Praise is a difficult thing.
We are called to praise and worship God for who God is. This is different from praising God for what God does for us. It’s difficult to discern the difference.
I praise God because God is faithful. This was demonstrated this morning when the sun once again rose to chase night away. And for this I am also thankful. I benefit from God’s faithfulness.
I praise God because God is love. I see this love in the beauty of creation. I feel love, manifest in my family and friends. I am thankful for God’s love.
I praise God because God is forgiving. I am reminded of my forgiveness each Sunday in worship. I am reminded of my forgiveness by my ability to forgive others. God’s forgiveness is life for me and gives me a grateful heart.
It doesn’t seem like it should matter whether we praise God for who God is or for what God does for us. Truthfully, it might be beyond my human capability to untangle why I praise God. For I only understand who God is by how I’ve experienced God in my life. It makes me wonder if I didn’t have these experiences and only knew God’s faithful, loving, and forgiving nature in theological abstracts, would I ever be led to praise?
Praise is a difficult thing.If we only knew God’s faithful, loving, and forgiving nature in theological abstracts, would we ever be led to praise? #FMF Click To Tweet
————- Five minutes are up. Today’s Five Minute Friday prompt is praise. You can read more here.
The difficulty of praise makes me think of Job. Job experienced God as faithful, loving, and forgiving but he also experienced abandonment by God. When he utters these words of praise, there is no thanksgiving in them.
Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said,
“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The LORD gave me what I had,
and the LORD has taken it away.
Praise the name of the LORD!” – Job 1:20-21 (NLT)
Job demonstrates how we are able to praise and worship God independent of our current circumstances or feelings because of our past experience with God. God’s character doesn’t change even as my circumstances do. Having experienced God’s faithfulness, love, and forgiveness before, I can continue to praise God even in times of suffering because I know who God is. It is this praise that finds peace and joy, even when there is none to be had.
Job also teaches us about the rawness of praise. None of us would have faulted Job for taking his wife’s advice to curse God and die. We don’t fault him for the long chapters of lament and challenge where he demands to confront God for not being who he thought God was.
When God finally shows up and responds to Job’s questions, it isn’t answers that Job gets. Nor is it balm for his wounds or comfort for his loss. Instead, Job is confronted with the God Who Is.
And this leads Job to a new kind of praise for God. Praise that isn’t born out of thanksgiving, but an awareness of God’s sovereignty and power. Job’s praise comes in utter response to God’s Otherness.
“I know that you can do anything,
and no one can stop you.
You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me.
You said, ‘Listen and I will speak!
I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.’
I had only heard about you before,
but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
I take back everything I said,
and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” – Job 42:2-6 (NLT)
Praise for who God is leads us to confession as we stand (or lie face down on the ground) in the overwhelming awareness of God’s holiness – and our lack of it. This praise is visceral and almost reflexive. It is not praise we can teach in Sunday school or really even explain. Like Job, it often leads us to silence because there are no human words to express it.Praise for who God is leads us to confession as we stand in the overwhelming awareness of God’s holiness – and our lack of it. This praise is visceral and almost reflexive. Click To Tweet
I like happy praise. I enjoy praise songs that are upbeat and are full of God’s promises. While this is true praise of an amazing God, the fullness of praise is usually a difficult thing. It is
raising my arms even when there is no music
offering my heart even when promises seem broken
living with peace when my life is chaos
being held in silence as confession and awe hold me still.
Whether it is the flushed breathlessness of joy and thanksgiving, trusting reliance of God’s past faithfulness, or wordless awe and confession, let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD! Praise the LORD!