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We are dealing with the spiritual weapons which God has made available to us for the spiritual conflict which confronts each one of us as believers in Jesus Christ. Paul says our warfare is not in the flesh and our weapons are not of the flesh, but we have spiritual weapons which are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. And I am trying to deal in a practical, systematic way with the main spiritual weapons which are made available to us as believers in Jesus Christ.
We have, in previous studies, dealt with the weapons stated in Revelation 12:11: the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. We have dealt with the Word of God as the sword of the Spirit. We have dealt with the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom as a means to bring this age to a close. And in the previous study we dealt with the weapon of personal testimony. The weapon that I want to deal with in this study is the weapon of praise. This is one of the most glorious and tremendous themes of the whole of Scripture. The book of Psalms, which is much the longest book in the Bible, in Hebrew is called ?tehelim? which means “praise.” So the title of the longest book in the Bible is actually Praise. I want to deal with praise in general and then specifically with praise as a spiritual weapon.
Let’s begin with certain general facts about praise, and I’ll be following the outline which you have.
First of all, praise is the place of God’s residence. It’s where He lives. Psalm 22:3 says this:
“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” (KJV)
So the place that God inhabits is the praises of His people. He is a holy God and He cannot dwell in an unholy place or an unholy atmosphere. But praise sanctifies the atmosphere and makes it possible for God to dwell there. I heard a brother in the Lord, some of you may have heard him last Sunday night, said “This is the real solution to the pollution problem. If all the Christians everywhere would praise the Lord, the atmosphere would be purified.” And really, I believe that to the point of a literal application of it. As he said, “Pollution is really a physical manifestation of a spiritual problem.” And I think there’s a certain truth in that. It’s much more practical than most of us would be prepared to realize. At any rate, as far as you and I are concerned as believers, when we fill the atmosphere around us with praise, it makes it possible for God to dwell in that atmosphere where we are. It brings the presence of God right down to the place where we are.
The word that’s translated inhabit in the King James Version means literally “to sit.” But it is frequently used of sitting in the sense of residing in a place. So that to translate it “inhabit” is not wrong, but the meaning “sit” gives an alternative translation which I believe is extremely illuminating and it actually is given in the margin of my King James Bible. Here the alternative reading is “Thou art holy, O thou that art enthroned upon the praises of Israel.” “To sit,” in the sense of sitting upon a throne. And
?Spen Bjork? the singer whom some of you have doubtless heard, who is Swedish by background, because in the Swedish version it is translated “to sit upon the throne,” pointed this out to me once. And I have never forgotten it. He said, “God is always a king; His kingship does not change. But when we praise Him we offer Him the throne upon which we want Him to sit.” So when you praise the Lord you’re giving the king His throne to sit upon in your presence. Praise is the throne that Almighty God sits upon in the midst of His people. If you do not praise Him, you’re withholding the throne from the king.
The second fact about praise is that it is the way into God’s presence. And there is no other way. Many Christians pray but they pray afar off. They never have a sense of real direct access to God even though their doctrine and experience may be correct and scriptural. I’ve had this experience in the North African desert. Newly saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit, less than a year old in the Lord, in the desert of North Africa I used to have fellowship from time to time with one other British soldier who also was saved and baptized in the Spirit. We would pray together. And for a certain period of a few weeks we had this impression that we were so far away from God even though we were earnestly seeking to please Him, do His will, and witnessing to Him, we never felt that we had real access to God. So with the little light I had at that time I suggested to him that we should each take a day of fasting, fast together the same day and seek God for the reason why we did not apparently have access to His presence. And when we came together in the evening, God spoke through a tongue and interpretation and said, “Why have ye not praised Me?” And I began to understand then that praise is the only avenue of access to God. You’ll see this is stated in Psalm 100:4:
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” (KJV)
The way into the courts and into the gates of the presence of Almighty God is praise and thanksgiving. There is no other way of access.
In Isaiah 60:18 this is even more clearly stated. Speaking about the city of God, the prophet says:
“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.” (KJV)
I’m sure that Luther had this verse in mind when he wrote that famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” And he grasped the fact that God is surrounded in this city by a wall that’s called Salvation. But what God showed me is, “What about the gate?” The gates are called Praise. All the gates have got the same title. It’s Praise. And in Revelation, right at the end of the Bible, it says there is no way into that city except by the gates. So if you want to get into the city of God’s dwelling, and you want to get in through that wall of Salvation, you have to go by the gate. And every gate is called Praise. There is no other way of access in to the direct access of God but the way of praise. If you do not come by praise, you do not have access. You’re still outside the wall. I’m sure many, many Christians have this problem. They pray sincerely, but their prayers are just a series of requests or complaints or problems. And that’s not the way to get to God. Don’t begin with petitions, don’t begin with supplications, begin with praise. And then you get into His presence. Actually, in most cases, it won’t take you very long to tell God what you want Him to do for you. But what’s important is to get to that relationship with God where you know He’s going to do it. And the way to get into that relationship is the praise way. Come to Him by praise and you have direct access into His presence.
