Hallelujah Psalms –
HOW TO PRAISE GOD
Charles Spurgeon, the famous 19th century English preacher said, “Praise is the rent which God requires for the use of His mercies.” Praise ought to have a prominent place in our lives, as it is due to God. Believers who continually praise the Lord pay their rent; those who don’t are robbing Him! Praise is the noblest part of our duty; it is not only due God, but is also beneficial to our souls.
The Book of the Psalms majors in the praise of God. As we read the hallelujah psalms, we discover that praise should be offered in a sevenfold manner.
1. Praise is due God continually
Throughout the Bible, the most consistent feature of how to praise God is the fact that praise is due God continually. This key truth is so stressed in Scripture that it leaves no room for occasional and sporadic praise. Genuine praise is based on something more than temporary euphoria and fluctuating circumstances.
Praise is not optional for Christians. God wants us to live a life of unceasing praise. We do not do God a great favor by praising Him; we simply obey Him. Praise is not mechanical, but the spontaneous outburst of a heart delighting in the Lord. Does He not give us abundant cause to praise Him? If God “daily loads us with benefits” (Ps. 68:19 NKJV), it is our duty to praise daily. And if His mercies “are new every morning” (Lam. 3:23), we should thank Him every morning. As there is no end to God’s mercies, there should be no end to our gratitude.
To praise the Lord at all times means to praise Him for the trials and tribulations as well as the blessings in our lives. Since praise is directed towards God, and is based on His great person, attributes, and works, it is obvious that it has nothing to do with our feelings. To praise God continually simply means to adore Him, whether we feel like it or not – in good and bad times, in fair and foul weather, in health and sickness. To praise God for His mercies is how we increase them; to praise Him in our miseries is how we decrease them.
The Holy Spirit uses every possible means to emphasize that we must offer unceasing praise to God. “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1). The perpetuity of praise in this verse is affirmed twice: “at all times,” and “continually.” To praise the Lord is never unseasonable. In Psalm 71 the same truth is emphasized using two different expressions. The word “continually” is mentioned three times (Ps. 71:3,6,14); the phrase “all the day” is also repeated three times (71:8,15,24).
“Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its going down the LORD’s name is to be praised” (Ps. 113:2-3). If we have not cultivated the holy habit of unceasing praise, we should jot down today’s date in our planner or diary and start to praise the Lord “from this time forth and forevermore.” The word “forevermore” in reference to the praise of God signifies endless duration both in this life and the next.
Psalm 119:164 puts it this way: “Seven times a day I praise You.” Psalm 145:1-2 uses different language: “I will extol You, my God, O King; and I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day will I bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever.” Unceasing praise is also intimated in Psalm 146:2: “While I live I will praise the LORD; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” As long as my heart is beating and my lungs are pumping blood, I will praise the Lord.
2. Praise must be whole-hearted
Several psalms open with the psalmist’s resolve to praise the Lord “with my whole heart” (Ps. 9:1; 111:1; 138:1). And Psalm 86:12 says, “I will praise You, O LORD my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify Your name forevermore.” True praise, that is rooted in God’s Word and bent on His glory, must proceed from the whole heart. Our great God is worthy of nothing less than great praise that proceeds from the greatest part of our being – the heart. “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable” (Ps. 145:3).
The word “heart” is used here to refer to the whole inner man, or the whole soul including the intellect, affections, will and conscience. Peter wrote of “the hidden person of the heart” (1 Pet. 3:4). To praise God with the whole heart is to praise Him fervently, with our very essence, our whole inner being.
I praise God with my mind when “My mouth shall speak wisdom, and the meditation of my heart shall bring understanding” (Ps. 49:3). And again, “I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds” (Ps. 77:12). And again, “May my meditation be sweet to Him” (Ps. 104:34).
I praise the Lord with my memory when “I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember Your wonders of old” (Ps. 77:11). And again, “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Ps. 103:1-2). The expression “all that is within me” is equivalent to “my whole heart.” We bless God when we remember that He is the Source of all that is good in our lives, and when we recount the many temporal and spiritual blessings He has conferred upon us.
3. Praise must be offered with determination
The more we read the Psalms, the more we become impressed with the fact that many of them contain a determination to praise the Lord. Whenever the psalmist says, “I will praise the LORD,” he simply means he is “resolved” or “determined” to praise the Lord. Many psalms open with a statement of determination to praise the Creator of heaven and earth (Ps. 9,30,34,89,101,111,145).
