Monday, March 07, 2011

Why Praise God?

Why do we praise God and how?  Does our motivation matter?  What is true adoration? In sorting through these questions, an apparent conflict arose.  There seemed to be two distinct answers to these questions:

1.  Our praise comes out of an understanding of God's interactions with us.  There are countless examples of this in scripture.  Here are a few:
Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. (Psalm 105:1)
LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago. (Isaiah 25:1)
I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us— yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. (Isaiah 63:7)
And elsewhere when the people of God are commanded to remember and worship God, this God is identified as the God who acted - the God who brought them out of slavery, etc.  (For example, see the core teaching of the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 6:1-25)

2.  Genuine praise does not depend on what God has done for us.  Albert Day writes,
We never really adore Him until we arrive at the moment when we worship him for what He is in Himself, apart from any consideration of the impact of His Divine Selfhood upon our desires and our welfare.  Then we love Him for himself alone.
This seems a good caution, for is there not danger of self-worship confused or mingled with God-worship, when we focus on what he has done for us?  Yet at the same time, how can we ever separate our understanding of God from his direct action in our lives?  We cannot worship an abstract idea.

This morning matters became more clear to me as I read from Isaiah 43:
"You are my witnesses," declares the Lord,
"and my servants whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. [...]
I have revealed and saved and proclaimed [...] (v10,12)
God has made us his witnesses - this brings him glory.  The two thoughts unite: we understand who God is because he has revealed it through what he has done for us, and we praise him not because of his acts necessarily, but because of who he has revealed himself to be through them.