumph. The victory is the winning of the battle, the triumph is the celebrating of the victory that’s already been won.
In 2Corinthians 2:14 Paul says:
“Now thanks be unto God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ...”
God wants us not merely to have the victory, he wants us to celebrate it. He wants us to share the triumph. How do we share the triumph? In what way? In his praise. The triumph was the highest honor that the Roman Senate could vote for a victorious general over the Roman army. The essence of the triumph was this: He would be placed in a chariot led by a white horse. And then behind his chariot would be led all the evidences of his conquests. The kings and the generals would be taken all in chains and long rows of prisoners of war. And then if there were animals in those territories that the Romans were not familiar with they’d have the wild animals behind too like a tiger or something like that. There was the general in his chariot and all the evidences of his victories visibly stretched out behind him and all the people of Rome lining the streets as he passed through and applauding him. That’s a triumph. Some Christians have got the impression that we are led behind the chariot with the enemy. I don’t believe that. I don’t think that’s a correct understanding of God’s attitude towards his people. The Bible says we triumph in Christ. We’re not in the train behind, we’re not on the sidewalk. Where are we? In the chariot. How do we get there? Praise. We triumph in his praise. God gathers us together as he’s gathered us here this morning, that we may triumph in his praise. Sometimes it pays to stop praying and start praising. Because then you step up off the level of the sidewalk into the chariot. And you know the victory has been won.
One other scripture on this theme. Psalm 30:11–12. David had been through a long dark period in his life. I don’t know that we understand all that he had gone through but I’m sure there are many of us here that could look back over things that are similar in our lives. In fact, the Lord made this a very vivid personal message to me when I lost my wife. It actually was fulfilled in my experience.
“Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that [notice this is the purpose] my glory may sing praise unto thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever.”
Notice again praise and thanksgiving in the same verse. Notice the purpose for which God does these things. That our glory may give thanks unto him and not be silent. Now what is our glory? The Bible leaves us without any doubt. If we compare two passages, one from the Old and one from the New Testament. Psalm 16:9, David is speaking again and he says:
“Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth...”
But this psalm is quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:26. This is how Peter quotes it. I want you to see that scripture, as so often, comments on scripture. Peter is quoting Psalm 16, applying it to Jesus Christ and this is what he says:
“Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad...”
David said, “my heart is glad, my glory rejoices”. Peter said, “my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced”. What does that tell us? My glory is what? My tongue. When the Bible says my glory will give thanks unto thee it means my tongue will give thee thanks. That’s why David says and not be silent. What is the organ of the body that either speaks or is silent? The tongue. So you see, your tongue is your glory. You know why? Why did God give you a tongue? What was the primary purpose for which you received a tongue? To do what? To praise God. Your tongue is your glory because above all the other members of your body it’s the one with which you may most perfectly praise and glorify God. Remember, God blesses you, he delivers you, he takes away your mourning and your sadness to the end that your glory may give praise to him and not be silent. It’s very specific.
Then again we’ll look at another aspect of praise. Praise is a garment of the Spirit. It’s part of our spiritual clothing. Isaiah 61:3 speaks about the coming of the Messiah and what he came to do. It says, without going into the background:
“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto the beauty for ashes, [ashes being the emblem of mourning] the oil of joy for mourning, [oil being always an emblem of the Holy Spirit] the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness...”
The garment of praise in place of the spirit of heaviness. The spirit of heaviness in modern English is depression. Many of you have heard me testify as how I struggled for years as a preacher with the problem of depression. One day God gave me those words, the garment of praise in place of the spirit of heaviness. He showed me that my problem was a spirit, an evil spirit, the spirit of heaviness. He showed me how to be delivered from it and I was delivered. And then he showed me how to keep free, to put on the garment of praise. When you wear the garment of praise, the spirit of heaviness finds someone else to bother because you bother him more than he bothers you.
