Summary: The King James Version word "comely" helps us see that praise and worship fit the reality of today’s world, but are attractive to those who need perspective by which to live.
Our members will know that I seldom use the King James Version of the Scriptures, except on certain occasions when the majesty and beauty of its language are desirable. We are a church which is generally committed to contemporary readings of the Bible because they are more accurate and are easier to understand. Thus we keep the New Revised Standard Version in our pews and Today’ s English Version in many of our classrooms.
But every now and again nothing will quite do the job the way the 17th century language does it. Today is one such day. I am sharing with you today the 147th Psalm, and there is one word in particular which attracted me. The word is "comely" … "comely". You’ll hear it in the very first verse of the psalm; let its flavor sink in as you hear these words: Psalm 147:1-7
Praise is comely. Other translations say that praise is fitting, or seemly, or suitable, but none of those quite gets to the heart of what I want to say this morning. Praise is comely. That means that praise is fitting and it means that praise is attractive. Praise is fitting and praise is attractive. Praise is comely.
I knew he had reached a new level of maturity when he thanked me spontaneously for what I had just agreed to do for him. This young man had over an extended period called for my help in a variety of ways. He had asked for financial bailouts; he had called in the middle of the night wanting me to get him out of trouble; he had even betrayed my trust but had always managed to get the second and maybe even the third mile out of me.
That’s all right. I knew what I was doing when I decided to do those things. But, frankly, what troubled me most was that there was little or no gratitude. He either did not thank me at all after one of these rescue jobs, or he would, if and when prompted, mutter a half-hearted "Thanks" under his breath and go his way. His thanks seemed forced, it didn’t seem genuine, and I knew it didn’t do much for me. I doubted whether it did much for him.
Frankly, his way of saying "thanks" reminded me of the get well card that was sent to the hospital bed of one of the members of a men’s fraternity. The card said, "We voted to wish you good health. The vote was six for and five against." That doesn’t do much for the patient, and I doubt whether it did much for the fraternity spirit either.
But now … this time … as the hymn writer might put it, after “many dangers, toils, and snares" … I was in a position to do this young man one more favor and rescue him one more time. And I did. But this time, a whole new attitude; this time, an entirely different response; this time, "Thank you" spontaneously …"Thanks a lot", with a smile and handshake … this time, a new level of maturity, and an appreciation that was authentic.
I went away with my heart singing and with a feeling that I might not have to step in and rescue this young man again. And his heart sang too, I believe, because he had learned the value of gratitude. He had learned, in the language of Scripture, that praise is comely. Praise is fitting and appropriate and praise is attractive. Praise is comely.
You see, praise is fitting in that, when we praise God, we are, in fact, recognizing the real world. Praises fits the situation. When we praise God, we are opening our eyes to all the reality around us; we’re not shutting off any part of it. Praise is fitting and appropriate because when we sing praise to God, we are seeing the world exactly as it is …the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the whole and the broken … and we are driven away from our illusions. When we praise God, praise is fitting because we see the world as it is.
You say, well, pastor, I can see that it’s fitting to praise God for the beauty of the earth and for the glory of the skies. I can understand that I can praise God for the wonder of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale and tree flower, sun and moon and stars of light. I can certainly praise and thank God for all of this.
But you seem to be saying I should praise God in the midst of the whole reality I have to face. You say that praise is comely, praise is fitting and appropriate for all of reality. And you know, that includes drug dealers and shootings, that involves cancer and chronic illness, that means pain and poverty and suffering. How can you say that the praise of God is fitting in the middle of all of that?