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THE PLEASURE OF PRAISE
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Based on Psa. 84
In the movie, Chariots Of Fire, the great runner Eric Liddell was talking to his sister about going back to China as a missionary. Jennie was so pleased with his decision, but then Eric said, "I've got a lot of running to do first." When her look of happiness vanished, he responded, "Jennie, Jennie. You've got to understand. I believe God made me for a purpose-for China. But he also made me fast, and when I run I feel His pleasure. To give it up would be to hold Him in contempt."
Eric felt the pleasure of God when he did his best to use what God had given him. He was saying, pleasure is a two way street. God gives us pleasure, and we give God pleasure. Is this a Biblical reality? Yes it is. We can give the Lord of the universe great pleasure just as our children and grandchildren can give us great pleasure. The pain can be equally real, but that is so well known it is not a question. But the pleasure of God is seldom considered, even though a quick count showed 28 verses in the Bible that deal with the pleasure of God.
One of the things He is most pleased with is the praise of His people. If they feel pleasure in Him, and rejoice in thanksgiving for His goodness to them, He feels great pleasure. Psa. 69:30-31 says, " I will praise God's name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox....." God does not get His pleasure in our ritual performance of sacrifices. His real pleasure is in our pleasure of Him that produces joy, which is, in turn, expressed by praise. Our spiritual pleasure gives God pleasure.
God is not impressed with power, for He has all power. He gets His pleasure from our attitudes of dependence, trust, and hope in Him. In Psa. 147:10-11 we read, "His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love." God reveals His feminine side in what He most enjoys. It is not the masculine stuff of power and strength, but the feminine stuff of feeling and personal relationships. Paul stress this feminine side of his personally too in I Thess. 2:7. "As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children."
Paul is saying, we could have been more masculine, and we could have been rough on you, but we were more feminine, and, therefore, gentle. And why? He tells us in verse 4: "We are not trying to please men but God." God is pleased when we deal with people with the feminine touch of gentleness. Men can choose to do this and give God pleasure. It was Paul's greatest goal in life to please God, and it should be ours as well. When we give God pleasure we are living life on the highest possible level.
There is an old story of a sculptor who made an image of an angel high on a Cathedral tower. He was asked why he bothered to make the back of it so perfect since no one would ever see it. He said, "God will and I labor to please Him." Some poet put the story in verse. A sculptor on Cathedral tower, 'With patient care and toil, An angel wrought-A thing of beauty growing there, Expression of the workman's Noblest thought. His fellow, scoffing, said; "For naught Thy pains, for who can note At this far height? He, rev'rent, answered; 'Nay, My friend, But this shall live In God's eternal sight."
When you get pleasure in pleasing God you are living in the spirit. But when you do not care if you please God or not, you are living in the flesh. Paul says in Rom. 8:8, "Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." The purpose of Paul's instruction to the churches was to help them please God. He states this clearly in I Thess. 4:1. "Finally brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are now living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more."
Paul says Christian growth is growing in ones ability to please God. All you learn, and all you do in serving, and all you do in witnessing, and all you do in living the Christian life, is for the purpose of pleasure. It is for God's pleasure and your own, for the more you live to please God the more pleasure you get out of living. Heb. 11 tells us of the great saints of faith in the Old Testament. One of the first was Enoch who walked with God, and God took him to heaven without dying. Why was he one in a million? Because verse 5 says, he pleased God. There is no higher goal to aim for in life. To always please God is a definition of the perfect life. Jesus said in John 8:29, "The one who sent me is with me, he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him."
The goal in all we do as Christians is to please God, and that is also the goal of worship. Why do we worship God? The answer is to please Him, and by so doing enrich our own lives, and fill them with greater pleasure. Worship is often linked with boredom due to uninspiring music, and long tedious sermons that are much a do about nothing relevant to our lives. This is a reality we have to endure, but it is not true worship. True worship is pleasurable for both God and man. If there is no pleasure you have not worshipped. You have simply been present for a religious service. While you were bored out of your mind others around you may have worshipped, and felt great pleasure. We need to learn how to experience pleasure in worship for that is the whole purpose for coming to church. We could say, if there is no pleasure there is no treasure.
