Saturday, April 14, 2012

Psalms and Praise

From Reflections on the Psalms by C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis became a Christian as an adult. As a new believer, he had a lot of trouble with the idea that we should praise God, and, worse, that God Himself demands it.  After all, we usually can’t stand people with that attitude.
1)    Why do you think that we are instructed by scripture to praise the Lord?

Lewis notes that you hear a lot of praise every day.
2)    What have you praised or heard praised this week – whether it deserved it or not?

The Psalms are especially thick with this: “Praise the Lord,” “Praise the Lord with me,” and “Praise Him” is everywhere.  Lewis asks:  why is the praise so often telling other people to praise Him? God says “He who offers me thanks and praise honors me,” in Ps 50: 23.  Sometimes the psalmists warn God that if he lets his followers die he will be in danger of getting no praise.  Read:
•    Ps 30:8-10,
•    Ps 88:10-14, and
•    Ps 119:174-175.
3)    How is this different than a pagan asking their gods to do something for them and then they will make an offering to the gods.  Isn’t this bargaining with the Lord?

Lewis tries to understand the idea of praise from thinking first about a beautiful object.  Something can be so beautiful that it deserves admiration.  He clarifies that this is very different from being admired, as many worthless things are admired by many.  But sometimes admiration and appreciation is the correct response to this thing.  People who don’t or can’t admire beautiful things often get our sympathy – the blind who can’t see the Grand Canyon and the deaf who can’t hear Mozart.  But God is the most deserving and demanding of praise.  How much should we pity those who can’t see or feel this?
4)    Read Ps 119:169-176 in this context.  Why is the Lord deserving of praise?

The idea that God needs our praise is addressed in Ps 50: 7- 14.
5)    How does Ps 50 contradict the idea that He needs our praise?

When we think about the people we know in terms of whether they are praisers or not, we can divide them into personality type by whether or not they have praise for things in their lives.
6)    Characterize those who praise least:  what are they like?

7)    Characterize people you know who are full of praise:  what are they like? 

He also notes that praisers usually want people to join them. “Isn’t she lovely?”  “How cool is that?”  “Wasn’t that awesome?”  The urge to have others do the same is natural when we’re praising.  Praise completes the enjoyment.  When we love something, we want to tell others, need to share our excitement. 
8)    What is something that you’ve liked so much you told your friends or family how great it is?

In commanding us to glorify Him, God is commanding us to enjoy Him.  And our praise and worship here is a foretaste of what is to come.  If you can enjoy the orchestra warming up, it’s because of anticipation for the concert to come.  If we enjoy the praise and worship now, how great is that to come?
9)    What has the Lord done in your life for which you can praise Him?

10) Jot down one thing you want to remember about praise.

In closing, we can read Psalm 65 together.  A song of David.
Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion;  to you our vows will be fulfilled.
Oh you who hear prayer, to you all men will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you chose and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of nations.
Those living far away fear your wonders;  
where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy.

You care for the land and water it;  you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, 
for so have you ordained it.
You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain;
they shout for joy and sing.
Photocredit: kelly_lovefusionphoto @ Flickr

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