"Bless the LORD, O my soul; and forget none of His benefits."
"Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise Thee."
"I will give thanks to Thee, O LORD my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Thy name forever."
"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!"
--Psalm 103:2, 63:3, 86:12, 150:6 NASB
THIS MEDLEY of Psalms stirs the reverent mind. Their words prompt us first to identify God's many blessings, and then to treasure them. Surely God is worthy of intelligent praise. When we bless God we are doing more than praising Him. To "bless" is to praise with affection and gratitude. Having first called upon his own soul, the Psalmist next calls on all men to praise the LORD. His many benefits are not to be forgotten, but people are so forgetful that we are continually exhorted not to.
God's "lovingkindness" is better than anything to which we might now compare it; thus it is more to be valued. By "lovingkindness" the Psalmist may refer to the spiritual care God exercises over His children. Thus, His lovingkindness is of greater worth than even the best of our human experiences. In short, God's lovingkindness is "better than life."
We praise Him when we appreciate what God has done for us: His providential assistance, His deliverance from issues and problems. Even when we ourselves initiate actions which result in blessings, we should still praise God. All blessings come through the operation of principles learned from Him.
The Hebrews' author seems to have built upon that idea. He wrote that declaring God's praises is a sacrifice. It is part of the devotion that we give to God if we are dedicated to serving and pleasing Him.
"By him therefore [by Jesus, who "that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate"] 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 forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
It seems as though that author regarded "the sacrifice of praise to God continually" as so essential that he had to caution us not to forget other sacrifices: "to do good and to communicate."--Hebrews 13:15,16
"Christian" is a name by which God's dear children are now called-- even though all who call themselves Christians may not be God's dear children. He has taken us for His own. He graciously promised to lead us through life's wilderness while holding us by the hand. We have no pillar of cloud or fire going before us (Exod. 13:22). We have instead His Word, His assurance of guidance. That Word answers every purpose. His Word is the fire and cloud which precede us. It directs us whether to turn right or left down life's pathway. If we listen to His word with confident trust it will guide us.
When we see little or nothing of life's pathway before us, the guidance that comes from the Bible is truly wonderful. It acts like a pillar of fire, illuminating our every step.
One way to praise the LORD is to thank Him daily in prayer for supplying our daily physical needs. We should also thank Him for the satisfying and refreshing bread and water of life. Songs of worship and thanksgiving also praise God. It is good to sing aloud at Christian gatherings. All are praising the same God with the same words, thinking the same thoughts, singing the same tune. All come before God in the name of the same Savior, filled with the influence of the same spirit. This is Christian unity as it is commonly experienced at its sweetest. However, the child of God can experience even sweeter joys.
The fourth chapter of Ephesians might be considered the Bible's "unity chapter." There Paul explains what full spiritual unity means. If we continually live in that spiritual unity we could live all our lives in a state of spiritual exaltation just like that which we feel when we join our hearts in song with other believers--just like it, but permeating every fiber of our being and every moment of life.
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you."--1 Peter 4:12-14
But how can we praise God for His wonderful goodness when fiery experiences befall us? Praise becomes possible when we realize that He permits suffering, anxiety and trouble as part of our discipline (Heb. 5:8,9, Rom. 6:16, 1 Pet. 1:14, 2 Cor. 10:5). They are permitted to try us to see of what sort we are. If we are dross (Isa. 1:25, Ezek. 22:18), we will imitate the Israelites of old. We will weary God with continual complaints.--Num. 14:22, Heb. 3:8,15
Those whom the LORD is pleased to use say: "Thou LORD art my Helper! I thank Thee that Thou art ever near. I thank Thee for guidance. I thank Thee that the path of suffering was marked out in advance by our loving burden bearer. I thank Thee that all things work together for good to those who love Thee and are of the called according to Thy purpose. I thank Thee for the grace sufficient which is supplied as needed. Enable me to make use of that grace, so that I may not give way to doubt or despair, or to feelings of depression. Enable me to take up my cross to follow in the Master's footsteps, and do it cheerfully."--Heb. 13:6, 1 Pet. 2:19, John 15:20, Rom. 8:28, 2 Cor. 12:9, Matt. 16:24, John 16:33
Such an attitude will surely please God. By it we acknowledge our insufficiency and His sufficiency. It involves thankful acceptance of His favors. It means trying to show others that God's grace is real, not a delusion. It means overcoming our natural disposition to irritability, grumpiness or sulkiness through Jesus' living in us. It means living with a cheerful countenance as befits the King's children. It is proof that we want to be copies of God's dear Son. Our imitation of His virtues recommends those virtues to others.--1 Pet. 2:9
We praise the LORD when we diligently respond to "the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14). It is wonderful that we are invited to joint-heirship in Jesus' Kingdom (Rom. 8:17), to live and reign with Him in everlasting glory (2 Tim. 2:12). We show our appreciation of this calling by zealously making our calling and election sure.--2 Pet. 1:10
If someone tells a lie about us, do we not appreciate it when a friend defends our good name? If someone were to say something false about our father or mother, would we not be indignant and hasten to contradict it? Would we not be shocked that anyone could suggest our loving parents were guilty of thinking or saying what others attributed to them?
What about God? Does He not hurt when millions of His professed children circulate the report that He is a cruel monster, who will torment for all eternity the majority of the human race? Does He not want those who know better to actively counteract such false charges?
It is sad that billions know not God. And they have never heard of the loving Savior who died for them. But He knows of all of them! He who is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25) will one day call them forth (John 5:28,29). They are all His. He died for them. He bought them with His own precious blood (1 Cor. 6:20, 1 Pet. 1:18,19). We need not worry about them.
Proclaiming the resurrection praises Him who purposed to redeem all people through His beloved Son. I would not mind if someone said something good about me. I would not mind if someone said a dear friend had made sacrifice in order to help feed or shelter impoverished children or refugees in Somolia, the Balkans, or elsewhere. I would be proud of them!
And, I am proud of God! I want everybody to know about Him. I want all to know how good and kind and loving God is (John 3:16, 1 John 4:8,16). I want all to know that God has the power to put His goodness into operation. He has the power to "keep" His children now and to deal with the dead in due time. So far, the world has seen little of how God uses His goodness and power. There is goodness, but it is manifest mostly in humiliation. There is power, but it is used mostly by the selfish. It will be a glorious day when our all-powerful God uses His goodness to bless all mankind with life and peace.
Spread the knowledge of God's goodness! We have no great power or influence, but we have a tongue that can put in a good word for the LORD of hosts. We have a hand that can publish His truths. We have feet that can distribute the message of His love (Isa. 52:7, Rom. 10:9-15). It is joy to share the comfort by which we are comforted. Rejoice!
God fills the mouth of His people with praises! "Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!" Oh, that all men knew of the goodness of the Lord, and so join in His praise!
------------------ Another Look At The Same Subject ------------------
This folder's title brings to mind another verse. The words in Psalm 107, verses 8, 15, 21, 31 (KJV), are better remembered by their repetition: "Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"
The Psalmist wrote to those among God's ancient people Israel who were beset by diverse experiences. As the psalm progresses, four distinct praise scenarios follow one upon the other, and in turn are followed by the call to praise.
All were in need of God's help, and His assistance was available when earnestly asked for by those of honest heart. The answer for each of those scenarios is "Yes!--they should praise the LORD!"
Do the events in any of the scenarios mirror your experience? "Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!"