Psalm 103:1 “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
Our praise serves ourselves far more than it will ever serve our Lord. He doesn’t lack self-confidence and need us to pump him up so that he can feel good about himself. He isn’t plagued with all kinds of deep insecurities that make him shrivel up and withdraw if we don’t constantly praise him. He isn’t so stuck on himself that it makes him angry when we aren’t giving him compliments. He desires our praise, even commands it. But the Lord is never needy. Our praises give evidence that we properly understand his place and ours in this relationship.
The benefit of such praise is that it rehearses us in our relationship. There used to be a sign sitting on the counter in the kitchen where my children attended school. It read, “Please and Thank-you Are Still Magic Words.” We work to teach these words to our children, don’t we? Why? We want them to understand when they are asking for a favor, not demanding a right. Others are not their slaves. Our children depend on those who serve them to take care of them. “Please” says, “I am needy, and you are kind to take care of me.” “Thank you” says much the same thing, only after the fact. These words rehearse us in our true roles in the relationship between giver and receiver.
Praising and thanking God teaches us similar lessons. We are needy. I didn’t create myself. I can’t create myself. Ever wish to have a skill you don’t have, and no matter how hard you worked at it you never really managed to do it well? That’s one of the reasons I preach and teach, but I don’t play piano or organ on Sunday mornings. All the abilities I do have are gifts that God has given me. He has been kind. He has done me a favor.
Likewise, I didn’t redeem myself. I can’t redeem myself. I produce sins with no help at all, but it took Jesus to save me from them. He has done this needy soul a favor by giving his life to save me. Giving him our praise and thanks keeps us from forgetting it is so.
Do you know what happens when we stop giving thanks, and our praises fade and die? It doesn’t take long before we forget God’s role in every good thing we have. Our food, our money, and everything else we need appear to be the product of natural processes and our own natural skill and cleverness. What a dark and horrible faith that would be! All the burden to live, to eat, to survive would sit on our own weak shoulders, or worse yet, on the shoulders of other people who may or may not care about us at all! Wouldn’t that be a terrifying life?
What if something goes wrong with the environment, and there is no God promising that while the earth remains seedtime and harvest will never cease? What if something goes wrong with the economy, and there is no God promising to supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus? What if something goes wrong with the government and there is no Christ at God’s right hand ruling over all things for the good of his people? What if something goes wrong with my mind, my health, or my skills and there is no God promising, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you”?
One of the benefits of our praise and thanks is that we are spared from that dark and horrible faith (or lack of it). It keeps us from forgetting all God’s benefits. It allows us to live each day in the joy of his grace.