These are psalms of praise. Although there are things that I’d like to make note of specifically in these psalms that are our readings today, I’d like to make a small point that I’m hopeful may make a difference in how you thank or praise God. Although we know the difference between thanks and praise in ordinary language usage, we sometimes lose the distinction between them in prayer or religious language. I’d like to clarify.
Whenever we praise people, we are usually taking note of something that they did very well, something that we’re impressed with, something(s) specific that we can make a positive comment on that shows our appreciation for what they did. On the other hand, when we thank someone, we are acknowledging that we are the receivers of some gift, some benefit, some grace that has come our way. “Please pass the potatoes. Thank you very much.”
So also, when we praise God, we ought to be commenting on something that He has done that really impresses you, e.g., the amazing way He worked out our salvation, so as to be both just and merciful at the same time, the beauty of a sunset, His perfect, faithful love that surpasses anything that we as humans can properly do, to list just a very few. We may also thank Him for these gracious and amazing gifts, but we ought to thank Him for everything, even the things that we may be used to or may be less impressive that the gifts that others may have, e.g., thanks for my shelter, food, and clothing. Do you want to praise God, think of the many things that you admire about what He is, what He’s done, of what He’s created.
These psalms are largely psalms of praise; they take a look at God’s characteristics and what wonderful things that He’s done, for example, “O sing to the LORD a new song, For He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.” Psalms 98:1, NAS95. And there don’t need to be miracles to find something to praise about God. There are wonders all around us still — that God would love us so faithfully, the starlit night sky, the drop-dead-georgeous autumn of New England, the “miracle” of birth. and so much more. The answers to our prayers should be praised, especially when they happen in wonderful and unpredicted ways. He has done and continues to do wonderful things, if only we’d have eyes for it.
Psalm 99 invites all the world to praise the God of Israel. Why? He’s a real God, not an idol. He really does things that even the heathen world can see and stand in awe about!
Lastly, let me comment on Psalm 100:3: “Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” Psalms 100:3, NAS95. As much as we’d like to think so, none of us are really self-made. Yes, we’ve made choices and decisions that have helped to put us into the situations that we’re in, but it is God who is the Creator, who holds us and the world together, who sustains us with air, water, food, and friends. I am not God, you are not God, the Mormons aren’t gods, nor are the pantheists, or the new age folks. We aren’t eternal, we’re not omnipotent, and we’re far from perfect. We don’t get to call the shots, decide what’s right or wrong, or feel arrogant. At our best, or more to the point “at our blessed”, we are only His — but that’s plenty.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.