March 30, 2020 by Dan Waugh
We can all think of someone who is constantly telling you how great they are, or fishing for compliments, wanting people to fawn all over them. It’s not an attractive personality trait and we cringe when we see it. (If you can’t think of someone…maybe it’s you!)
A young CS Lewis thought of God this way, annoyed by God’s constant demands for praise, especially in the Psalms. Lewis describes his discomfort, “I found a stumbling block in the demand so clamorously made by all religious people that we should ‘praise’ God; still more in the suggestion that God himself demanded it. We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence or delightfulness; we despise still more the crowd of people around every dictator, every millionaire, every celebrity, who gratify that demand.” (Reflections on the Psalms).
Lewis isn’t wrong; God does demand praise. It’s is everywhere in Psalm 144-150 (the reading for today). The phrase ‘Praise the Lord’ appears repeatedly throughout these chapters. Sometimes it is actually the word Hallelujah – not a command, but an interjection of praise. Other times, however, it is an imperative, a command (hallal). This command, ‘Praise the Lord’ appears twenty-five times in the Psalms alone. In addition, there are many more related commands, like ‘extol the Lord’, ‘worship the Lord’ (5x), ‘glorify Him’, and ‘sing to the Lord’ (10x).
As Lewis wrestles with this, he considers what we mean when we say God ‘deserves’ praise or a painting ‘deserves’ admiration. We certainly mean more than it is admired – people with bad taste admire ugly stuff. Nor do we mean ‘deserves’ in the sense that some injustice has been done if the painting is not admired. What we mean, in Lewis’ words, is that “admiration is the correct, adequate or appropriate, response to it…that if we do not admire we shall be stupid, insensible, and great losers, we shall have missed something.”
Lewis eventually understood that God demands praise not out of insecurity or need, but out of a desire for his creation to enjoy the supreme goodness and beauty that is God. It is in worship that God “communicates his presence to men” and we can best appreciate the “fair beauty of the Lord.” Lewis takes note that all enjoyment “spontaneously overflows into praise” unless stifled. This is true of a good book, a good meal, a landscape, etc. Our praise, Lewis rightly concludes, is actually the completion of our enjoyment, “its appointed consummation.” It brings our enjoyment to its fullness.
In other words, God commands our worship because allows us to more fully enjoy Him. Let me encourage you to take time to worship and praise God this week. It can be in song – Sing to the Lord! It can be in prayer. Probably we don’t spend enough time in praise as we pray; petitions tend to crowd out praise. It is good for you; according to Lewis “praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.”