This morning, we are singing some of the favorite songs submitted by you. What makes a favorite song your favorite song? When I was little I loved the song “Creator Spirit, By Whose Aid,” not because the lyrics were so powerful or meaningful, but because I heard it during the funeral of President John Kennedy and the music itself was so powerful. The music alone made a huge impact on me. For most I suspect reason that a song is a favorite is because of the words and the music combined. These are songs that lift you up, console you, encourage you or reassure you.
And so this morning we have come here together to “praise” by singing some favorite songs. I think that we can often be confused by the word “praise.” Certainly we know we are to praise the Lord. The Bible is full of commands to praise. However, we typically think of praise as something we do when we sing, but that’s about it. Psalm 149 is very helpful as we consider praise. From this Psalm we learn that “praise” really includes two things. There is praise in worship and praise in life. Let’s read Psalm 149.
The Psalm begins with a call to “sing a new song of praise in the assembly of the saints.” David says that he is singing a new song. A new song is urged anytime the people are called to remember the special things God had done to save them. And David urges this to happen in the assembly of the saints, the people called by God. Praise is most meaningful when it occurs with other believers.
Verses 2-5 describe the reasons we are to praise the Lord in our assemblies. First, God is our maker, which refers to the fact that God created the people of Israel. Second, the people are to praise God because he is their King. He has done so much for them and so they are praising Him. Third, the people are to praise God because he is their redeemer. He has saved them from their enemies and brought them back home. These are all reasons for us to praise God today as well. God created us and everything around us and is our Lord and King. He brought us salvation as well through Jesus’ death on the cross. God has made and is making the church as well. What more reason do we need to gather together as believers and unite our voices in joyful songs of praise and thanksgiving?
How are we to praise? Verse 3 makes it clear that it is to involve our entire being. They are to use tambourine, harp and other instruments listed in Psalm 150. They are even urged to dance before the Lord. In fact, our praise for what God has done for us should be so central in our lives that we are to praise God even on our beds. What fills our lives with joy during our daylight hours should spill over into the night as well. Indeed, we can lie at peace at night knowing that God who has saved us and provided for us during the day will continue to watch over us and provide for us in the night as well. We are to praise our God!
An old Jewish legend gives the origin of praise this way. After God created the world, God asked the angels what they thought of it all. Only one thing lacking, they said. It is the sound of praise to the Creator. So, the legend goes, God created music, the voice of birds, the whispering wind, the murmuring ocean, and planted melody in the hearts of men and women. We are created to praise God in our music!
II. But now we move beyond praising in song to praising the Lord with a sword!
Now the scene shifts quite dramatically. Now we are no longer in the great assembly with fellow-believers; now we find ourselves on the battlefield in verse 6. The subjects are still praising but now it is with a sword in their hands. In fact, as the Jewish people returned from their captivity, they sang this song. God had brought them out of their captivity. But now they are ready to be used by God to restore His rule and kingdom in their land.
This is a commitment to carry out God’s justice and God’s will all over the earth. They want injustice to be punished and they are willing to be used by God to see that happen. For us, this is the praise we should be giving as we carry out the commands and orders of our Lord and King as we do His will day after day. Our motive for this kind of praise is the same as the other. We are praising God because He is king and because He has done great things for us. But now we are praising God by working to further establish His kingdom. We are praising God by serving Him with a sword in our hands. God’s kingdom is firmly established and will last forever and God graciously calls us to serve Him in that kingdom. So let us go out today with praise on our hearts and lips. Praising God with our favorite songs is great, but it can’t end here.
A young couple from rural Arkansas got involved in a church where there was a lot of shouting and clapping for Jesus. They were trying to convince Grandma that she should attend. The young man said to Grandma, “You should have seen it. The Holy Spirit was really there!” Grandma kept rocking and didn't say a word. The young woman added, “And, Grandma, you should have seen the preacher. He really got with it. He was screaming at the top of his voice and the people were popping up like popcorn to praise the Lord. It was unbelievable!” Grandma kept right on rocking. Finally, the young man said, “Grandma, don't you like our church? You never seem to say.” Grandma finally said: “Let me just put it this way. I don't care how loud they shout and I don't care how high they jump. It's what they do when they come back down that counts.”
What will you do when you come back down after this service? Let’s go out into the world tomorrow with a song in our heart and a sword in our hand. Let’s do whatever we can, whether it is small or large, to show that God is King of all and Savior of the world. What are some ways you can praise God with a song and sword in this coming week?