Today, we’re continuing our message series Praying the Psalms. In this series, we’re looking at all the types of prayers in the largest book in the Bible, 150 chapters long. Although just about everyone knows the 23rd Psalm, we often tend to ignore Psalms in our teaching and study of God’s Word. Although I’ve preached individual messages on a select psalm, this is the first series that I’ve ever preached based entirely on the Psalms. I trust we’re all learning more about the value of this important book in the Bible.
Today, our message is entitled Prayers of Praise In the Hebrew language, which the Psalms are written in, there are three words that are used often. They have different, but somewhat overlapping meanings. The three words are often translated in English as worship, thanks and praise. In fact, in the Hebrew the book of Psalms is actually the book of praises.
The first word for worship is schachah in the Hebrew. This word means to bow down or prostrate oneself before the Lord. It implies an act of worship and submission either literally or within one’s heart. The physical posture of worship is often bowing one’s head, kneeling or laying prostrate, face down on the ground. The Hebrew word that is translated to give thanks is yadah. It means to confess or declare God’s attributes or works and is an aspect of praise. The last Hebrew word which means praise is halal. It is the root word for hallelujah which means “praise the Lord.” The word means to praise, celebrate or boast about God’s character and/or acts. So, praises are joyful celebrations of God, who He is and what He has done.
So, my take away from this brief language study is that worship is a reverent bowing and submitting oneself before the Lord, bowing or kneeling. Praise is a joyful celebration of God and what He has done. Giving thanks is often part of our giving praise to God. All three of these activities can be done either individually or together as a group of believers. All three are aspects of prayer, that God desires for us to grow in. Today, we’re going to learn more about praise, so let’s begin with a video on the first psalm that we’re going to be looking at Psalm 33.
Sovereignty is the teaching that God is king, supreme ruler and lawgiver of the entire universe. Nothing is outside of God’s control, He is all powerful. Since we know that God is good, just and loving, the fact that God is sovereign is certainly something to praise Him for.
Psalm 33:1 (ESV) Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.
The psalm begins with an instruction for the righteous to shout for joy as an expression of praise. It says that’s what the upright should do. When’s the last time you shouted for joy? To be honest, for me it was probably at someone hitting a homerun, scoring a touchdown or getting a goal. Maybe we should be shouting Hallelujah in praising the Lord more often.
Psalm 33:6 (ESV) By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
God’s sovereignty is revealed in creation. The Lord created the vast unsearchable reaches of our universe. He populated them with stars, quasars, galaxies, pulsars, black holes, dark matter and many other phenomena that we haven’t figured out yet. What should our response be when we look at the wonders of the universe?
Psalm 33:8 (ESV) Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
Praise is an expression of the fear of the Lord, standing in awe of God. God’s Word commands all the nations of the world and the people within to fear and praise Him. In God’s sovereignty, He rules not only the vast universe, but the nations of the earth.
Psalm 33:12 (ESV) Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
Not all peoples and not all nations fear the Lord. But those who do are blessed, as are the people who fear the Lord. Even in our nation when many do not fear God, those of us who do act as salt and light and bring God’s blessing.
Psalm 33:18 (ESV) Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,
As we praise and fear God, He shows us His love and we put our hope in the Lord. The Lord watches over the upright who understand and love the Lord. No matter what you’re going through in life, you can always praise God for His sovereignty.
Modern science gives us an even greater appreciation of God’s sovereign role in creation. God was intimately involved in every aspect of creation. From the creation of the far flung spaces of the universe to the amazing complexity of the biochemistry of the simplest organism. When we encounter troubling life situations that we may not understand, we can put our trust in a sovereign God for whom nothing is impossible.
God doesn’t promise to answer every question that we may have about life. But He does promise to never leave us and to guide us through as we follow Him. As you choose to praise God, both in the good and not so good time, He will bring hope and joy into your life. He will increase your faith and encourage your heart about the future He has for you. Praise God for His sovereignty.
Psalm 66:1 (ESV) Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
In Psalm 33, we saw that the righteous should shout for joy to God. Psalm 66 calls on the entire earth to shout for joy to God. Although all the earth is not shouting for joy to God, one day, all those who do not praise the Lord will be removed and this verse will come to pass. Why should we shout for joy to God?
Psalm 66:5 (ESV) Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
As we move through this psalm, we see the focus of praise will be on what God has done for His people. Not only is God awesome in creation, but He is awesome in how interacts with people. What should our response be?
