Two weeks ago I spoke on Psalm 84. “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” We saw that the psalmist longed for God’s presence …although he still had not arrived. He was still wandering in the Baca Valley of tears and troubles. We concluded that JCC was on a pilgrimage. That each of us were on a pilgrimage. And that our posture was to desire God more and more in our lives.
Today, the psalm we are looking at is another psalm of praise. It is one of the “final 5” songs in the Psalter…all with the theme of praise.
The outline is as follows:
Opening Doxology verses 1-2
I will praise God with my whole self! いのちのあるかぎり
Stanza 1 verses 3-4
Don’t trust in human leaders 君主たちにたよってはならない
The fragility / temporal nature of humans 彼のもろもろの計画は滅びうせる
Stanza 2 verses 5-9
Blessed / happy is the one who trusts only in God!
- Creator of everything 主は天と地と海とその中のいっさいを造った方
- Faithful forever とこしえまでも真実を守る
- Upholds cause of the oppressed しいたげられる者のためにさばきを行い
- Gives food to the hungry 飢えた者にパンを与える方
- Sets prisoners free 捕らわれ人を解放される
- Gives sight to the blind 主は盲人の目をあけ
- Lifts up those who are bowed down かがんでいる者を起こされる
- Loves the righteous 正しい者を愛し、
- Watches over the aliens 主は在留異国人を守る
- Sustains the fatherless and the widow みなしごとやもめをささえられ
- Frustrates the ways of the wicked しかし主は悪者の道を曲げられる
Closing Doxology verse 10
Corporate praise to the Lord! ハレルヤ
It’s been quite a week in the news and in our world hasn’t it?
- Afghanistan – continuing trauma
- American hospital ICUs filled with COVID patients
- Haiti earthquake and politics
- Wild fires across the west
- Hurricane Ida across the South and Northeast
What does it mean to “praise the Lord” in the midst of these crises?
The ancient Israelites were also often in crisis… this psalm teaches us:
Praise is often an act of discipline.
- We do it not because our circumstances are happy or easy…. but in the face of all evidence to the contrary. In a world gone crazy… God is still worthy of our praise.
- All human plans and efforts are temporal – it is God alone that gives us life and breath and what we need.
Praise can be a form of defiance against wordly powers.
- Despite this mess, we will praise
- A decision to focus on the eternal and not the temporary picture
Praise has the power to change us and our circumstances
- Crying, complaining, and lamenting to God is cathartic and deeply meaningful. But Praising God in tough circumstances has the power to change us in ways that nothing else can!
- Praise isn’t for God’s benefit. It’s for our benefit. We are changed. We recognize again who WE are and who GOD is.
Paul and Silas in Philippi
Read the account of Paul and Silas in Acts 16. They were beaten multiple times, put in prison, had their hands and feet put in stocks…. but around midnight it says that they began to sing praises – the prisoners around them were listening… and at the end of this account, they are miraculously freed by an earthquake. Not only that, but the account ends with Paul sharing the gospel with the Philippian jailor and his family.
What would cause Paul and Silas to “sing praises” in prison – in the dark, at midnight, while suffering from their beatings and open sores?! What were the other prisoners thinking when they heard these songs and praises? Does something in this account resonate deep within you? Wouldn’t we all wish to live in this power that sees and recognizes a bigger picture…rather than just the reality in front of us? May we experience the power of praise in our own lives this week.
(The above is a summary of the message shared during worship on Sept. 5, 2021)