The third fact about praise is that it is the purpose of God’s blessing us. God blesses us in order that we, in return, may praise Him. This is clearly stated in Psalm 30:11–12. David has been in a period of deep depression with many problems bearing upon him. And then he gets through to God and he comes out with this triumphal utterance:
“Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou has put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness ...” (KJV)
This is the revolution that God has performed in David’s situation in life and spiritual experience.
Now verse 12 states the reason why God did it.
“To the end that my glory my sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.” (KJV)
For what purpose did God intervene on David’s behalf, change his situation, answer his prayers and meet his need? To the end, David says, “that my glory may sing praise to thee and not be silent.”
Now what does David mean when he says “my glory”? There’s a very clear scriptural answer to this, and a very important one. I want to compare two passages of Scripture. First in the Old Testament in the book of Psalms, and second, in the New Testament in the book of Acts. Psalm 16:9, the psalmist says this, and we do not need to go into the background for our present purposes.
“Therefore, my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also shall rest in hope.” (KJV)
Now in Acts 2, in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit quotes this Psalm 16, the closing verses of it. And in Acts 2:26 he is quoting Psalm 16:9, and he says:
“Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope.” (KJV)
Where David in the Psalms says “my heart is glad and my glory rejoices,” Peter says “my heart did rejoice and my tongue was glad.” For where David says “my glory,” Peter, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says “my tongue.”
So we have this revelation direct from Scripture, without any human interpretation, that the believer can say and should say, “What is my glory?” It is my tongue. Why is my tongue my glory? It’s very important to understand this—because God put your tongue within your mouth for one supreme purpose. The primary purpose of the human tongue is to do one thing. What is that? To glorify God. And when you glorify God with your tongue, your tongue becomes your glory. The means given to you to glorify God. And in fact, any use of the human tongue that does not glorify God is a misuse. And you will find out if you’re baptized in the Holy Spirit and you let the Holy Spirit take your tongue to speak through you, He will never speak one word that does not glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. Then your tongue is being used the way God intended it should be—solely and exclusively for the glory of God. So your tongue is your glory. Now, turning back to Psalm 30 again, let’s look at what David said and apply it.
“Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory [my tongue] may sing praise to thee, and not be silent.” (KJV)
Notice how perfectly it fits in with the tongue because the tongue either speaks or is silent. And when God blesses you it is not His purpose that your tongue should be silent. Many, many people say, “Well, Brother Prince, I’ve praised the Lord in my heart.” Well, praise God if you do, but your heart is not your tongue. And David said “To the end that my tongue should praise thee and not be silent.” The reason why God intervenes and answers our prayers—from God’s point of view—other than meeting our personal needs, is that in return, we should praise God aloud with our tongue. And failure to do this frustrates the purposes of God in our lives. We are not in line with the will of God if we do not respond to His blessings and mercy by praising Him aloud with our tongue.
