42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42–43, NKJV)
It is apparent from this text that mere belief in Christ is not sufficient to be saved in Christ. Different types of personal faith are observed in the Scriptures, some of which must definitely be avoided. For instance, we must not have the faith of demons (James 2:19). They believe – even tremble – but their faith lacks doing the will of God. They are lost. Therefore, James wrote, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17, 20). If that is the kind of faith you have – believing but not obeying God – then your faith is dead, and we urge you to repent and obey the Father. The Jewish rulers in today’s text had a silent faith. They believed in Jesus, but they feared men more than God. They remained silent because they desired the praise and recognition of men more than God’s approval. Faith that pleases God does not shrink from open confession of one’s allegiance to Christ. Fidelity to Christ is observable through a life that obeys God’s will and refuses to yield to the silencing tactics of the world. Instead of fearing men, saving faith fears God and does not shrink back (Matthew 10:28; Hebrews 10:39).
2 The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them. 3 His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever. (Psalm 111:2–3, NKJV)
The ways of the Lord are past finding out by our finite minds (Isaiah 55:8-9). “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33) Only by the aid of divine revelation are we able and permitted to gaze into the righteous purposes of God’s mind (1 Corinthians 2:9-11). We are moved to study the works of the Lord when we grasp that we are the benefactors of His fathomless wisdom and mighty deeds. We ought to seek after and explore the honor, glory and righteousness of His works. God’s work of creation, when studied, shows His power and divinity (Romans 1:20; Psalm 8; 19:1-6). God’s work of redemption delivers sinners from sin’s bondage and gives us the promise of an eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:15). God works in the Christian’s life through faith, to accomplish His purposes in us (Philippians 2:12-13; 1 Peter 1:5; Ephesians 3:20-21). Study the works of God and praise Him with your whole heart (Psalm 111:1). Without a doubt, “The works of His hands are verity and justice; All His precepts are sure” (Psalm 111:7).
“Praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.” (Psalm 111:1, NKJV)
The Lord has arranged assembled worship for Christians (1 Corinthians 11:17-34; 16:2). While worship is congregational, it is unquestionably individual. God seeks true worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). The first day of the week is revealed as the day disciples of Jesus Christ congregate to worship God, each one lifting up praise and prayers to Jehovah with an undivided heart of devotion, honor and adoration. The day of worship is not to be forsaken, but the outcome of considering one another and stirring up love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25). All that is done in the worship assembly is for our spiritual edification – prayers, songs, the Lord’s Supper, giving, and preaching God’s word (1 Corinthians 14:26). View each Lord’s Day as a great opportunity to worship Almighty God and to drink deeply from the spiritual benefits He has arranged for you in the congregation of the upright.
Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments. (Psalm 112:1, NKJV)
This psalm calls on us to give celebratory adulation of thanks to Jehovah. It reveals the result of such praise, while explaining who actually praises the Lord, and why. The blessing of His favor is the outcome of giving God the praise He is due. The source of acceptable praise comes from a heart that fears the Lord. This person obtains His good favor. Cries of hallelujah (“praise Jehovah” or “praise the Lord”) must combine with genuine reverence for them to be regarded by the Lord and responded to favorably by Him. Nor do we have to wonder who it is that fears the Lord, for it is spelled out here. Fearing God is tantamount to delighting completely in His commandments. We fear God by desiring, cherishing and following His commands. And so, by taking pleasure in His commands, we wholeheartedly praise His name. At this thanksgiving season (and every day), may we delight in the Lord’s commands, rejoice in His good blessings, and thankfully praise His name.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. (James 5:13, NKJV)
Prayer and song. This couplet proves comforting and invigorating as we go through life’s storms and life’s calm. Suffering comes in many forms; physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Prayer is a balm for the weary, an assuring strength during times of tumult and uncertainty. And so, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Even as suffering leads to earnest prayer, happy times evoke praise of the Almighty. The Lord is the source of joy that no one can take from us – the joy of victory over sin and death (John 16:20-22, 33). When life brings good fortune, Christians raise up songs of praise to God. We remember that God is the Giver of every good blessing; we did not create our happiness without His good providence. And so, James gives us sound instruction for difficult and happy times. He reminds us to look to God through all of life’s joys and sorrows. The Lord “will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). He will see you through.
