Lesson 2: Week of August 5
Week of August 5
Lesson Scripture: Psalm 146:1-10
Recall a time in your life when you have been “awestruck” (i.e., standing before mountains, the ocean, natural beauty; at the birth of a child; at the generosity or compassion of another; etc.). Did this experience cause you to praise God?
Some moments in life take our breath away…
Recently I traveled to the Big Island of Hawaii. While there I had one of those breath taking life experiences. You see, Hawaii offers one of the world’s most perfect places for star gazing. If you drive to the observation point near the top of Mauna Kea you find yourself above the clouds. With almost no light pollution in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it’s amazing what you can see with the naked eye. Words cannot begin to explain what it is like to see thousands of points of light breaking through the darkness. It’s an experience that confronts you with the vastness of the universe. For me, it was an experience that caused my heart to sing in praise of God’s awesome wonder.
According to Michael Jinkins in his study, “Invitation to the Psalms,” the psalms of the Hebrew Bible (what we call the Old Testament) may also be called “The Book of Praises.” Scholars explain that the psalms, understood as songs, hymns, poems, or prayers, were forms of worship offered by the people of God in response to God’s deliverance and in recognition of God’s character. The final chapters of the book of Psalms, Psalms 146-150, may be regarded as the doxology of the Psalter. These final psalms focus on “Hallelujah,” a word derived from the Hebrew hallel, which means joyous praise to God in song, and “Yah,” the shortened form of Yahweh/YHWH. Eh Hence, the word “Hallelujah” is translated as “Praise the Lord!”
Today’s scripture reading, Psalm 146, expresses deep praise and adoration for God based on God’s divine character. The psalm begins by recognizing that God alone is worthy to be praised. Our trust should be placed in the eternal plans of God instead of the temporal plans of humans, “in whom there is no help” (Ps. 146:3). The psalmist goes on to declare why our hope rests in God. The psalmist takes us back to Genesis, reminding us that God is the one who “made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Ps. 146:6). God is forever faithful. God is concerned with social disparity and political corruption, and therefore “executes justice for the oppressed … gives food to the hungry [and] … sets the prisoners free” (Ps. 146:7). God heals the afflicted and recognizes the righteous. God shows compassion to those at the margins of society like the stranger, the widow, and the orphan. Yet God will not tolerate the ways of the wicked.
It is in the recognition of God’s holy character that human praise flows. When we see God as the Great Creator, the Faithful One, the Compassionate Provider, the Loving Healer, the Generous Protector, and the Righteous Teacher, we cannot help but to be in awe of this awesome God. God’s greatness is beyond measure. Adoration is a natural human response when we are faced with the reality of God’s unlimited power, kind heart, and steadfast love.
Yet, in truth, when we pray or when we worship, how often do we begin with a posture before God that acknowledges the reality of who God is? Do we enter into worship awestruck that the Creator of the universe, of everything that is and ever will be, knows our name? Do we sing out with joy because, despite what we deserve, the Most Righteous Judge chooses to forgive us, love us, and always believe in the best that is within us? Do we pray with confidence trusting that the All Knowing, Ever Gracious God is the One who answers our prayers? [One of my favorite Maxie Dunnam quotes is, “In our praying this means that we do not tell God how big our mountains are; we tell our mountains how big God is” (The Workbook on Abiding in Christ, 93).]
When we pray to and worship our Lord, may we never cease to remember God’s awesome wonder. All we have to do is to become aware. If we open our eyes we will see God’s generosity in the beauty of the created world. If we open our ears we will hear God’s grace in the compassion of those around us. If we open our hearts we will learn the extent of God’s love in the story of the Scripture.
Life is full of beauty and wonder and love because we worship a beautiful, wondrous, and loving God. Therefore, may our hearts resound with the jubilant cry of the psalmist, “Praise the Lord!”
Questions for further reflection:
Kim Reindl is Chair of the Discipleship Ministry Team for the North Georgia Conference and is the founder of Pomegranate Christian Education & Formation. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.