The fourth thing that I want to say about praise is that it is a garment of the Spirit. We turn again to Isaiah 61:3:
“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” (KJV)
Now this passage here in Isaiah 61, beginning at verse 1 is the one quoted by Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth in the fourth chapter of Luke’s gospel when He stood up and said, “Today is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because he hath anointed me to preach.” So that we find, by putting these two Scriptures together, that the purpose of the preaching of the gospel as exemplified by the Lord Jesus Christ, is that which is stated in verse 3 of Isaiah 61:
“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness ...” (KJV)
There’s to be a threefold exchange. In place of that which is dark, gloomy, negative, there is to be given us by the preaching of the gospel that which is beautiful, glorious, uplifting and positive. In place of ashes we are to have beauty. In place of mourning, we’re to have the oil of joy. And oil, as I said in my previous study, always speaks of the Holy Spirit. The joy in the Lord which comes by the Holy Spirit. And in place of the spirit of heaviness we are to put on the garment of praise. Now if there’s one thing in the Bible that I’ve learned by experience is that truth because for many, many years I struggled and wrestled against the spirit of heaviness—what we call in modern English depression. I know that spirit by close, intimate, personal experience. I know what it is to be under it, I know what it is to be oppressed by it, I know how it rests upon you, binds you, holds you down, discourages you, frustrates you in every attempt to serve the Lord. And I got deliverance from it when I realized I was not dealing with a condition or an attitude or a fixation or any psychological term. I was dealing with an evil spirit, the spirit of heaviness or depression. And when I recognized this and called upon the name of the Lord, according to Joel 2:32:
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered ...” (KJV)
When I claimed that promise and called on the name of the Lord for deliverance from the spirit of heaviness, I was delivered. Then I discovered that there’s more of a problem staying free than there is getting delivered. How was I to prevent the spirit of heaviness from coming back? And God gave me this verse. “In place of the spirit of heaviness you put on the garment of praise. And while you’re wearing the garment of praise, the spirit of heaviness can never come near you.” The garment of praise keeps depression and every dark mood and attitude away from you. This is the power of praise. And praise should be a spiritual garment that every believer wears at all times. Night and day we are adorned and we are protected with the garment of praise.
About the same time there happened something in my experience which vividly illustrated this for me. I did not have then the measure of light that I have now on evil spirits and deliverance and when people came to me for deliverance from evil spirits they embarrassed me. But it did happen at a certain time that a lady in our congregation turned up at our house one day, having her husband in tow who had just come out of prison. And she said, “Here’s my husband, he’s a backslider, he needs deliverance from an evil spirit.” Well, I didn’t know what to do. But we had with us in the home two Russian Jewish sisters who were saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit and they believed in praising the Lord. So we all started to pray, you know, the way you do when you don’t know how to pray specifically but you hope that sooner or later something will happen—and we began to praise the Lord and these Russian Jewish sisters had no inhibitions about what the neighbors were thinking! They were praising the Lord with a good, loud voice. As a matter of fact, they told us inside Russia, where they had come from, that the Baptists inside Russia are more Pentecostal than the Pentecostals inside Britain or America. And they were Baptists. They thought the Pentecostals were cold; they didn’t know how to praise the Lord.
And so we were praising the Lord and this man in whom the evil spirit was came up to me quietly and said, “I think I’m going to go.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Too much noise.” I know God gave me this answer. I said, “Now wait a minute. I’ll tell you who doesn’t like the noise, that’s the devil. And he doesn’t like the noise because we’re praising the Lord and he hates that.” I said, “You’ve got two choices. If you go now, the devil will go with you. But if you stay, the devil will go without you.” He said, “I’ll stay.” Well, God made my words good. We just went on praising the Lord without praying specifically for deliverance and a little while later he said, “It’s just left. I felt it go, it went from my throat.”
So that’s a little illustration that the devil cannot stand the power of persistent praise of Jesus. It creates an atmosphere that embarrasses him. If the devil has ever troubled you, let me tell you this: You can trouble him a lot more than he troubles you when you learn to praise and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ in his presence. He hates it. It embarrasses him, he’ll go somewhere else. He won’t trouble you because you trouble him more than he can trouble you.
Let’s look in Isaiah 52 for a little picture of what God is going to do for the church in relation to the beautiful garment of praise. Isaiah 52:1–2, I cannot take too long on this passage; you can preach a complete message on it, but I don’t want to do that. This is addressed to Zion which is one of the titles of the church and I believe this applies at the close of this age.
“Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.” (KJV)
Here’s a picture of Zion having been held captive for many centuries. Groveling like a slave in the dust, defiled and dirty, and defeated. And the message of God is in seven steps. Awake, put on strength, put on thy beautiful garments (and there is no garment more beautiful than the garment of praise), shake thyself, shake off the oppression, the darkness, the accusation, the condemnation, the fear, the unbelief. Arise, get up off the ground, you’ve groveled long enough. Sit down, you’re a queen. And loose thyself. Get rid of every burden, every bondage. But in all this, the garment of praise is central. When the church learns to put on the garment of praise, she’s in a position where she can arise, shake herself, sit down and loose herself from the bands that have bound her neck so long. So praise is a beautiful garment in the Spirit. And every Christian should be wearing that garment.
