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Praising God before the Nations


By Benjamin H. Liles

           I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
           before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
           I will bow down toward your holy temple
           and will praise your name
           for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
           for you have so exalted your solemn decree
           that it surpasses your fame.
           When I called, you answered me;
           you greatly emboldened me.
           May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
           when they hear what you have decreed.
           May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
           for the glory of the Lord is great.
           Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
           though lofty, he sees them from afar.
           Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
           you preserve my life.
           You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
           with your right hand you save me.
           The Lord will vindicate me;
           your love, Lord, endures forever—
           do not abandon the works of your hands. ~ Psalm 138

          I thought today would be a good day to talk about who we are supposed to praise about as Christians. If we claim any other besides that of Jesus the Messiah from Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, we deny the actual and verifiable works of God, the Father, the One who redeemed Israel from the yoke of bondage of Egypt. 

          Let's look at what David is saying here, "I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; before the "gods" I will sing your praise." You see, earlier today I saw a question someone asked, a question I found to be sincere. He asks, "Question, why "gods" plural? in my translation (CSB) it reads heavenly beings, however it says that the literal is gods plural. Heavenly beings leads me to think that David was talking about singing praises before angels, but gods leads me to think that David was worshiping idols. Am I wrong about this?"

          It's a wonderful question to ask, so I believe. Why? An idol is something that takes the place of worship other than the God who calls us to be His. We worship cars, money, women, men, celebrities. Anything can be an idol. But David is talking about praising the God of Israel before the "gods." Why is that?

          At the time Israel was ruled by God's man: David, Israel was surrounded by her enemies who worshiped more than the one, actual God: the God of Israel. They had seen God's work when the Israelites were coming into the land of Canaan under Joshua (see  Joshua 2:8-13). Rahab is telling the spies, basically, "Not only have I heard of what your God has done, but His works have caused everyone's hearts to fail them. Promise me by 'the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death'" (Joshua 2:12b-13).

          Her faith in the God of Israel caused her to ask these two Israelite spies to show her favor as she believed in what He was doing for Israel. This God, the One Israel served, petrified the hearts of those who were disobedient, who were entrenched in sin, unwavering in it, like a pig savors the smell of slop. So are we too when it comes to our lives, before we know the Lord God who saves us from sin. 

          We're told by Moses' hand, "For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off. You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars" (Exodus 23:23-24). So, the people that inhabited Jericho worshiped idols.

           As we come forward in time to David's praise, which we have access to, David is saying, "Lord, I want to praise Your name, Your unfailing love and Your faithfulness before those who worship those things which are not You." This is what David is actually proclaiming. This is why God called David, "a man after my own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14). It doesn't mean David was perfect. He wasn't by any means, but time and time again he did the right thing, coming to and before God, proclaiming and praising His heavenly name.

          As we move far forward to the work of the cross and the actions Jesus took on our behalf, not only did He serve the Father, God, faithfully, but He did so to be a perfect sacrifice in order that there is no more need for a sacrificial system. No longer do we have to seek out bulls, lambs, rams, goats, pigeons, or even doves to ask God to forgive us. In spite of all the things in life we could worship, we can worship the work of God through Jesus the Christ, who poured out His life of sacrifice to the Lord. He has set us free from the curse of the law, which condemns every man, woman and child keeping us separated from the love of God.

          I'm not saying the law wasn't perfect. It is. But it can't redeem us from a life of sin and death. Only Jesus can do that. That's why God, the Father, sent Him. He became that offering on our behalf so that we have access once again to God, the Father. The sacrifice Jesus made not only cleanses and purifies us. His death didn't just sanctify us, setting us apart for good works. It did more than that. We are now free to worship God, the Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ without hindrance. We can do it without sin in our lives. He calls us to be holy and pleasing. We can worship and praise His name without so much a stumble for what Jesus has done on the cross. 

          Therefore just like Paul and Silas, I plan on singing and praising God for all He has done. "On receiving this order, [the jailer] placed them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly a strong earthquake shook the foundations of the prison. At once all the doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose" (Acts 16:24-26, Berean Study). 

          Father, I come to You knowing in Your holiness You call me to be more than I am. Do I praise You and Your wonderful deeds? Do I sing songs of praise that show I think on the works of Your hands? I believe I lift You up for what You do and have done and are about to do yet again. At the same time I don't feel I praise the works of Your hands as much as I'd like to say I do. But You set me free from death and from sin as well. I could never do that on my own accord. You have made me right with You, so that by Your faithfulness to me I'd become faithful to You. I feel I can do that well enough. Lord, I desire Your name and Your works to be known. You set me free and set me feet on a sure foundation, Your Son Jesus Christ. You make Your name known by Your word, the Bible, and You tell me I am Your child. For all this I praise You and what You have done. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.