I remember the summer before my Junior year of high school working at a camp in northern Minnesota. One clear night I was walking to my cabin and was struck by the millions of shining dots in the non-polluted sky, a stretched canopy of twinkling stars. Incredible. “Wow.” I remember seeing my wife for the first time in her wedding dress. “Wow.” I remember the first time I tasted a Chipotle burrito. Delicious. That rice and salsa? “Wow.”
I’m sure you have some similar “Wow” moments in your life.
But how often in a church or ministry setting do we stop and say, “Wow”? I’m talking about stopping and saying, “Wow” at the absolute majesty and breathtaking beauty of God.
The Psalms do this often. But are you like me, sometimes coming to church interested only in information? “What can I understand about God? What can God give to me? Tell me facts about God, preferably facts that fit what I want him to be. Then I’ll maybe think about saying Wow.”
Psalm 117 is a model for the remedy to this sad impulse within us. Psalm 117, the smallest Psalm in Scripture, bursts at its tiny seams with praise and worship of God.
How is this relevant to you and me? The Psalm tells us: the praise of the Lord is to be done by “all nations,” given from “all peoples.” Praise, worship, honor and glory is to be given to God whether you are old or young, rich or not rich at all, smart or not as smart, an emotional person or an analytical one, a hipster or a hippie, or anyone else. We are to worship God irrespective of our place or personality. It is for everyone and commanded of everyone.
A Focus for Worship
“Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!” (Psalm 117:1)
Before we start shouting praises all over the place, we have to have a focus. Who are we to give this praise to? The object of our worship is God. Psalm 117 commands us to “praise the Lord.” God is to be the focus of our praise and joyful worship.
Everybody worships something. Yet our praise-focus often gets diverted to places other than God, doesn’t it? Sometimes the focus of our worship turns inward to ourselves. We might be struggling with this if we’re spending too much time looking into a mirror. Sometimes the focus turns outward towards others. This might look like spending more time in People magazine than in Scripture. And other times the focus of our worship turns outward to stuff, like purchasing every new gadget as it goes on the market.
We are people of worship, and if it is not turned towards God it is certainly turned towards something other than him. Psalm 117 implores us to turn our praise upward towards God.
Our Fuel for Worship
“For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” (Psalm 117:2)
A space shuttle can plan a detailed trajectory and have a specific destination, but if there is no fuel in the tanks, there will be no lift-off, let alone an arrival. Therefore we must ask of this Psalm, “What is it about God that is to propel my praise heavenward?”
First, we praise the Lord because of his steadfast love toward us. The fullest weight of this incredible love of God is brought to bear on Jesus and his cross. God’s love was sent “toward us” packaged as his Son, Jesus. In the greatest act of love the world has ever seen, Christ died on a cross for your sins and for my sins. 1 John 4:9-10 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Second, we praise the Lord because of his faithfulness that endures forever. We live in a culture where so few things are faithful and enduring, aren’t they? Yet God is faithful. Think for a minute about the three words used in the above clause: faithful, endure, forever. All three of those contain elements of each other; it almost seems a little redundant. Faithful means something like fidelity. Endurance means you’re in it for the long haul. And forever – well – means forever. So here in this verse, we learn that God is a triple dose of fidelity. Not just faithful. Not just enduring faithfulness. But enduring faithfulness forever.
A Decree to Worship
“Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 117:3)
We know our focus. We have our fuel. So what are we to do next?
Praise the Lord! Make praising God the first thing you do in the morning, the thing you habitually repeat during the day, and last thing you do before you go to bed. What if you were to read a chapter of your Bible before bed and right after your shower in the morning? What if this habit replaced checking your email or social media?
We can also praise God in the in-between moments of life. Cooking dinner? Thank him for the food and flavoring as you mix and sauté. Getting the kids dressed? Together, thank God for how great he is. Walking the halls between classes? Think of the many ways that God has shown up in your life, and praise Him.
We can also praise God in the hard moments. This week will bring many situations in which you’ll have to decide between obeying God or disobeying him. Perhaps this means saying you’re sorry and asking for forgiveness from someone you’ve wronged. Perhaps it means having a difficult but necessary conversation with your kid about being a man or woman of God. Maybe it means sharing Christ with someone. None of these are easy situations. Choose to obey Christ, and do them anyway. In doing so, you are praising Jesus.
God is worthy of your “Wow”. So how will you praise him this week?