TEXT: Psalms 134 to 139
The text opens with a call to all servants of God to praise Him. The psalmist is overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude to God and he emphasised the need to praise Him repeatedly in a single verse: “Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the name of the LORD; raise him, O ye servants of the LORD” (Psalm 135: 1 . Praise, an expression of gratitude to God for His marvellous deeds and manifold blessings, enriches and deepens believers’ fellowship and relationship with Him. Christ teaches that believers should always praise God, saying, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9). To praise God is to reverence, magnify, thank and glorify Him. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me…” (Psalm 50:23). Believers should make praising God a habit and a pattern of life. As it is the habit or practice of responsible children to show gratitude to their parents for their love and care, so should children of God habitually praise Him at all times and in every situation, in recognition of divine ownership, redemption, covenant relationship, favour and blessings obtained in Christ.
EXHORTATION TO PRAISE GOD FOR HIS REDEMPTIVE ACTS AND MERCY (Psalms 134:1-3; 135:1-21; 136:1-26; 103:1-5; 147: 1; 150:1-6; 1 Chronicles 23:5,30; 2 Chronicles 5:13, 14; Psalm 100:1- 5; Ephesians 5:19,20; Colossians 3:16; Revelation 19:5)
“Praise the LORD; for the LORD is good: sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant. For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure. For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places” (Psalm 135:3-6). Here, believers are exhorted to praise the sovereign God. Though He is supreme, He uses His power and authority as King to do good, save, heal, deliver, protect, preserve and empower people for His glory. For instance, Pharaoh and all the gods of Egypt could not resist His demand for the release and redemption of the children of Israel from bondage (Exodus 12:12). Believers should acknowledge the greatness, excellence and omnipotence of God, who does what pleases Him in heaven, on earth, in the seas and all places. Aside His goodness and greatness, we are exhorted repeatedly in the text to “give thanks” to the Lord “for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalm 136). These statements are directly followed by highlights of the manifestation of His sovereign power in creation, redemptive acts and prevailing mercy. We are called to bless the Lord and praise His name for, one, His goodness and choice of Israel [and believers in Christ who are the Israel of God] to be His peculiar people (Psalm 135:3,4; 1 Peter 2:9); two, His sovereignty and wonders in nature (Psalms 134:1-3; 135:5-7; 136:4-9); three, judgment on Egypt and redemption of Israel from bondage (Psalms 135:8,9; 136:10-12); four, parting of the Red sea for Israel’s passage on dry ground and guidance in their journey through the wilderness to Canaan (Psalm 146:13-16); five, conquest of other nations with their dumb, impotent idols and Israel’s possession of their lands (Psalms 135:10-18; 136:17-24) and six, provision of food for all flesh (Psalm 136:25,26). Believers should be grateful to God for their redemption from bondage to sin and its consequences. We must appreciate Him for His peace, presence, guidance, protection, provisions, sustenance and hope of heaven. The Scripture affirms that the forces of nature worship and praise their Creator (Psalm 148:1-14; Job 38:7). The book of Revelation describes the grand chorus of innumerable saints around the throne of God for their redemption (Revelation 5: 11, 12). Believers should cultivate the habit of praising God because He deserves it (Psalm 18:3; Exodus 15:11); expects it (Luke 17:11- 19); inhabits it (Psalm 22:3); and grants intervention and fights the battles of HIS people through it (Acts 16:25-35; Psalm 149:5-9; 2 Chronicles 20:22-24). so, believers should always enter God’s presence with praises (Psalm 100:4,5)
ESTABLISHED PATTERN FOR ACCEPTABLE PRAISE TO GOD (Psalms 134:1; 135:1; 137:1-9; 148:1-14; 150:1-6; Exodus 15:1-21; Acts 2:47; 16:23-26)
“Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD… praise him, O ye servants of the LORD.” God is only interested in the praise and worship that proceed from the lifestyle, character, comportment, lips and instruments of the godly or His “servants”. Anything short of this is unacceptable to Him (Isaiah 29:13). Sinners and backsliders are not called or commanded to praise Him because they are filthy in His sight and separated from Him by their sinful lifestyle (Ephesians 2:2; Isaiah 59: 1 ,2). They may exercise their freedom of speech to praise Him but He does not hear them (John 9:31). God wants everyone to praise and worship Him with a heart that is free from sin through repentance and faith in Christ. Backsliders should prioritise seeking restoration before offering praise to God or rendering songs during congregational service. This is the object lesson from Israel’s backsliding and captivity, when they were asked to sing the Lord’s song in Babylon. “For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion” (Psalm 137:3). Their answer — “How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land? — teaches believers that the Lord’s song is sacred. Thus, rendering such for obscene or idolatrous burials and worldly programmes dishonours Him. So, believers should praise God with, one, upright, willing and joyful heart (Psalm 119:7; 138: 1); two, a loud voice and instruments (Hebrews 13:15; Luke 19:37-40; Psalm 150:5); three, other members of the family and church (Psalms 109:30; 116:19; Hebrews 2:11-13; 1 Chronicles 23:5,30). We should praise Him daily in times of prosperity and famine (Psalm 119: 164; Joel 2:26; Habakkuk 3: 17 , 18). While David praised God seven times a day, Daniel defied threat to his life, prayed and praised Him three times a day (Daniel 6:10). Paul and Silas also praised Him in the Philippian prison. Before the multiplication of seven loaves and few fishes to feed four thousand men besides women and children and before raising Lazarus who had been dead for four days to life, the Lord gave thanks to the Father (Matthew 15:35-39; John 1 1 ,42). In all these instances, He accepted their praises and manifested His power in their favour because they each had a relationshlp with Him.
