Saturday, January 7, 2017

Word and Works

Scriptural Reading: Psalm 146
Devotional Reading: Psalm 33:1-9

A number of years ago I lived by myself and needed a ride to church. I made arrangements for the ride, got ready for church, and sat in my comfortable chair in the living room waiting. Well, I drifted off to sleep, so I thought. When I awoke I had the Scripture Romans 8:14 on my mind. I wondered what the Scripture was all about, but I did not take the time to look at it. Instead I looked at my watch. My ride was surely late. So I called my friend on her cell phone only to find out that she had been there, blew her horn, had her son ring the bell and knock, and then decided I had left already. Well I went back to look at Romans 8:14 which reads, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (NKJV) I realized I had been sick in a seizure, but God had taken care of me through an unseen danger because I was home alone. Psalm 146:1-2 reads, “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! While I live I will praise the LORD; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” (NKJV) I will praise Him constantly with all my being while I am on earth because I am a son of God because once I am no longer on this earth I hope to have a better being in eternity. I called my girlfriend back because it was not enough for me to praise God at home. I still needed a ride to go to church to publicly praise and worship the LORD for what He had done for me and who He is. And God blessed me to be able to make it to church that Sunday in a timely fashion with a testimony celebrating Him.

When I first learned I would be teaching on praise this month I immediately asked myself, “What is the difference between praise and worship?” In one article that I read the writer stated, “Praise is about God, worship is to God. Praise is opening up, worship is entering in. Praise is boldly declaring, worship is humbly bowing in the presence of a Holy God.” Praise applauds what God has done. Worship is honoring God for who He is.” 1 Praise is commanded by God. It is not He who needs it, but it places us in a great mindset for worship. God is seeking worshipers (Luke 4:23) not worship itself. God knows that true worshippers have adopted life styles that are within His will. Praise is sometimes distant because anyone or anything, such as the rocks, can praise (Ps 148:3-12). But worship is near to God’s heart. It is intimate. Praise can lead to worship as communion and fellowship with Him. Praise is seen or heard by the congregation whereas a worshipper may not even be able to be observed by anyone in the congregation except God. Praise is largely horizontal in its purpose, while worship is primarily a vertical interaction.2

We are in Unit II – “Praise from and for God’s Creation” of the three units of the quarter. This is the first lesson of a five-lesson study. In the lesson today we shall focus on Psalm 33, a psalm of praise for God which celebrates Him, His creation, and how He created. It is a psalm of praise of David, responding to the mercy granted to the upright by God in Psalm 32:10-11, calling for them to shout for joy stating, “But he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (NKJV)

In the last verses of the Psalm 32 there was a call for praise, a call for the people to rejoice. Their call continued in a responding psalm of celebration of God. Psalm 33:1-3 indicates that the righteous are to use every means to magnify the Name of the LORD. It reads, “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.” (NKJV) Sing joyfully (rejoice) to the LORD, for there is nothing else nor no one else who should be the focus of your praise or worship. We must represent our position in the order of creation. If God has done nothing else for you, He has done enough and we can’t claim to be anything than one of His created. Once we recognize our proper position, we can be in right-standing with God. It is truly those who are in right-standing (righteous and upright) with God whose praise is fitting, beautiful, and accepted by Him.

We are not only to praise the LORD with our voice, but also with our instruments. The righteous were to praise with a harp, psaltery, and an instrument of ten strings. They were to celebrate the LORD with a new song, a fresh and renewing song, rather than a stale and tired song. Sing with the best that you have because God grants fresh new mercies every morning. And as the singers would praise the LORD, they would be accompanied by instrumentalists who would not hold anything back in their skill. This would allow the congregation to shout joyfully in their praise to God and lead them further into the worship period. The Scripture does not state that only people with great voices are allowed to sing or use their talent. It says we are all to celebrate the LORD. It must be done with a sincere heart. Everyone should have a song on their heart to sing to the LORD for who He is and what He has done for them.

The psalmist now turns his attention to acknowledge four attributes of God to emphasize the power of His Word in Psalms 33:4-5. The verses read, “For the word of the LORD is right, And all His work is done in truth. He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.” (NKJV) The four attributes are as follows: (1) The Word of God is right. It is very important what we say during praise and worship. We must study biblical principles and doctrines to make sure that we not cause any one to stumble due to false philosophy. God’s Word is truth, always and forever (John 17:17). (2) God’s work and actions are always trustworthy and faithful. God keeps His promises because His Word is true (right) and His Work is done in truth (trustworthy, faithful). (3) God loves righteousness and justice. These highlight the essence of Who God is and are the foundation of God’s throne. Righteousness refers to “doing the right thing” while justice refers to treating others fairly. It is virtually impossible to think of God or anyone else who does the right thing but is unjust. (4) The earth is full of God’s unfailing love. Creation itself is a testimony of His love, but if you need look further look to His mercy in sending His only begotten Son that we might have an opportunity for eternal life if we only believe.

The praise of the righteous is fitting and loved by God, whereas the praise of the hypocrites is awkward. They are foolish and their praise is simply to be seen by man. The praise of the hypocrites is not fitting and not acceptable of the LORD when you consider the depth of His creative works. The psalmist gave a few examples in Ps 33:6-7, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses.” (NKJV) Here we see a simple explanation of how the heavens and seas were formed. But when you sit back and think about these simple statements you realize their magnitude is beyond man’s understanding. God spoke the universe into being. Man is not able to create anything by speaking or any other means. Man can only make things out of materials that have only been created by God. What an awesome thought. Then consider the realm of heaven beyond the earth. We definitely did not create the heavens and cause them to be inhabited by stars. What about the seas and their formation? He separated the waters of the earth for man’s benefit. He is sovereign over the many waters and His creations within. He must be praised for His Creative Works. This is Who He Is!

So what are the duties of the created to the Creator and why? The psalmist explained at verses 8 and 9, “Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” (NKJV) The psalmist closes our lesson in charging all the earth to praise God not just the righteous. Fear and reverence is a proper response to God’s grace, celebrating His love and expressing our thankfulness to Him. The entire earth must be in fear and reverence (awe) of His ability to speak creation into existence. When God speaks, it is done by the power of His word. And we must praise as is illustrated in Luke 19:37-40. These Scriptures are descriptive of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. They read, “…as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (NKJV)

As we close out the year of 2016 and enter 2017, we have much to give thanksgiving and praise to the LORD. It should not take much in which to find a subject to praise Him. There are plenty things such as watching newborn babies, the rising of the sun, rainbows, rain and thunderstorms, the smell of fresh-cut grass, safe travel, great health, living to see 2017, etc., etc., etc. If we keep silent of all there is to praise the LORD, remember that Jesus taught that nature (the rocks) itself will cry out in praise to Him. I can imagine the branches of the trees immediately swaying because we are silent with our praise. So let us praise out the old year and praise in the new year in the Name of the LORD. Halleluiah!!! “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!” (Ps 150:6 NKJV)


Written by Deborah C. Davis

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