DEVOTIONAL TEXT: “For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to your name” (2 SAMUEL 22:50).
PRAISE for the believer may not always be spontaneous. Indeed some of life’s best worship moments are acts of the will that result in transcendent experiences of faith. By that I mean, praise lifts us above our circumstances. Defying one’s troubling circumstances [the sort that would cause the fool to say “Where is God?!”] can incite praise moments, not inhibit them. Harry Ironside said, “We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” Amen!
A few days ago I experienced such a praise moment. May I be transparent? Life for the chronically ill can be troublesome for their family and caretakers as well as the patient. I was feeling very low as some life challenges piled higher and higher and the road of life itself seemed to be winding and twisting into the future. I longed for a clearer, straighter path, just as I longed for my wife’s cancer recovery. Grappling with more than long term issues, I was also dealing with the more immediate: a leaky basement and a jury summons and a family of rabbits eating up our flower bed. As a wise old man lamented, “What’s so difficult about life is that it is so daily!”
Not wanting my discouragement to spill on to my wife, I kept quiet and scurried to complete some chores about the house. Surely she would not notice: can’t a blank face (if not a weak smile) hide a discouraged heart?! Nancy, occupied with one of her jigsaw puzzles, suddenly began to sing softly a praise chorus. “This is the day…” and she halted, waiting me to join in by singing the echoing refrain. I did NOT feel like singing let alone praising, but nonetheless I responded. Then she continued: “That the LORD has made!” OK! OK! I repeated the lyrics. Then Nancy sang on: “We WILL rejoice and be glad in it!” Cancer and seizures may have damaged her voice but not her spirit. God used my sweet wife as His instrument to call me to PRAISE at a moment when I did not feel like praising. But this “forced” celebration and my own cooperative act of the will resulted in a moment of delight. My burdens did not press so heavy. And the smile in my heart as well as on my face became genuine! A. B. Simpson wisely taught, “When you cannot rejoice in feelings, circumstances or conditions, rejoice in the Lord.” To that I add “SELAH!”
PRAISE is distinct from THANKSGIVING, at least in my understanding. Thanksgiving focuses on what God does. Praise focuses on Who God is! When my children were little, some my most cherished Daddy joys came in life’s quiet, unexpected moments. My son or daughter might suddenly lay aside a cherished toy to come and crawl into my lap for a serendipitous burst of affection. Or, even more striking, hearing those tiny tot voices quiver, even after a moment of correction and discipline, say, “Daddy, I love you!” Opening an expensive Christmas or birthday present might prompt the same words, and even in those expected moments would be sweet. But such expressions of paternal devotion coming in the aftermath of a painful life moment, well, the love expression is sweeter than honey on the lips. I suspect our Father in Heaven feels the same way when His children find the heart and voice to speak His praise even when life hurts. Joni Eareckson Tada, herself no stranger to a life ricocheting with pain and adversity, speaks from her wheelchair with authority and authenticity for me in describing the nature and power of PRAISE in the believer’s life: “Like supernatural effervescence, praise will sometimes bubble up from the joy of simply knowing Christ. Praise like that is . . . delight. Pure pleasure! But praise can also be supernatural determination. A decisive action. Praise like that is . . . quiet resolve. Fixed devotion. Strength of spirit.” King David displayed such fixed devotion and strength of spirit in 2 Samuel 22:50. A good summary of David’s whole character and attitude through life can be found in verse 50: “For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to your name.”
His royal declaration of praise to the God of Israel is both personal worship and a kingly decree. He addresses an immediate as well as global and eternal audience. David has once again experienced deliverance from his foes, the victor with divine intervention rescuing him from assorted calamities: waves, floods, sorrows, snares. God’s servant suffered assault on every side: physical, spiritual, emotional, social. But on the brink of ruin his call to God did not go unheard.
But the larger text sheds more insight to the nature and cause of David’s praise: “He delivered me because He delighted in me!” David had an abiding sense of God’s delight in him, and so whether making pleas or praise, his confidence was rooted in personal relationship. Once when sharing life experiences with a pastor friend, I conceded at times I felt like God’s step-child! But my friend chuckled and said, with confidence and no hint of exaggerated self-worth, “O, I feel like I’m God’s pet!” David’s clear sense of God’s unswerving love (echoed in Paul’s affirmations in Romans 8) resulted in a victorious spirit even before the victories in life arrived. That is the power of PRAISE!
C. S. Lewis observed, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” David’s words demonstrate that appointed consummation of praise. As an insightful preacher once shared, demons flee the presence of a saint who is praising God. It reminds them of what they used to do before their Fall, and they cannot stand to be reminded of what they lost.” Whether spontaneous or coaxed, no wonder PRAISE empowers believers!