Celebrating the Unsearchable Greatness of God: Reflections on Psalm 145 (Part Two)
In the previous article we looked at the unsearchable greatness of God. So, how does one respond to such a God? Needless to say, such splendor, majesty, mercy and call for the loudest and most passionate of praise. Continue reading . . .
In the previous article we looked at the unsearchable greatness of God. So, how does one respond to such a God? Needless to say, such splendor, majesty, mercy and call for the loudest and most passionate of praise.
We are to extol him (v. 1a), which literally means “to be high.” God is high and we acknowledge and declare it so. We don’t make him higher than he already and always is. But we can declare him to be infinitely high and worthy of praise. Thus to extol is to exalt above all others, to set as pre-eminent over every other thing. We also bless (vv. 1b, 2a, 10b) and praise (v. 2b), and commend and declare (v. 4, 6b) and meditate (v. 5) and speak (v. 6a) and pour forth praise of his abundant goodness (v. 7a).
As if that weren’t enough, we sing aloud (v. 7b) and give thanks (v. 10a) and make known (v. 12) his mighty deeds. What do each of these expressions of praise have in common? They are all verbal or vocalized declarations. Some of you might wish to push back against this and say, “Well, for one thing I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. I can’t sing. And I’m extremely introverted and don’t outwardly express myself in relation to much of anything.” I hear you. And all I want to say in response is: You will never fully worship God in proportion to his greatness and will never experience in your soul the depths of delight that comes from celebrating who he is and what he’s done until such time as you give vocal expression to your praise.
And let’s be diligent to do it every day (v. 2a), and not just on Sunday morning. Indeed, our praise and exaltation of God is to continue forever and ever (vv. 1a, 2b, 21b):
"Through all eternity to thee,
A joyful song I'll raise;
But oh, eternity's too short
To utter all thy praise." (Adam Clarke; Quoted in Spurgeon, III:B:384).
A heart flooded with thoughts of the splendor of God and what he does can no more conceive of an end of praise than it can conceive of an end of God himself!
Above all else, may our praise and honor and joyful celebration of this God be great, for “great is the Lord, and [therefore] greatly to be praised” (v. 3a). True worship must always be proportionate to the object of adoration. Great praise for a great God. "No chorus is too loud, no orchestra too large, no Psalm too lofty for the lauding of the Lord of Hosts” (Spurgeon, 376).
You will notice that I said nothing about the kind of songs we sing. One can genuinely worship God with a medieval hymn, a contemporary chorus, or in spoken prose. Nothing has been said about physical posture. One can genuinely worship God sitting, standing, kneeling, lying prostrate on the ground, dancing, with hands raised, with hands in pockets, with hands clapping, with tears flowing or a wide smile. I said nothing about the presence or absence of musical instruments. One can genuinely worship God by singing a cappella or with musical accompaniment, both by the human voice alone or with a symphony orchestra. I said nothing about the freedom, form, or style in which worship is expressed. One can genuinely worship God through centuries-old structured liturgy or Spirit-prompted spontaneity, both through pre-written confessions of faith or impromptu shouts of praise.
It is here, in closing, that I want to reiterate something I wrote about several weeks ago. This worship that we read about here in Psalm 145 and everywhere else in Scripture is unlike every other Christian experience. It is utterly and eternally unique in one critically important respect: worship is an end in itself. In other words, worship that glorifies God must be expressed in conscious awareness that this is the ultimate goal for which we were created and redeemed. We do not worship God in order to attain some higher end, or to accomplish some greater goal, or to experience a more satisfying joy.
Every other ministry or activity of the Christian serves some higher end. There is a “so that” appended to everything we do, except for worship. We preach, so that . . . We evangelize, so that . . . We cultivate fellowship in the body of Christ, so that . . . We study the Bible, so that . . . But when it comes to glorifying God by enjoying him and all that he is for us in Jesus, we can never say we do it so that . . . as if worship simply was a step on the path to something more ultimate, or as if worship were merely a door through which we proceed into something more important, or as if worship were merely one experience that we pursue for the sake of yet another, higher and more satisfying experience.
“But Sam,” you may be tempted to reply, “with what ultimate goal in view do you ascribe glory and honor and praise to God?” None! For there is no more ultimate goal than that.
“But Sam, what do you hope to accomplish by means of enjoying the majesty and perfections and goodness of God?” Nothing! Worship is not a means to the accomplishment of an end. Worship is itself the end accomplished by all other means.
Worship is not simply one part of the church’s existence. It is the point of the church’s existence.