Now I want to deal with praise specifically as a spiritual weapon. The first aspect of praise as a spiritual weapon is that it is a way of deliverance. When you’re hard pressed, when the devil is right in on you, when everything seems to be collapsing all around you. The way out is the way of praise. Let’s look at Psalm 50 for a moment. Psalm 50:23. Now I am going to give you a slightly different translation to that of the King James Version. I believe it’s legitimate. At least it’s implied. Psalm 50:23 in the King James says this:
“Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.” (KJV)
But I have chosen to put it this way: “Whoso sacrifices praise, [and it’s the Hebrew word for sacrifice] glorifieth me.” When you offer praise as a sacrifice to God you glorify Him. “And prepares a way that I may show him the salvation of God.” How do you prepare a way for God to intervene with salvation and deliverance? The praise way. When you begin to praise God, in the midst of that terrible situation, that problem from which you can see no resolution, when you begin to praise God, you are preparing a way for God to come into that situation and show you His salvation.
And this is beautifully illustrated in two examples. The first is the story of Jonah, the second is in the book of Acts. In Jonah 2, and I assume that everybody here is familiar with the story of Jonah in outline; I don’t want to go into it. You remember Jonah started on a journey to Nineveh and ended up inside the fish. And it says he was inside the fish three days and three nights. That’s the last verse of chapter 1. Now I cannot but be amused at the first verse of chapter 2. It says:
“Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord ...” (KJV)
After three days and three nights I imagine that he felt prayer was necessary. Some people leave it till the last moment to pray! We had a fellow missionary in East Africa with us, and he was quite a humorist. And because we had so many crises and situations, and we had so many committee meetings to solve them, he would say, “The situation has got so serious it looks as if there’s nothing to do but pray.” And really it was true. Prayer was often the last thing we thought of. And apparently Jonah had to spend three days and three nights inside the fish before he would feel like praying. But it says:
“Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God ...” (KJV)
And if you read it, he prayed for about seven verses and nothing happened. But in the eighth verse, he pressed the button. And he got results because in verse nine he said:
“But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving ...” (KJV)
And then the whale couldn’t hold him any longer. I shouldn’t say the whale—the fish. Whether it was a whale or not, I don’t claim to know. The Bible doesn’t say “a whale,” it says “a fish.” When you’re down in the belly of the fish and you’ve been there three days and three nights and you’ve decided it’s time to pray, you can pray as long as you please and nothing much will happen. But when you press the thanksgiving button, as somebody said in the chorus, the whale did the rest. You’ll end up out on dry land. That’s the secret. That couldn’t have been an easy place to thank God, but it did the job.
Now let’s turn to the New Testament and see this principle is just as valid in Acts 16. Paul and Silas have arrived in Philippi. Paul casts the demon of divination out of the girl and as a result of this they both ended up soundly beaten, in prison, in the innermost cell with their feet in the stocks, their backs bleeding. And, bless the Lord, at midnight what did they do? Isn’t that marvelous? Chapter 16:25:
“At midnight Paul and Silas prayed ...” (KJV)
I’ve heard so many preachers expatiate on this, how they could have been blaming one another and Silas could have been saying to Paul, “There you are. It was your vision that got us into this. I’m not going to believe that kind of a vision next time.” And Paul could have been answering Silas back. But they didn’t. They were praising and thanking God for being in the prison at midnight, being in the stocks. And what happened? Let’s read it.
“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” (KJV)
The Greek implied the prisoners were listening very keenly because I don’t suppose those prisoners have ever heard anybody in that jail praising God before. It was a new sound and they could hardly believe their ears. In the middle of the night the praises were falling out of the innermost cell.
“And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” (KJV)
What did that? Praise. “Whoso sacrifices the sacrifice of praise prepares a way that I may show him the salvation of God.” Praise is the way that you bring God into your situation. And it has to be a sacrifice. I’ll come to this more fully later. When everything is going well and you praise the Lord, that isn’t a sacrifice. But when everything has gone wrong and you praise the Lord, then you’re sacrificing the sacrifice of praise. You’re glorifying Him and you’re preparing a way that He will intervene and show you His salvation.
Secondly, praise as a spiritual weapon is a means to silence the devil. I don’t think there’s any more important fact in the Bible than this. Really. from the point of view of practical Christian living, you have given you, by God, a way to stop the devil’s mouth. To silence him, to shut him up. Let’s look in Psalm 8 and just the one verse, verse 2.
“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.” (KJV)
The psalmist is speaking to God. Notice that he speaks about enemies in the plural, and then the enemy and the avenger in the singular. Now I understand the enemy and the avenger is none other than the devil himself. But the enemies in your experience and mine, I would say, are the evil spirits that are Satan’s instruments against us. And because of Satan and his evil spirits, God has ordained strength that we might silence the devil.
