Millions of Christians regularly lift their voices, their hearts and their hands, in praise of God. Singing hymns in praise of God is older than Christianity itself. I wonder if I’m the only person who’s ever wondered why that is?
Before I launch into this, let me remind y’all that you were forewarned that one of the things that would sometimes appear on this blog is my pop theology. I am not a pastor. Far from it. I have no education or training in these type of things. It is quite possible that my musings may wander into heresy, and they will almost certainly drift into unorthodoxy. For anyone who wants to read great blogs by genuine pastors, check out the blogs of our excellent pastors at New Life Community Church (http://www.newlifedanville.org/), or those of Greg Boyd (http://gregboyd.blogspot.com/) or Scott McKnight (http://www.jesuscreed.org/). OK, you’ve been warned…
A song of praise is a prayer set to music. The audience is God. Let’s consider typical lyrics to a praise song. First, the classic How Great Thou Art:
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!
Or the current contemporary Christian hit, You Reign:
Even before there was a drop in the ocean
Even before there was a star in the sky
Even before the world was put in motion
You were on Your throne
You were on Your throne.
Glory in the highest You reign
Let creation testify by Your name
Every knee will bow
and every tongue proclaim
that Jesus reigns
What these songs, and the hundreds like them, have in common, is that those who sing them are essentially telling God how great and wonderful he is. But surely God doesn’t need to hear that from us mere mortals. God is unquestionably omnipotent and without equal. He’s not suffering from an insecurity complex. He doesn’t need to be reminded of how awesome he is. Right?
So why do we do it?
Well, we know from the Bible that one of the principal things that we’ll do in heaven is join the angels in singing praises to God. I remember thinking, as a child, that if all one does in heaven is sing songs to God, then it wasn’t going to be much fun there. It sure didn’t sound like paradise to me.
So why would one characteristic of heaven be that its residents are constantly singing praises to God? My theory is that singing praises to God is not for God’s benefit, but for our own. That’s why we feel so good when we do it. That’s why it makes us happy and joyful. In fact, I believe that the nearer we are to God, the more we want to sing his praises. That’s why in heaven, in the very immediate presence of God, we may sing to him for thousands of years at a time, overwhelmed with joy while we’re doing it.
So I don’t think we should think of singing praises to God as some offering to him, or some sacrifice we’re making for his benefit. Instead, we should recognize that the singing is a natural reaction to his presence, and the joy and peace that comes from it is a gift from God to us. Its like the feeling of joy we get when we see a beautiful scene in nature. We may even exclaim “Wow” or something like that. When we do that we aren’t doing it to make the waterfall or the canyon feel good. We’re just expressing the joy that the natural beauty has given us.
When Jesus walked the earth as a man, he lived humbly. He did not seek praises from men. In fact, he often tried to hush those who praised him. But even when Jesus specifically told folks not to praise him, they usually did it anyway. They just couldn’t help it. In other words, in his presence praise was irresistible.
I love the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The people crowded around him, proclaiming him as the Messiah. Here is how Luke describes what happened next:
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
”Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
At that moment, the height of his earthly ministry, Jesus knew that nothing could stop the praises to God. If the people were silenced, then the stones would sing. That’s how powerfully irresistible the urge to praise God can be. So I say let’s add to the long list of gifts and blessings from God, the wonderful gift of praise.
As Chris Tomlin says, “How can I keep from singing?” http://www.imeem.com/people/T9xZ8/music/XqFv9VsC/chris_tomlin_how_can_i_keep_from_singing/
Grace and Peace