As I lurch slowly to the back part of Psalms, I have struck a vein of praise Psalms from 111-117. And a good deal of info can be gleaned from the direction that praise is to take.
For example, 111 gives praise about His works- but not what they are,but what they show about His character: Honorable, glorious, compassionate, bringing "verity and justice". But it goes a step farther in teaching how to appreciate His character. At the beginning, verse 2 says, "The works of the Lord are great, STUDIED by all who have pleasure in them." The capstone at the other end, verse 10, fills this out: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"- I know you all know that part, but read on- "A good understanding have all those who DO HIS COMMANDMENTS. His Praise endures forever." If you want to know God's character, the keys are study the Word and do his Commandments.
112 and 113 are praise for His promises. 112 focuses on blessings God will give the righteous; 113 on the lifting up of the poor. Now, you might say, "Just WHERE is that happening in this world?" And by saying it, you may have unknowingly raised the key question. But hold that thought for a few more moments.
114 is another retelling of the story of the Exodus, to remind us of God's power to do His promises. And 115 is kind of a "beats the alternative" attack on idols that contained one key phrase that caught my eye:
v4-8 "(The idols of the Gentiles) have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes they have, but they do not see;
they have ears, but they do not hear;
noses they have, but do not smell; they have hands, but do not handle;
feet they have, but they do not walk;
Nor do they mutter through their throat.
THOSE WHO MAKE THEM ARE LIKE THEM;
so is everyone who trusts in them."
Ever wonder why it seems that those who follow a political figure, be it Trump, Clinton, Obama, Sanders, and follow them RELIGIOUSLY, end up spouting the party line without stopping to think about their positions? For example, the other day a FB friend liked a post from Congressman Jim Banks who announced his support for "Kate's Law", designed to keep anymore people from getting harmed by "asylum seekers" who should have been deported in the first place. This woman's response pretty much demonstrates the unthinking worship of modern idols:
Today I don't care about anything else but what are you doing regarding our vulgar president. Are you publically standing by this man and in private talking about what an embarrassment he is? Are you speaking out for more civility in this embarrassing administration? Or is everything just to your liking. It sure isn't to my liking and I want someone or manyone to shut him down.
Can't even talk about the subject at hand- a woman murdered for being a citizen in a city that loves non-citizens more- because her mind is filled with hatred for something(one) else- a hatred taught by her OWN idols. I have lost two people I considered friends because they would rather be like their dumb idols than stop and have an original thought, and I grieve that it is so. But, this is not a poli post. Just pointing out that a lot of people have idols- they just aren't carved anymore.
116 is the "cap sheaf", as Wayne Rothgeb used to call it. Because, it not only brings to us the three elements of praise we should be concerned with, but also answers that question that 112 and 113 bring up.
First element: v 7- "Return to your rest, o my soul; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you."
First thing here, note that the author doesn't talk to his body, but his SOUL. It is to our souls that the promises are made- our REWARD is NOT on this earth. Oh, it may be for some, and I appreciate that yes, some people seem to be making out pretty good. But be careful- for everyone that is a sincere follower receiving blessings from Him, how many are in the category Jesus described in Matthew 6:2- "...assuredly, I say to you, they HAVE their reward..."
Thus, first thing of praise is that the promises are COMING. And yes, this requires you to believe that there is a God. And if you don't, all I can tell you is that, for me, this has been a week of my failings and my angst filled prayers. And yet, each time I reached out, whether it was a gentle prodding, or tuning in a preacher at just the right moment, the Spirit answered every one of my concerns. Every one. This day was one big monument, a stone set up to remind me that thus far, the Lord has helped me.
Second stop, vv 12-13: "What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits toward me?
I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord." The second thing of praise is accepting His salvation through Jesus Christ.
And finally, vv 17-18: "I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the Name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord, now in the presence of all His people." Ever get feeling really low? Best cure I've ever found is just start thanking God for everything He has blessed you with.
Now I want you to think about these last two sets of verses. Do they remind you of anything? How about Romans 10:9-10:
"... that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation."
Paul never preached anything new- just never understood in its proper light until then.
And 117? The shortest Psalm puts a good topping on the story:
Oh, praise the Lord, all you Gentiles!
Laud Him, all you peoples!
For His merciful kindness is great towards us
and the truth of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!"