I remember in London when I was pastoring there, there were two Russian Jewish sisters who had been gloriously saved from atheism behind the borders of Russia during World War II. They had escaped miraculously, made their way to Israel, met us there and later followed us to London. Though they were theoretically Baptists, they’d been baptized in the Holy Spirit and they were more vociferous in praising God than most Pentecostals in Britain at that time. So these two sisters and my wife and I were together in our home just worshipping and praising God and praying. And a sister in the congregation turned up unexpectedly at the door with a man whom she was leading by the hand. She said, “This is my husband, he’s just come out of prison and he needs deliverance. He’s got an evil spirit.” In those days I didn’t know anything about deliverance and I didn’t want to know anything. I was embarrassed. I wished she had taken him somewhere else. But since I was the pastor I really couldn’t turn it down so I didn’t know what to do so I said, “Well, we’ll praise the Lord.” And we all gathered around and began to praise the Lord. These Russian sisters just didn’t mind if anybody heard them! After awhile this man whom I had never met before sided up to me and said, “I think I’m going. There’s too much noise.” I wasn’t ready with an answer but I gave him one I’m sure the Lord gave me. I said, “Listen, it’s the devil that doesn’t like the noise because we’re praising Jesus and he can’t bear that. You’ve got two options. If you go now the devil will go with you. But if you stay the devil will go without you.” So he said, “I’ll stay.” And sure enough, a little while later he came up to me as we were praising the Lord and said, “It’s left, I just felt it fall from my throat.” That’s always made it so vivid to me that you really embarrass the devil when you praise Jesus. If you praise Jesus long enough, the devil cannot stand it, he’ll have to go.
Just one other scripture on this garment of praise. How many of you ladies like to look in the mirror? I could say how many of you men like to look in the mirror? Probably a larger proportion! In Psalm 33:1 it says:
“Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright.”
Comely means beautiful. So when you put on that garment of praise, in the spirit you’re looking your best. It suits you. It adorns you. Don’t forget that.
Then again, praise is a way of deliverance. Psalm 50:23. The King James Version reads like this:
“Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me [God is speaking]: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God.”
I believe it would be legitimate to retranslate that this way: “Whoso offers praise glorifies me and prepares a way that I may show him my salvation.” I believe that through praising God we open the way for him to demonstrate his salvation, to intervene supernaturally on our behalf.
There are many examples of that in scripture. The intervention of God that is brought about by praising. Turn to 2Chronicles 20 for a moment. Verses 21–22. This describes the situation in the history of Judah when a strong alien army was invading them and King Jehoshaphat realized that he did not have the military resources to meet this army. So he resorted to spiritual weapons instead. And after various things had happened before they marched out to the battle in accordance with God’s instructions, this is what they did:
“And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever.”
Many people have pointed out that’s a strange battle strategy. Instead of sending out the tanks first they sent out the choir to praise God. It sounds crazy but they had one advantage—it worked. What happened when they began to praise the Lord? It says in verse 22:
“And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.”
The alternative translation is “they began to smite one another.” So when God’s people praised the Lord, God intervened and dealt with their enemies. You read the rest of the story, they didn’t have to use a single material weapon. All they had to do was go out and strip the bodies of the spoil. And there was so much spoil it took them three days to gather it. What opened the way for God’s supernatural intervention? When his people praised the Lord.
Then turn to the story of Jonah in Jonah 2. We are all familiar with the story about how Jonah disobeyed God. If you read the story carefully you’ll see that from the moment he disobeyed God every step he took was a step downwards. It’s interesting. He lived in the mountains. He went down to the seacoast. He went down from the coast into the harbor. He went down from the harbor into the ship. From the ship into the sea and from the sea into the fish. And let that be a warning. When you turn your back on God, every step you take from then onwards will be a step downwards.
And there he was in the fish. Now I believe this story. And if you read the second chapter, it’s his prayer. I would say that would motivate you to pray pretty fervently, being inside a fish! Charles Simpson says, “How many of you pray better when you’re in trouble?” And people always put their hands up because they don’t know what’s coming next and Charles says that’s why you’re in trouble! He prayed for about seven verses and we’re still inside the fish. But in verse 9 he changed from praying to giving thanks. He says:
“But I will sacrifice unto thee with a voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed.”
And the next verse says the Lord spoke to the fish. What brought about God’s intervention? Not praying but thanking.
Then in the New Testament in Acts 16 Paul and Silas are in the jail, it’s midnight, they’ve been beaten; their backs are covered with blood. They’re wounded, they’re in the inner prison; the maximum security jail. Their feet are in the stocks and what crazy thing will they do next? They start to pray and to praise God. It says in Acts 16:25:
“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”
The Greek means more than that. It’s prisoners listened attentively, they never had anybody in their prison that acted that way before.
“Suddenly there was a great earthquake...all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.”
What provoked the earthquake? Praise. When they praised, God intervened supernaturally. This is a consistent principle of scripture. If you want the supernatural intervention of God on your behalf in a difficult or impossible situation, the key that will release it is your praise. And usually, it’s at a time when you would least feel like praising God in the natural.
Going on and not dwelling too long on anything, praise is a weapon of spiritual warfare. I’ve preached on this so often I could do it in my sleep. Psalm 8:2. David is speaking to the Lord and says:
“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.”