Psalm 66:8 (ESV) Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard,
Actually in this verse, we have a fourth Hebrew word commonly used along with praise in the Scripture. The Hebrew word is barak, which means to bless. The meaning of barak, to bless, is to endue with power for success. So, when God blesses His people, He gives us the power to be successful for Him. But in this verse and many others, it calls us as human beings to bless God, the lesser called upon to bless the greater. How is that possible? To bless God means that we give our lives, everything we have, to make Him and His kingdom successful. As people made in the image of God, we have lives of value to spend in the service of the Lord. That’s how we bless Him, which is another form of praise. I might add that many other translations, such as the NIV, translate the Hebrew word for bless here, barak, as praise. This is incorrect. It’s one of the reasons that we have moved to the more accurate translation ESV, English Standard Version recently.
Psalm 66:16-17 (ESV) Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue.
In these verses, we see the reason for the psalmist praise to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord in prayer with his request, even as he was praising the Lord. He is giving his God Story of what God has done for him in answering his prayer.
Psalm 66:20 (ESV) Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!
The psalmist blesses God himself. The reason is that God did not reject his prayer, but accepted and answered his prayer request. God’s answer to our prayers is an expression of His love for us. We can always praise God for answered prayer.
This week, as always, I’d encourage you to read in their fullness, the psalms that we’re looking at. In Psalm 66, we see that the psalmist is addressing other believers. In verse 16, he calls on those who fear God to hear about his answer to prayer. One of the ways that we bless God is to give Him praise for answered prayer in front of other people. You can do that by talking to friends and relatives about what God has done, you can post things on Facebook, or you can give a God story on Sunday morning at church. In fact, I would love to have God stories to post on our website, either written or video. Blessing God in front of others and praising Him to all who would listen. If we have eyes to see, God is always answering our prayers and deserves our praise.
Psalm 103:2-3 (ESV) Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
Here again, we see the call to bless the Lord and to not forget all His benefits. The reason God’s Word tells us to not forget God’s benefits is that we are prone to forget or not even notice. God gives us benefits each and every day which we don’t even ask Him for. God forgives our sins and heals us of diseases we may not even know we had. God provides for us, guides and protects us all through our lives, for which we should praise Him.
Psalm 103:11 (ESV) For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
Why does God give us all these benefits? Because of His great love for all those who fear Him. God gives benefits for all who live on the earth, but the greatest benefits He gives to His children who love and fear Him.
Psalm 103:17 (ESV) But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,
The love of God for His children is an everlasting or eternal love. The greatest benefit that He gives is that of eternal life with Him forever. The shows His love to the children and children’s children of the righteous. We can praise Him for His future works of love toward us and our families.
Psalm 103:19 (ESV) The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.
As you read the entire psalm, you will see that the psalmist likens a person’s life to that of a flower in the field. Here one day and gone the next. God on the other hand is eternal. His authority and kingdom will never pass away. We can praise God for His works of today and for His works that will continue forever.
Psalm 103:21-22 (ESV) Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!
As the psalm closes, the psalmist calls on the angelic hosts, those who minister on earth, all the works or creations of God wherever His kingdom rules are to bless Him. Finally, the writer calls on his own soul to bless the Lord. To offer up himself in the service of the King of the universe. We praise the Lord for His works.
God’s works are all around us, even though we often don’t even recognize or praise Him for them. Many believers have bought into the falsehood that the universe simply runs itself by the laws of nature. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible tells us that God holds everything together by the power of His Word. The so-called laws of nature are simply the way that God generally works in our world. Something supernatural is not God stepping into our world, He’s never left. The supernatural work of God is God working in a unique way in our world whenever He chooses. God is constantly moving in supernatural ways in our lives, even though we don’t recognize most of it. Praise the Lord for His works, they are wonderful.
Today we’ve talked about different things that we can always praise the Lord for. To praise is to give a heart-felt Hallelujah to God, even when things are tough. We can praise God for His sovereignty, His kingdom rules over all and will never be defeated. God has created and holds together the entire universe, including the earth, by the power of His Word. We can praise God for answered prayer. When we cry out to God for the things that He places on our hearts, God hears and answers. We can praise God for His works that He is always doing. God blesses us daily in ways we seldom pay attention to or give Him thanks for.
Take some time today to think of all God’s blessings in your life. Then praise Him and bless Him for showing His love for you and your family. As you do, your focus will shift from life’s difficulties to the blessings of the Lord. As you and I grow in praising God no matter what’s going on, we will experience His joy more and more.