The psalms repeatedly enjoin us to praise God exuberantly with our entire being. We are instructed to sing praises with our mouths, clap and wave our hands, and with our bodies playing instruments skillfully and dance to declare his wondrous praises.
Psalms 150 is one such psalm that demonstrates many of the aspects listed above:
Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power ;praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
When I examine the praises that are offered up to the Lord by the contemporary Christian (particularly in the West) I can’t help but think its lacking much in comparison with Biblical praise. Many churches for good practical reasons have praise (and or worship) confined to a short fixed time period. Further, in many congregations (even in evangelical or more charismatic churches), the praise of God seems to be quite predictable and not very exuberant. Often its limited to the same routine of singing the same songs, some clapping and for the more adventurous, the shuffling of the feet. These churches though having the appearance of exuberant praise, and may from time to time encounter God with the occasional heartfelt praise, generally are far from the kind of praise we see in the Old Testament and indeed in the psalms.
Pondering on my observation of the state of our praise today causes me to wonder what are we missing. I definitely do not think its that we love God less than the Biblical follower of Yahweh. I tend to think that the shape of our praise is due in part to societal and cultural reasons.
The biblical worshipper did a better job of connecting the kind acts of Yahweh with the songs about His goodness. This was largely in part due to the a more overt dependence on Him for sustenance, and cultish worship that emphasized this need for God. Currently I’m on a camping trip with my family. An annual summer vacation we have done since our kids were babies. During these trips we “dial things down,” stay relatively disconnected from technology, cook by open flame, go for nature walks, bike everywhere, swim in refreshing Lake Huron, and much more. Each night we sit by the campfire, and retell our experiences of the day. As I muse on our conversations, I realize how easy it is for us to be grateful for the blessings of nature. This year in particular we didn’t put up a food shelter, and were at the mercy of heavens in determining whether it would rain or not. Rain pour meant altered meal plans. My wife and I were thankful that the rain somehow cooperated and it fell at opportune times. Needless to say, even if rain fail inopportunely, we would have found a way to ensure we were fed. But all in all we were more cognizant of God’s mercies during this trip. The ancient Biblical worshipper like us had to really depend on nature not just for daily living but for livelihood as well, being that they were agrarian workers. This ingrained proximity to the land, naturally caused an appreciation for Gods mercies to be more apparent.
Akin to being an agrarian people that appreciated the land, the temple sacrificial system emphasized gratitude to God for provisional mercies by the ritualistic sacrificial system. Worshippers of God in conjunction with their verbal praise of God could offer Praise (or thank) offerings which could be live beast or produce from the land. The process involved in this ritual from the sourcing of the sacrifice to its presentation was very tangible and thus left an indelible impression on the worshipper that Yahweh is to be praised through and through with words, but also with the fruit of the hands, and toil of ones sweat.
Today when we worship God, it’s too easy to disconnect our praise of God from his tangible acts. We separate our giving from our singing, not truly realizing this is probably the closest link to the Old Testament praise. Necessary building dues are collected in a hum drum procedural fashion, lacking the connection or imagination that could usher a congregation to exuberant praise.
As we continue this discourse on Worship of God, may we be truly thankful for the provisions of God, our families, our food, our shelter, our health, our country, etc. I pray a regular active reflection on these divine blessings will channel Gods people everywhere into exuberant praise.
– Pastor Olu Jegede