Toorak Uniting Church

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Praise?

Psalms 111 and 112
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
17 August 2003, 9:00 am

Praise is not something that comes easy to our part of the Church. Waving of arms and shouting hallelujah’s not something most of us feel comfortable with. Now, one might wonder why is that?

Is there nothing to say thank you for? Nothing to be happy about? Or is there just so much in the way that we lose the desire to express our joy before we get there?
Is there too much that disturbs us in the world to bring us to a heartfelt expression of praise when we are in Church?
Too much we feel still needs to be done?

Our poster shows however that there is enough reason for praise. Enough wonderful things to be happy and thankful about. Enough things that fill us with a sense of wonder and awe and that lift our spirits and make us sing, or hum, or skip.

And it is wonderful to discover that there are so many things we can be happy about, but: how would praising God for these things help anybody? What difference would it make to us or to the world?

Wouldn’t it just be a waste of time?

When considering this my thoughts went back to a teacher at the infant school our children attended in Sydney. She was a very happy sort of person and always saw the good things in people around her. She praised the children for every positive achievement and when she took assembly she somehow managed to make us all leave with the feeling that great and wonderful things were happening all the time at the school and with the children.

She was very stimulating and the children flourished. Because she took time to notice the good things, however small they sometimes may have been, and put them into words of praise and thanks, everybody worked harder and better as well.
She was very infectious: I found my children praising me for all my small and big achievements at home with a sincerity and dedication that was moving, and…… stimulating.

Alright praise and a positive attitude inspires and supports. Most of us will have been aware of that. But surely we don’t have to stimulate and support God with positive remarks?

Of course not, although the Bible testifies at several different points that God does appreciate our Praise and that it stimulates Him to love us even more than He already does.
But no, one of the awesome things about God is indeed that he does not need our support and compliments to do good. He has carried on being good and merciful since the dawn of time regardless of what people do or don’t do.

The other thing however about praising is that it is helpful for the person who is doing the praising. Praising, calling to mind the good and happy things, giving words to them, celebrating, enjoying the good things of life affects the person that expresses the praise as well as the person who receives it. Praising lifts up, fills with warmth and energy and motivates. It will stimulate our longing for things happy and joyful. And thus help us to discover what we want to be working towards.

Psalm 111 and the psalm that follows it, psalm 112 belong together. They are both psalms of praise and both composed as an acrosticon on the first letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Psalm 111 is about God and what God is worth praising for. Psalm 112 is about people and what outcome a life of love and praise for God has. It says that a life filled and guided by love, awe and wonder for God will result in abundance of giving, abundance of justice, and abundance of peace.

Apparently, as we could read in the paper yesterday, this is now confirmed by research by the social sciences: religious people care more and share more out of the principles that guide their lives.

The last sentence of Psalm 111 stands out. It does not start with the appropriate letter that would have followed the others in the alphabet. As if the psalmist tries to draw our attention to it to say: "this is the heart of the matter, this is what it is all about."
This sentence could, at the same time, be read as an introduction to psalm 112, emphasizing even more that these two psalms really belong together:

It says: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have good understanding. His praise endures forever."

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

The Hebrew word for fear that is used here is synonymous with love, not with dread or terror. It is a word that designates a love that generates respect, a love that becomes active in that it seeks to please the person that is loved.

Fear of the Lord therefore is not about cowering humans before an awesome God, it is about humans touched deeply by the miracle of God’s goodness, so deeply that it might be frightening for them.

Fear, awe, respect, love for the source of goodness and love, will lead us to a life full of wisdom says the psalm.

Receiving from Gods goodness and standing back to acknowledge it will not only bring us to praising his name, but it will fill us with warm appreciation and deep awe for what He has done and for what he is trying to achieve. And it will then guide us and motivate us to become part of his work and bring our living and our working in to line with it.

Let us praise the Lord, like the writer of psalm 111 does, sharing with others in the congregation who try to walk in God’s ways. Let us too take a step back and look at the wonderful works of God.

What the psalmist says is this:
God is the source of righteousness, grace and mercy. He is looks after us and showers us with blessings and an abundance of goodness. He shows us what is faithful and just.
His guidelines for life are trustworthy. They never loose their value, and they are worth following. He is a God that is quick to save and slow to anger, his love and forgiveness know no bounds.

Loving that God with all our heart is the beginning of wisdom; because when you do, it will bring abundance to your life. Abundance that will spill over to those around you. And then there will be no end to the good things worth praising for.

Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2003


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