The Christian's Motto: Praise the Lord!
O Lord God, our dear heavenly Father, we come before You this day in worship and praise. Move us to confess our sins with sincerity, to listen to Your Word with attention, to lay before You our petitions, and to go forth from Your house determined to live our lives in accordance with Your holy will. Be with us and bless us this day. Amen.
The apostles preached the gospel of Jesus in the temple with power and with great effect. The result was their imprisonment, but the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors during the night and told them to go right on preaching. This left their enemies befuddled!
Jesus taught His disciples how to pray by giving them what we now call the “Lord’s Prayer.” He then went on to instruct them concerning the true purpose of fasting—a sign of devotion to God!
Text: Psalm 116
I love the LORD, because He has heard My voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live. The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!” Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yes, our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. I believed, therefore I spoke; “I am greatly afflicted.” I said in my haste, “All men are liars.” What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all His people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. O LORD, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the LORD’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!
In Christ Jesus, whose praise we are privileged to offer as children of our heavenly Father, dear fellow redeemed:
One of the great privileges of being a pastor is being able to lead regular Bible studies. In such studies we review and explore the great truths revealed by God for our benefit and blessing. Our Gus Johnson Bible Study is attended each Thursday morning by eight to ten regular participants and occasional visitors. Some of the participants belong to our congregation, while others do not. One of those attending, who is a non-member, clearly has a close relationship with her Savior. She listens attentively to the presentations, participates regularly in the discussions, and frequently responds to my comments about the love of God and His promises of salvation with a heart-felt “Hallelujah” or a “Praise the LORD!” My dear friends, as you heard in the children’s sermon, “Hallelujah” means “praise the LORD!” It is that happy expression, which could properly be the motto of every child of God. Let us, therefore, consider today THE CHRISTIAN’S MOTTO: PRAISE THE LORD! The reason why this would be a good motto is because He has dealt bountifully with us! The result of all of His blessings will be thatwe seek faithfully to serve Him!
Psalm 116 has been used for thousands of years by the Jews to help celebrate the Passover. It was customarily sung after the Passover meal had been eaten. When the evangelist Mark, speaking of the events of Maundy Thursday evening, tells us that Jesus and the disciples left the upper room and went out to the Mount of Olives after having “sung a hymn,” he was no doubt speaking of their singing Psalm 116. When the Jews, therefore, sang this psalm they had in mind God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Because the Passover lamb and the deliverance of Israel from Egypt pointed ahead to God’s deliverance of the world through the ultimate Passover lamb—Jesus, we can rightly use these words not only to review and take to heart the lessons of the Old Testament stories of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, but also to review with thanksgiving God’s deliverance of our souls through Jesus’ sacrifice on Good Friday!
How does the psalmist express God’s bountiful works on our behalf? He says, “I love the LORD, because He has heard My voice and my supplication. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” Think of Old Testament Israel living in cruel bondage under Pharaoh, forced to make bricks and having their children murdered upon birth. We rejoice when we hear the news that a woman is pregnant and being given the gift of a child. Think of the women of Israel learning that they were pregnant and having to dread the day of their children’s births lest the soldiers of Pharaoh’s army strip those children from their mothers’ arms and kill them upon Pharaoh’s terrible command. The Bible tells us that the children of Israel cried out to the LORD in the midst of their bondage, and that He heard their cries (cf. Exodus 2:23-24).
What a wonderful blessing to know that God listens to us when we cry out to Him! The Bible tells us: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7). “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15). Notice that all of God’s Scriptural assurances concerning His hearing our prayers come with promises that He will answer them. Have not our experiences confirmed God’s promises? We pray often for a variety of reasons, and does not God answer those prayers? Repeatedly, God resolves problems in our lives. Oh, yes, He may well say, “No,” for a time, but He does answer and through His answers He fill our lives with blessing!
The psalmist says, “The pains of death encompassed, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the LORD: ‘O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!’ Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yes, our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me…. For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.” Think of the children of Israel surrounded by Pharaoh’s chariots at the Red Sea. Think of them wandering in the wilderness suffering from thirst and from hunger. Yet the LORD heard their prayers when they cried out to them and preserved them from what the world would have claimed was certain death.
Being a child of God does not exempt us from suffering in this world and it certainly does not prevent us from dying. But our God remains our deliverer and our source of help in times of trouble. Think of the people you know whom God has helped overcome cancer. Earlier this month the American Cancer Society held its rally up at Erlandson Park. During that event cancer survivors told their stories—all of which were stories of the grace and mercy of God, even it was unrecognized. At that same event thousands of candles were lit—reminders of loved one lost to cancer, let us remember that God strengthened individuals during those critical times, helped to sustain faith, and finally bringing individuals through death to their heavenly homes.
Truly, THE CHRISTIAN’S MOTTO can be PRAISE THE LORD, for as the psalmist says as he concludes the first half of this Psalm: “Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you!” God’s blessings, beginning with the greatest of those—the salvation of our souls, but extending to every spiritual and physical blessing we receive in life are the reason for the joy that can and should fill our lives!
The result of those bountiful blessing cannot but be that we seek faithfully to serve Him! The Psalmist asks, “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits to me?” He then responds by saying, “I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. I believed, therefore, I spoke…I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all His people.” To what is the psalmist referring? He is speaking of the joyous and faithful service that children of God willing offer their Savior. The child of God as the psalmist confesses that we owe God such service: “O LORD, truly I am Your servant; the son of Your maidservant; You have loosed my bonds.” By virtue of our redemption we belong to God, but notice that God Himself has loosed our bonds. God frees us through His gospel. He does not force us to serve…twisting our arms to follow Him and do what is right. But when His precious gospel of forgiveness and unmerited love touches our hearts, we cannot but respond. The apostle Paul explains this situation so well, when he writes, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
So we “walk before the LORD in the land of the living”—in other words we strive faithfully to obey God’s will in our every day life, for that is when it counts. God does not speak to the theory of living, but the reality of living—where the proverbial “rubber hits the road.” God is not interested in you being nice in theory, or even just nice to those people who are easy to love. No, God says, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). God wants us to “overcome evil with good!” (Romans 12:21)
Our Lord wants us who believe to speak—to confess our faith and the hope we have within our hearts and regarding our future (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). Oh, there will be times when as the psalmist confesses, we will become exasperated with those around us and be tempted in disgust to say, “All men are liars,” but then we can remember that our God remains true. We can “take up” that “cup of salvation”—reading our Bibles or our devotions based upon the Bible, attending the Lord’s Supper to receive that special gift of Jesus’ body and blood.
As we are built up in the faith, then our joy, hope, and confidence all grow, for the Bible reveals that God’s plans for us and His blessings upon us will not end with those related to this world. As the psalmist acknowledges, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” This is our ultimate comfort—is it not? For no matter who we are, death will ultimately come, but for the child of God death is but a door to eternity and behind that door stands our Savior Himself, who has promised to come and take us to Himself in heaven (cf. John 14:1-3).
Consequently—“PRAISE THE LORD” can and should be OUR CHRISTIAN MOTTO! The psalmist says, “I will offer You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD!” When we come before our heavenly Father with hymns of praise; when we bring Him the first-fruits of those blessings He bestows upon us; when we seek His guidance and determine to follow His will as guided by His Spirit—then we are living that motto! Then, as the children of Israel were able to count on the LORD leading them into the promised land thousands of years ago, we can count of the LORD to lead us day by day through this life, as He works out His plan for us. My dear friends, may we every join all the saints in crying out:“HALLELUJAH—PRAISE THE LORD!” Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting