We live by faith all the time. To take an extreme example, if your idea of fun is to throw yourself out of an aeroplane, then you are implicitly trusting the laws of physics and the ability of your parachute to open in time. You may not be consciously thinking about these things (it’s an activity I would never indulge in, myself) but your trust affects the way you act. Equally when you turn on your computer you are trusting there is a system to deliver a constant stream of electricity to your desk. Something you don’t tend to think about that much, except when, as is happening here, the trip switch keeps going off for no apparent reason.
What’s this got to do with praise? We tend to think of praise as an activity. We talk about a time of praise when it comes to the Sunday morning service, and think of uplifting, inspiring worship songs that stir the soul. Or we think of praise as a response to some definite sign of God’s activity in the world – an answered prayer, maybe, or a glimpse of the beauty of God’s creation.
But praise should go a lot deeper than that. It should be a settled response to the great truths about God that have been revealed to us. Because the truths about God are constant and can be always relied upon. There may be exceptional times when the parachutist discovers the particular law of physics doesn’t apply in his situation. Or the electricity supply we assume to be always there fails. But God being God, He does not change. Regardless of our circumstances He is still the same.
We saw last time how David was in the desert, alone and in great danger. But his questioning was answered by memories of past spiritual experiences. He realised that although he was far from his familiar place of worship, God had not deserted him. God could still be relied on, still be trusted. And so despite his circumstances, his prayer moves on from anxious petition to steadfast praise. Verses 3-4:
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
Those are two amazing verses. And like many amazing verses in the Bible we can read them all too quickly, assent to what they say, and move on.
Your love is better than life David knew his life could end at any almost any moment. If Saul’s men didn’t finish him off, then the harsh realities of the desert might do the job. But as far as David was concerned, God’s covenant mercy could always be relied on. And that’s why David saw God’s love as even more precious than life itself. As the apostle Paul himself would say when writing to the church at Philippi: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Phil 1:21). Praise enabled David to see his current predicament in a whole new light, and to gain a proper perspective on his situation.
We need to understand this if we are to make proper sense of David’s words in the next verse: I will praise you as long as I live. Praise is far more than an outward expression of well-being and happiness. It is an inward expression of joy that flows from the realisation that, no matter what happens, we belong to God through Christ Jesus, and nothing can break that relationship.
So a couple of questions for you to ponder:
How deeply does the truth about God impact upon your life?
How far have you learnt the language of praise for yourself?