Summary: Praise isn't always easy. Thanksgiving doesn't always come easily. However, humanity is hardwired for praise. The question is where the praise is directed. This new translation of Psalm 66 offers a fresh look at Old Testament praise for NT believers.
Stop yawning! Quit playing with your smart phones! I know you think you know what this sermon is about, so you figure you can turn off the old brain, ignore the old white guy speaking to hear himself speak, go ahead and fulfill your obligation for Sunday worship, and then, see if Da’ Bears can actually perform some kind of Easter miracle and come back from the dead. I can almost hear you looking at the title on this slide and saying to yourself, “Praise—yeah, got that! Thanksgiving—yeah, we hear this all the time. In fact, didn’t you just preach on praise and thanksgiving last week?”
Yes, yes I did. Let me take you back in time to the third slide of last week’s teaching. I spoke about anticipation, that silence before the curtain rises, that strange rest at the beginning of the great hymn, and how much it amplified the event that came after it. Today, I want to look at the performance itself—the concert, the play, the singing of the hymn. I want to look at what comes after the anticipation. Imagine that you are at a concert where the world’s most profound interpreter of your type of music is performing. You sit there, you listen as the sound and rhythm transforms into muscle and chemical reactions within your body. You are profoundly caught up in the interplay between the performance and your emotion, BUT…the music stops, the rest of the audience explodes into applause, shouts, jumping up, crying out for an encore, firing up their lighters, or throwing people into the mosh pits, while you, YOU sit silently. YOU politely offer a “golf clap” at best.
Let me ask you a question. Who is going to remember that experience more? Will it be the ones who threw themselves into it in responding to the performance or will it be YOU, quietly staying within yourself?
Or, for those of you who are more sports oriented, let me posit a question. Would you rather watch a game by yourself at home in front of a large screen television with surround-sound and NFL Ticket or over at a friend’s house where everyone is yelling in triumph and griping about the play-calling, defensive schemes, and bad calls when you’re losing? Which experience are you going to remember more? If you’re honest, in spite of the fact you’d like to own that cool technology, you know that the social experience with noise and interaction is best. That’s why we like to go to the stadiums, even when it’s cold for football or hot for baseball and you can’t see the action as well as you can on television.
We are created to participate in experiences. Praise—shouting and excitedly sharing what is RIGHT and what is GOOD—is part of it. Thanksgiving—acknowledgement of what is RIGHT and GOOD and admitting that we couldn’t have it by ourselves—is another vital part of participating. Today’s text underscores all of that. As I’ve been doing in this series, I’ll be reading from my own translation from the Hebrew text, but I encourage you to compare it with the translation with which God blesses you and try to see what God might be showing you in the differences. As is our tradition, I translated our text from the Hebrew to get a fresh perspective before I shared with all of you.
Title: For the leader: a song, a psalm.
1) Cause a joyful shout to God, all the earth;
2) Sing out the glory of His name;
Establish glory in His praise.
3) Say to God, “How awesome are Your accomplishments,
in the greatness of Your strength, Your enemies cower before You.
4) All the earth will worship You and sing to You;
They will sing Your name.” Stop and think about it.
Well, let’s take the cue from the poet’s “Selah,” his musical rest, his suggestion that we stop and think about it, and let’s do so. Notice that even the title of this psalm seems slightly confusing, at first. It’s almost like the poet or the editor of the book couldn’t make up his/her mind. We’re familiar with the “For the music director” for “For the leader” part, but then, it says: “A song, a psalm.” Now, while I’ll admit that many of the psalms are “songs,” they’re usually designated as one or the other. So, what’s happening here? I have a suggestion that might work. It’s not original to me, but it makes sense to me. I believe that two psalms have been put together to give us a complete message. The first part (verses 1-15) begins with a call to everyone alive to offer praise to God. The second (verses 16-20) challenges those of us who are committed to God to follow through in our commitments in gratitude—thanksgiving.