Bread – Praise

June 2, 2017


Psalm 67

Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You!  The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.  God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear Him!” Ps. 67:5-7

The first verse of these three verses ends in “praise You” and the last verse ends in “fear Him.”  There is a structure here, like two bookends between which is repeated twice, “God shall bless us.”

We normally connect the word “praise” with joyful outpouring of emotion in a happy, exuberant way; and we normally connect the word “fear” with the exact opposite, where we shrink or run away in terror.  With praise we approach the throne of God in our minds; with fear we run away from the throne of God, again in our minds.

We praise either in thanksgiving for our blessings or in anticipation of them.  Since we have gotten those blessings, are getting them now, and will get them in the future, praise of our Benefactor is to be expected.

We fear in comparison to power.  When someone has a gun pointed at us and we don’t, our natural and appropriate reaction is to fear.  When we contemplate our sinfulness in comparison against a holy God, our Judge, then fear may well be an appropriate response.

So why are blessings in the middle between praise and fear?  It is because that is where they belong.

We cannot fear that which we do not comprehend.  We fear a pointed gun because we understand its power, having seen its use on television.  We fear a mighty God if we understand His power; we understand His power in comparison to us if we are given wisdom to see by the same God.  When God gives us the power to see Him, we see ourselves for who we are in comparison, and the natural reaction then is fear of condemnation.  We are unworthy; He is worthy.  We are sinful; He is not.  We are promise-breakers; He is a promise-keeper.  We make some things; He makes everything.  We think in time; His thoughts are timeless, for all eternity.  When we see what God ought to do to us, we are rightly fearful and in awe of the coming Judgment.

But once we fear Him, once we fully comprehend who He is and who we are, His grace and mercy appears to us through Jesus Christ.  And once we understand the eternal blessing we have received through faith in Him, our fear turns to praise.  We may properly fear God for what He could do and what He should do, and simultaneously we may exult in joyful praise God because He has turned is righteous wrath away from us and dumped it on Jesus Christ, who stands with us, for us, and in us for eternity.  What God could do to me and should do to me because of my sinfulness, He chooses not to do because of the death of Jesus for my sins.  All I have to do is to recognize Him and have faith in Him, which I could not do but for God’s power.

The very thing which causes me to fear God is the very thing which causes me to praise Him, which is why fear and praise are bookends to blessing.

Now, why call this “Bread” “Praise” instead of “Fear?”  It is for a simple reason.  We cannot fear God unless we see Him and acknowledge Him for who He is.  And what better way to praise God than to recognize who He is in the world and in me?

We think of praise as raising joyful hands, but praise is also on our knees, in awe of Him, bowed before our King.

“Let the peoples praise You, O God … God, our God, shall bless us.  God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear Him.”  Between praise which acknowledges the sovereignty of God (fear) and praise which acknowledges the graciousness of God (praise), there is a double blessing.

Thank You, Jesus.

________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

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Bread – Sequence

December 19, 2011


Readings for Monday, December 19, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Zeph. 3:14-20; Titus 1:1-16; Luke 1:1-25; Psalms 61, 62, 112, 115

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The sequence of things is important and today’s readings present a very important sequence in the life of the believer.

In the Old Testament, we have the first step in the sequence – God acts. Because we are in the season of Advent, the beginning of the church new year focused upon the birth of Jesus, we recognize the importance of this prophecy from Zephaniah: “Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment … The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you…The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.” Zeph. 3:14b-17

In the New Testament lesson from Titus, we discover that the next step in the sequence, the quality of our response, is revealed by how we behave – “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him.” Tit. 1:16

In the third step of the sequence, God, knowing our failure, sends people to encourage us in the journey, to help prepare our hearts to truly accept God and become obedient to Him. In this season, that person whom God sent is John the Baptist – “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Lk. 1:17 Therefore, John had a ministry of calling the faithful to repentance, to prepare their hearts for the day of the Lord, to turn them from themselves toward the Lord and, with the strength of the Lord, toward each other.

There is a tendency in this time of year to get stuck in the second stage of this sequence – to be so wrapped up in the preparations for Christmas that we run the risk of denying the very God we claim to worship by our actions. In today’s readings, God reminds us that, during this season, we need to remember that (a) Christmas is the celebration of “God with us” for the purpose of saving us, and (b) we become ready for God, not with frantic holiday shopping, but by repenting, by turning toward Him, by listening to the wisdom of the righteous.

What do our actions today reveal? Celebration of His coming? Preparation for the day of the Lord? Or Denial of His existence and power in our lives?

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