I Celebrate You

 

Week of March 18, 2012

 

Bible Verses:  Psalm 92:1-15.

 

Lesson Focus:   This lesson explores reasons believers should rejoice in the opportunity to worship God and the benefits worship brings to their lives.

 

Celebrate God in Worship:  Psalm 92:1-4.

 

[1]  A Song for the Sabbath. It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; [2]  to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, [3]  to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. [4]  For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.  [ESV]

 

For all Christians, Sunday is the Lord’s day, a special day to gather together with other like-minded believers to worship God and honor Christ. While the Old Testament saints met for public worship on the Sabbath, the last day of the week, Christians in New Testament times assembled to offer public praise to God on the first day of the week. In addition to this designated time to render their weekly praise, believers should worship God every day. Worship is a lifestyle, a continual experience of magnifying the glory of God. This adoration should be carried out through a Christian’s actions, thoughts, and words. Wherever we are, that place should be transformed into a palace for praise. Whatever we are doing, that activity should be a platform for worship. Ceaseless praise, all day every day, should be a living reality to every believer. Nevertheless, the public gathering of God’s people is always a special privilege and should be maximized to the fullest. But how should the Lord’s day be observed? How should praise be brought to Him? And why? Psalm 92 gives helpful instruction in worshipping God in the public gathering of His people. The superscription on this psalm, For the Sabbath Day, was originally intended to direct worshippers in their Sabbath worship of God. In the postexilic community, this psalm came to be sung in the temple on the Sabbath at the time of the morning sacrifice. It is an exuberant, joyful celebration of the person and work of God over the earth. All the particulars of praising God detailed here are equally applicable for New Testament worshippers today. Here is the rightness of [1-3], reason for [4-11], and results of [12-15] praising God. The guiding principle of this psalm is to be observed by all believers today.

 

The first verse establishes the theme for the entire psalm, that it is good to praise God. Why is it good to praise God? There are various ways of answering this question. We might reply that it is good because God declares worship to be good, as He does in this psalm. The phrase it is good reminds us of God’s verdict on His creation found in Genesis 1 (seven times in verses 4,10,12,18,21,25,31). Indeed, this psalm speaks of the created works of God [4-5] and may even be reflecting on the first chapter of Genesis. Again, praising God is good because it is good for us. It makes us glad [4]. Yet good is too weak in this context, for worshiping God is more beneficial than what we usually imply when we use the word ‘good’. Some writers call the praise of God ‘salutary’ or ‘delightful’. Luther called it ‘precious’. Worshiping God is a glorious, splendid, delightful, and most reasonable thing to do. It is also an enjoyable thing to do. And our enjoyment of God is expressed in our praise of God, and when we praise God we do indeed enjoy Him. John Piper urges Christians to glorify God by enjoying Him, for that is what God wants and it is both our greatest duty and pleasure. Thus the psalmist tells us that it is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to His name. What should we praise God for? The psalm suggests two things: the steadfast love of God (hesed), and God’s faithfulness. There are other things for which we will also want to praise God, of course, 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 [4] and with instruments [3]. In fact, it specifies two of the instruments of that day: the lute and the harp.

 

Note concerning God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

These two attributes or character traits of God are very important for the covenantal understanding of who Yahweh, the covenant God, is. When Moses asked God to reveal His glory to him in Exodus 33:18, God revealed His character to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7: The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. When the Bible speaks of God's name, it is always something more than simply a title. God's name stands for His entire being. It is His nature. It is who He is. So when God passed by Moses and said, The LORD, the LORD, He was revealing Himself as the God of creation and redemption - the God who made and saves His people. The divine definition above lists seven attributes of God. Each term is rich in its meaning and application. The key term is steadfast love (Hebrew word is hesed) which is repeated twice in the middle of the list. It refers specifically to the commitment God has made to His people in the covenant. Here God's covenant love is connected with the Hebrew word for faithfulness, which also means truth or truthfulness. The point is that God always follows through on His love. His love is loyal and steadfast. Since He never goes back on a promise, once God promises to love, He keeps on loving. And His love is boundless. It is love without measure and love beyond degree. Psalm 92 instructs us to praise and declare these great truths about our God every morning and evening.

 

Recognize the Eternal Realities of Worship:  Psalm 92:5-9.

 

[5]  How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep! [6]  The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this: [7]  that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever; [8]  but you, O LORD, are on high forever. [9]  For behold, your enemies, O LORD, for behold, your enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered.  [ESV]

 

Having said a great deal about the value, reasons for, and methods of worshiping God, the psalm next introduces a contrast, the case of those who, unlike the psalmist, do not know or praise God. There are two things wrong with them. (1) They are stupid and the fool. The psalmist is saying that these people do not know any more about reality than an animal. According to the Bible, men and women are made to know and enjoy God, but when they turn their backs on God, as the unregenerate do, they isolate themselves from all that is spiritual in life and operate on a physical level only. On a slightly higher note we should remember that this is the inference of Psalm 8, which places man at a mediating point in creation, saying, You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor [Psalm 8:5]. By calling him a little lower than the heavenly beings rather than a little higher than the beasts, it indicates that it is man’s calling to look up to God and become like God, in whose image he is made. But if he will not look up, the only place he will be able to look is down, and he will begin to behave like an animal. Someone said, “God made man a little lower than the angels, and he has been trying to get lower ever since.” (2) They are wicked in their beastlike behavior. The second thing that is wrong with those who do not know or praise God is that they are also wicked. This is what the psalmist calls them in verses 7 and 9 and why he writes of their judgment: wicked sprout … evildoers flourish … doomed to destruction forever … enemies shall perish … evildoers shall be scattered. This means that the failure of the stupid and foolish to worship God is not merely a case of their being blind to spiritual realities, though they are. Theirs is a willing blindness; they are blind because they choose not to see. The reason they do not know and will not praise God is that they do not want to know or praise Him. They actually hate Him because He is God, and they are not.

 

Experience the Benefits of Worship:  Psalm 92:10-15.

 

[10]  But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil. [11]  My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants. [12]  The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. [13]  They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. [14]  They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, [15]  to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.  [ESV]

 

[10-15]  The Results of Praise. You have exalted my horn is a picturesque way of saying that the psalmist triumphed in the face of much opposition. An animal horn represents strength, and fresh oil poured over the psalmist picture much joy in the midst of labor. Thus, in face of this great difficulty, much divine enablement and heart celebration are given to the psalmist. He has every reason to praise God because he has witnessed the doom of my evil assailants. This psalm concludes with an affirmation of the abundant blessing that rests upon the righteous who praise God. The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, bearing fruit in every season and circumstance of life. They will grow like a cedar in Lebanon, the largest trees of the Near East, a symbol of majestic size and strength. In contrast to the wicked who sprout up and wither like grass, the righteous are planted in the house of the Lord and thus perennially flourish. Such vitality, stability, fruitfulness, and strength result from worshipping God. They still bear fruit in old age, never losing their spiritual vitality. They will stay fresh and green, full of godly virtues, all because they are rooted and grounded in God, continually worshipping Him in both good times and bad times. They do not cease proclaiming, the Lord is upright, always doing what is blameless and right. God is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him, since He is absolutely holy.

 

Having made a contrast between himself and those who do not know and worship God and having shown the destiny of the latter, the psalmist now picks up on the destiny of these wicked persons and makes a still further contrast between the destiny of the wicked, which he has just mentioned, and the end of the righteous. The wicked will wither like grass, but the righteous will flourish like a palm tree and a cedar of Lebanon. But first a testimony! God has blessed the psalmist with anointing and with preservation from his enemies. He wants to say this. He does not want to forget it, and he does not want others to miss knowing about it, either: you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil. My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants. But what is true of him is true for all the righteous [12-15], and it is on this encouraging note that he brings his composition to a close. He states three things about those who truly know and worship God. (1) The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. These verses are not talking about physical strength but, rather, what we would call strength in the Lord, spiritual strength. It is what Paul was writing about when he said, Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day [2 Cor. 4:16]. That is an internal, spiritual strength that only those who have grown old walking with Jesus and trusting Jesus know. It goes beyond all human understanding. (2) They still bear fruit in old age. Not only will believers such as this be spiritually strong, they will be fruitful too [14]. That is, they will testify to the greatness and goodness of God, and God will use their testimonies to bring others to faith in Jesus Christ. (3) Their testimony will remain firm to the very end of their lives. Finally, says the psalmist, the righteous will maintain their testimony to the very end, proclaiming, The Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. At this point the psalm comes full circle, ending on the idea of the righteous praising God. It has been introduced as a song for the Sabbath day, but a song of praise that should be sung everyday by God’s people.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.         What does this Psalm teach us about worship? What is the meaning of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness? How can we declare those two things about God every day?

 

2.         What do verses 5-9 say about the wicked even though they may appear to flourish in this life?

 

3.         Use verses 5-15 to contrast what the Psalm says about the evildoers and about the righteous. What is the key difference between these two groups of people? (The key is worship: evildoers worship themselves while rebelling against God; the righteous worship God and declare His goodness).

 

4.         This Psalm ends in verse 15 as it started in verse 2 with the righteous declaring the glory of God as seen in His steadfast love, faithfulness and holiness. Pray that God will show you this week how you can declare daily these attributes of God, our Rock.

 

References:

Psalms, Volume 2, James M. Boice, Baker.

Psalms, Volume 3, John Goldingay, Baker.

Psalms, EBC, William VanGemeren, Zondervan.

Psalms 76-150, Steven Lawson, Holman Reference.