1 Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! 2 For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 117:1–2, NKJV)
This brief psalm drives to the heart of why all people should triumphantly praise Jehovah. The stated reasons are, (1) Because of His mercy, and (2) Because of His truth. God’s mercy protected the nation of Israel over and over throughout their history. God’s truth denotes the integrity of His promises (especially those made to Abraham and David), as well as the revelation of His truth. God offers all sinners (whether Gentiles or Jews) His mercy and His truth in Jesus Christ (Rom. 15:8-9). Of all the reasons to praise God, His mercy toward sinners and His unwavering truth are at the heart of why we do so. Without God’s mercy, we would all perish in sin (Titus 3:4-5; Eph. 2:4-5). Without God’s truth, we would not know God’s purposes for us, nor could we be freed from our sins (John 8:31-32). Notably, mercy and truth go together; they are fully present and fully obtained in Jesus Christ (John 1:14-18).
Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips. (Proverbs 27:2, NKJV)
Nobody likes a braggart. Praising oneself is a prideful display of self-importance. Christians do not go around “tooting their own horn.” Their meek and quiet life will speak for itself (see Jas. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:11-12). Praising oneself is a mark of self-righteousness, not humble self-denial. The self-righteous Pharisee “stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess’” (Lk. 18:11-12). Praising oneself indicates one is absorbed with selfishly demanding the spotlight. Christians do not seek the praise of men, but the praise of God. Therefore, we must not draw attention to ourselves through the vanity of self-adulation. Instead, let us be busy directing our attention toward serving others, and toward humbly obeying God. Then, we will have neither the time nor the inclination to draw attention to ourselves.
1 Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion; and to You the vow shall be performed. 2 O You who hear prayer, to You all flesh will come. 3 Iniquities prevail against me; As for our transgressions, You will provide atonement for them. (Psalm 65:1–3, NKJV)
God’s sovereignty is in full view in this psalm, as David and the citizens of Zion yearn to praise Him. Those who inhabit Zion (God’s kingdom, His people) set their hearts upon praising God. David cites two reasons his opening refrain for us to praise God. These reasons compel us to honor and extol His greatness, while keeping our pledge to serve Him. (1) God hears our prayers. He alone is the God who is near, who hears and answers the prayers of His children (1 Pet. 3:12; 1 Jno. 5:14-15). Although sinners mount up against God’s people, “by awesome deeds of righteousness” God will answer us and deliver us from evil (Psa. 65:5) (2) God forgives our sins. God provides atonement for our sins through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:10). These are among the reasons Christians yearn to worship God. God hears us and God saves us! Lift up your voices, inhabitants of Zion! Our God reigns!
5 And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:5–6, NKJV)
Why do you pray? What is the driving motive behind your prayers? God, who knows the human heart, knows the insincere motives of prayer. Prayer is not a public display of a Christian’s devotion to God. We are warned not to pray desiring that people praise us for our piety. Hypocrites pretend to pray out of devout dependency upon God, but their motive is to be seen by others. Faithful Christians do not pray for the accolades of others, but so that the Father will hear and help them. They do not make sure everyone knows all about how and when they pray to God; they are content to communicate privately and earnestly with the Father. God promises to hear and answer these prayers. If we pray to be praised by others, men will answer our prayers with their praises. But, God will not answer us, for we have elevated ourselves above Him and trusted in ourselves instead of trusting Him.
4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:4–5, NKJV)
One’s worshipful praise of God expresses joyful thanks for His great blessings. Adoration is due Him by all who would come into His presence. Psalm 100 is a psalm of thanksgiving unto God. All the earth is pictured serving the Lord with gladness, and coming “before His presence with singing” (v. 1-2). As our Creator, He is due the honor of thankful praise (v. 3-4). Let us come into His courts with thankful praise because of His insurmountable character by which He blesses us: 1) His goodness. God is beautiful and deserving of our complete admiration. 2) His mercy. God is unfailing in His kindness, and is ever vigilant to show mercy “to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exo. 20:6). 3) His truth. Unfailing in its power to purify us, God’s word of truth endures forever (1 Pet. 1:22-25). God’s goodness, mercy and truth compel Christians to “enter His gates with thanksgiving” and praise His name. May we never overlook giving God the praise of thanksgiving.