Now this verse is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 21:16. And again the New Testament quotation is also a revelation of its full meaning just as it was when Peter quoted the statement about “my glory” and called it “my tongue.” So in this quotation by Jesus, in Matthew 21, we have more than a quotation, we have a revelation. Jesus is in the temple healing the sick and the children are running to and fro and crying, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” And this upsets the religious leaders and they come to Jesus and say, “Don’t you hear what they are saying? Can’t you stop them? Don’t let them make that noise.” And Jesus answered:
“Yea, have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?” (KJV)
Now, the psalmist said, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast ordained strength.” Jesus said, “Thou hast perfected praise.” So we get a simple, direct inference. The ordained strength of God’s people in battle is perfected praise. And by perfect praise, God has made it possible for us to silence the devil and all his evil spirits. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength (which is perfect praise), because of thine enemies (the evil spirits), that thou mightest silence the enemy (the devil). How do we silence the devil? By perfect praise. Where does it come from? Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings. The weaker we are, the more God is glorified in intervention on our behalf because all the glory will go to God and none to us. God chooses babes and sucklings. Jesus said that “God has kept these things form the wise and the prudent and has revealed them unto babes.” The reason being that all the glory must go to God and none to us. And when you and I in our weakness, in a situation where we can do nothing about it ourselves, will praise the Lord with perfect praise, then God will intervene and the glory will go to Him and not to us. We cannot say, “I did it, it was my cleverness, it was my strength, it was my power.” Nothing of that. I’m just a babe and a suckling, but out of my mouth if I will praise God perfectly, comes forth a weapon that silences the devil. And God is glorified. Now there’s one very important thing about the mouth. Every spiritual weapon has only one launching pad. And do you know what that is? The mouth. All spiritual weapons come out of the mouth. The mouth is the center of this spiritual conflict.
You see, in Psalm 8:2 the weapons of victory for God come out of the mouth. But you look in Revelations 16:13 for a moment and see that Satan’s weapons also are launched through the mouth. The mouth of those who yield to the spirits of Satan. Revelation 16:13, John says:
“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.” (KJV)
So whether they be for good or for evil, spiritual weapons are launched through the mouths of human beings. And we have got to be very sure that our mouths are launching pads for God’s weapons and not for the devil’s. And if we do not use our mouths aright, we cannot win the spiritual victory. It’s what comes out of your mouth that is going to settle the conflict. For better or for worse.
All right. The third fact about praise as a spiritual weapon is that it is the way into Christ’s victory. Let us look in Psalm 106:47. This is an inspired prayer of the Lord for the regathering of His people. And I believe it applies at this time in which we are living, to Israel as a nation being regathered in their land, and to the church being regathered to form again the body of Jesus Christ; bone to bone and member to member. There’s a regathering in the natural of Israel. There’s a regathering in the spiritual of the members of Christ’s body to restore the unity which has been broken down through the centuries. And the purpose of this regathering is stated in Psalm 106:47:
“Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise.” (KJV)
This brings out the same point that we said earlier, God’s intervention is for this purpose that we may in turn glorify Him by praising Him. So God’s intervention on behalf of Israel and on behalf of the church is designed to bring forth out of God’s people praise and glory to His name. Save us and gather us for this purpose, to give thanks unto thy holy name and to triumph in thy praise. When do we triumph? When we praise God aright. You know what triumph is? It’s more than victory. The victory is the winning of the battle. The triumph is the celebration of the victory that has already been won.
Now there’s a tremendous truth in Scripture about the triumph. Let’s turn to Colossians 2:15. This is speaking about what God did through the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf on the cross. We will not go into the background because if I go into the background I’ll never get out into the foreground again, but we’ll just deal with this one verse.
“And having spoiled [or stripped, or completely disarmed] principalities and powers [that’s Satan’s principalities], he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it [in the cross].” (KJV)
So in the cross, through the death of Jesus on our behalf, God stripped Satan and his powers of all their weapons. And he put him to an open shame and Jesus triumphed over the devil in the cross.
Now in 2 Corinthians 2:14 this is transferred to our experience in Christ. Paul says:
“Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” (KJV)
I want you to notice that if you put the adverbial phrases together there are no exceptions. It’s always in every place. There is no time and there is no place where the church of Jesus Christ cannot be victorious. God always causes us, and in every place, He makes manifest the sweet savor of the knowledge of Jesus Christ by us. There is no time and no place where this is impossible. But the central phrase is God always causes us to triumph in Christ. And I think some of the modern translations use the phrase “makes us a continuing pageant of triumph in Christ.” This is the possibility made available to us through what Christ did on our behalf on the cross. On the cross Jesus won the victory. He does not ask us to win the victory. He invites us to share the triumph.