The enemy and the avenger is Satan. To still means to silence or to shut up. Why do we need to shut Satan up? What’s he doing to us all the time? He’s accusing us before the throne of God. Day and night, he never takes time off. He doesn’t work a five day week. It’s every day and every night of the week. He’s accusing us. Why is he accusing us? What does he want to do? What result does he want to produce by accusing us? He wants to make us feel what? One word. Guilty. That’s the key. The whole issue is centered around whether you believe you’re righteous or you feel guilty. As long as you feel guilty you are no match for the devil. And so he accuses us. How can we silence him? God has given us something that comes out of the mouth of babes and sucklings. Notice it’s out of the mouth. The psalmist David says that God has ordained strength. Well that doesn’t tell us exactly what it is. But Jesus quoted this scripture in Matthew 21:16. So often scripture coming from scripture. I don’t know that I spend much time with commentaries and to tell you the truth, I spend precious little. If you added it up in the course of one year I doubt if it would amount to five minutes. That’s not a boast, it’s just a fact. I find that the Bible is the best commentary on the Bible.
The children were running about in the temple saying “Hosanna to the Son of David.” The temple rulers and the scribes and others came and said, “Silence them, don’t let them go on doing this.” Jesus answered them in the middle of verse 16, “Yea, have ye never read—and he’s quoting Psalm 8—out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise.” David said thou hast ordained strength. Jesus, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, changed it to thou hast perfected praise. What does that tell us? It tells us that the ordained strength of God’s people is praise. And when we offer God perfect praise, in the unseen realm that our natural eyes cannot penetrate, we do something to Satan. What do we do? We silence him. We shut him up, we take from him his great weapon of accusation. Isn’t that wonderful? No wonder the devil doesn’t want you to praise God. He knows what’s going to happen to him if you do. No wonder praise is a struggle. No wonder there’s a kind of sound barrier that you find it hard to break through. Because when you break through, you’re beginning to deal with the real sources of the problems in the heavenlies.
Look also for a moment in Psalm 149:5 and following.
“Let the saints be joyful in glory...”
My observation is that the saints are always joyful in glory. When the glory comes, it makes the saints joyful.
“...let them sing aloud upon their beds.”
There isn’t any place that the Bible says you’re not to praise God. It doesn’t actually mention the bathroom but I’m sure it’s included. It does mention the bedroom.
“Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, [notice the mouth] and a two-edged sword in their hand.”
What’s the sword? The Word of God. What’s going to happen when we have the high praises of God in our mouth and a sword in our hand, the sword of scripture?
“To execute vengeance upon the nations, punishments upon the people; to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron...”
That’s not talking about human rulers of flesh and blood. You don’t bind them with chains of praise. That’s talking about the unseen Satanic forces in the heavenlies and when we offer God perfect praise and direct it into the heavenlies we bind the Satanic forces that oppress the human race. Then comes deliverance.
The next thing I need to say about praise is that it is a sacrifice. It’s important to see that. What is a sacrifice? It’s something that costs you something. Remember David said to the Lord, “I’ll never offer you anything that doesn’t cost me anything.” Would to God that we’d all make the same decision. If it costs nothing it’s not a sacrifice. There’s a beautiful scripture in the King James, it’s better in the King James than in any other version. Jeremiah 33:11. This is what’s going to happen after Israel are restored. In place of desolation and mourning and misery they’re going to have this:
“The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts: for the Lord is good; for his mercy endureth forever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.”
I like that translation because I believe it brings out the real meaning. The sacrifice that God wants us to bring into his house to approach him with is praise. And this is very clearly stated in Hebrews 13:15–16.
“By him therefore [by him is Jesus Christ] let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, [notice, praise is a sacrifice] that is, the fruit of our lips [notice where it comes from—our lips] giving thanks to his name [again, praise and thanksgiving closely related]. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
Scripture speaks of three sacrifices that please God. To give him praise, to do good and to communicate; to share with others what God has blessed us with. It says those three sacrifices please God. To share with others, to do good and to offer God praise. Bear in mind they’re all sacrifices. If you give out of your abundance, it’s good but it’s not a sacrifice. If you praise God when you feel happy and everything is going well it’s good but it’s not a sacrifice. But when everything is going wrong and you praise God, that’s a sacrifice. And it says with that kind of sacrifice God is well pleased. The time we most need to praise God is the time we least feel like doing it. And believe me, that will mature you. It will make a grown-up Christian out of you. When you deny your feelings and your emotions and your impulses and what your senses tell you and say I’m going to praise God for three reasons: he’s good, his mercy endureth forever, his truth to all generations. None of those reasons ever changes. Now is the time to praise the Lord. I tell you, it works. I did it last night and I feel a lot better this morning.