The Psalms are the treasure chest of worship, and we want to link what they teach to our verse by verse study of Psalm 84. The bottom line of the Psalms is the pleasure of praise. In Psa. 84:4 they are called blessed or happy who dwell in God's house and are ever praising Him. Praise is the perfect example of the double pleasure of worship. When we praise God we are feeling pleasure, for praise is an expression of pleasure. It is thanksgiving for God's being, and for His goodness, grace, and guidance. Praise feels good, and it makes God feel good when you feel good enough to praise Him.
In Heb. 13:15 we read, "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess His name." He says in the very next verse, "With such sacrifices God is pleased." The pleasure of praise is a pleasure shared by God and man. Someone wrote, "Praise is the divine catharsis. Nothing so cheers the heart, and clears the mind and purges the emotions as praise. There is nothing like praise to generate blessing, to pull heaven down, to propel our souls toward God and to prepare us for His presence. Praise is the secret of song, the source of strength, a cure for depression."
The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. How do we do this? Walter Brueggmann in his book, Israel's Praise, tells us. "Praise is the duty and delight, the ultimate vocation of the human community; indeed, of all creation. Yes, all of life is aimed toward God and finally exists for the sake of God. Praise articulates and embodies our capacity to yield, submit and abandon ourselves in trust and gratitude to the One whose we are. Praise is not only a human requirement and a human need, it is also a human delight. We have a resilient hunger to move beyond self, to return our energy and worth to the One from whom it has been granted. In our return to that One, we find our deepest joy. That is what it means to "glorify God and enjoy God forever."
You note, he says praise is both a duty and delight. We tend to think of duty as a pain, but not so when it is linked to the praise of God. It is a Christian duty to be happy, and the shortest route to that goal is praise. The story is told of a wise man who asked his three sons what they were going for in life. The eldest said pleasure; the second said riches; the third said duty. Some years later he asked them how they had done. The eldest said pleasure is but a phantom that flies as one approaches. The second said pleasure is not in riches. But the youngest said as I walked with duty pleasure was ever at my side. The story teaches a Biblical truth. When we fulfill our duty to praise God pleasure will be by our side.
The reason praise is a duty is because it is a basic part of human nature to praise what is valued. We praise all that we treasure, and all which gives us pleasure. We praise people who please us. We praise products which please us. We praise programs which please us. We praise politicians who please us. When we enjoy a great meal we praise the cook. When we see a great painting, or a work of art in any form, we praise the artist. A song well done will draw forth the clapping of hands which is an expression of praise. Anything that gives us pleasure produces in us the desire to praise that which produced the pleasure.
To worship God means to express His worth to us. If we do not praise God, we do not feel His worth. It means we do not feel any pleasure in who He is and what He has done for us. This is practical atheism, and that is why it is a duty to praise God. It is a duty to praise all who give you pleasure, for praise is one of the key ways by which we convey love. When we praise our mates we are saying to them, you please me and give me pleasure, and I am grateful to you. This keeps love alive for it makes partners feel they are fulfilling their role in the relationship. All relationships thrive on pleasure. If there is no pleasure the relationship will die. Thus, praise is a duty in all relationships, and that is why the book of Psalms is so full of praise. It is at the very heart of the God-man relationship.
Praise is love in action. It is the daughter crawling up into daddy's lap and hugging and kissing him. It is the son saying to mom, you are the greatest mom ever. Praise is love expressed so the loved one can feel they are loved. Thereby the pleasure of love is doubled, for both can then feel it. God feels this pleasure when He is loved by praise. He made us in His image so we all share this common need for such pleasure. Praise is a sign on every level that love is present, and pleasure is being enjoyed. The pleasure of praise is universal, and that is why it is a duty and a delight to praise God, for only when we do praise do we truly worship.