Now by the custom of the Roman Empire which Paul undoubtedly had in his mind when he wrote these words, the triumph was the highest honor that could be bestowed upon any successful Roman general. If he had been outstandingly successful in the service of his country and in the defeating of his country’s enemies, when he came back to the city of Rome, the senate would vote him a triumph. And the triumph was organized somewhat like this. That this uniquely successful general would be placed in a special chariot drawn by two white horses. And he would be led in the chariot through the streets of Rome. And the people of Rome would line the streets on either side and applaud him and do him homage as he went by. Behind his chariot there would be led as far as possible the evidences of his victory. If any rulers of foreign nations, kings or queens, or other rulers had been defeated, they would be placed in chains, chained to the rear of the chariot and led behind. And then there would be a whole line of prisoners of war, rank after rank of prisoners led in chains behind this chariot as the evidence of what the man had conquered. And if there were wild beasts from that particular are that the Romans did not habitually see, as for instance, a tiger, they would capture a tiger and lead this tiger also captive behind the chariot. In other words, behind the chariot was led as far as possible the visible evidence of the measure of the victory that this man had won in his captives, the kings, rulers and other generals whom he had defeated, and anything else that would make vivid the reality of his victory.
Now this is the picture that Paul has in mind. He says through the cross Jesus has defeated Satan and is now being led in a pageant of triumph. And behind him are being led all those whom he has defeated with the evidence of their defeat made publicly manifest. Satan and all the forces that oppose God and Christ in this picture are following behind the chariot. Their defeat and the fact that they have been stripped of their armor are being made publicly manifest. This is the extent of what Paul is teaching was accomplished through the cross.
Now there’s one further little piece of icing on the cake. Paul says God causes us to join the pageant of triumph with Christ. Now where do we come in? Are we led in captivity behind the chariots? I don’t believe it. That’s the place for the enemies. Are we just on the sides of the road applauding? I don’t believe it. Where are we? In the chariot, that’s right.
Now how do we get to the chariot? I’ve asked this question many times as a preacher and I used to have this answer. By faith. But that left many people still wondering what to do. And one day God showed me that we triumph in His praise. When we start to praise Him for what God says He’s done on our behalf, we step out of the street and into the chariot. We take our place with Christ in the chariot. The way to get into the chariot is to stop crying, stop praying, stop fretting, stop trying and start praising. And it’s the praise step that takes you off the street and into the chariot. God always causes us to be a continuing pageant of triumph in Christ. And everywhere He makes manifest the sweet savor of Jesus Christ by us. We carry the odor and the perfume of Jesus wherever we go. Heaven’s atmosphere should be where we go. But it’s all conditional upon praise. Praise is the air freshener. Praise the Lord. When you feel really down and your home and living room seem so dark and gloomy, just take the air freshener and squirt a little praise into the atmosphere and it will begin to smell sweet.
Now let’s look at some further facts about praise in closing this study which are necessary to understand in order to be able to do it effectively. The next thing I want to say I’ve already touched on but I want to say it more specifically. Praise is a sacrifice. And a sacrifice costs something. Lots and lots of Christians don’t praise God because they don’t feel like it. Well, that’s the worst reason for not praising God. The less you feel like it, the more you should do it. Because it is a sacrifice. Let’s look at the Scripture’s teaching on this. Jeremiah 33:11, and this is one of the chapters that describe the restoration of God’s people, Israel. The whole of this chapter is devoted to restoration. And notice one of the great aspects of restoration—incidentally there’s a modern Hebrew song based on Jeremiah 33:10–11. I feel almost inspired to try and sing it but I’ll desist. But the song takes the words of verse 10 and 11 and says: “Again there shall be heard in this place, in the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of joy, the voice of gladness, the voice of the bride and the voice of the bridegroom.” There’s a very popular modern Hebrew song that has those words. Notice what will be heard in verse 11 of Jeremiah 33:
“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 for ever; and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD.” (KJV)
What sacrifice? The sacrifice of praise. And now listen:
“For I will cause to return the captivity of the land.” (KJV)
Why does God return the captivity? That they may bring the sacrifice of praise. The same truth comes out everywhere that this matter of restoration is dealt with. God restores us, He rescues us, He delivers us that in return we may bring Him the sacrifice of praise.
