Our Great God – Psalm145
Our Great God
What makes us praise?
What does it take to get you so excited, so impressed with something, that you can’t stop talking about it?
Maybe a great performance by your football team, and all you want to do is re-live those best moments
Perhaps it’s a new relationship. You’re so caught up in the other person that you can’t help but speak about them to anyone who will listen.
Maybe actually it’s something about ourselves. That happens sometimes, doesn’t it? We’re so impressed with our own accomplishments, that that’s all we seem to talk about.
Most of us find it easy to talk about things that we value, or that have impressed us.
That is to say, we find it easy to praise.
And it seems to me, that the more worthy we think something is of our praise, the more we feel others need to hear it.
So what’s something that’s a little bit worth of praise? The latte art on your take-away coffee tomorrow morning is quite impressive. You might show the person you’re talking to, “That barista’s very talented, aren’t they?” But you don’t feel the need to go further than that.
You don’t send an email to everyone at work, “Please see attached photo of outstanding latte art, the barista in the café round the corner is very talented.”
But the more deserving we think something is of our praise, the more keen we are that people hear it.
So when England beat Australia in the cricket, we do send that email, at least to every Australian we know, pointing out the skill and determination of our team.
The more deserving we think something is of our praise, the easier it tends to be for us to actually praise.
But we don’t all find it easy to praise God, do we?
And if that’s the case Psalm 16 might help us, because we’re given reason after reason, why God is worthy, deserving, of our praise.
It may even be worth you scribbling down some notes of the things we see about God, or make a not in your phone, which can then be a reminder of your own praise of God.
This Psalm’s title tells us that it is A Psalm of Praise, and that it’s written by David, who was king of the ancient people of Israel.
And specifically, this is a song of praise to God who is himself king.
Praise the King forever! (v 1 – 2)
See how it begins,
A psalm of praise. Of David.
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
2 Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
It might seem strange to us, that David, who is the king, sings a song of praise to God, calling him king.
If you have your Bible there, you can look up at the previous Psalm, 144, and you can see in the beginning of that one, some of the titles, the metaphorical language that David ascribes to God in order to praise him.
The LORD is my Rock,
my shield, and so on.
And that might be more the kind of language that we expect in the Psalms, but in Psalm 145, David is making a slightly different point about God.
His field of view is much wider than what God has done for him personally in protecting David, and rescuing him, and all those kinds of things.
His field of view is the whole world.
And if you notice right down at the very end, verse 21 acts kind of like a book-end, with verses 1 and 2, framing the Psalm.
But by the end it’s not just David’s mouth speaking, but he’s convinced because of who this God is, every creature on earth should praise his holy name, name being synonymous with character, who he is.
See, this isn’t a Psalm particularly about David’s personal relationship with God. This is a song of praise from David, about the king of the universe.
And while we never want to lose the personal aspect of our praise and thanksgiving to God, maybe this aspect is lacking in our praises.
It’s right for me to praise God’s name for ever and ever, to extol his name, verse 2, in gratitude for what he’s done for me.
But it’s also appropriate for me to do those things, to praise God for ever and ever, because God is the king,
Because he rules over all,
Because of who he is,
And how he acts, and has always acted.
And notice the time frame? for ever and ever.
And in case we missed it, it’s repeated, for ever and ever.
Such is the, worth of God, his character, his actions, that David knows there’s no point where you get to the end and think, “I’ve done enough.”
Out of all the gardening jobs that I ever need to do, I think the most satisfactory might be mowing the lawn, because it has a clear end point.
If you’re pruning, there’s always more to prune,
When you’re weeding, there’s always more weeds if you look for them,
But mowing, once the lawn is that long, there’s no more to do.
That’s all to say, praising God is more like weeding than lawnmowing!
You’ve never done enough, there’s always more opportunity,
If you ever thought you’d reached the end, just look again.
We should never be satisfied with where we’ve got to, because there’s more to praise God for.
And we can’t escape the fact, that David’s repeated language for ever and ever, points us beyond just this life.
This is not just the way you’d say, “I’m going to do this, every day until I die.”
This is the language of eternity.
