What if I told you I had a surefire way to chase away the winter doldrums, put a stop to excessive worry and cure a critical spirit? And it doesn’t cost anything! That is what the commentary on Psalm 117 in my copy of The Interpreter’s Bible claims. The magic bullet? Praise! Or as one hymn states, “It’s amazing what praising can do!”
It’s hard to remain down while praising God, especially if you join with others in singing. The act of joining others in song can lift our spirits. If we are focusing on our God, we have less time to focus on ourselves or our problems, less time to worry or be critical. The same can be said for giving thanks. The two go hand in hand, praise and thanksgiving.
Psalm 117 is the shortest in the book of Psalms, only two lines long. As such, many believe it is a fragment off of a longer hymn, perhaps 116 or the conclusion to Psalm 148. Still it ended up as a psalm in its own right. It is a great one to memorize. As a simple hymn of praise, it can be used for every occasion.
“Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!” (1)
Another one of the Psalms of the Hallel, hymns sung during celebrations at the Temple, I imagine it being known by all, like the Christian doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” In groups of Christian ministers, I remember many occasions where someone struck the first notes and words of this hymn, to be joined by everyone in harmony.
And why do we praise God? Because of God’s steadfast love, translated as merciful kindness in King James. “For great is his steadfast love toward us; and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever. Praise the Lord!” (2) (There will be more on this mercy next week when we reflect on Psalm 118.)
Anyone can praise God during good times. The true test of faith is praising God during difficult ones. The prophet Habbakuk states, “For though the fig tree blossom not nor fruit be on the vines, though the yield of the olive fail and terraces produce no nourishment, though the flocks disappear from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God.” (3:17-18)
As I write this, my husband is undergoing rotator cuff surgery and I’m sniffing from the onset of a cold. I’m not looking forward to the six months it will take before he is back to full function of his left arm, but I praise God that we live in a time when it is possible to repair such tears rather than him suffering with the throbbing pain and limited use of his arm that he has had for the past three months. Praise the Lord! I could allow this along with the ice and cold of the winter to bring me down, but instead I chose to praise God for his blessings.
So we are all called to praise our God.
Has praise brought you out of a slump in the past?