What praise is and what it does

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His name.  Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget none of His benefits….  Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Psalm 103:1-2,22).

Again and again throughout Holy Writ, we are enjoined, instructed, commanded and reminded to praise the Lord. To bless His name.  To burst forth in worship during which we say things like “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessings” (Revelation 5:12).

How come?  What good does this do to tell the Lord and Master of the universe that He is Lord and Master of the universe?  Sure He already knows who He is (see John 13:1-4).  Being complete within Himself, God does not need our praise.

So, what’s this all about?

It’s a fair question and one that has been asked and answered by disciples far better than this poor child.

As a new believer, C. S. Lewis had trouble with the question.  “I found a stumbling block in the demand so clamorously made by all religious people that we should ‘praise’ God; still more in the suggestion that God Himself demanded it.”  (Reflections on the Psalms)

This being my blog, and Psalm 103 having been dealt with on these pages in recent days, it now falls to me to make an attempt to answer the question:  What is it to bless the Lord and what good is it?  (Again, I’m grateful to Dr. Lewis whom I shall quote below.)

We could do a word study.  But let’s not.

Eulogia.  Barak.  The first is Greek and the second Hebrew.

The Hebrew word comes from a root meaning “to kneel,” we’re told.  So, as before royalty, we lower ourselves.  We worship and honor.

Eulogia literally means “a good word” or “to speak well of.”  When we bless someone we give them words of help, encouragement, honor.  “You blessed me,” we might say to one who gave assistance in a needed time.  Luke 6:27 calls on us to bless our enemies, meaning we are to say positive, Christ-honoring words to them instead of what our carnal nature suggests.

The matter of blessing God is complicated just a tad by Hebrews 7:7 where we read, “I say beyond all contradiction that the lesser is blessed by the greater.” The writer was calling attention to Melchizedek’s blessing of Abraham at the end of Genesis 14.  That act made him greater than Abraham, is the point.  But it certainly does not apply when we bless God.

Let’s make up a parable and see if it helps.

Let’s say you are a kid just out of high school, green behind the ears, and without any real talents except one:  you are eager.  You’ve been hired by a large company to perform menial tasks.  One day, to your complete surprise, you are summoned to the big office and ushered into the inner sanctum where the big boss, the CEO, awaits.  He has an errand for you to run.  Just for him.

You are more than a little shocked.  This is a man of great power.  He has thousands of employees  He could give this assignment to assistants who are more experienced and capable than you will be in years.  And yet, he is choosing you.  You are honored, yes, but overwhelmed is more like it.

You are to travel to a location at the edge of the city and speak to someone in authority on behalf of your boss and deliver a message.  That’s all.  About as simple as it gets.

Out you go.  You take the bus for several miles and then transfer to another bus which will deliver you to your destination.

And along the way you start worrying.

Can you do this? Who are you, just a kid with no skills.  You have no experience dealing with powerful executives such as the man you will be calling upon.  Will you stutter and stammer and be unable to speak?  Are you dressed well enough?  What if they don’t allow you into his presence?  What if the man has bodyguards and layers of authorities–assistants, secretaries, security people–who won’t let you through?  How will you be able to return to your employer and report that you failed?

You work yourself into a lather worrying about this.

So, you pull the cord and get off at the next corner.  You sit on a park bench, take out your phone and call the boss.

‘Sir,” you say hesitantly.  “Sir, I’m not sure I can do this.  I mean, who am I?  And what if his people won’t let me in to see him?  What if he laughs at me, just a kid trying to deliver such an important message?  What if I fail?”

The boss has dealt with fearful underlings before.  He does not rebuke you.  He says quietly, “All right, son.  Listen to me.”

“This is not about you.  This is about me.  You work for me.  You are on a mission for me.  Do you get that?”  You nod,

“So, I want you to repeat after me…  Ready? Say this along with me…” .

–“My boss is a powerful man in a huge company.”

–“My boss is in charge.”

–“My boss chose me.”

–“My boss believes in me….It is a privilege to serve him in this  way….How people respond to my boss’ message is not my worry….My job is to deliver the message….This is not about me…This is about being faithful…doing my job…honoring my employer.”

As you repeat those words–and continue saying them after you’ve ended the phone call–you find things happening.

You feel at peace.  You are confident.  You are energized to go about your assignment.  You are thankful to have such an employer.  You are determined to serve him well and make him glad he chose you.

A few minutes later, you are standing at the door about to enter where you will carry out your assignment.  You begin to hesitate. Fear creeps in.  But you know what to do.  You speak to yourself:  “My boss is a powerful man.  He knows what he is doing.  This is not about me.  He is in charge.  I will be faithful.  I will honor this one who trusts me.”

And you march in and do your job confidently.  You are relaxed and smiling, pleasant and confident.

Okay.  That is what blessing God does.

When we bless God, many things happen…

–Blessing God honors God.  We are giving Him the praise He is due.  We are saying the most basic truth in the universe: God is God and I’m not.

–We remind ourselves who is in charge and that we are not on our own out here.

–We reorder our little corner of the universe, putting things back in order.

–We put the emphasis back where it should be.

–Blessing God changes our focus.

–It relieves our anxieties.

–It clears our vision to see beyond our trials.

–We love Him more after praising Him.

–We enjoy His presence more as a result.

–It breaks the cycle of self-absorption which often engulfs hurting people.

–It opens our hearts to receive His love

–It shows the Father that His child is “getting it.”

–It relaxes our fears.

A few things C. S. Lewis said about praise…

“The world rings with praise–lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game–praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.”

“I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least.”

–“Praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.”

–“Men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious?  Don’t you think that magnificent?”

–“Praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment.”

–“In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

(From C. S. Lewis, “Reflections on the Psalms,” from chapter IX, “A word about praising.”)






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