WHY SHOULD WE PRAISE GOD?

Bald eagle, Moores' pix cropped

When we were in Alaska, we had occasion to see eagles soaring high overhead and one of them was flying along the river, likely anticipating the taste of the duck that we saw flying just ahead of it.   The eagle was beautiful, sleek and fast.  Its talons were strong and its beak was sharp.

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Our traveling companions snapped this picture of a bald eagle while they were on an excursion along the glaciers.

Eagles are referenced in the Holy Bible for various reasons.  One is as a warning for disobedience.  See, for example, Deuteronomy 28:49:

The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand,  …

The picture is clear.  If the people are disobedient to the commands of God, a nation will come against the disobedient Israelites bringing swift destruction.

Like an eagle!

But, Deuteronomy not only warns us by using an eagle as an illustration, the book also tells of God’s love for is people, again using the eagle as an illustration. 

Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone guided him, no foreign god was with him.

Deuteronomy 32:11-12  

Of this passage, Matthew Henry makes the following comments:

The eagle is observed to have a strong affection for her young, and to show it, not only as other creatures by protecting them and making provision for them, but by educating them and teaching them to fly. For this purpose she stirs them out of the nest where they lie dozing, flutters over them, to show them how they must use their wings, and then accustoms them to fly upon her wings till they have learnt to fly upon their own. This, by the way, is an example to parents to train up their children to business, and not to indulge them in idleness and the love of ease. God did thus by Israel; when they were in love with their slavery, and loth to leave it, God, by Moses, stirred them up to aspire after liberty, and many a time kept them from returning to the house of bondage. He carried them out of Egypt, led them into the wilderness, and now at length had led them through it.  The Lord alone did lead him. God needed not any assistance, nor did he take any to be partner with him in the achievement, which was a good reason why they should serve the Lord only and no other, so much as in partnership, much less in rivalship with him. There was no strange god with him to contribute to Israel’s salvation, and therefore there should be none to share in Israel’s homage and adoration, Ps. 81:9.

The eagle teaches her young to arise and to be industrious.  She teaches them to fly, at times carrying them on her own wings until they can do it on their own.  God worked alone in accomplishing Israel’s release from bondage and, thus, God is to be praised and worshiped.  There is no other god beside Him.

In Psalm 103, David is praising God for the numerous benefits given to His People.  I encourage you to read it in its entirety, but here are the first five verses:

1 Of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The theme of the psalm is our blessing of the Lord.  Blessing, here, refers to one who kneels or gives humble adoration – it is absolute praise of the one who is to be blessed.

David knows that we would forget to bless the Lord given our natural tendencies.  It is for this reason that he exhorts us to bless the Lord with all that is within us … all that we are, our thoughts, words, actions, feelings, desires … all that is within us should praise the Lord. 

He then goes on to remind us that the reason we should be compelled to bless the Lord is the remembrance of all the benefits that come with following our Lord. 

            Forgiveness of our sins

            Healing of our diseases, both of mind and body

            Redemption from hell

            Crowns us with steadfast love and mercy

            Satisfies us with good

            Renews our youth like the eagle’s

That last one, renewing our youth like the eagle’s, threw me for a loop.  What does that mean?  So, I consulted Matthew Henry, again.

The eagle is long-lived, and, as naturalists say, when she is nearly 100 years old, casts all her feathers (as indeed she changes them in a great measure every year at moulting time) and fresh ones come, so that she becomes young again.  When God, by the graces and comforts of His Spirit, recovers His people from their decays, and fills them with new life and joy, which is to them an earnest of eternal life and joy, then they may be said to return to the days of their youth.  Job 33:25.

Matthew Henry was born in 1662 and died in 1714.  I don’t know how long eagles would live in our day, and it may not be the 100 years that he referenced.  But, the explanation of molting I do understand.   And, I also understand the new life and joy that comes to the believer when God, by His grace and mercy, because of their faith in Christ alone, adopts them into His family. 