But bear in mind, don’t let your natural mind dictate to you. Don’t say I’ve got nothing to praise God for now, everything is going wrong. What we all have to do, and it came out beautifully in what one of the young men said, something in us has to be crucified. The old nature that lives by the senses that goes by what it sees and feels, that has to die. And believe me, it doesn’t die willingly. It has to be put to death. And one of the best ways to do it is to praise God when you don’t feel like it. And go on praising him till you do feel like it. And you will if you praise him long enough. You won’t be doing it merely in faith any longer. You’ll be doing it because you want to.
Now then we just come to a few closing questions. When should we praise God. I’ll give you two answers. Psalm 145:2. When should we praise God?
“Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.”
That doesn’t leave out much, does it? Every day and for ever and ever.
And then in Psalm 34:1. Now Psalm 34 is one of the psalms that’s got a little explanation at the beginning telling us when it was written—and it’s important. It says a psalm of David when he changed his behavior Abimelech; who drove him away and he departed. Now I won’t go into the background, but David had had to flee from his native land, his God given inheritance, and from King Saul who was trying to murder him. And he had to take refuge in the court of a Gentile king named Abimelech. And because Abimelech was a natural enemy of Israel and David was their main warrior, his life was in tremendous danger. And so in order to protect himself he had to pretend to be mad. And it says he slobbered on his beard and scraped on the doors with his nails like a madman. And the king said, “What have you brought this fellow to me? Do I need any more madmen? I’ve got enough with you fellows around!” That’s the real meaning of this statement. So there was David. In order to save his life running away from King Saul, his cruel enemy and persecutor, taking refuge in the court of a Gentile king. More than all that, he had to act mad in order to protect himself. What was his reaction? Now, when you get that background, read the first verse:
“I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
That’s what makes a man of God. When you’re down and everything is against you and you can see no natural reason, you say I’ll bless the Lord at all times: my mouth will never be empty with his praise.
How to praise God. Let’s turn to Psalm 111. These are just glimpses, they’re not in-depth studies. Psalm 111:1, the psalmist says:
“...I will praise the Lord with my whole heart...”
You know, I think it’s grievous to praise God in a half-hearted way. I see people in praise services sometimes they’re just mouthing a few words and they’re droopy and they’re just wondering when we’re going to hear the preacher. I think it would be better if we didn’t praise God at all rather than praising him like that. I’ve been guilty of it myself but it really is insulting his majesty. If we can’t praise him with a whole heart, let’s not do it. But he’s worthy to be praised with our whole heart. Put everything you’ve got into praising God. That’s one thing about the Jewish people, I’ve studied them and thought about them. When they really want to do something, they do it totally. They just let go. You see Orthodox Jews, they could care less what anybody says, they’re going to praise God. And they do it with a veil over their face. How much more should we? God likes uninhibited praise. In fact, God likes uninhibited people.
Then Psalm 47:7 says:
“For God is the king of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.”
That’s the King James Version. The Hebrew word is the very word that we heard, ?maskeel?. And it means something to make you wise. Something that requires skill and cleverness. So the King James Version is legitimate. Sing praises with understanding but it’s more than that. Sing praises with skill. Again, how often do we offer to the Lord kind of half-hearted music? We don’t practice, we just sit down and begin to strum or to play. God says I want you to praise me with skill. If you have musical ability and God knows I don’t, but if I did, I’d use it! You people that have musical ability, you ought to appreciate what it is. I can’t carry a tune, I can’t play an instrument. Sometimes I’m almost crazy with jealousy. I’m like the prophet Elisha. When he wanted to get in the Spirit he had to send for a minstrel to come play for him. If you have musical ability, you owe it to God to do your best.
Psalm 63—we’re still answering the question how to praise God. Verses 4–5:
“Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.”
I will lift up my hands. Why not put them all the way up? Has anybody died? Why should the flag be at half mast! If you’re going to do it, do it. For some of you there’s still a little religious demon perching on your shoulder saying, “Well, what will the person behind you think.” What will God think? That’s more important. God says do it with your hands lifted up.
Let me say with regards to thanksgiving—I didn’t mention that but it’s appropriate to do it here. The Hebrew word for thanks, ?Tudah?, directly related to the Hebrew word for the hand which is ?Yad?. In other words, even giving thanks is an action of the hand. It’s doing that, thank you.
We haven’t finished Psalm 63. Verse 5:
“My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips...”
Notice it’s the mouth and the lips. It’s got to come out. You’ve got to make a noise. So it’s the hands, the mouth, the lips. Your body is involved in praising God.