Now this sacrifice is spoken of specifically in the New Testament in Hebrews 13:15–16. Hebrews points out that the sacrifices of the Law of Moses, the beasts that were offered and so on were only a temporary ordinance which were to come to an end and be replaced by other permanent sacrifices. And here we are told of the permanent sacrifices which are required of us in this dispensation. Hebrews 13:15– 16:
“By him therefore [that is, by Jesus Christ] let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate [that is, to share your material possessions] forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (KJV)
You notice there are three sacrifices. The sacrifice of praise, the sacrifice of doing good when it costs you something to do good, and the sacrifice of sharing your material possessions. That’s what the word means. Each of these is a sacrifice.
I came into our home last night—it was about seven o’clock—just thinking, “Wonderful, a night at home. Nowhere to go.” And there was a phone call saying would I go over and help our daughter with the young people’s meeting. And I’ll tell you, that was a real sacrifice. But God blessed me for it. And anything that really is going to bring a blessing is going to cost you something. David said, “God forbid that I should offer the LORD burnt offerings and sacrifices that cost me nothing.” A sacrifice always costs something and here are three sacrifices that God requires. Praise, doing good and sharing our material well-being.
But let’s look at the sacrifice of praise, the one we’re dealing with. Verse 15:
“By him [Jesus Christ] let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God [every now and then when I feel like it. No.] continually.” (KJV)
All right, Lord, I’ll praise You in my heart. But I feel embarrassed to praise You out loud. God says “The fruit of our lips,” not our heart, our lips giving thanks to God by the name of Jesus. This is a sacrifice that God requires. That we thank Him and praise Him out loud in the name of Jesus. We all know that’s the hard thing to do, is to do it out loud. But that’s what makes it valuable. That’s the costly aspect. Most of us have had the experience of being in a meeting where everybody put their hands up and started praising the Lord and you felt, What are these people doing? And you know, if you were like me when this first happened to me, I felt that there must be fifteen people behind me and they’ll all watch me if I put my hands up. But it’s a sacrifice. Let’s read on because this is mentioned a little later.
When should we praise God? I’ve just got a few questions here in the outline that we’ll answer briefly out of Scripture. When is it right to praise God? I’ve got two verses out of maybe a hundred that you could pick in the Scripture. Psalm 34:1:
“I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (KJV)
Not my heart but my mouth. There is no time that you shouldn’t be blessing and praising God. And Psalm 145 says the same thing again in other words. Psalm 145:2:
“Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.” (KJV)
Eternally. Eternity will be too short to praise the Lord.
All right. How should we praise the Lord? Let’s look at a few Scriptures on that. Psalm 111:1:
“Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart...” (KJV)
Not halfhearted praise, but wholehearted praise. Put your whole being, everything you have into praising the Lord. Where?
“...in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation [of God’s people].” (KJV)
I will praise God with my whole heart. Psalm 47:7 gives another requirement of acceptable praise.
“For God is the king of all the earth; sing ye praise with understanding.” (KJV)
God expects us to know why we’re praising Him. The reason why we are praising is because of His unchanging nature, His love, His mercy, His truth which never changes with situations, feelings or circumstances. And specifically what God has done for us, through Christ, on the cross which never changes. All these reasons the Scripture gives us for praising God never change with our feelings, our situations or our circumstance. And when we understand that and sing praises with understanding, we do not allow our feelings, our situations or our circumstances to withhold us from praising God. We don’t praise God because of what we see or feel. We praise God because of what He says in His Word.
All right. Psalm 63, a further aspect of praise. And a rather important one. Psalm 63:3–4, there’s a very beautiful chorus that’s been written to these words that I’m not going to try to sing.
“Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.” (KJV)
Notice again it’s the lips, not the heart. I don’t mean that praise doesn’t come from the heart, but I mean it mustn’t stop in the heart. It must come through the lips.
“Thus will I bless thee while I live: [thus means “ in this way” and the psalmist then goes on to say] I will lift up my hands in thy name.” (KJV)
This is the appointed way to bless and praise God, is the lifting up of hands. Now if you want to compare this with the New Testament for a moment, 1 Timothy 2:8, Paul says, and he’s giving directions for the conduct of a congregation, a local assembly:
“I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” (KJV)
That’s the only specific physical attitude of prayer actually enjoined in the New Testament. We have the example of praying standing, we have the example of praying kneeling, but the only one that we’re actually enjoined to do is to pray lifting up our hands. And it says men. Well, ladies say, “Well what about us?” The next verse says:
“In like manner also, the women ...” (KJV)
So what’s right for the men is equally right for the women. This is the appointed attitude of prayer, praise and worship. It’s the lifting up of our hands without wrath and doubting. Because these two negative things will inhibit our praise.
