Advent Reflection: Why Do We Praise the Lord?
Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be feared above all gods.
There are many reasons to praise the Lord. Scripture repeatedly calls us to do it, so we praise God out of obedience (for example, Psalm 96). Praising the Lord often impacts our own souls. We might begin to praise God with heavy hearts, for example, but as we praise, we experience a lightening of our burdens and the joy of the Lord. We can choose to praise the Lord, therefore, because of the benefit it brings to us. We might also praise God because it builds Christian community. When the people of God gather, focusing their minds and hearts on the Lord, using their bodies to honor him, they are bound together in a Spirit-created unity. So, a good reason for praising God is that it fosters the community of God’s people.
Psalm 96:4 gives another reason for praising the Lord, a bedrock reason based on his own nature: “Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise!” This translation captures the essence of this thought, though missing the poetic balance of the classic King James Version: “For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised.” The Hebrew of this verse could be translated literally, “For great [is] the Lord and very much to be praised.”
Psalm 96:4 explains why we should “publish [the LORD’s] glorious deeds among the nations” and “tell everyone about the amazing things he does” (96:3). We should praise him, proclaiming his wonders to all people, because the Lord is great. Praise is a response to his superlative character, which is expressed in wondrous works. Even as a brilliant sunset calls forth praise, so it is with God, many times over.
The more we reflect on God’s greatness, the more we will be impelled to praise him. Moreover, we will find that our praise, however inadequate it might be, will increasingly reflect God’s nature. Because he is great, so our praise will be great. It makes no sense to be stingy in honoring one who is utterly worthy of all honor and praise.
Practically speaking, as you prepare to worship the Lord, remember his greatness. Remember his awesome deeds. Remember his matchless mercy. Let your praise be a reflection of and response to God’s greatness.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What helps you to praise God? How does the greatness of God impact your worship? How might Psalm 96:4 impact our corporate and private worship?
PRAYER: O Lord, how great you are! How worthy of praise!
I see your greatness in the astounding majesty of your creation. How great you are!
I see your greatness in the history of your salvation. How great you are!
I see your greatness in the amazing narrative of Scripture, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation. How great you are!
I see your greatness in the ways you have made yourself known to me throughout my lifetime. How great you are!
I see your greatness in your tenderness and patience, in your grace and mercy, in your forgiveness and love. How great you are!
I see your greatness most of all in Jesus Christ, who humbled himself and gave himself for me . . . and for the redemption of all creation. How great you are!
All praise, glory, and honor be to you, O Lord, for you are great, and worthy of all praise. Amen.