Wednesday, August 03, 2011

“Worship and Song and Praise”

Third Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Worship and Song and Praise”
For the week of July 31 - August 6, 2011
(PDF Link)


According to the Scriptures, the strongest argument against all opposition to the truth of God, is praise. This appears plainly from the eighth psalm quoted below from the Revised Version:
"O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Thy name in all the earth!  Thou hast set Thy glory upon the heavens.  Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou established strength, because of Thine adversaries, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger."   

From the mouths of babes and sucklings comes a power that is sufficient to stop the mouths of the enemies of the Lord.  Little children cannot reason and discuss; if they attempt to do so, their reasoning is feeble, and the effect is painful, because it is unnatural for them, and out of place.  What does naturally come from the mouths of children? - Praise, gladsome praise, and joy.  This is the power that can stop the mouths of enemies. 

This is not merely our conclusion.  We have the words of the Lord for it.  When Jesus entered the temple after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the children cried out and said, "Hosanna to the Son of David."  The priests were displeased.  Jesus said to them, "Have ye never read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings Thou has perfected praise?" (Matthew 21:16).  Thus we have Christ Himself as authority for the statement that the "power" mentioned in the eighth Psalm is praise.

It is difficult to frame an argument to which a shrewd man cannot make some plausible reply, a reply at least plausible enough to cover his retreat.  But who can frame an argument against praise?  There is nothing to reply to.  Even the enemy's anger against the truth and the one who holds it, must to some extent be appeased, because "a soft answer turneth away wrath."  Then let us use the argument of praise more and more.  Aye, let us learn how to use it to the exclusion of everything else.  "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O Most High" (Psalm 92:1).  "Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt Him also in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders" (Psalm 107:31, 32).

WHO MAY PRAISE THE LORD?  A strange question, some may say.  But it is not an unnecessary one since many sincerely desire to serve God, but they dare not praise Him. One sentence is enough to answer our question, and it is this: "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord" Psalm 150:6).

If you will persist in regarding the words, "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord," as merely a permission, and not as the commandment that it is, then read the 117th Psalm:  "O praise Jehovah, all ye heathen, laud Him all ye nations!  For His goodness rules powerfully over us, And Jehovah's faithfulness is ever-enduring!  Hallelujah."  (Hallelujah means "Praise ye Jehovah!)

The more wicked a man is, the more need there is that he should praise the Lord.  If the heathen should praise the Lord, they would at once cease to be heathen.  Praise is worship, and they who worship the Lord are righteous.  So it is to the unworthy and the wicked that the command is specially directed, "Praise ye Lord!"  The others are doing it already. 

In the fiftieth psalm, last verse, we read these words of the Lord: "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me; and to him that ordereth his conversation aright, will I show the salvation of God."  Of course the reader knows that the word "conversation," here means "way, or manner of life."  But there is more to be said about this verse.  In the Hebrew text there are not nearly so many words as appear in the English.  If only the very words that appear in the Hebrew were translated, with no additions, the text reads as in the margin of the Revised Version:  "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me, and prepareth a way that I may show him the salvation of God." 

Here, then, we have an answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved?"  The answer is, "Praise the Lord."  And what then?  Keep on praising the Lord!  He who begins to praise the Lord, and continues to praise Him, will as surely be saved day by day and for ever, as the sun shines in the heavens, or as God lives.  Let us see how this may be; it is not difficult to understand.  One cannot praise the Lord, and at the same time blaspheme His name, or in any way speak slightingly of Him.  The mere statement of the case proves it:  He who praises the Lord serves Him.  The highest angels in heaven do no more than this. The living beings that are nearest to God, forming part of His throne, "rest not day and night, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come" (Revelation 4:8).

The fact that praise brings salvation will appear more vividly when we think of this phase of the subject, that praise is the easiest and most natural thing in the world.  If all men, the ungodly man, would act in harmony even with their own standard of common civility, they would be continually praising the Lord, and would be saved.  It is universally recognized that when a person receives a gift he ought to thank the giver.  The wickedest man, the one who will rage the most at the name of God, will thank you if you do him a favor.  Hand an infidel any book that he wishes to read, or answer his inquiry as to the right road to take, and he will thank you.  If he comes down to breakfast in the morning and finds a bouquet of fresh flowers at his plate, his first thought will be to ask who gave them to him, and his next will be to thank the one who so kindly remembered him.  Every man will do these things, and there is no one who would not feel that it was a gross breach of politeness to fail to recognize favors bestowed.

Let each one simply be consistent.  Let him not discriminate, and give thanks for some things, and neglect to do so for others.  Above all things, let him not say "Thank you" for little things, and say not a word for the greatest favors.  Who would be so foolish?  Let us see.  You come to the table, and find food.  How did it come there?  The good housewife placed it there, to be sure; but she did not make it.  No man on earth could make a grain of corn.  No man can make fruit grow from the ground.  All that any man can do is to watch it.  It is God that "causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man; that He may bring forth fruit out of the earth" (Psalm  104:14).  “He opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:16).  Is it seemly to take these things continually from the hand of the Lord, and never thank Him for them?

It is a great blessing, or favor, if you prefer to use that word, to be able to breathe.  If you have never thought of it, you will realize it if you get into a close room where the air is almost used up, or have your lungs so filled up that you cannot breathe without pain.  Now where do you get your breath?  You do not make the air.  Your neighbor does not furnish it to you.  It comes regularly and continually, without any thought on your part. It comes when you are asleep, and not able to think of it.  It is your life, the most necessary thing in the world, and yet you get it for nothing, absolutely free. Isn't it worth thanking for?

And there is the light.  You could not get along without it.  It is life.  Every day it comes new.  Is it consistent to say "Thank you" to one who hands you a flower, and never say a word to the One who creates the light and the air and the moisture that made it grow?  Just be honourable and fair.  Deal with God as justly, and treat Him as civilly, as you do your fellow-men.  "Render therefore to all their dues; . . . fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor."  Begin with the first thing at hand, and thank the one who gives it to you, and do so with everything that you receive, and you will then be a perfect man.  Come now, that is a fair proposition, isn't it? All that is required of you is to use ordinary civility, and give thanks impartially for all things that you get, to whomsoever gives them to you. 

Do this, and your mouth and heart will continually be filled with praise to the Lord, "who giveth to all life, and breath, and all things."  When you once begin, you will find things enough to be thankful for.  Do not cease giving thanks until you have exhausted everything that there is for which to give thanks.  Remember that it is not enough to have thanked a person once for a favor, when he repeats it.  If he does a thing for you twice, the thing to do is to thank him the second time, as well as the first.  If he does not tire of repeating the favor, surely you ought not to tire of thanking him for it.  The gift of life and light and breath and all things is continuous, and therefore the thanksgiving must be continuous.  I will not urge you to do this heartily.  No matter how you feel about it, simply recognize the Lord in His gifts, and have this ability to thank Him for what you receive of Him.  Do this, and the greatness of the gifts received from Him will impress itself more and more upon your mind, so that soon thanks will come spontaneously, and you will not know how to stop.  Then all will be well with you, for when you acknowledge that every breath that you breathe you get from Him, you will see that He is your life, and the same rule of fairness that led you to thank Him for what He gives, will lead you to allow Him to control His own life.  "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:6).  When God directs your steps in His own way, your way will be right, for "as for God, His way is perfect."
Oh, worship the King, all glorious above!  And gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, Pavilioned in splendour, and girded with praise.  
"Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?  It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain, And gently distills in the dew and the rain.  

Adapted from "The Value of Praise by E. J. Waggoner”
Find on EGW Research Edition CD: April 28, 1898 EJW, PTUK 257