Psalm 141, a most beautiful picture of what praise is. Psalm 141:2:
“Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” (KJV)
So our prayer goes up in the nostrils of God just like the incense ascended up from the hand of the priest in the Old Covenant. It is a sweet odor that ascends up to the presence of God. “Let my prayer come before thee as incense and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” Israel had to give a daily sacrifice, one in the morning and one in the evening. And the writer says “Let my evening sacrifice to thee at the close of each day by the lifting up of my hands.” And you’ll end the day well if you’ll end it that way. You should have a good night’s sleep after that.
Psalm 149:3 there’s another thing about praising the Lord which few people have yet seen. But the Lord taught me this lesson, speaking about praise and these two last psalms are entirely devoted to praise.
“Let them praise his name in the dance ...” (KJV)
And Psalm 150:4:
“Praise him with the timbrel and dance ...” (KJV)
One thing you’ll observe if you go to Israel is the Jewish people are a dancing people. It’s as natural to them to dance as it is to sing or do anything else. You couldn’t have a natural spontaneous expression of the feeling of the Jewish people divorced from dancing. And you read through the Bible and see how much dancing is intended to be an expression of gratitude and praise and worship to God. I’ll tell you, we are inhibited until we learn to praise the Lord in the dance. I’m not talking about dancing in the Spirit, a phrase which doesn’t occur in the Bible though it may be a valid thing. I’m talking about dancing before the Lord which is what David did. He didn’t say, “I danced in the Spirit.” When his wife criticized him looking through the window and said, “You made a show of yourself today dancing in front of all those serving maids.” David said, “I didn’t do it in front of the serving maids, I did it before the Lord.” And he said, “What’s more, I’m going to go on doing it.”
I remember a meeting about three or four years ago when a brother in the Lord came with choruses and cymbals, and he’s known to most of us here but I don’t want to mention his name just because I don’t believe in bringing personalities in. And I have known what it was to do a little dancing, but I’d always done it with a certain amount of—mind you, in the world. And I would go out five nights a week dancing and if I didn’t come back till dawn, that didn’t embarrass me. If I could only be as wholeheartedly serving the Lord as I was serving the devil, I’ll be doing well. Anyhow, there came a time when people started to dance in this meeting and I thought, “Well, I’m going to dance.” And I started to dance and I realized people were looking at me, I was pretty well known in that congregation, and I thought, “I could care less.” And after awhile I was getting so hot I took my jacket off and I went on dancing. And I danced so long that somebody had time to go and fetch a camera and come back and photograph me! I still could care less. Well you say, “What does that do?” I’ll tell you what it did; it set me free from the fear of man. I could care less what people think if I am doing what God wants. But I had to do that to be finally set free from the fear of embarrassment and what people might say or think. Now it doesn’t mean that God has got to do that for everybody, but I know that there’s something about praising the Lord in the dance which is scriptural and valid. As a matter of fact, when you’re really dancing, and I used to be what you call a ballet fan. I knew the ballet inside out. When you are really dancing, every part of your body is involved in that activity. And what was our body made for? To praise the Lord with. Every member of our body should be totally given over to praise the Lord. And that’s liberation. When every member of your body is being used to praise God.
Now don’t imagine that I’m requiring that everybody immediately do this but I’m just pointing out it’s valid.
Now then, the question remains: Who should praise the Lord? Psalm 150:6 says it very simply.
“Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD.” (KJV)
So if you have breath, you’re included. And if you want to turn to Psalm 148:2–12 you’ll get a list of specific kinds of persons and things that should praise the Lord. I won’t go into it now, time is running out. But if you’ll check that list for yourself personally in Psalm 148 you’ll find there are seven things in heaven and twenty-three things on earth that are specifically called to praise the Lord. And I doubt whether you can read through that list and make yourself the exception.
All right. There’s one last question. Is there anybody who should not praise the Lord? And the answer is just one class of persons and it’s the only one in the Bible. Psalm 115:17:
“The dead praise not the LORD ...” (KJV)
That’s the diagnosis of a lot of religious people’s problems. Why don’t they praise the Lord? Because they’re dead. But as for me and my house, we’re going to praise the Lord yet more and more.
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