Psalm 141:2. A beautiful prayer of David.
“Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense.”
Let it rise up like that beautiful fragrant smoke that goes up from the incense altar.
“And the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
How many of you offer God an evening sacrifice before you go to bed and lift up your hands in his name? You’d sleep better I believe. It’s an evening sacrifice.
And then just two other scriptures. Psalm 149 and 150. Psalm 149:3:
“Let them praise his name in the dance. [and Psalm 150:4] Praise him with the timbrel and dance.”
It is scriptural to praise God in dancing. Now there’s different kinds of dancing. I’ve tried more than one kind. I’m reminded of the man who was very worldly and haunted bars and nightclubs and got gloriously saved. This is his testimony. He said, “When I got saved I didn’t stop drinking, I just changed the brand. I didn’t stop dancing, I just changed the floor.” Really that’s my testimony too. I used to be out five nights a week dancing. Some of you find that hard to believe. That was so long ago, as I said to the people in Germany and my translator found it hard to translate, you were just a blush on your mother’s cheek at that time. Well, for awhile I stopped dancing. I thought I was going to be religious and respectable and do what other people did in church. But after a while I discovered that dancing is a very important way to praise the Lord. As a matter of fact, what really liberated me was this: I was in Chicago in a church that Ern and I referred to last night and our brother Harry Greenwood was there from England. Those of you that know Harry, he’s lively. So he was leading the singing and I was on the platform as one of the elders and I felt I wanted to praise the Lord. Furthermore, I felt as if I wanted to dance. And so I thought what would those people think. I thought to myself, so what whatever they think. So I started to dance. And when I got started, it got better and better the longer it went on. so it was a very warm place and after a while I took my jacket off and went on dancing. And then I could see my wife looking at me with that kind of look from the front which says there’s something wrong and I looked down and my shirt was coming out. But I still went on dancing. And I danced so long that somebody had an opportunity to leave the church, go back to their apartment, get a camera, come back and take a photograph of me. You say well what did that do for you? Probably many things, but one thing is it set me free finally from the fear of people. I made up my mind if God wanted me to do something, I’d do it regardless of what anybody thought.
Now that doesn’t mean we act in an unseemly way and we always got to bear in mind the weak brother or the unbeliever. Paul says, “I could do a lot of things but I don’t because the love of Christ constrains me. When I’m beside myself, it’s to God, but when I’m sober it’s for your sake.” So I’m not saying turn lose everywhere and act in an unseemly way but I saw when God, the Holy Spirit, prompts you, you obey him. You’ll enter into a new level of worship and joy that you never knew.
I was in a meeting of the Tennessee Georgia camp. Many of you know those camps. Maybe about six years ago I was on the platform alone at the end of my message. It’s a big, big stage. And I felt God wanted me to dance and I started dancing right around that platform. I just say this to the glory of God, that liberated the entire congregation. It set everybody in that building free. But if I’d never done it they’d never have been liberated. Lots of people have said to me if you can do it anybody can! That’s true. So why not you.
Now two more questions. Who should praise God? I’ll give you two lists. First of all in Psalm 148:2 and following.
“Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens [that’s in the heavenly level. Verse 7, we come down to the earthly level:] Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps...”
I’m glad to be associated with the dragons in praising the Lord. I think it probably says sea monsters in the modern translations. Then verse 8:
“Fire and hail, snow and vapor [mist], stormy wind...”
All of them to praise the Lord.
“Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars; beasts [wild beasts] and all cattle; creeping things, flying birds. Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth. Both young men and maidens; old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord.”
I made a little list. Without putting in any intervening words, these are the people that are said should praise the Lord. People and preachers. Angels, hosts, sun and moon, stars, heaven of heavens, waters above the heavens. Then coming down to the earth: dragons, all deep places, fire, hail, snow, wind, mist, mountains, hills, fruit trees, cedars, wild beasts, cattle, creeping things, birds, kings, peoples, princes, judges, young men, maidens, old men and children. I’m sure that must include you somewhere. There are twenty-nine different creatures that are exhorted to praise God. And then if there’s anybody left out you look in Psalm 150, the last verse of the book of Psalms:
“Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.”
What was your breath given to you first and foremost? What was it to do? To praise God with. Therefore you’re misusing your God given breath if you don’t praise him with it.
And then just one final but important question. Is there anybody who doesn’t praise the Lord? And the answer is yes. And you find it in Psalm 115:17.
“The dead praise not the Lord.”
That’s the only group of people. So if you don’t praise the Lord, you know your problem! You died and didn’t realize it. If you want to come alive, what are you going to have to do? Praise the Lord.
Let’s take time to do that now.
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