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"I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise Your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend Your works to another; they will tell of Your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and I will meditate on Your wonderful works. They will tell of the power of Your awesome works, and I will proclaim Your great deeds. They will celebrate Your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of Your righteousness" (Psalm 145:1-7).
How can we praise God? First, we can learn to praise God by thinking about His greatness. Praise comes from a heart that contemplates the greatness of God. Out of that abundance of understanding the greatness of God, comes forth the verbal praise. Notice in Psalm 145 above how David describes his reaction to God. In the Authorized version: "I will tell of Your greatness." But the actual Hebrew verb means not so much to tell as to tell to yourself, to murmur, to meditate.
David is saying, "I will meditate on Your wonderful works." His mind studies the greatness of God, turning over this doctrine, examining every facet as a jeweler will carefully turn over a diamond and see how each side reveals beauty.
Creation Shows God¬ís Greatness
What does David meditate on? He meditates on God¬ís works of creation. In Psalm 145:15-16, He sees in the world an amazing order which provides food but not an impersonal order. No, it is God, the King of heaven and earth, who provides the food that we eat. "The eyes of all look to You and You give them their food at their proper time." You give them their food. "You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." Look at creation and see there the evidence of the greatness of God. Ponder the mighty power of God displayed in the world He has made. The heavens declare the praises of God.
David sees the greatness of God in the world that God made and sustains. David sees the greatness of God in the fact that God provides us richly with everything to enjoy. Notice when there is a drought on the prairies, if it persists long enough, what do the newscasts report? That people are assembling in churches to pray for rain. Almost as if even the atheistic culture recognizes that it really is God who feeds us.
Look at your hand. Think of the complexity of the design of your hand. Consider that the skin on the tip of the finger is so sensitive that it merely needs to brush against something to feel it, hence the ability of the blind to read with their fingers because the fingers have nerve endings concentrated in that particular spot in a way which other parts of the skin do not. Atheists would tell me that all those nerve endings are concentrated in the tip of the finger by chance. Chance? No. God. David sees the greatness of God in what He has made.
God Controls This World
Do we not even have written into our insurance contracts, "acts of God"? What is an act of God to an insurance agent? Is that not an event which is completely beyond the control of man? Again, in a technological society we worship man and his ability to control life. We even venerate the fact that we can create life in the test tube. But we still write "acts of God" into our insurance contracts because there are forces in this world over which we have no control.
We read in Psalm 74, another psalm of the Levite Asaph, "You made the seasons. You made summer and winter." This vast array scientifically is explored on the basis of the uniformity, not the chaos, but the uniformity of events. Even secular scientists themselves admit that it is in the cradle of Christian belief that modern science has emerged. Christianity says that the world has been put in place by a divine Maker. Behind the design there is a Designer. Behind the order there is One who made it so. So science is not antithetical to Christian faith. Rather, it depends for its foundation on an orderly world.
Where did that orderly world come from? Look at the world that you live in. Look at the food that grows in the fields. Look even at the birds of the air. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, "Who feeds those birds of the air? Chance? No, it is your heavenly Father who feeds those birds." The entire structure of creation is created, sustained, maintained, governed, and ruled by God.
Redemption Shows God¬ís Greatness
Look at the world around you and marvel at the greatness of God. But even more than that, do what David does. Look at the history of redemption. David meditates not only on the greatness of God displayed in creation, but even more, the greatness of God revealed in redemption. He sees the greatness of God revealed in saving history. God demonstrates His great works not only in the world, but in the history of His dealings with His people.
Look at verse 8: "The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love." David knew that verse is almost an exact quotation from the book of Exodus, chapter 34, where God reveals Himself to Moses. This quotation occurs where God spoke to Moses after His people whom He Himself has redeemed from slavery in Egypt, fashioned the golden calf for themselves to worship, and bowed down to it and said, "This is the god who brought us out of Egypt. To this god we will give our full heart and obedience."
Then God said to Moses, "Let Me blot out this people. Let Me wipe them off the face of the earth. I will save you alone and out of you I will make a mighty nation." But Moses pled with the Lord to be merciful to His people and so God relented, showed compassion and mercy, forgave iniquity.
God said, "The Lord is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love." Slow to anger! Not treating us as our sins deserve. Rich in love! Reaching out to the lost, showing mercy when those who receive mercy ought not to receive mercy, but rather judgment for their sin.
This is the character of God, revealed in the history of His dealings with His people. David knew it full well. As he looked at the story of God saving His people from sin, delivering them from Egypt, bringing them into the promised land, and displaying time after time His forbearance with them in their wickedness, in their rebellion, in their hardness of heart, in their deliberate refusal to walk in the ways of God, David was stunned by the greatness of God¬ís love for His sinful people. He saw the greatness of God in redemption.
The Greatness of God¬ís Patience
Think now not just of the choosing of Abraham. No, even before him to the promise given to Adam and Eve in the garden that "from your seed will come one who will crush Satan." Think now forward through all those long years in which God¬ís people toyed with sin, flirted with it, and then openly embraced it, and to the kings which followed after the division of the kingdom into north and south. Think of God warning them, "If you do not turn away from sin, I will remove you from the promised land and I will vomit you into a foreign nation. I will even cause the house where I have chosen My name to be placed, with all its careful, intricate, oak carvings, I will cause that house to be hacked down as loggers take down a forest with their axes."
Read Psalm 74, the psalm of Asaph, and see there the cry of his heart. "Look at what is happening to your inheritance." Yes, and why? Because of the sin of God¬ís people.