Now David, a thousand years before Jesus, didn’t have the detail that we have about the new creation, and a resurrection life for all who trust in Jesus for forgiveness and relationship with God,
He didn’t know that wonderful picture in Revelation 5, every creature in heaven and on earth, saying To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
And yet David knew enough of God and his faithfulness, to be confident that he would be praising God, long after he departed this life.
David, king of Israel, recognises that God is king and ruler over him, and over the whole world, and worthy of praise for ever and ever.
God’s character and actions are worthy of praise (v 3 – 7)
And in the next few verses, from 3 down to 7, we’re given the reasons why God is worthy of praise;, it’s his character and his actions. Who he is and what he’s done.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
And David uses the favourite Old Testament descriptions for God’s saving actions;,
mighty acts verse 4,
your awesome works, verse 6
your great deeds, and you might recognise some others as well.
Even, to sing of your righteousness verse 7, is more than just recognising the character of God. Because the Bible recognises that God always acts in accordance with his righteous character;, righting wrongs,
Delivering his people.
We speak of who God is, and then almost in the same breath, we’re confronted with “and this is how God’s demonstrated his character in the past.”
And because this is who God is and how he acts, a deliberate response of praise is appropriate.
Verse 4, One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
Of course David’s just been doing that as he’s alluded to God’s great rescues in the past.
And this gives us a really good glimpse at what praise actually is.
The praise we find in the Bible is generally speaking about the character and work of God, in the hearing of other people.
See, for example, verse 6, They tell, something of who God is,
I will proclaim, what God has done.
And the idea is that the future generations will be able to continue this pattern.
Praising God in the pattern of Psalm 145, includes telling other people, about God.
Not evangelistically necessarily, though that’s sometimes the goal, but so that people who are already God’s own, are what we talked about in the beginning;, so captivated and impressed, that they cannot help but speak.
So Jesse Heasman and Rhian Coekin got married yesterday. Which was delightful!
Now, I really don’t want to embarrass Rhian, but, praising a bride at her wedding, that’s just par for the course, isn’t it? It’s what people do.
We praise a bride at a wedding because she’s put in so much effort to organise a wonderful celebration,
We praise her beauty,
We praise her dress, the flowers, and I’m really starting to get outside my area of expertise here, but you get the picture!
We might not use the word praise, but that’s what we’re doing, isn’t it?
But we don’t just go up to the bride and say, “I praise you,
I praise you,
I praise you, ” We might be ushered away to a quiet corner of the room if we do that.
But neither do we say to other guests, “praise the bride,
Praise the bride,
Praise the bride.”
Telling someone else to praise, that in itself is not praise.
No, when we praise the bride, we say, “What lovely flowers she chose,
What a great job she did of planning everything”,
We say to someone, “How clever she was to organise, this or that.”
What we do naturally in, that or any other circumstance, is praise according to Psalm 145.
We speak about the character and work of God, how deserving he is, in the hearing of others, so they too have the understanding of God, that in turn enables those people to praise God.
Praise, leads to praise.
Of course, key to this is that we delight in these things about God.
Just as you could speak about a bride, “gosh she’s so organised!”, and not mean it as praise, because it comes from a place of jealousy or something else, simply to rattle off God’s attributes isn’t praise according to the Psalm.
See the language in verse 7, celebrate, joyfully sing.
It’s about taking delight in who God is and what he’s done, and so speaking.
And like I mentioned earlier, the wide field of view of this Psalm, doesn’t mean there’s no personal connection.
Why does it matter to us, that God acted for salvation in the generations before David?
Why should we care, that God has performed all these mighty acts in bringing his people out of slavery of Egypt, and into the Promised Land, only to perform more awesome works in rescuing them from their enemies all around them?
The reason these things need to be spoken of in the hearing of others, and passed on from one generation to the next, is because they tell us that God can act for us,
That he does perform mighty works for his people,
That salvation is the gift that God gives.
When we come to the New Testament, and the promises that Jesus makes, Jesus who is, God with us, Immanuel,
What confidence do we have, that his promise of salvation will be honoured?
Why do we listen to Jesus when he tells us that God cares about justice, and has acted and will act decisively to bring justice to those who are wronged?
We can have confidence, because of what we’ve been told about God,
We can have confidence, because of what God’s already done.
I often write references for people in our church who are applying for jobs, or looking for a house to rent.
