Praise God in his sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty heavens.
Praise Him for His acts of power;
praise Him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise Him with the harp and lyre,
praise Him with timbrel and dancing,
praise Him with strings and pipe,
praise Him with the clash of cymbals,
praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the Lord.
It is spring. The tulips mouths are open, facing heaven. Spring is when the daffodils stand with their torsos straight and at attention, their faces beaming. The trees have gone naked for months, with their hands out stretched in praise, and now they push leaves from their fingertips, making our earth cough color.
I remember years ago, waking at 6 am for a run (something I cannot even imagine I chose to do as I despise running), but I remember as my legs brought me up over a hill, my breathing strained, feeling astonished as the sun rose. It was like I had never seen it before. I remember wondering, how have I missed this choir before? The fields, unrolling their colors while the grass sings with dew. I’m ashamed to admit it, but in that moment I recognized that often I subconsciously thought of all this beauty as a gift that God made for me, yes to be able to see who He was better, but technically still for me to experience, but in that moment I realized that because it goes unnoticed and unnoticed and unnoticed every, single, morning, my God enjoys this all by Himself. He does not need me to see it. It is for Him.
I can see the Psalmist scrambling with his pen, scribbling these words, overcome with God’s glory. The five Psalms before this one, each begin by saying: PRAISE HIM, PRAISE HIM, & HALLELUJAH! His mouth cannot say it enough times.
John Pulsford, in “Quiet Hours,” says it beautifully:
“And each Psalm increases in praise, love, and joy, unto the last, which is praise celebrating its ecstasy. The elect soul, the heir of God, becomes “eaten up” with the love of God. He begins every sentence with Hallelujah; and his sentences are very short, for he is in haste to utter his next Hallelujah, and his next, and his next. He is as one out of breath with enthusiasm, or as one on tiptoe, in the act of rising from earth to heaven. The greatest number of words between any two Hallelujahs is four, and that only once: in every other instance, between one Hallelujah and another there are but two words. It is as though the soul gave utterance to its whole life and feeling in the one word, Hallelujah! The words. “Praise ye the Lord!” or “Praise him!” “Praise him!” “Praise him!” are reiterated no fewer than twelve times in a short Psalm of six short verses.”
I tear up as I read that. I feel this push to spread my ten fingers higher and further apart if it means greater praise.
I see the psalmist tripping to get at his instruments: a harp, a lyre, and a timbrel, using them all to make praise. Praise God in the sanctuary, in the mighty heavens. Use your praise to recount his acts of power. RECOUNT THEM. MAKE A LIST OF THEM. SAY THEM AGAIN AND AGAIN UNTIL THEY ARE OF YOUR BONES.
The Psalmist lists many instruments as means to Praise: To use each of these instruments, you must use different parts of your body, your mouth on the trumpet, your breath, your arms to shake cymbals, to play drums, your fingers for the harp, use your energy to dance as a gift to lift up to Him. Use your entire being. And he ends the Psalm, reminding us:
EVERYTHING THAT HAS BREATH, PRAISE HIM.
What does this mean actually — to praise Him? I think it means to THANK HIM! To tell Him “YOU ARE THE BEST.
Praise is defined as “expressing warm approval or admiration”— and Hallelujah? It means, “GOD BE PRAISED!”
I remember asking the question “what does it mean to praise Him?” at a time in my life when I was sapped of all joy, when I had no energy to dance. I didn’t want to praise him, or rejoice in him; I remember asking myself if I still should? If I feel no gratitude should I show gratitude? Would it not in some way be dishonest? (Quick side note: I also believe that God loves to hear the deep groans of our hearts, just as much as he enjoys hearing praise, he wants to KNOW the depths of us, as he understands our weakness.)
Could it be that God still loves to hear our praise even when we do not feel it? Could He love it still more when we are sapped of our joy? Does he not ask us to love our enemies, and not just those that love us? To rejoice always, not just when things are enjoyable, to let Him leak out of us as we push past how we feel and instead rejoice.
I remember one thing that healed my lack of joy: it was lists of praise. Recounting. I thanked Him for everything I could think of, and it is a wonder how fields can heal you, how the small gifts of a ripple in the water, the knit and pearl in your knitting, the etching on your palm can restore great joy, and how the secrets of the woods can teach you about our God if we let them.
So, I encourage you to take a few minutes, and listen, look even. Whisper, write, sing, or dance a list of praises to this King. God receives our praise when we are so full of it that we can not write it fast enough, but what a special offering it is to praise him when things are hard. Wherever this finds you, let it move you to praise Him.