But see how God, even in His anger, showed compassion and preserved a remnant and brought them back and planted them in the promised land again and caused them to grow, all to prepare them for that greatest of all His great and mighty deeds: the sending of His Son. Jesus was not merely a servant of the Lord, but the Lord Himself. He was not merely a messenger, a prophet, but the great I Am, whose creative power had made the world, whose hand had guided His people, who had appeared in the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day, who had provided food from heaven.
Now the true bread from heaven had come. What do His people do? "We will not have this man to rule over us." But Christ¬ís rejection was all part of God¬ís provision of forgiveness through the One whom David worshipped dimly, the Messiah, because this was the Lamb of God, the true sacrifice, to which all the centuries of sacrifices had pointed. They all pointed to this time, to this moment, to this One, to this cross. For on Him, on His own sinless Son, God would lay the sins of His people. "You shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).
Think of the life of Christ. Meditate on Him. Think of His resurrection. Is that what your minds are full of? Someone who meditates has a fixation. He is continually revolving around the same thing. Let me ask you, when you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you think of? What does your mind naturally turn to when it is not preoccupied with work? Does it meditate on Christ?
David knew of the history of God¬ís dealings with His people up to his own day. Marvelous they were! But they are but a shadow of the reality which has come in Christ. Do God¬ís people today think of the greatness of their Redeemer? Are their thoughts preoccupied with the ascension of Christ to glory, with His heavenly session? Do they see Him as the Lord of heaven and earth?
He is ruling now over this world scene and He is returning one day to establish His eternal kingdom. David said, "Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and your dominion endures through all generations" (verse 13 of Psalm 145). But he did not really know what he was talking about. He was thinking of an earthly kingdom, whereas we know that the lordship of Christ will one day openly be displayed not just on earth, but throughout all heaven. "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth," says our risen Lord. Think of Him! Marvel at His greatness!
Tell Of His Greatness
But this psalm does not simply stop with insight. David does more than just think of God¬ís greatness. He tells of His greatness. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. It is the speech of God¬ís people that shows whether or not their hearts are preoccupied with the greatness of God in creation and redemption. David says in verse 6: "I will proclaim Your great deeds."
It is obvious that David has some specific kinds of speech in mind, some specific audiences in view. He has first of all in view, children. Tell children about the greatness of God, their Creator and Redeemer! Verse 4: "One generation will commend Your works to another." We put a great deal of effort into Christian education. But where does Christian education begin? What is the foundation of Christian education? It is the home. This is where one generation commends Your works to another. Use the everyday situations of life to tell your children and your grandchildren of the greatness of God. You cannot do that of course unless first you are yourself preoccupied with the greatness of God.
And also, believer to believer. "Your saints," (verse 10) "will extol you." The psalms were used in the corporate worship of God¬ís people. These hymns of praise were sung to music. In the temple worship, there was a speaking forth in the assembly of God¬ís people of the greatness of God. Telling others about God¬ís greatness obviously spills out into the corporate worship of God¬ís people. "They will tell of Your awesome works. They will celebrate Your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of Your righteousness. Your saints will extol You."
The Heart of Worship
There is a lot of discussion today about worship. Most of it focuses on the mechanics: the things that are done. But there is something far more important in the discussion than the actual things that are done in worship. We need to think about the heart of worship. What is the driving motive behind worship?
Worship is thinking of the greatness of God and then telling others of that greatness. Worship is a preoccupation with God so that all that is said and done focuses on Him, so that the music lifts our hearts to praise the greatness of our God, our Creator, our Redeemer, so that the message reminds us as even David does in verse 8, of the history of the greatness of God revealed in the way He has dealt with His people and provided for their every need. It is in worship, in fellowship gatherings, that we should tell others of the greatness of God.
Why? Because trust in God depends on the sense of His greatness. If our God is whittled down to a man-sized god of the twentieth century, that poor helpless god who is powerless in the face of suffering, who is unable to provide for His people--then how can your faith cope with the big issues in life? It is only the God of the Bible who can provide hope for His people! That hope is sustained when we meditate on the greatness of God and tell of His greatness to one another.
Motivation for Evangelism
It does not stop there. Those who meditate on the greatness of God also tell of His greatness to unbelievers. Look at verses 10 through 12: "Your saints will extol You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your might, so that all men may know of Your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom."
How do unbelievers learn of the greatness of God? They will learn of the greatness of God by seeing you meditating on His greatness and telling it. When they see an individual who is preoccupied, not with their own petty problems, but with the magnificence of the God in whom they trust; when they see individuals passing through the deep waters that every human life must pass through, but displaying an inner calm and peace which does not depend on external circumstances, they will wonder how that can happen. They will never know unless you tell of His greatness that all men might worship Him.
Worship has as its foundation meditating on the greatness of God, thinking of His greatness. But what does witness have as its foundation? Again, not techniques, though there are techniques that can hinder the effectiveness of our evangelism. That is not where we should focus attention.
Rather, what is the driving force behind witness? Telling others of the greatness of God! You will never do this unless first you yourself are preoccupied with His greatness. Unless your life revolves around the greatness of God your Creator, and the greatness of God your Redeemer, you will never tell others of His greatness. It will never occur to you because your heart will be meditating on merely earthly things.
Although you may believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for your sins, that He is returning in glory, and that you are going to heaven when you die because He took away your sins at the cross, although you may believe all of that, you may never witness because you are not preoccupied with the greatness of God. It is from that meditation on His greatness that witness springs forth. Nothing has a greater impact on unbelievers than seeing someone whose frame of reference is eternal.
When your mind is preoccupied with the greatness of God and you are thinking about His mighty power in creation, when you are thinking of His mighty deeds of salvation for His people, then you will tell others of His greatness and all men will hear that God is great and greatly to be praised.
Condensed from The Gospel Witness, January 25, 1996.