I say “this person is reliable, trustworthy” if they are!
God, of course, doesn’t need a reference like that, to establish his credibility, but this, if you like, is like a reference about God, for our benefit,
So that we might believe he’s trustworthy,
So that we might have confidence.
And especially for those of us who have contact with people who are younger than us, in our families, in our kids ministry here at church,
Here is part of the biblical mandate for teaching children who God is, and what he’s done for them in Christ.
God wants future generations to hear of what he’s done for them.
God is gracious and compassionate (v 8 – 9)
And so having listed off these many aspects of God’s character and actions that make him worthy of praise, David zooms in on one aspect;, God’s grace and compassion.
And in these couple of verses, 8 and 9, David does exactly what he’s just been encouraging others to do;,
He’s not speaking to God, he’s talking about God, to others.
8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
9 The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
Verse 8 might sound a bit familiar, it’s a repeated refrain in the Psalms. We find it Numbers, in Jonah and more.
For God to be gracious means whatever we get from him, we don’t deserve, we haven’t earned.
The moment we start thinking that we’ve earned what we have from God, this verse reminds us that quid pro quo is not how God operates.
And God is compassionate in that he recognises our greatest needs are those which we’re powerless to achieve for ourselves, and so he acts for us.
This is almost a direct quotation from how God himself speaks in Exodus 34.
God comes down in a cloud, and proclaims his name;, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”
This is at the very heart of what God wants his people to understand about who he is.
If we know nothing else of God, God wants us to know this.
But we don’t just have to take God’s word for it, that this is what he’s like.
It’s partly because of God’s grace and compassion that he acted in all those amazing ways listed in the earlier verses.
How do we know someone’s character?
Well from seeing how they act.
That’s how what’s inside, comes out.
How do we know that God is gracious and compassionate?
Well, because he acted out those awesome works for his people when they couldn’t save themselves,
When they didn’t deserve his rescue,
And when they made the same mistakes and same sinful choices over and over again.
And the same for us, how can we be sure that God is gracious and compassionate?
Because of his actions towards us Christ.
Because he offers us forgiveness when we don’t deserve it,
He sent his Son to die to take the punishment for sin and rebellion that we did deserve.
Our salvation hinges on God’s grace and compassion,
Our salvation stands or falls on this point.
If God isn’t compassionate enough to act for our salvation, what hope have we got?
If forgiveness and a right relationship doesn’t come by grace, the only alternative is to earn it,
And we know that we can’t.
It matters that God is compassionate.
And so this should be at the heart of, our praise of God.
You may know that titles like “merciful” and “compassionate” are used by Muslims to describe Allah.
I asked a Muslim friend of mine once, “How do you know that Allah is compassionate and merciful?”, and he said, “Because Allah tells us that he compassionate and merciful.”
And to quote from an Islamic Question and Answer website I looked at this week;, “the believer must remain in a state between hoping for the Mercy of Allah and fearing His punishment.”
Friends, if you trust in Jesus, this God, come as a human, you have already experienced the grace and mercy of God.
You don’t have to hope that somehow Gods grace and compassion are going to be enough for you.
And if, you wouldn’t call yourself a Christian, you’re not quite sure who Jesus is,
Maybe you’re watching this today to try and work these things out,
Please see this aspect of God.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
He’s not waiting for you to mess up so he can hit you with a big stick, or a bolt of lightning from heaven.
He is good to all, verse 9, and he longs for you to experience his compassion and love.
But you don’t just have to take his word for it!
Every part of the Old Testament story that’s summed up in that second paragraph of this Psalm, is evidence of God’s grace and compassion.
And if that’s not enough, if you still think that somehow you’re too bad for God’s grace, too far gone for his compassion, go back and read some of the accounts of God’s relationship with his people in the Old Testament.
You are not worse than them, those to whom God demonstrated that he is gracious and compassionate.
And of course, also, look at the cross of Christ, where God’s rich love is seen.
It’s right for God to get angry. He must get angry at sin and evil. We wouldn’t be happy if he turned a blind eye.
But God is slow to anger, and in Christ, we are spared God’s anger at our sin.
Please make sure that this is, perhaps the base layer, of your picture of God;, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.
Again notice, the big picture of who God is as king, has implications for us individually.