Another expression used by the psalmist to affirm his determination to praise Jehovah is “my heart is fixed.” The fixed heart is the heart that is not afraid, not trembling, the heart that vows to sing and give praise. David uses this phrase twice when he says, “My heart is steadfast, O my God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise” (Ps. 57:7). We are told that when he wrote this psalm David was a fugitive from the wrath of Saul. His praise was based on principle, not impulse. It was praise which had permeated his being. It was praise which had become a fixed habit, a full-time occupation, and a total way of life.
In saying that praise should be a matter of commitment and determination, no one should conclude that praise is a difficult or unpleasant task. When we reflect on the divine election of the Father, the sacrificial death of the Son and the many gracious operations of the Holy Spirit, praise should be the spontaneous outburst of our hearts, overflowing with the praise of our great and gracious God.
4. Praise should be rendered with understanding
“Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth: sing praises with understanding” (Ps. 47:6-7). In these two verses the summons to praise God is repeated five times. In Scripture the number five signifies responsibility. There is no vain repetition in the Bible; here it is for the sake of emphasis – it is vehemency of soul and fervor of heart. The psalmist calls upon us to render praise unto the Lord, and not merely to utter it, but to “sing” it out of an overflowing heart, and with understanding.
Genuine praise to Jehovah must be with understanding – thoughtfully and intelligently. We can understand why the Lord should be praised; it is simply because He alone is worthy of praise. “Praise is awaiting You, O God” (Ps. 65:1). He is the “God of my praise” (Ps. 109:1). All the perfections of God, all His works, and all His gifts are worthy of the praises of our hearts and the fruit of our lips.
We can never understand why and how God operates, but He wants us to accept, with understanding, that He loves us and has a plan for us. We don’t know why babies are born with congenital defects – as when twins are born with their heads joined together – but we know that “God’s mercy endures forever” (Ps. 136). We don’t know why children get sick and die, but we know that “God is good and does good” (Ps. 119:68). We don’t know why earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters occur, but we know that “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28).
We are to praise the Majesty of heaven with our understanding, not in spite of it. When adversity strikes, our tendency is to stop praising God. In the furnace of affliction our initial response to the command to thank God for everything (Eph. 5:20; 1 Th. 5:18) tends to leave us distraught and perplexed. We are apt to say, “I just can’t understand how I can praise Him for my tragic situation. It would be blasphemy to thank God for something so obviously evil.” However, God is greatly honored when, under trial and chastening, we have good thoughts of Him, vindicate His wisdom and justice, and praise Him.
Sometimes we find it difficult to harmonize God’s mysterious dealings with His gracious promises. In these times, we need to learn the vital lesson of waiting on Him for more light. In His time, He will make it plain to us. “What I am doing now you do not understand, but you will know after this” (Jn. 13:7) is His promise.
5. Praise should be rendered with gladness
In the Psalms, praise and joy are often side by side. “I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Ps. 9:2). “Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy … I will sing praises to the LORD” (Ps. 27:6). “I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise” (Ps. 42:4).
Our outward circumstances may be up and down, but our inner attitude must be one of constant joy. We are commanded to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4). We are to rejoice not in our health, money, position, power, children, or even our spiritual achievements – but in the Lord. We are to praise God and rejoice continually. It is a contradiction of terms to praise God and be miserable.
6. Praise should be with excited boasting
An important element in real praise is excited boasting in the wonder of knowing God. “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the LORD” (Ps. 34:1-2). “In God we boast all day long, and praise Your name forever” (Ps. 44:8). These two verses reveal a close relationship between praise and boasting in the Lord; both go together.
It is wrong for Christians to boast in their power, riches, wisdom, etc. Our boasting should be in knowing God. Jeremiah affirms that we should boast only in Him: “Thus says the LORD: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me” (Jer. 9:23-24). “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord” (Gal. 6:14).
7. The Spirit promotes continual praise and thanksgiving
Immediately following the injunction to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), there is a list of three characteristics of the Spirit-filled life. The first is the outward expression of praise through “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (5:19). The second is an inner attitude of worship evidenced by “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (5:19). The third is “giving thanks always for all things” (5:20). This attitude is to be all-inclusive in the life of the believer. It should apply at all times – “always” – and in all situations – “for all things.”
May these lessons from the Hallelujah Psalms increase your praise of our great God.
By Maurice Bassali
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org