Saturday, July 30, 2011

When you're down, look up

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 145:1-21

TO CHEW ON: "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised." Psalm 145:3

What is getting us down today? Whether we are battling vague discontents or outright threats to our lives and well-being, a positive outlook can make a difference. David's thoughts in Psalm 145 can be a template of how we can strengthen our hope and brighten our outlook. Such an attitude change basically involves shifting our focus from ourselves to God.

In this acrostic psalm David names the ways he talks with and about God. A good chicken-and-egg-type question here may be - Which comes first, the feelings or the praise? Many wise people speak of how our feelings often follow our acted-upon decisions. You have no doubt heard relationship counsellors advise us to speak words of love to our spouse even when we're not feeling the love.

Whatever David was feeling on the day he wrote this Psalm, he left no stone unturned in his praise. Look at all the ways he draws his own attention and the attention of his observers to God. He says he will extol, bless, praise, search (implied by "His greatness is unsearchable" - Psalm 145:3), declare, meditate on, speak, sing, remember (implied by "utter the memory of" - Psalm 145:7), talk, make known, call upon.

David's boasts about God are rich in content:
  • He praises God for who He is; His person and identity: "I will bless Your name; I will praise Your name...my mouth shall speak praise of the Lord" - Psalm 145:1-2, 21.
In the preface to his book Knowing God, J. I. Packer says, "Knowing about God is crucially important for the living of our lives ....The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you" p. 15.
  • He praises God for what He has done in history: "One generation shall praise Your works to another....Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts..." Psalm 145:4,6.
We can start on this by reviewing God's actions in Bible stories. We can keep our ears open whenever Christians gather to hear how God is at work in their lives. We can read the biographies of others. And of course, we can review our own histories to refresh our minds about how God has worked in our lives in the past.
  • He praises God for His "wondrous works" - Psalm 145:5,10. I interpret this as praising God for creation. A study of any aspect of creation from the galaxies of outer space to the intricate workings of our bodies reveals an organized creativity that is simply awe-inspiring.
  • He praises God for His kingdom: "Your saints...shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom....Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations" - Psalm 145:11-13.
This is praising God for His interactions with us, His sin-tainted, fallen race of humanity, as revealed in the Old and New Testaments. It's really the whole story of redemption and the possibility of being reconciled to God through Jesus and thus to become subjects in that kingdom.

After considering all that, who can stay down in the dumps? David's focus on God in Psalm 145 has certainly lifted my spirit. I hope it has yours too.


PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to get into the habit of looking at You when I am feeling down. Amen.


MORE: Praise is rising - by Paul Baloche




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