Since God has acted in grace and compassion every time, in all things, in the past, we have the confidence that we can approach him on those grounds both now, and in the future.
But of course to know that, to be convinced that this is who God is, is only part of the picture according to the Psalm, isn’t it?
Then it’s our turn.
Our turn to praise,
To speak, or sing, of who God is and what he’s done.
And I don’t think the problem for us is the lack of knowledge, but we choose to keep quiet, when we ought to speak.
Because how could this understanding of who God is and how he acts towards us, not spill over into praise.
That should be impossible!
That I am treated with compassion and love, and not how I deserve, I should hardly be able to keep quiet about that.
God’s kingdom is everlasting (10 – 13)
And to be treated like this by God is wonderful, because the future of God’s rule is a long one. The section from verse 10 tells us that God’s kingdom is everlasting.
Notice the repeated language of kingdom here;,
In verse 11, God’s kingdom is one of glory,
In verse 12, it’s the splendour of God’s kingdom on view.
God’s kingdom is greater than all earthly kingdoms that pop up for a time, in some particular part of the world.
But the pinnacle, comes with the double repetition in verse 13, Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
What was hinted at in the opening verses now becomes more explicit.
God’s kingdom is glorious, and splendid, but more than anything else, it is eternal.
God’s kingdom lasts forever, and he is king forever.
And here’s part of the reason that David was able to acknowledge God as his king in the opening;, because he knows that his own rule is only temporary, but God reigns forever. And of course the New Testament identifies Jesus as this long-promised King o God’s kingdom.
This is the greatest difference between the kingdom of God, and any earthly kingdom;,
God’s kingdom endures forever.
Which means the perspective and priorities of God’s kingdom, are the ones that matter.
You probably know that in ancient Egypt they really valued their cats. They dressed them in jewels, treated them like royalty.
If your cat died you’d shave off your eyebrows, and stay in mourning until your eyebrows grew back, and if you accidently killed a cat, backed over it getting your chariot out of the driveway or whatever, you were sentenced to death!
Why do we not treat cats like that today?
Because that kingdom and its priorities and perspective are long gone.
That will never be the case with God’s kingdom.
What’s valued and honoured in God’s kingdom now, will be valued and honoured 10 million years into eternity.
The glorious splendor verse 12, of God’s kingdom now, will be the glorious splendor of God’s kingdom for ever.
And this is really good news, this is worth praising God for, because it means no one’s ever going to change the rules on you.
Come and trust in Jesus, the King of God’s Kingdom now, and you are secure for all of eternity.
What matters now in the Kingdom of God, is what will always matter, everywhere, forever.
What Jesus longs for you to know, and experience, and be now, is what counts, forever.
And Jesus himself proves this when he’s raised from the dead.
The fact that death is not the end for Jesus, says unmistakeably that he’s different to every other king.
And friends, this is worth getting excited about.
This can shape our praise of God.
We will one day stand with David, praising God in his presence.
But don’t wait until then to start!
And this is what John Newton tried to capture in his hymn, Amazing Grace,
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun
God cares for those in need (v 13 – 20)
Continuing to zoom in, this king with the glorious eternal kingdom, is the one who is gracious and compassionate towards us, and we see a particular application of that from verses 13 to 20;, in that God cares for those in need.
Just listen to some of the gentle words and assurance in these verses,
Second half of verse 13, The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises, and faithful in all he does
The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time
These speak of God’s care of all people, since everyone benefits from God’s care and provision whether they acknowledge God as king or not.
Much of this section reads like a parent’s care of a child, doesn’t it?
Provision in 15 and 16, you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
But remember who we’re speaking about! This is God, the king of the eternal kingdom! He is the one who cares and provides like this.
It would be a bit like if you were driving through the countryside and your car breaks down.
Eventually a dark green Range Rover pulls up, and out gets Her Majesty, the Queen. She comes over, “Are you having some trouble dear?”
And you say, “yes, but you don’t need to worry about it,
The AA will come,
I’m sure you’ve got important people waiting for you.”
And she says, “No, that’s OK, let me have a look, I was a mechanic in the war, you know” and so she has a tinker and a few minutes later she’s got your car running perfectly again!
You wouldn’t expect the Queen to care for you in that way.