No matter what we do in changing our patterns and forms of worship is of any value unless it leads to praise. That is the essence of worship, that which makes you feel like praising God. Ronald Allen writes with great wisdom in these two paragraphs:
"I am aware that the recent history of the church has been Beset with innumerable fads. One new idea about theology, Methodology, lifestyle, and church life follows another. Each is presented with fanfare and excitement. Each flashes and splashes, then sparkles and sputters, and then is replaced by another new idea. We are weary with fads. But the praise of God is not a passing fancy! It is one of the most elemental, fundamental, and necessary factors of the life of faith in this and any age. It is the goal and direction of all creation. The praise of God is the occupation of all His holy angels. The praise of God is the purpose of man. The praise of God is the end result of all God's wonders, all His being, and all His acts. If man will not praise God, the very stones will! He has redeemed us for the praise of His glory. This is no fad!"
Here in our text in verse 4, they are called blessed who dwell in the house of God for they are ever praising God. The praise of God and the presence of God are linked, and this is because the praise of God produces the presence of God. God is everywhere present, but we are not conscious of His presence everywhere. But when we praise Him we become conscious of His presence, for praise brings us into His presence. To pray without ceasing and to praise without ceasing is the goal of the Christian life, and the state of ideal happiness.
In Psa. 34:1 David says, "I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips." In Psa. 71:6 he says, "I will ever praise you", and in verse 24 he says, "My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long." The pleasure of praise is to be the most frequent pleasure we enjoy in life. Psa. 113:3, "From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets the name of the Lord is to be praised." All day long, all over the world, at all times, and in all places, the Lord is to be praised. The old orange juice commercial use to say, "It isn't just for breakfast anymore." We could say of praise, it isn't just for church services anymore. Praise is to be perpetual. It is a pleasure God wants you to enjoy all day long everyday.
Singing is the means by which love is most often expressed in the world. Take the theme of love and romance out of songs, and the air waves would be set back to an age of silence. Poetry and music combine to convey the joy of love. Singing is also the way the bride of Christ conveys her love to her Groom, and to God the Father, who made it all possible for them to be united. The romantic and the religious have a great deal in common. The Song of Solomon makes this clear by being both a great romantic and religious song. The romantic and religious represent the two most intense emotional relationships of life. There is no other means available to express these emotions adequately but by songs. Love needs a song.
The singing we do in church is not just to take up time to get an hour's service in. It is a basic part of our worship. We have the choir and soloist sing, and we sing as a congregation. That is three forms of singing that we do on a regular basis. Why do we devote so much time to songs? The reason is simple. If praise is the essence of worship, then the most likely way to touch our emotions and move us to praise God will be through the power of music. We need to listen to music with an ear that is determined to hear that which will provoke us to praise God. Is the tune enjoyable? Is the message wonderful? Is the harmony pleasing? By one aspect or another I should be moved to praise God. That is the bottom line for all the music and songs that we hear in church.
The sacrifice of praise is not always easy to offer. It takes work and concentration. It takes a labor of love to get the mind trained to fulfill this duty. Every worship service is a training session to help the believer function more effectively in offering the sacrifice of praise. Our minds should be searching the words of the hymns, and asking the Lord to reveal how the message is of value to our lives. Paul says in I Cor. 14:15, "I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind." Yes, it is an expression of emotion to sing, but the mind is to be active as well as it searches to love God with all its being by finding exciting truths that lead you to praise.
Singing is not merely a preliminary to hearing the Word of God. It is preparation, but it has value in itself. First of all, it honors God. Psa. 50:23 says, "He who offers praise honors me." If you write a song or sing a song to someone, that is quite an honor, for it represents labor and sacrifice for the object of your praise. Secondly, it gives pleasure to the praiser. Psa. 147:1 says, "How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise Him." When we praise God we are giving to Him the only thing we really have to give. Worship involves not just what we get out of it, but what we put into it. What do you contribute to worship. Praise is to be your offering to God. To give praise gives pleasure to you in return, for it is a pleasure to give pleasure to one who gives you pleasure.
This is the goal of worship. Every time we come to an end of a service there should have been in that experience that which pleased God, and gave the worshipers pleasure. The most likely way that will happen will be by some truth or some music that will produce in the worshipers the pleasure of praise.
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