Why should we bless the Lord?   The reasons as too numerous to count.  They are as the grains of sand on the seashore, or as the number of stars in the heavens.

Pick your reason to praise the Lord for today! 

Then, praise Him frequently throughout the day.  Don’t skimp … praise when you feel joyful, and when you are grumpy!  Praise Him when things go well, and when they are not so hot!  Praise Him when you want to, and even when you don’t. 

Father, I praise You for the gift of life and I praise You for your loving kindness, patience, mercy and grace extended to me each day, moment-by-moment.

ARE YOU IN THERE?

Have you ever watched a sculptor at work … creating a beautiful figure out of a chunk of marble or wood? How do they do that? How do they know what figure will come out of the material they are using?

Although I have not seen sculptors working in marble, I have seen people sculpting wood – with chain saws!

Sculptor of wood with chain saw working on large piece.
Sculptor of wood with chain saw working on large piece.

These artisans were chainsaw sculptors who were taking part in an international chainsaw carving competition in Reedsport, Oregon in 2009. This competition was subject of a post entitled “Creative Talents on Display” posted on May 2, 2015.

They created wood carvings of birds and bears, fish and wildlife on both a mammoth and a small-scale, all done with chain saws, some large for the first cuts and others very fine for the detailed work, but chain saws nonetheless.

Chain saw carved hawk.
Chain saw carved hawk.

No matter the size, the concept is the same. Something is inside the wood, and the artist must work to release it.

Looking at wood and seeing the statue encased in it.
Looking at wood and seeing the statue encased in it.

Michelangelo said that “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” The same great sculptor was asked how he knew when to stop sculpting on a piece and he responded: “Carving is easy, you just go down to the skin and stop.”

 

Checking the sculpture and confirming what the craftsman sees for his piece.
Checking the sculpture and confirming what the craftsman sees for his piece.

This is a picture of one of the sculptors in Reedsport who has placed some rough-hewn details which begin to show the subject of his sculpture.

Eagle grasping at salmon, carved by chain saw sculptor.
Eagle grasping at salmon, carved by chain saw sculptor.

Here the artist has completed the work and has released the object from its imprisonment! This is one of the finished products at the Reedsport, Oregon competition in 2009 – an eagle swooping down to catch the fish below. Incredible detail, all done with a chain saw!

I readily admit that I have no such talent – if I were to hold a block of wood in my hand, it would stay there until I put it on the wood pile for the next winter fire. But, I certainly can appreciate the effort, talent and creativity that goes into developing one of these pieces.

I believe that God has called each of us to be, in essence, a sculptor of persons through His power and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Quoting from the Book of Isaiah, Luke 4:18-19 Jesus said:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Emphasis added)

Jesus told those in the synagogue that day so long ago that He was sent to proclaim freedom to the prisoners … He was not talking about those in jail for their misdeeds but to the broader citizenry who are held captive in sin.

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” 1 Corinthians 15: 56.

What does that have to do with blocks of wood? Nothing. But it has everything to do with our involvement with others in our church, family, neighborhood or world.

Think about the young people who come to church for youth group. Perhaps a smile or an arm around a shoulder would encourage some barriers to be dropped so that the story of God’s love through Jesus Christ could make inroads into a young person’s heart, replacing “attitude” with love.   Are you in there?

The attitude bear cub.
The “attitude” bear cub.

Think about the elderly who have no one to care about them? A warm meal served with a smile, or a coat provided with a hug, might be something that would chip away the callous exterior to reveal the heart that Jesus can touch.   Are you in there?

Mountain Man carved with chain saw.
Mountain Man carved with chain saw.

Why do this? Because God said we should, see Matthew 28:19‐20. Praise His Name that He should want me to work on His behalf! What a privilege. What a responsibility. What a joy.

Are you in there?

Father, help me to see others as you see them … through the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ. Help me to look past the exterior and to see the hurt, the need, the worries, the anxiety, and the fear. Help me to be the hands of our Lord as I seek to minister to others, and help me to point other always, and only, to you my Lord, for the glory of God the Father.