THE EXALTED WORD AND AWE-INSPIRING OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD (Psalms 138:1-8; 139:1-24; 119;89; Matthew 24:35; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Proverbs 5:21; 15:3; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Jeremiah 23:24; Revelation 2:2,9,13,19; 3:1,8,15)
“I will praise thee with my whole heart… for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth.” The psalmist resolves here to render wholehearted praise to God for His love, kindness and truth. He is convinced beyond any doubt that His word is exalted, unfailing, irresistible, irrevocable and reliable. God has “magnified” it above His names. Its prophecies are accurate and unfailing; its precepts are life-changing; its decrees and declarations conquer kingdoms and demons. Christ gave the seal of the potency, inerrancy and accomplishment of the eternal Word by saying, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). David could recall that when God said He would make him king, Saul tried everything within his power to abort it but in vain. When he erred, all the pronouncements of God against him came to pass. It is this conviction of the exalted Word that informed his assurance that God would always act according to His promises, love, kindness and mercy. “Tho I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever…” (Psalms 138:7,8).
The psalmist also acknowledges the omnipresence and omniscience of God in the text. “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee…” (Psalm 139: 1-12). This means He is present everywhere at all times and knows all things. Prior to his infamous act of adultery with Bathsheba, David seemed to have forgotten that the “eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth…” (2 Chronicles 16:9). After the misdeed, he possibly thought He could hide it when he wrote a letter authorising Uriah’s death. David continued to be honoured as a pious leader, who came across as the face of justice for the oppressed and preacher of restitution by his response to Nathan’s fabled pitiless action of the rich man who took a poor man’s lamb (2 Samuel 12:5,6). God knows all secrets — pilfering, backbiting, extramarital affairs, bribery, examination malpractice, abortion, lying, etc. — that are covered and “shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). God has the most accurate details of everyone’s location, actions, inactions, interactions and movements at every point in history that no virus can corrupt or obliterate; records that cannot be hacked or affected by theft or arson. The Lord repeatedly prefixed His messages to the seven churches in Asia with the phrase, “I know thy works” (Revelation 2:2,9,13,19; 3:1,8,15). “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 5:21; 15:3). The psalmist also recalls that God was an Eyewitness of his conception, growth and preservation in the womb and birth. He felt that the manifestation of His omnipresence and omniscience was praiseworthy. “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” (verse 14, 18). Besides, the exercise of these divine attributes that brought divine discipline to him deepened his conviction about the predicted judgment of the wicked and the need to part ways with them. “Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men” (Psalm 139: 19). It further highlights the need to fear God and submit to Him continually for examination and cleansing in readiness for heaven. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23,24).
A cleansed heart will produce good thoughts, speech and action that will bring glory to God, which is the purpose of our creation and redemption (Isaiah 43: 7 , 21 ; 1 Peter 2:9). Praising Him with a holy heart, lifestyle and lips will, first, attract His presence and glory into the church (1 Chronicles 23:5,30); second, open the door of blessings and answer to prayers (Psalm 100:1- 5; Luke 11:1,2,9-13; John 11:41-44); third, bring God’s intervention and deliverance in times of challenges (2 Chronicles 20: 19-22; Acts 16:25,26); fourth, prepare us for our everlasting pre-occupation in heaven (Revelation 19:5).