[b]Power Of Praise[/b]
[i]by Zac Poonen[/i]
Jesus had spent millions of years in the presence of His Father where the atmosphere was one of praise and worship. When He came to earth and lived among glum, sour-faced gloomy, religious people, it was quite a change from the atmosphere of heaven. It thrilled Him therefore whenever He saw a few who had something of the praising atmosphere of heaven in them.
In the book of Revelation, where many 'sevens' are found, we also have seven glimpses of praise in heaven. If you have the patience to look through those passages, it would revolutionise your idea of heaven altogether. The passages are: Rev. 4:8-11; 5:8-14: 7:9-12; 11:15-18; 14:1-4; 15:1-4 and 19:1- 6. Every glimpse we have there of our future home is one of joyful praise that sounds like mighty peals of thunder (19:6). They praise God there for His sovereignty, His holiness, His judgments, etc. Not one word of complaint is heard there; and there is not one long-faced, gloomy angel! If we do not get acclimatised to this atmosphere now, we will get a culture shock when we get into the Lord's presence and hear people repeatedly saying "Hallelujah" and "Amen". Notice, however, that the hallelujahs and amens of heaven are not meaningless. They say "Hallelujah because ..." (see Rev. 19:1,2,6). It is meaningful worship and praise in the beauty of holiness. This is what the Holy Spirit has come to reproduce in our lives and in our churches.
We are told that the 144,000 learned this new song while on earth (Rev. 14:1-4). The old song that everyone on earth sings is the song of grumbling and complaining against people and circumstances. But a few who follow the Lamb wherever He goes (v. 4) - that is those who take up the cross daily - have learnt to hate themselves (Lk. 14:26) and thus have eliminated grumbling and complaining from their lives totally - and having faith in the sovereignty of God (Rom. 8:28), they have learnt to give thanks in everything (1 Thess. 5:18), for everything (Eph. 5:20) and for all men (1 Tim. 2:1). In all the trying situations that they faced on earth, they bore the dying of Jesus in their bodies and learnt the new song of praise and worship, in all circumstances and for all people. Thus they stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion in the final day.
It is not enough that we praise God in our hearts. We are to offer to God the sacrifices of praise (that is praise that comes from a crucified life) through our lips; and this is one of the few things in the New Testament that we are told to do continually (Heb. 13:15). What fills the heart overflows through the mouth, Jesus said (Matt. 12:34). So if praise does not flow from our lips, it is a clear indication that praise has not filled our heart. "With the mouth we confess, resulting in deliverance (salvation)" (Rom. 10:10).
In Psa. 50:23, we read, "He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honours Me and makes a way for Me to show him My deliverance (salvation)" (literal translation).
God is able to deliver us out of many situations, only when we begin to praise Him - for praise alone is the mark of faith. Prayer alone cannot deliver us out of many situations. We must keep praying until we reach the point where we have the assurance of the Spirit in our heart that our prayer has been heard. Faith is then born and we "believe that we have received", even though we do not see the answer yet. Then, and then only, did Jesus say that we could receive what we pray for (Mk. 11:24). But what is the evidence that such faith is born in our heart? We stop praying and start praising God. That, and that alone, is the clearest evidence of faith. Thus we make a way for God to show us His deliverance.
In 2 Chronicles 20, we see an example of this. There we see Jehoshapat surrounded by a great multitude of enemies (v. 2). Jehoshapat did the wisest thing that anyone can do when surrounded by problems like that. He fasted and prayed and sought the face of the Lord. His prayer is described for us in v. 6-12, and we notice seven things there. 1) He praised God for His sovereignty (v. 6). 2) He reminded himself of what God had done in past days (v. 7). 3) He reminded God of His promise in the word (v. 9). 4) He reminded God that they were God's own inheritance (v. 11). 5) He told God that they had no power at all to deal with the situation (v. 12). 6) He told God that they had no wisdom either (v. 12). 7) He told God that they were relying on Him (v. 12).
This is a good pattern for our praying too. God answered at once and said that He would deal with the situation. Jehoshapat believed God and sent forth in front of the army, a choir of people who praised God with songs in a loud voice. Through that sacrifice of praise in the face of the enemies, Jehoshapat made a way for God to show His deliverance. And God did just that. He routed the enemies thoroughly (v. 22).
In the book of Jonah we see another example of this. Jonah was in the stomach of the fish for three days and three nights, and he had not even prayed during that time (1:17). "Then", it says in 2:1 (that is after the three days and nights), Jonah began to pray. Maybe for the first three days Jonah was trying to crawl up to the fish's mouth - just like we try every possible method to get out of our problems. When all human help fails, then only do most people seek God. And then only did Jonah seek God - after his own best efforts had failed.
And God waits till we come to the end of ourselves. Jonah then prayed and prayed. But still nothing happened, until he began to offer "the sacrifice of thanksgiving" saying that deliverance comes only from the Lord (2:9). When Jonah began to praise God while still in the midst of his unsolved problem, he made a way thereby for God to show him His deliverance. Immediately (we read in 2:10), the Lord commanded the fish to vomit Jonah out on the dry land.
How much longer are we going to stay in the stomach of the fish (our particular problem) before we offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving? God cannot deliver us because we do not honour Him by praising Him for all things; and so we do not make a way for Him to deliver us (Psa. 50:23).
One final example - from Acts 16. There we read of Paul and Silas being jailed for preaching the gospel. At midnight, instead of sleeping (and far less complaining or grumbling), they began to pray and praise God in song. They had no complaints. They believed perfectly in God's sovereignty, and praised God. Immediately God opened the prison doors for them. That was possible because Paul and Silas made a way for God to work for them through the sacrifice of praise that came from their lips.
The key to every fish's mouth and every prison door is in the hands of our wonderful Lord (Rev. 3:7), and when He opens a door, no one can shut it. And until He opens it, all human help will only fail. It is easy to praise God when everything is going according to our desires and plans. But when things go contrary to our expectations, then is the time that we have the opportunity to offer the sacrifice of praise - for it costs us something to praise God in such situations. Thus we can make a way for God to show us His deliverance.
Psalm 149:9 invites us to have the high praise of God in our mouth when lying on our bed (which is the place where we usually lie down and worry!) and says that with such praises we can bind the powers of darkness and execute on them the judgment that is written in God's word for them (Rom. 16:20). This is a privilege reserved for all of God's children )Psa. 149:9).
Let us then learn the new song of praise and thanksgiving in all circumstances, for all circumstances and for all people, during the rest of the days that are left us on earth - that we may honour God thereby and experience His deliverances all the days of our life. Amen.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon