Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Crying Rocks

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

                        Luke 19.40

Will to Praise

“Praise the LORD, O my soul,” David sang. “All my inmost being, praise his holy name.” (Psalm 103.1) All believers, like David, have received a will to praise. Praise is in us, housed at the core of our beings. It springs out of our souls. Its purity washes over our hearts. Its inspiration flows through our minds. David keeps going: “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” He’s so caught up in praise he can’t help running down a list of God’s blessings. He forgives, heals, and saves us. He lavishes love and compassion on us. He gives us good things. He renews us. While we must thank Him always for all of this, we can’t mistake thanksgiving for praise. Thanksgiving responds to what God does. Praise extols His ability to do it. It’s constant and unconditional—an act of faith. Should He never do anything for us, our confidence He can and will makes Him worthy of praise. If our minds can’t comprehend this, our souls get it completely and swell with insuppressible praise.

Praise Will Happen

It’s often said God created us for His glory, as instruments of praise. That’s certainly true, yet it’s not exclusively ours to own. Everything He made is designed to glorify Him. In another rapture of praise, David called on the entirety of creation to rejoice: “Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them.” (Psalm 69.34) And in Luke 19.40, we hear if we’re constrained from glorifying God, the rocks will cry out in praise.

Jesus says this in the middle of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem for Passover. He’s mounted on a colt and as He moves along, people cover the road with garments, hailing Him as “the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” This is Christianity's first instance of what we Pentecostals call a “praise break”—a spontaneous outbreak of loud rejoicing that halts everything. For those unaccustomed to this brand of unplanned, exuberant worship, it can be unsettling, which is the case here. The Pharisees rush Jesus and urge Him to get His people under control. He replies, “If they keep quiet, the stones will erupt.” Praise will happen. God desires it. He expects it. Nothing in the world can stop it.

When Praise Happens

According to David, our praise is God’s throne (Psalm 22.3). When praise happens, God shows up—and, as an old friend says, when God shows up, He shows out. Things come together in surprising, beneficial ways by putting thoughts and emotions regarding our human inadequacies on hold. Praise focuses us on God’s infinite wisdom and love. It keeps us happy and healthy. It activates His power in our lives.

How typical that God asks us to offer Him something for our good. And how typical of us to think we give Him praise when, in reality, it’s His gift to us. We simply can’t allow other people to stifle our praise. It may make them uncomfortable. They may not like how we do it. They may believe God doesn’t accept it because they’ve developed criteria of who is and isn’t worthy to glorify Him. But God’s worthiness is the standard, not ours. If rocks can cry His praises, there’s no reason why we can’t and shouldn’t.

The first "praise break." When uptight religious leaders complained about it to Jesus, He told them nothing in the world could stop it.

(Tomorrow: Out on a Limb)

No comments: