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.

RECOLLECTIONS AND REJOICING

We have seen many old buildings, most of which were in horrible disrepair due to their age, harsh weather and lack of maintenance, on our travels through the U.S.   Some are not falling down [yet], just boarded up, no longer relevant to the modern era. 

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House with a history known to some but not to the passers-by on the highway.

When I see an old barn, house, store, whatever, I think about the people who lived there many years ago.

Old barn along interstate (C)
Barn along interstate with the roof missing at one end of the building.

In South Dakota we stopped at Fort Hays, outside Rapid City, and visited some buildings that were used in the movie Dances with Wolves.

Fort Hayes, South Dakota
Fort Hays near Rapid City, South Dakota, the Tin Shop
Fort Hayes stockade
Fort Hays – Stockade

Although this was a movie set, not the “real” old buildings, it still is a reminder of that way people lived in years past.  No matter the actual age of the structure, structures from the past are fascinating to me.  The stories that they could tell about what happened there and how people lived and acted within the structure. The past holds good and bad memories, recollections of good times that are often countered by remembrances of times that were not so good, possibly even horrible!

There are times that Satan throws our sin back in our face and we can get mired in the muck of self-pity, self-doubt, loathing, etc.  In short, if we get stuck in the past by recollecting the depravity of our ways,  we cannot live the abundant life God wants us to have in the present.

God is all knowing and all powerful, eternal and loving, holy and good.  Reformed theology teaches that even before creation existed, God knew us, He saw all our actions and knew the words we would speak, both those that were intended and careless. The plan of salvation existed before creation, because God knew we would sin and need a Savior.  Because of His love, He sent His Son to be that Savior for His children. 

Paul told this truth to the Ephesians so long ago:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, (by grace you have been saved;)”

Ephesians 2:4-5 

This certainly is not something that I can explain, it is a matter of faith.  I can, however, thank Him for the grace and mercy extended to me in the forgiveness of my sins.  The Psalmist says:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

Psalm 103:11-12 

Matthew Henry comments on these verses, in part, as follows:

As the heaven is high above the earth (so high that the earth is but a point to the vast expanse), so God’s mercy is above the merits of those that fear him most, so much above and beyond them that there is no proportion at all between them; the greatest performances of man’s duty cannot demand the least tokens of God’s favour as a debt, …  Observe, God’s mercy is thus great towards those that fear him, not towards those that trifle with him.  We must fear the Lord and his goodness.

As far as the east is from the west … so far has he removed our transgressions from us, so that they shall never be laid to our charge, nor rise up in judgment against us.  The sins of believers shall be remembered no more, shall not be mentioned unto them; they shall be sought for, and not found.  If we thoroughly forsake them, God will thoroughly forgive them. [Emphasis mine]

The difference between God and man is referenced by the prophet Isaiah where God is speaking and says:

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:9

God’s ways and His thoughts are fundamentally different from ours.  When He forgives, He wipe the slate clean.  There is no remnant of the sin to remind Him that we deserve punishment.  Rather, He has cleaned our sin ledger with the blood of His Son and there is no longer any record of our sin before God. 

So, when you begin to focus on the sins of the past, surprise Satan and tell him to take a hike.  Turn your eyes to Jesus, the lover of your soul and the One who bought you with a price, His sinless blood.  Don’t let your past eliminate the present.  Look to Jesus and worship Him, then rejoice!

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Isaiah 61:10 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Philippians 4:4

For the Christian, the antidote to living in the miserable part of your past is to rejoice for the glorious love of your Redeemer in the present and to think about the joy we will have when we see our Redeemer in the future and for all eternity to come.  For the one who does not believe in Jesus Christ as his/her personal Savior, there is no escape from your past until you call upon Him and claim Him as your Savior.  Do so today!

Father, Thank You for the truth of your Word and for the Holy Spirit who enables us to live a victorious life as a testimony of your marvelous, steadfast love and mercy.  Forgive us when we focus on the past, when You have already erased it from our account, when You have already credited us with Jesus righteousness because of His death and resurrection, as we have come to the cross in faith and believed on Him as our Savior.

THE PERFECTION OF GOD

Perfection.  What a glorious word.  When it is said, we know that a high standard has been met, the pinnacle of achievement was accomplished, and we have witnessed work which cannot be improved upon.  Perfect.

Diver at hotel pool in Florida perfect
A perfect dive in Florida!

Perhaps you have achieved perfection in a sporting activity, like diving.  Or, perhaps you have achieved perfection in a hobby, maybe a picture that people have said is “picture perfect”.

Oregon picture perfect mountains
Picture perfect scene in Oregon.

Or perhaps it is the sleeping newborn infant, while family members look at the child and marvel and say “Perfect!” as they look at the little fingers with tiny fingernails! 

Newborn baby girl (C)
Newborn baby daughter, alive with all sorts of possibilities ahead of her.

While each of these examples do show what could, in human terms, be considered perfect, they come nowhere close to the perfection that is the standard of our God. 

Medieval theologians used the Latin phrase ens perfectissimus  to refer to God.  The phrase may be translated by the words “the most perfect being.”  … [They wanted to] underscore the reality of God’s perfection so clearly that they would eliminate any possibility of suggesting the slightest lack of perfection in God’s character.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998p. 197

Dr. Sproul continues:

God’s perfection applies to all of His attributes.  His power is perfect; it has no weaknesses or any possibility of weakness.  His knowledge is not only omniscient but reflects perfect omniscience.  There is nothing that God does not know or that He could possibly learn. … God’s love, His wrath, His mercy – all that He is — is perfect. Not only is He perfect, but He is eternally and immutably so.  There never was a time when God was less than perfect and there is no possibility that in the future He may slip into any kind of imperfection. What has been with God will be so forever.  His perfection is immutable.  It cannot change.

Ibid., p. 198  (Emphasis is mine)

The very consideration of the scope of God’s perfection makes it hard to comprehend.  How extensive it is … how overwhelming it would be for us to see … how unlike us it makes our Creator God.

When God delivered him from the hand of King Saul, David extolled the Lord and gave praise to Him, including the following description of the monumental difference between God and man by saying, in part:

“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.  But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.”

Psalm 103:19 ESV. 

“As for man … BUT God.”   The chasm between God and man is so great that it cannot be truly fathomed.  Those who think that God is unnecessary because we can handle things for ourselves, “thank you very much”, are simply – well, wrong.  The very fact that we exist, the fact that we have air to breath or that rain comes for nourishing our planet so food will grow, and the fact that the earth keeps spinning is in God’s providence and in His good pleasure.   

“This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.   For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?  This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless.”

2 Samuel 22:31-33 ESV

Jesus, the incarnation of God, said:

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:48 ESV.   Of course this is an impossible goal, but we are called by our Savior to strive for perfection.

God’s perfection is one of the attributes of His nature.  Praise His holy name that His perfection extends to all His attributes.  He is the same today as He was before the creation of the world and He will be the same perfect powerful God when this creation is transformed into the new heaven and new earth. 

God’s perfection – hard to comprehend in its fullness, He is the “most perfect being”.  God’s perfection – difficult to fathom, but easy to hold on to as we rest in the perfect love of our Savior and God.

Father, You are perfect, You are the most perfect being and You have been such since before You spoke the world into existence.  Perfect in power, in love, in wisdom.  I praise Your name and bow in humble gratitude as I think of Your perfection touching my heart which is so full of imperfection and sin.  Father, enable me to live my life as a testimony to Your perfect character, and I ask this through the power of the Holy Spirit.

VISTAS, TIME AND THE NEW YEAR

Mountains – Oceans.  Some people love the ocean more than they do mountains.  I admit that I like to look at the ocean on occasion, but I love mountains!  Specifically, I love my mountains, the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina.  What I truly enjoy is getting to an overlook or valley and then marveling at the vista splayed out around me.

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Great Smoky Mountains – vista from Cades Cove, Tennessee

I hasten to add that I am an equal opportunity mountain lover.  We have been privileged to see a number of mountains in our country, and I have loved every minute of it!

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Colorado “shelf road” and mountain vista.

When I stand looking out at the grandeur of the mountains and contemplate the forces that created them, my soul sings to the Creator God, my heavenly Father, in praise and worship.

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Yosemite National Park, Half Dome and surrounding vista.

What does this have to do with the new year?  A great deal. 

We are temporal, mortal, and our days are limited.

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

Psalm 103:15-16

In fact, the Bible affirmatively states that all we have is this moment, and even it is a gift from God.  James, the half-brother of Jesus, says it like this:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

James 4:13-16

He advises us that we are not to think that we will be here on this earth forever, rather we are to make plans according to the will of our Father.  So, it is good for us to look back at the vista of 2016 and see how we did on that directive.  Use the beginning of this new year to consider the condition of our relationship with our God so we can more effectively grow in 2017.

  • When were we close to God;
  • When did we do His will;
  • When did we say “I will” when He prompted us to say something to an individual;
  • When did we learn from His Word;
  • When did we testify to others of His great mercy and grace,
  • Now, you add your own points to consider, as each of us will have different things to ponder.

The year 2016 is in the record books.  It is over and there is nothing we can do to change what was said, done, or experienced.  The stuff we planned to do, but didn’t, will not get done in 2016, it is over.  The relationships we intended to nurture, but didn’t, will not be stronger today because of anything we did in 2016, it is over.

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Clock in the DAR Library, Washington, D.C.

As Scripture points out, the only time we have is today.  We don’t even have any guarantee that we will see much of 2017 other than the moment we are in right now.

So, take the time to consider your life.  Renew your dedication to focus on the Lord God Almighty rather than on the temporal things of this world.  Those things that you were going to do in 2016 but then neglected — now is the time to get them accomplished.  

Write the letter, send the card, make the phone call, give the hug, encourage the fainthearted, reach out to those who are hurting.  

Whatever you need to do, do it in the name of our Lord and Savior.  Don’t wait until 2018 — now is the time to do that which our God has asked us to do.

Remember how the Lord blessed and protected you in 2016, how He secured your salvation through Christ our Lord, and how the Holy Spirit worked in your life during the year, and praise Him for it.

Then, as you look ahead to 2017, praise Him for what He is going to do in and through you as you rely on His strength, power, wisdom and love.

The great hymn “How Great Thou Art” details much and can provide a springboard for your praise to our God.  Here is the hymn sung on the Concordia Publishing House album Hymns for all Saints, Adoration, Praise, Comfort.  Daily, let your heart and soul sing out in praise to our gracious heavenly Father. You might even want to add your voice to that song!

 

Father, thank You for being with us throughout our life as You lead and guide Your children in Your will.  Thank You for sending Your Son to be our Redeemer and thank You for providing Your Spirit to indwell and empower us we grow into the likeness of Your Son.  As we look to the new year, may we always remember that You are the only living Almighty God and may we sing praises to You in all that we do.