By James Boice
Theme: Why Should We Praise God?
From this week’s lessons, we see the need for the righteous to praise God continually.
Scripture: Psalm 92:1-15
Dr. John Piper is the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and he has written a book on the enjoyment of God which he calls Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Picking up on the first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which I have just cited in yesterday’s study, Piper urges Christians to glorify God by enjoying him, for that is what God wants and it is both our greatest duty and pleasure. Piper asks: “Does Christian hedonism put man’s pleasure above God’s glory? No. It puts man’s pleasure in God’s glory. Our quest is not merely joy. It is joy in God. And there is no way for a Christian to consciously manifest the infinite worth and beauty of God without delighting in him. It is better to say that we pursue our joy in God than to simply say that we pursue God. For one can pursue God in ways that do not honor him….The enjoyment of God and the glorification of God are one.”1
The psalmist would have understood that perfectly, even if we do not, for he reminds us wisely that “it is good to praise the LORD and make music to his name.” Do you understand that? Do you know how good it is? Here is another question based on these first verses of Psalm 92: What should we praise God for? The psalm suggests two things: 1) the steadfast love of God, for that is what the Hebrew word translated “love” in verse 2 (hesed) actually means; and 2) God’s faithfulness. There are other things for which we will also want to praise God, but those two alone are enough to keep us busy. It is God’s steadfast, covenant love that reaches out to us initially to redeem us from sin, and it is his faithfulness that keeps us in that love relationship. As Christians, we know both of these to the highest degree in Jesus Christ.
Here is still another question based on these first verses: How should we praise God? The psalm answers: joyfully (v. 4) and with instruments (v. 3). In fact, as far as instruments go, it specifies two of the instruments of that day: “the ten-stringed lyre” and “the harp.” I know that there is a tradition in the church that opposes the use of musical instruments in worship, but I do not see how it can stand in the light of these and other Bible passages. Spurgeon’s congregation used only unaccompanied hymns. So it is not surprising that he quotes some who were opposed to instruments.
He quotes John Calvin, who said, “From this it appears that the Papists, in employing instrumental music, cannot be said so much to imitate the practice of God’s ancient people, as to ape it in a senseless and absurd manner, exhibiting a silly delight in that worship of the Old Testament which was figurative, and terminated with the gospel.” Calvin believed that our spiritual worship of Christ today displaces musical instruments.
Spurgeon also quotes John Chrysostom: “Instrumental music was only permitted to the Jews, as sacrifice was, for the heaviness and grossness of their souls.” He quotes Andrew Fuller, who wrote, “Instrumental music… appears with increasing evidence to be utterly unsuited to the genius of the gospel dispensation.”2 Well, that may be their opinion. But for my part, I regard this as merely special pleading to uphold a personal dislike of instrumental music and a preference for unaccompanied singing. For what can possibly be wrong with making a loud noise to the Lord, as the ancients did, as long as we understand what we are doing and are truly praising God? Indeed, how can we fail to worship loudly and with instruments? We should worship God with every possible tool at our disposal.
1John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Portland: Multnomah, 1986), pp. 225, 226.
2See Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 2a, Psalms 58-87, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1966), p. 123.
- What difference does the emphasis to have joy in God make?
- Explain what Piper means by the statement, “The enjoyment of God and the glorification of God are one.”
- Name two things for which we should praise God. Why?
- Explain the argument against musical worship. What is your view, and what are your reasons for it?
- Do you enjoy God, or has your enjoyment decreased from an earlier time? What brought about the change? What steps will you take to increase your enjoyment of him?
- Have you experienced the beneficial effects of praise? How?
List examples of God’s love and faithfulness demonstrated to you. Praise God for the things on your list. Think of ways to incorporate the praise of God into all your days of the week.
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