Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Of the many things we miss about our church gatherings at the moment, singing praise together must be the one we would all mention. Many churches have made helpful attempts to compensate for the loss by including recordings of choirs and congregations singing a vast selection of hymns, psalms and spiritual songs both ancient and modern. But they are not quite like the singing together we have experienced for most of our Christian lives. This psalm focuses on the personal and corporate praise of the Lord. Three times at the beginning of the psalm and four times at the end we are exhorted to “Praise the Lord.” So seven times makes a perfect encouragement to continue the unending thanks, adoration and exaltation of God. There are no petitions in the psalm, only the “admiring gratitude that shines through every line” (A. Motyer).
The psalmist is speaking to himself – his soul – the innermost powerhouse of his life. As Paul Tripp is fond of saying, “no one is more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you more than you do.” The control centre of his life needs to be uplifted by praise. The engine of my heart needs the oil of praise. As we feed our bodies with food, nutrition, vitamins and minerals, we need all the supplement and healthy ingredients of praise. When spiritual energy is low, the power of praise can be a medicine and necessary tonic to re-charge and uplift us.
Forgetfulness is one of the main obstacles to praise, so the psalmist says “forget not all his benefits.” The call is to stir our memories and recollect the richness of “all his benefits.” There is an endless store of blessing that sometimes need to be named and counted one by one so we can again be “surprised at how much the Lord has done.” The psalmist then catalogues the many reasons to praise the Lord. There are always reasons to praise God. The psalm focuses on the great attributes and grand works of God. Let’s focus on…
- God’s generosity seen in grace, particularly in forgiveness of all our sins, spiritual health, redemption, crowning love and compassion, satisfying goodness, along with the renewal of strength (vs 2-5). These are wonderful motivations to stir the soul and to raise our hearts and voices in praise. Remembering the Lord’s personal generosity will lead to appreciation and worship.
- God’s glory in his righteousness, justice, compassion and abounding, all compassing love. These are not abstract truths but actual realities in time, space and the history of Moses and the people of Israel (vs 6-16). Many of the phrases used here are direct quotations from Exodus especially “the LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (vs 8). These are the words of the Lord himself speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai as he promises to show his glory and display his presence (Exodus 34:6). Seeing the glory of God in Christ is the culmination of his splendour and majesty which must surely move us to praise our Father who knows us and remembers us in all our frailty.
- God’s greatness seen in his everlasting love and sovereign rule and reign (vs 17-19). His love is as great as his everlasting and infinite nature. It is sealed in an everlasting covenant. A promise and agreement that calls for our deepest reverence in fear and obedience. Then a fixed throne that towers over all in its authority and supreme control. These certainties are fuel for our praise of the King of Heaven. “Who like thee can sing his praise.” In good times and difficult times praise can give us a joy of the Lord that becomes our satisfying strength. The immense privilege of joining in with “angels, heavenly hosts and all his works everywhere in his dominion” lifts our souls to a purpose and meaning of life that has no equal.
Meirion Thomas, Malpas Road