Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. – Psalm 146:1-2
Tremble when you turn in your Bible to Jeremiah. The weeping prophet lived 600 years before Christ, but he wrote about what God would do in the days of Christ! Chapter 31 of Jeremiah is one of the great mountain peaks of truth in the Old Testament. Read it. You will love it. Parts of it are quoted in Hebrews 8 and 10, and his words are behind the phrase in Luke and First Corinthians, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”
In this magnificent chapter, Jeremiah shares why God should be praised. He assures the exiles of the goodness of God and promises their return from captivity. He sees them coming back to Jerusalem singing, praising God and loving God for all He had done for them. His precious words stir my soul to praise God:
They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.
Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
When General William Booth died in 1912, his funeral procession stopped traffic in London for two hours. In poetically describing Booth’s entry into heaven, Vachel Lindsay visualized a parade of hundreds of street people — the poor, blind, lame, drunkards, harlots – all won to Christ through Booth’s work — led by all the drums and brass instruments for which the Salvation Army is known. Hundreds of years before, Jeremiah saw a great parade of grateful people coming home from captivity singing songs of praise to God.
That Christians praise God does not surprise us. God’s people have always praised God! Consider a few reasons why we should praise Him:
1. For all He has done for us. The Jews were free. They were going home. They praised God for their freedom. We too can praise God for all He has done for us. Make a list of the things God has done for you. Share the list with your family and friends. Tell somebody how good the Lord has been to you, in spite of your sins. Dean and I often praised God for His kindness in healing our sorrow over the death of our son, and then allowing us to have four more sons. Complaining makes us miserable. Praising God opens our hearts to the joy Christ wants to give us.
2. Because He desires to be known. What good news — to know that God wants to be known! The Bible teaches us that we can know God. To know “of God” is not enough. Knowing God, like we might know a father or a friend, is faith’s rich reward. Blessed assurance comes when we share the desire of Saint Paul, who said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings …” Get to know Christ. Believe me, He wants you to know Him. We will never know the answers to all life’s hard questions, but we can know God. And knowing God is better than knowing answers!
3. For His unfailing guidance. The Jews were celebrating because God was guiding them home. A little girl was walking with her grandfather. He asked her, “How do we get home?” She did not know. He said, “Then we must be lost.” “No, grandfather,” she said, “I’m not lost; I’m with you.” We may walk through some dark valleys, but we can trust our heavenly Father to guide us home. We can sing:
When life’s toils are ended
And parting days have come;
Sin no more shall tempt me,
Ne’er from Thee I’ll roam,
If you’ll only lead me, Father,
Lead me gently home.
Take your Father’s hand. He will lead you home.
4. For His gracious provision. Palestine was a hot, dry place. Water was precious. God was leading his people like a shepherd “beside streams of water,” so they could thrive “like a well-watered garden.” John tells of the river of life, where on each side will grow the Tree of Life, bearing fruit every month. Our Lord is the Water of Life, a free gift to whoever is thirsty!
A Christian in Africa explained that his name was “After.” He said, “It was not the name given me when I was born. I changed my name because everything good that has happened in my life to make me feel worthwhile and give me real purpose happened after I surrendered to Christ and experienced the power of God in Him.” God guides. God provides.
5. Because He can turn our sadness into joy. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation,” and all of us do. There is sadness and sorrow everywhere. The good news is that God can help us overcome our sadness. Instead of saying “Sincerely yours,” my friend Jimmy Allen closes his letters with this salutation, “In His Grip.” He wants his friends to know his life is in the grip of Christ, even when suffering is his lot.
A jeweler showed a friend his large tray of diamonds and precious stones. Among them was a stone that was not impressive, having no beauty at all. The jeweler took the stone, closed his fist over it for a few moments, then opened his hand to reveal a stone that glowed with the splendor of a rainbow. He explained what happened. “This is an opal; it is a sympathetic jewel. It needs only to be gripped with the human hand to bring out its beauty.” So it is with our lives — God wants to position us within the grip of his loving hand!
A rough, uncultured man fell in love with a beautiful vase in a shop window. He bought it and put it on the mantel in his home. There it became a kind of judgment on the things around it. He had to clean up the room to make it worthy of the vase. New curtains were put up. An old chair was replaced. Gradually the whole room was transformed. When you and I put Christ on the mantel of our hearts, our lives are transformed! For that we can praise Him.
Across the centuries God’s people have praised Him. Now it is our turn to praise Him! Let us do so with gusto! As long as we have breath! May our last breath be used to praise God for our Lord Jesus Christ!