And perhaps we don’t expect the eternal King to care for us like this,
But he does.
And that’s worth us praising him for.
But notice how verse 17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does, that’s kind of repeat of the end of verse 13.
The first time we get that it introduces the section about God’s care for all,
Verse 17 introduces a special kind of care;, God’s care for those who call on the Lord, those who love him.
This is God’s relationship with those who are his own people.
And verse 18 is kind of the high point.
God shows his care by being present with his people,
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
Back in Deuteronomy 4, as the people of Israel are about to enter the Promised Land, Moses asks them, What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?
And the answer is no other nation!
For God to be present was a huge privilege, because it meant you could know God,
You could relate to God,
You could communicate with God.
If God is near you, then he immediately knows what’s going on for you, doesn’t he?
There’s no sense of God being far off and distant, out of touch.
If you’re going through a tough time, God knows it.
If you’re celebrating and happy, God knows it.
This assurance of the presence of God with him all the time is enough to make David erupt in praise, and yet if we are those who have called on God in Christ Jesus, then our experience of the presence of God is, off the scale more intense and personal than what David knew.
We know Christ, who was named before his birth Immanuel, which means “God with us.”
Jesus is God come as one of his people, to be with his people.
But it doesn’t stop there, because Jesus sends his Spirit to dwell personally in us.
Which means God knows us, and his care and provision is always available.
Of course, for The Lord is near, is not really great news if you’re trying to ignore God, pretending that he’s not the king,
But if you want what God offers,
If you know that you need his care and provision,
If you, verse 19, cry out to him for help, then this is a wonderful promise.
But those who are still refusing to acknowledge God as king, who try to live their lives as if God doesn’t see their wickedness, well the flip-side of God’s care for those who love him, is his justice and punishment of those who do evil.
See verse 20, 20 The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.
We’ve just been reminded in verse 17 that the LORD is righteous in all his ways,
That is, even in destroying the wicked, God’s doing what is right. There’s no room for any accusation that God ought not do this.
And of course, the wicked have had every opportunity to call on him as this Psalm says, have God come near for salvation.
But if they continue to refuse, then God, the king, will come near in judgement.
And as we’ve noted, we want him to do that,
We need him to that,
We don’t want a God who lets the wicked get away scot-free,
Part of God’s care for those in need, is this promise of justice in verse 20.
There’s been so much distress, hasn’t there, about A-levels and GCSEs? And students and teachers have been saying, “It’s not fair. There must be justice.”
Well imagine if God wasn’t at all worried justice.
Here, we know that he is.
Wickedness will be punished.
And we see the full horror of that at the cross of Christ, where Jesus takes the judgement that we deserve for our wickedness.
God’s justice, and his hatred of wickedness, are part of his rule as king, and part of his care for those in need,
When we understand God like this, the result is not that we want to run away, but to run towards, isn’t it?
This is compelling and attractive.
No wonder that having learnt this about God, David can’t keep his mouth shut and it spills out in his Psalm of praise.
And so with us, this should spur us to praise,
To encourage each other with what we know to be true about God’s care, and provision, and presence.
Of course, some of this, David came to know and understand, not because someone told him this about God, but because he was the person in need,
He knew personally, what it was to be on the receiving end of God’s care.
And we’ve all experienced these things, in different ways.
For most of us, God’s provision of food, verse 15, is very ordinary, and comes from the fact that he’s first given us a job to earn money.
But if and when we do find ourselves in the moment of crisis, when we do cry out to God, verse 19,
Let’s not despise the lesson that that moment of need teaches us, so that when God answers our prayer, we immediately move on, happy that he’s fulfilled our desire, but forgetting the lesson that God cares for those in need.
Or while we wait for our prayers to be answered, perhaps even for months and years, let’s not despise the lesson that God wants to teach, that he cares for those in need.
So that we too will be able to join with David, and every creature on earth, My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.
Let’s praise our great God. I’ll do that now.
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Our God, you are mighty, and you rule over all.
You act for salvation for all generations, and yet you also care for us, individually.
You always act for the good of your people.
And you act in accordance with your character, so we can know who you are and have great confidence.
And in Jesus, we can know you truly.
We praise you for your justice, that you are more concerned for right even than we are, and that you are able to act for what is just, and bring an end to wickedness.